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Applicants Rise to the Challenge

60 applications. 3 positions. 11 Rise to the Challenge.

On Wednesday evening I (Lauren) along with the invaluable help of my mother (Karen), ran ‘Rise to the Challenge’, the second part of Baked’s recruitment process designed to test candidates teamwork skills, their ability to make decisions and their capacity to think creatively.

Having never run anything like this before I didn’t really know what to expect, or rather, was petrified that the activities I had planned were going to be really lame and go down like a lead balloon (largely based upon my own experience of having to participate in anything designed to harness or encourage skills in teamwork). As it turned out, I had no need to worry. Based upon how I felt leaving the session, and the feedback I have received since, it went really well.

My approach to planning the event was, drawing said personal experience, ‘to do the complete opposite to what I have had to endure and hated before’. I didn’t want it to be too stuffy, too corporate or too formal. It had to reflect the values of Baked. So naturally, we kicked off with a bit of Salted Caramel Shortbread to calm the nerves.

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We’ve all been there, in an assessment session or alike, where you sit down, in a room full of strangers, slightly nervous, slightly apprehensive, thinking ‘I am pretty sure I am going to look like an idiot/muck this up/what on earth am I going to say/this is the worst experience of my life’. And then, just to make it even more torturous, the session leader announces that ‘to kick things off we’ll do an icebreaker’.

I did it. I was that horrid session leader. Dread filled the room (and being the other side of this process, you can really feel this sense of dread). I chose to go with the ‘one truth, one lie’ round robin, not too heavy it worked quite well, and it meant at least a) I got to know a little about everyone and b) a feeling of whether I was about to create a team made up of brilliant liars.

Thankfully, after everyone had tried to convince me they were lying, the dread dispersed pretty quickly and everyone started to relax (or seemed to at least).

Karen ran the first ‘proper’ exercise – the napkin challenge. In three groups, teams were tasked with essentially, creating an efficient assembly line to fold napkins, the number of which (in theory) had to increase each round. Testing the skills of good communication and teamwork, the first round saw them fold solo, then as a team with no communication and then with five minutes preparation. And despite my initial reservations (will they really get excited about folding napkins?!) everyone really got into it…and even slightly competitive. Plus, seeing as we’re opening a cake shop, it wasn’t a bad idea to test their ability to fold napkins.

We then moved onto the meat of the evening. A scenario-based exercise around the launch of a new Baked product, a Maple, Pecan and Bacon Teacake, a launch I would be leaving entirely to them.

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Each team had to, among other things, develop a name for the product; devise a marketing strategy (thinking about demographics, routes to market, marketing tools); plan the timeline to launch; consider a pricing model; demonstrate its affinity with the Baked vision; consider any difficulties they might face; and pitch it back to the rest of the group.

I was genuinely blown away with what the teams came up with (to the point that I may well be implementing my exit strategy from Baked a tad earlier than planned…). Innovative and creative, everyone got involved and excited about the exercise with each team producing some really inspirational pitches (which bodes incredibly well going forward, I now have an in-house marketing team).

We finished the session with a Q&A, which largely consisted me of telling them more about how Baked would work, our vision, what we aimed to achieve etc. where I got the impression that the group were genuinely surprised at how inclusive I wanted to the team to be. For example, when we were discussing the types of events and workshops Baked would run they seemed excited when I talked about how their input would be crucial in the decision-making process.

At this point, I also made it clear that it needed to be a two-way relationship and if they walked away from the session thinking ‘jeez I totally cannot work with that woman’, then I wouldn’t be offended if they de-selected themselves. Luckily, no-one has emailed me to say this…yet.

So yes, the session was a definite success. I thoroughly enjoyed it and left feeling really excited about the team we’re building at Baked and from the feedback from those who Rose to the Challenge, it seems that they enjoyed doing things a bit differently too.