A CEO describes the unusual 'intelligence test' he gives every job candidate


Chris Friedland, Christian Friedland, Build.com

Courtesy of Build.com

Christian Friedland is the founder and CEO of online retailer Build.

A recent Forbes profile of Chris Friedland, the founder and CEO of Chico, California-based Build.com, highlights the exec's unique hiring strategy.


Build - which sells sinks, locks, and home fixtures online - recruits many of its sales reps from the nearby college, Chico State University, rather than targeting grads of elite universities. It also hires at Burning Man.

"I've seen a historical 'hunger' to work hard from Chico State grads, and all of my hires have had phenomenal customer service," Friedland, who is a graduate of Chico State, tells Business Insider. "I believe it's important to hire locally, not only due to the strong talent pool located in Chico, but also to support the local community as well as job creation."

In addition to looking for ambitious young people that the company can shape, Friedland also uses a funny tactic to vet candidates' smarts. He told Forbes:

"When we make job offers, we tell people they can take a drug test right away and start work tomorrow, or they can wait two weeks and come back when they're ready. I think of this as an IQ test. Anyone who takes a drug test right away - and flunks it - isn't smart enough to work for us."


Friedland says that while he likes to joke about the drug testing policy, he does "take the health and safety of our employees very seriously, and we ask all of our employees to take a drug test upon hiring."

While a bit unusual, it appears to be a successful hiring strategy. Forbes notes that "Build books about $1.2 million in revenue for each of its 500 employees," compared to $653,000 per employee at Amazon and $234,000 at Home Depot.

And Friedland's certainly not the only exec who goes out of his way to test the intelligence of potential employees. For example, according to the biography "Elon Musk," the Tesla and SpaceX CEO likes to ask candidates a riddle: "You are standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?" (If you're curious, there are multiple correct answers, and one is the North Pole.)

Meanwhile, billionaire Peter Thiel likes to ask a question that gauges original thinking ("Tell me something that's true that almost nobody agrees with you on"), and SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan uses the questions candidates ask her to determine their intellectual curiosity.

Read the full profile of Chris Friedland on Forbes.com.


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