5 Hiring Lessons We Can Learn From IKEA

online recruitment softwareIKEA frequently lands on best employers lists, such as making Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For two years in a row in 2017 and 2016. Their appreciation for employee growth, a non-hierarchical workplace, creativity in targeted job advertisements, soft-skills focused interviewing, and willingness to make and learn from their mistakes, are the most notable things you can learn from IKEA about hiring, retaining, and getting the most productivity from workers. Buckle up before reading the rest, because it’s pretty startling.

5 Hiring Lessons We Can Learn From IKEA

#1. Nurturing Employee Growth

The most popular and successful companies today focus on creating a better environment for their employees. They offer health and wellness perks and foster creativity and all that jazz. That’s great, but few, if any, make as much of a priority of nurturing employee growth as IKEA does. If you’re searching for the best online recruitment software, try Recruiteze for free now.

Maximino Mazo, one of IKEA’s employees, expressed on the company’s Working at the IKEA Group page, “Values are our backbone. They let you be who you are. You’re successful here for being who you are and trying the things that you want to. Taking responsibility. They give you options to develop yourself. To figure out what career or what things interest you. That’s why it’s such a great place to work.”

On that same page, the rest of the text representing the company mirrors this sentiment.

At IKEA we’re looking for down-to-earth, straightforward people who have the desire to learn and grow personally and professionally right along with our business.”

IKEA doesn’t just invest in their employees’ growth to please the employee, they recognize and invest in the fact that employee betterment equals company betterment.

“The IKEA values help us to run our business, solve problems, and make clever decisions together. But we know we won’t think exactly alike on everything — and that’s okay! In fact, we encourage co-workers to express themselves and question our ways from time to time. At the end of the day, it’s your individuality that can help us see and change things for the better.”

“We believe in every co-worker’s ability to develop. Because as you grow, IKEA grows too.”

IKEA nurtures all this growth by giving employees a living wage, assisting them with college tuition, encouraging employees to train in as many areas as they’re interested in, and focusing on employee’s individual talents.

Lars-Erik Fridolfsson, IKEA Sweden’s talent manager, described it, “Everyone has something that they’re particularly good at. We want co-workers and their managers to identify what that special strength is. Managers can then assign the right training and ensure co-workers have maximum opportunity to develop these skills within their work – the more they do, the more we’ll support it. We encourage our co-workers to tell their career stories during our annual talent week and through our website, which helps to inspire others of what’s possible.”

#2. Learning From Mistakes

IKEA is also exceptionally good at learning from their mistakes. In fact, they make it a celebrated part of their company culture.

Possibly their most dire mistake came about in 1985 when they first branched out into the US. The concept that American homes were built with different measurements and that cultural differences would drastically affect purchasing habits somehow did a fly by on IKEA. Furniture didn’t fit in American homes and people were buying vases instead of drinking glasses because the drinking glasses were too small to comfortably accommodate ice.

The venture into the US went so poorly that IKEA considered giving up. Thankfully, they chose instead to study this new market, as much as it took to get it right.

This tactic of getting to know their foreign customers as deeply as it took to please them not only kept IKEA in the US and helped them branch out to other countries, but it taught them a lot about bettering their company all-around as well as investing in their employees.

#3. Tailor Job Ads to The Candidate, Creatively

Perhaps that dedication to in-depth research is why IKEA is so good at coming up with creative, powerful job advertisements tailored to their target candidates.

IKEA’s Swedish branch wanted to attract passionate individuals and thought, who’s more excited about what IKEA has to offer than current customers? To make sure they reached their target candidates, current customers, and that they did so in an enticing manner, they only sent job advertisements for a job opening in with furniture that people ordered. It arrived in the package and looked like assembly instructions, but instead of covering the building of furniture, it discussed building a career at IKEA. The campaign cost IKEA virtually nothing and earned them 4,285 application and 280 hires.

And when IKEA wanted to appeal to local candidates for a new store, they played it up. They wanted local candidates, so they appealed to them for the same reason, saying “we’re local”! How’d they do it? With a mobile billboard with a GPS reading how short the commute time would be from the viewer’s home to the new store. Simple, direct, and motivating!

#4. When Interviewing, Focus On Soft Skills

IKEA is all about values, and therefore cultural fit and soft skills. So when they hold job interviews, they don’t waste time asking much about anything else.

Marilyn Schröder, the Manager for Recruitment in IKEA Deutschland, relates her experiences with job interviews,

“The application is not a question-and-answer game. We hope that applicants will understand it as a meeting process and be authentic, so that we can work together to find out whether the job is right for them.”

She highlights the question, “What has shaped you, regardless of your school or occupation?”

This draws a stark contrast to job interview questions that are strictly about what challenges you’ve faced “on the job”, problems you’ve solved “on the job”, and interactions you have with coworkers and management. This simple change raises the question, why did we ever think there is a difference between lessons learned in life and lessons learned on the job?

Shröder also said most job interviews end with the question, “Do you have a talent that you can use at IKEA to find a home with us?”

They want the candidate to say what talent they have to offer, and use that as a springboard to build a better them and a better company.

Fridolfsson relates, “Values and attitude are more important than the CV. One of the advantages we have in seeking out recruits who share our ideals is that most people can relate to the importance of a good home in creating a better life. As part of our selection process, we encourage candidates to come to the interview with a photo of their living room and ask them to talk about what they like about the room and what inspires them. From these conversations you can quickly identify people who have a real passion for home furnishing and good design, and how they can make a difference to our customers’ lives – these are the co-workers we want and the co-workers who can grow together with us.”

#5. Remove The Hierarchy

IKEA promotes a happier, more engaged, and more just workplace with one simple move: they put managers and employees together.

Hierarchy in the workplace encourages situations where teamwork and productivity suffer, employees and managers misunderstand one another and have conflicting viewpoints, and inequality and hostile work environments can grow. The free flow of communication and a more team-oriented playing field solves so many company problems and can be achieved with one simple change, cut the hierarchy.

Open door policies are great, but what if there isn’t a door to begin with?

Fridolfsson said, “Our informal approach can seem quite alien in countries that tend to be more hierarchical than Sweden. While we fully respect different cultures, we want to maintain ‘our way’ as much as possible. So if someone at a management interview says ‘will I get my own office’, we have to politely say ‘no, you’ll sit with your co-workers’. We also expect managers to spend time working in the store so they can get a better idea about what customers want, the challenges co-workers face and, ultimately, where the money that pays their salaries comes from. A lot of people find our approach quite refreshing, even if it’s not what they’re used to – co-workers have more of a say and managers enjoy the sense of togetherness.”


IKEA puts their money and their policies where their mouth is when it comes to nurturing employee growth, which is perfectly in line with their overall brand stating that they want to make their customers’ lives better. IKEA’s other strengths of removing the hierarchy, holding job interviews like discussions on values rather than an experience checklist, creatively advertising to targeted job candidates, and embracing their mistakes all tie in seamlessly with their brand, making lives better. This is consistency, sincerity, and effectiveness. You can tell how well integrated their values are because each quote, even from different countries and in different sources, sounds so similar.

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More from the hiring lessons series:

  1. Hiring lessons from Richard Branson
  2. Hiring lessons from Dell
  3. Hiring lessons from SpaceX
  4. Hiring lessons from Yahoo
  5. Hiring lessons from Apple
  6. Hiring lessons from EA
  7. Hiring lessons from Nike
  8. Hiring lessons from Chobani

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