KidZania: The story of finding 450 employees skillful enough to work with kids
3 months and 18 000 CVs
In 2015 we decided to open the first interactive kid's city in Russia – KidZania. This Moscow park was supposed to be the biggest in Europe with the total area of 10000 m2. We needed to find 450 employees who would be skilled enough to work with children. It was obvious that we would get a huge response so we expected to evaluate around 3000 applications - 5000 maximum. However, we ended up with 18 000 candidates.

Anna Sidnyakova
Head of Educational Programs and Sales Department, KidZania
The main message for the applicants

We searched for people for two different positions: Child Development Specialist and Manager. We did not focus on the previous experience of candidates or on their degree. The most important things for us are the personal qualities of an applicant and one's ability to work with children. The ideal employee is supposed to be flexible (usually students or university graduates are perfect for it as they react to changes faster), artistic, kind, friendly and open-minded; to be a real team player with high level of inner culture; able to talk correctly and eager to change the world for the better. Of course, it is vital for this person to love kids. As for the Manager candidate, he or she should also be intelligent with good analytical and leadership skills.

As soon as we have agreed on our target audience, we thought of the company's image among the applicants. The future Managers were supposed to be attracted with an idea of running an international brand business (KidZania originally comes from Mexico, the franchise rights in Russia are held by Innova company). This message helped us to find many suitable candidates.

In my opinion, I have used all the effective channels while searching for new people. I have put up the vacancy announcements in places where students usually seek for jobs: social media, university and college activities sites, job fairs and student online subscription lists.

Before the interview

First of all, I turned to three junior recruiters for help. We needed to think carefully of all the things that would make our challenge easier. We decided to test six different instruments used for the elimination process. Our supervisors took part in this experiment, so in the end we had ten more people on our team helping to look through the CVs, making calls and sending out the interview invitations- overall, easy but necessary work. That is how our crazy conveyor started out. We took the whole floor in the office building and put up the motivation posters everywhere, arrived every day at 8 am, put on our slippers and took out tons of food of our bags and started working with no breaks... until 11 pm. This was our constant agenda for a whole month. The wish to solve this grand problem, to make it in time and to grow our team really inspired us.

Video interview

I was permanently searching for a solution which would help us to look through 5 000 possible (18 000 in the end) candidates in a short time. The best instrument at the first stage was a video interview service. I picked the VCV platform that follows the principle of Internet job interviews but does not require the employer and the candidate to be online at the same moment.

Time was strictly limited: the employee was not allowed to answer one question longer than 1 minute. We came up with 10 questions at the very beginning - so each recruiter spent around 10 minutes on each person. I am sure that such sufficient use of time would be impossible if we were interviewing everyone personally.

We divided the questions in two big groups. At first, the candidate was telling us about some common things: his biography, qualification and motivation. For example, we asked one: "Why did you choose your college and took your major in this?", "What is your GPA at school and university?", "Tell us about your main achievements". We assessed the answers to see if the employee was motivated or ambitious enough, what were his values and childhood background, whether he had strict priorities and whether we matched each other based on this.

The second group of questions consisted of logical problems. The Manager candidates had to answer something like this: "You have 9 coins but one of them is fake. How can you find it by weighing then on a scale without using any extra instruments?". That allowed us to see the level of candidates' analytical skills, to check their speed of reaction in stressful situations.

Students who applied for the position of Child Development Specialist, got a trickier puzzle with no right answer: "How many chicken fit in one bus?". We evaluated their way of thinking, an ability to solve the non-typical problems and their sense of humor. People with a logical mind would think of the size of the bus, whether there were any kids inside, what kind of chicken we were talking about; the artistic candidates would use their imagination a lot. The main thing is that we saw the real person in this video interview: their gestures and mimics. We had some funny moments when students were worried while making a video and you could hear their parents in the background trying to give them the right answer.

We focused a lot on explaining the candidate how to make a video correctly - after all, this instrument is still new for the job interview. Certainly not everyone looked comfortable with it but that was also part of the process: if a person feels shy to talk on the webcam, how is one going to work with kids?

We turned down the significant part of the candidates by using this strategy: only 5 000 out of 18 000 were picked. Those people were invited to the next stage.

Assessment

We invited the selected candidates to the two-hour staff evaluation - assessment. We were so much into it that organized five assessments every day with each group consisting of 20 people.

The main purpose of this stage was to check the characters and the behavior of our candidates, to see their artistic skills and to understand whether they will be able to follow this job fully. A child psychologist helped us in picking the right questions for this, carrying out the trainings and coming up with important challenges.

The whole concept of KidZania park consists of the staff trying out the roles of different professions, from a mail sorter to a fireman or a pilot. Kids have a great intuition and they instantly feel when someone is fake. So one of our cases was asking the candidates to play the character of a famous Russian fairy-tale about a hen. We gave out different roles to the people and watched them improvise.

We did not have any preferences in terms of what the students were studying at college. Of course, medical students could explain the nuances of working as a surgeon to the kids, or why it is important to brush your teeth - it was a bonus for them but not the main criteria for us making a decision.

25% candidates successfully completed the assessment - around 1000 people.

The interview

The last stage consisted of a personal interview. It did not take long: we made notes about every candidates through all the stages of evaluation, starting from the first video interviews. We already understood which topics we have missed and what we should ask the candidate about. The main point was to see the applicants' characters better, to feel their strong and weak points and to simply understand if we can trust a person.

We did not ask for a recruiters' help at this stage. The directors were making the final decisions, as they are the most competent professionals.

One year later, most of the 450 people we have picked is still working at KidZania. I am sure that our three-stage elimination process helped us pick the best staff on such a short notice.