How Shopify finds and fosters talent


Shopify began as a small venture, but has grown exponentially with the rise of online businesses – and the demand for e-commerce software solutions. Despite that rapid growth, it is consistently lauded for its commitment to its employees. In 2014, the Canadian Startup Awards named it Employer of the Year, for example, and Glassdoor recently ranked it as number three on its Best Places to Work in Canada 2018.

shopifyWe caught up with Shopify’s director of talent acquisition, Anna Lambert, to chat about finding and fostering the right talent, and how this focus on employees has contributed to the company’s steady growth.

Workopolis: When Shopify first began, what were your hiring goals?

AL: There were 43 people in the entire company when I joined Shopify and I was blown away with the caliber of the team. Tobi Lütke, co-founder and CEO of Shopify, played a huge role in hiring in the early days and he still meets candidates to this day. He was dedicated to finding people who were impact-driven and engaged no matter how many years of experience they had. He cared and valued people’s potential. He was Shopify’s first recruiter and because he cared about the right things, we’ve been able to scale that model in how we build Shopify today.

What about now?

We are building a world-class team who care about their craft, their impact, and moving the needle in their roles, teams, and Shopify overall. We hire people with different backgrounds and different experiences and it’s the diversity of thought in the room that allows us to make the best decisions for our business. I have helped grow the company from 150 to over 1,500, and throughout that growth we’ve iterated on our recruitment practices to become more effective and to ensure we’re attracting and hiring the best.

Shopify has experienced intense growth since its initial launch. What are your top priorities when developing a team that will continue propelling the company forward?

When we’re meeting with candidates, there are a few things we look for. Do they care about making an impact in what they do? Are they fully-engaged, self-aware, and can they thrive on change? These are predictors for success at Shopify, and people with a history of demonstrating these characteristics are people who will help us scale and have the biggest impact in their role at Shopify.

You also want to make sure there is balance across teams. We look for people with high potential and people with lots of experience. It’s not about years of experience but the quality of experience. Different levels of experience and backgrounds on a team ensures diverse perspectives are brought forward and ultimately the best decision for the company is selected.

How important is employer branding for attracting top talent?

Employer brand is essential for attracting talent. We’re constantly aligning our brand to the direction and values of the company. We want to depict the realities of working at Shopify so that we attract candidates who will thrive in this environment and when they join they know what to expect.

Do you use social platforms in the recruitment process?

We absolutely use social platforms when sourcing talent. For example, we recently rolled out a Snapchat recruitment campaign for a social media role because it was a space where a ton of potential talent was engaging. We built a Shopify filter for a specific location and had recruiters follow up to engage with potential candidates.

However, someone’s social presence doesn’t influence fit at Shopify. There are too many assumptions recruiters can make based on social media profiles. It is a great way to engage talent, but it does not influence our perspective on fit.

What sets Shopify apart from other companies, in terms of recruitment?

There are a few key pieces that separate Shopify. We invest in the recruitment team to understand business. Our team is embedded in departments they are hiring for and become part of the team – they’re not just a “service” or an offshoot of that team. We treat humans like humans. We champion human conversation over anything else – i.e. we don’t ask candidates about their strengths and weaknesses, or curly psychologically-charged questions. We are genuinely interested in getting to know people we interview, their passions outside of work, and the type of work that they want to do. This holistic approach enables us to reach people other companies are unintentionally excluding based off their LinkedIn or CV. We also look for quality of experience. A candidate may have no formal training but can still be the best candidate for the job because we look to match people with problems they can solve.

How does Shopify invest in workplace culture?

We focus heavily on Shopify’s culture. We’re purposeful and intentional in everything we do, from the physical spaces we design, to our focus on continuous learning and development, to our “default to open” approach to information sharing. The trust battery is central to our culture. We trust our people and we give them the space to make their own decisions, champion their own work, and challenge the status quo. We’re building an environment where employees can do their life’s work.

Are there any lessons that you have learned over the years?

People love coming to work every day when they are given flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to have a meaningful impact while honing their craft. We are attracting the best talent because we ensure our teams are set up for success to solve problems in their field. Because of this we are innovating the way the recruitment industry works by removing the stigma around what qualifies as experience.

Do you have any other advice for recruiters or other HR professionals?

Check your bias. Be aware of them, know how they work, educate yourself on your personal bias because, as a recruiter, you are making decisions about another person. You need to be properly equipped to accurately assess talent. The success or failure of an interview is also dependent on you. Your energy, attentiveness, and questions all determine the success of an interview. Ensure your teams are properly trained to get the best out of each candidate. Define your culture. All companies need a culture predictor that is non-discriminatory. Clear guidelines, supported by data, on what your culture is and needs for success. What tends to happen is companies miss out or hire incorrectly because they are attracting people like themselves and this stifles innovation.

See also:
How Flipp attracts top talent with a good employer brand
How Wattpad hires amazing talent


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