New Tech for Talent Acquisition

Nicky Gibson shares how the employee assessment system at Zoës Kitchen will forever change the assessment process

Last year, Nicky Gibson and her team at Zoës Kitchen were on the cusp of what could only be described as a game changer. The employee assessment system is the forefront of innovation in talent acquisition. Rather than assess potential employees through traditional means, the new technology system allows Zoës Kitchen to have video-based evaluations with potential candidates, communicate the company’s culture and core values directly, and build excitement about the growing company.

“We get to see them, we get to hear them, and we get to see their abilities from a behavioral standpoint, which will help us better assess people and get them through the funnel more quickly,” says Gibson, director of talent acquisition for the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, who adds that the new system will be used for all management hires moving forward.

Profile caught up with Gibson to see how the system will make a major impact at Zoës, as well as why the company’s core values—Strive for Greatness; People First; Love Life; Be Humble; and One Team One Zoës—are essential in talent acquisition.

It sounds like the employee assessment system is more personal when it comes to getting to know candidates. Can you walk us through how it works?

It’s a video interview and platform at a base level, but it does three different functions. On the front-end, you can embed a video that talks about who Zoës Kitchen is and the great culture we have here, as well as provide a great preview of what it’s like to be a part of the Zoës Kitchen family. Then in the video interview, candidates will answer questions via their phone or their computer, and they’re behavioral-based questions.

On the back-end—which is the part that I’m really excited about—we’re going to embed a video that brings in a little more of the consumer brand and our external employer brand. That gets people excited about Zoës Kitchen and wanting to go and actually eat in our restaurant—even if they don’t get a job. Then, once they go through the whole assessment, my team has an opportunity to see them. They can look at their answers, and then we’ll do a deeper dive and do some probing questions.

But it’s really about promoting and building our brand and getting the right people through the system because we know that if people fit our culture and they’re brought into all of our core values, then we can teach them a lot of what they need to know in our restaurants from a leadership perspective.

Culture and core values are especially important for Zoës. How will the new system help tie into that?

Once candidates find out who we are, I think they get excited about it. And that’s why we want to introduce them to Zoës with a video on the front-end.

Another big project that I’ve been working on is asking: “How do we articulate our core values externally?” We’ve been doing a very good job of it internally, but now I’m embarking on how do I take these core values and communicate them externally through our website, through our social media, and through everything that we do.

So, part of that is to introduce this video interviewing platform. How do I create some really compelling video storytelling about employees and seeing them talk about how they strive for greatness? Then, it’s taking that and promoting that outwardly, which is something we haven’t done. It’s something that we’re doing this year in a phased approach.

Recruiting is a major passion for you as well. What qualities do you look for on your team?

I’m looking for those types of individuals who aren’t just recruiters. They have to have a little bit more of a business acumen and the ability to partner really well, collaborate, and think very quickly on their feet.

They have to be great brand ambassadors. They have to know how to use social media. They have to be great project managers. But at the end of the day, they have to know how to recruit. They have to know how to partner. They have to know how to collaborate. Those are the top three things that they have to know how to do.


To read more about Gibson’s initiatives and her passion for putting people first at Zoës Kitchen, click here.