Zappos prides itself on being a kooky place. For example, there is a "Zappos Family Music Video" on the jobs page of its website that features, among other antics, a guy wearing a hotdog suit doing a backflip.
The online retailer has always been full of goobers, apparently. In fact, back in 2004, when Zappos only had about 100 employees, Christa Foley was interviewing to be the company's first HR generalist. And she got caught in the middle of a practical joke.
She was already a little nervous about the interview. The company was known for being super casual, she says. "I remember thinking, 'should I wear a suit or not?' I ended up wearing a pantsuit so I could take my jacket off and look less corporate-y."
Foley interviewed with two Zappos employees who asked her to play a joke on senior executive Fred Mossler and CEO Tony Hsieh, who were interviewing her next. They told her to ask the senior Zappos execs if Hsieh had been taller than Mossler in grade school. "It's funny if you know Tony and Fred," says Foley. "Fred is like six-foot-something, and Tony is a small Asian man."
It was the first question she asked, assuming that it was a test of how easygoing and carefree she could be.
Unfortunately, "It totally flopped. They literally looked at each other with a confused expression."
Turns out Zappos is zany, but its top managers were pretty serious about hiring talent. They continued with the interview, although they were confused by her question, which the jokesters later cleared up. Foley got the job, despite getting caught up in some intra-Zappos antics.
Foley is friends with Hsieh now, she says, but "for the first six months, I couldn't even look at Tony."
As for the pranksters? "I think they were having fun with each other. I blame my lack of comic skills for not landing the joke."
In its 16th year, Fortune's ranking of the best workplaces in corporate America welcomes five list debutantes, and what's more, 78 of them are looking to fill nearly 67,000 jobs.
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