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Why Certn Doesn't Hire Assholes

August 10th, 2022

Certn, Candidate Experience

5 min read

At Certn, we have four core values: We’re accountable, we’re inclusive, we’re synergistic, and—importantly—we’re not assholes. That last part might sound a little controversial, but it’s there for a reason.

Our mission at Certn is to build a culture of trust. We want to create a culture of trust with our clients. We want to create a culture of trust with our partners. And we want to create a culture of trust with the applicants who complete their background checks with us. In order to do that, though, we need to live our values and foster a culture of trust within our own team. Here is a closer look at how our “no assholes” approach helps us accomplish that.

What Do We Mean by “Asshole”?

We want to be clear here. When we say “asshole,” we don’t mean someone who:

  • is socially awkward
  • makes honest mistakes from time to time
  • means well and apologizes when they accidentally hurt others

Rather, we’re talking about someone who has a significant and consistently negative impact on those around them. An asshole would display some or all of the following behaviours on a regular basis:

  • belittling coworkers
  • mocking someone seeking help
  • refusing to assist others
  • spreading gossip
  • undermining those around them
  • taking credit for work they didn’t do
  • blaming others for their mistakes

Some may be self-centred and insensitive, draining their peers' motivation and collaboration invisibly. In extreme cases, they could even be bullies who maliciously undermine team confidence. In short, their behaviour is consistently unhelpful, malicious, and downright toxic.

The Hidden Cost of Assholes

The truth is, some assholes can be high achievers. Maybe they're a high performer or have a special skill (or simply appear that way because of their cut-throat approach). But because their talent comes at a cost, they ultimately have a negative impact rather than a positive one. One Harvard paper determined that a toxic worker’s bad behaviour was able to “cause major organizational cost, including customer loss, loss of employee morale, increased turnover, and loss of legitimacy among important external stakeholders.” It even went so far as to say that “avoiding a toxic worker… enhances performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker.”

Because some assholes can be top individual performers, their attitude is sometimes tolerated by otherwise culturally responsible organizations. In other companies, "brilliant jerks" are intentionally hired to feed the competitive environment within the company. But while these recruits might exceed expectations on an individual level, the net negative impact they have on team performance is often overlooked. This false economy can cause a great deal of damage.

The Benefits of a Positive Work Environment

A good work environment is essential to company success and functions as the very foundation of a high-performance business. How so? Positive work environments provide a wide range of data-supported benefits, such as:

Taken altogether, these effects have a significant impact on an organization. Here at Certn, for example, we’re able to offer best-in-class customer service in no small part due to the amazing professionals working within our team. On G2, we have a 96% Quality of Support rating (so we might not be everyone’s cup of tea… but we are 96% of people’s cup of tea). And on Software Advice, we fare even better with a 5/5 customer service rating.

But while our customer service is something we’re quite proud of, it’s definitely not the only thing we do well or that our customers appreciate (in fact, on G2 we score even higher for ease of use). On a more general note, we have a 4.8/5-star rating on Capterra, a 4.8/5-star rating on G2, and a 4.75/5-star rating on Software Advice—but who’s counting?

What Makes a Good Work Environment?

At Certn, we work hard to make our company a truly great place to work at. We schedule fun in-person and virtual events, we have a remote-first and flexible work policy, we offer support to new parents, and we provide plenty of other perks. But while events and benefits matter, a company’s work culture is ultimately defined by the interactions its employees experience on a day-to-day basis. A good work environment isn’t one that’s defined by a few standout moments. It’s one that’s built through daily communications. According to Gallup and the Harvard Business Review, “even when workplaces offered benefits such as flextime and work-from-home opportunities, engagement predicted wellbeing above and beyond anything else.”

good work culture

When employees reach out to a colleague, ask a question, or admit a mistake, their ability to feel safe and comfortable matters. Those small moments function as the building blocks for how a company ultimately operates. And that’s why we value them at Certn.

Assholes can have a significant impact on these types of interactions. According to one poll, employees on the receiving end of an asshole’s bad behaviour (our wording, not theirs) confessed that “48% decreased their work effort, 47% decreased their time at work, 38% decreased their work quality, 66% said their performance declined, 80% lost work time worrying about the incident, 63% lost time avoiding the offender, and 78% said their commitment to the organization declined.” We don’t want that.

How Do We Hire Good People?

On Glassdoor, we have a 4.8-star rating (“One of Certn’s values consists of not hiring people who are a**holes, and this shows,” observes one cheery review). Our remote work policy is also among the best in Canada. And our internal surveys routinely show that our employees are engaged and thriving.

 

To make all of this happen, we put a lot of care into our hiring process. In fact, one of the first things applicants do is a culture interview. This is an interview that helps us truly get a sense of who the candidate is. It takes place with cameras off (to help remove visual bias) and uses pre-made scorecards (to help avoid “gut feelings” and other forms of unconscious bias). We also take the time to make people feel comfortable during this interview and set them up for success—because it’s normal for everyone to feel a little nervous.

So what do we look for? We want employees who share these important qualities:

  • kind
  • empathetic
  • collaborative
  • questioning
  • curious

We want to be clear here: The culture interview isn’t about finding a culture “fit.” It’s about finding a culture “add.” It’s an important distinction that matters to who we are and what we do. We want our employees to help us grow in new directions, bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table, and make Certn a better company as a result. We aren’t striving for uniformity—we’re striving for diversity. We look for candidates who demonstrate empathy, synergy, collaboration, and a commitment to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Applicants who pass the culture interview then move on to the next steps in our hiring process before completing their background check and joining the team.

Conclusion

At Certn, we strive to be one of the best places to work at. Period. That means fostering the kind of work culture that allows people to feel supported, accepted, and respected. When a Certonian asks a question, owns up to a mistake, or reaches out to one of their coworkers, they know that the person they’re talking to genuinely cares because they aren’t—to put it bluntly—an asshole.

It might sound like a small thing, but it’s one that comes with important benefits. It helps us work together so that we can offer excellent products and excellent customer service. And it helps us attract and keep amazing talent so that we can keep growing and innovating.

Positive work culture

Certonians are accountable, inclusive, synergistic, and—most importantly—we’re not assholes. When we say we care, we really do. And when we say we’re here to provide people with an exceptional background screening experience, we really mean it.

So yes, our “no assholes” approach is something that’s a little different and outside of the box. But then again, we’re a little different and outside the box too.

Are you a non-asshole looking to take the next step in your career?

If so, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our Careers page to see if there’s a role you’d love to have!

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