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Would you pass this interview 'coffee cup test'?

A computer user with a coffee mug. Source: Getty Images
A computer user with a coffee mug. Source: Getty Images

By all accounts, Xero is a pretty cool place to work. But landing a job at the New Zealand-born, ASX-listed accounting software company won't necessarily take a Harvard MBA or impressive list of patents — just some good old fashioned manners.

Speaking to tech industry commentator Lambros Photios on the most recent episode of The Venture Podcast, Xero Australia managing director Trent Innes opened up about the company's "wash your own coffee cup" mantra.


"Our kitchens are always sparkling," Innes said in the podcast, first spotted by "And that comes from that culture of [washing] your own coffee cup."

The expectation that Xero staffers take care of their own washing up has also extended into the recruitment process.

If you're one of those people that leaves used crockery and cutlery lying around for someone else to deal with, you're probably ill-suited to a career at Xero.

In what he described as a recruitment "dark secret", Innes revealed how when meeting with job applicants he invariably offers them a drink, whether that be a water, coffee, tea or soft drink.

He does so not just because he's a nice guy, but to test whether the would-be employee subscribes to the "wash your own coffee cup" philosophy, eagerly observing whether they leave their utensils behind or do the honourable thing and wash them on the way out.

Luckily for Xero — a growing company that might otherwise be missing out on serious talent — Innes said that according to his experiential evidence, "most people do" wash their own cups, with only 5-10% of applicants failing the test.

For Innes, the test is not just about upholding public hygiene and occupational safety. It's about determining whether someone has compatible values.

"We really want to make sure we have people that have a sense of ownership," Innes said. "Culture comes from the ground up."

Xero isn't the only tech disruptor experimenting with unorthodox recruitment techniques.

To work for Elon Musk's SpaceX, you need to clear an interview process that one former employee describes as a "gauntlet".

SpaceX applicants who make it out of the "piles of resumes" and up to four phone screenings are brought onto the campus for a full seven- or eight-hour day of interviews with literally "everyone who might work with them".

"If even one person expresses doubt at any part in the process, the interview comes to a halt and the applicant is immediately sent home," Business Insider reported, after speaking with former SpaceX Josh Boehm.

In comparison, washing your own coffee cup is looking like a pretty reasonable request.

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