How Simpl identifies cultural fit in candidates over coffee

The checkout network employs a practice known as ‘coffee hire’, which enables the leadership to gain valuable insights into candidates' experiences


In any young organisation, finding the perfect blend of skills and cultural alignment is like hitting the jackpot. The right skills are like the perfect engine, while cultural fit is like the GPS guiding that car; it ensures everyone is on the same road, heading in the same direction.

Simpl, a platform that facilitates checkout services to D2C businesses, has carefully designed its hiring process, which measures not just skills but also ensures a smooth cultural fit.

When it comes to hiring, one of the most significant challenges is pinpointing the perfect candidate for the job. According to Sneha Arora, CHRO at Simpl, it’s becoming progressively harder to differentiate individuals who not only have the essential skills but also the enthusiasm and adaptability needed to thrive within the organisation, especially when considering the cultural aspect.

“Our goal is to construct a career architecture that defines the competencies and skills required for different job functions at various organisational levels. This approach aims to provide employees with clear guidelines on what they need to do to progress within the organisation and also identifies areas where they may need improvement.”

Sneha Arora, CHRO, Simpl

As technology becomes more prevalent, resumes have begun to adopt a striking similarity, failing to capture the individual uniqueness of each person.

Therefore, the company has discovered effective methods for acquiring both the right skills and cultural fit. In addition to traditional talent-acquisition methods, the company proactively engages in outreach efforts. This includes having conversations and chats with individuals who have the potential to become valuable future talent.

This process is known as the ‘coffee hire,’ where company leadership engages in casual coffee conversations with potential candidates, primarily for the senior roles. Even if there is no specific job opening at the moment, Simpl makes a deliberate effort to meet and connect with people over social platforms such as LinkedIn. This allows them to not only get to know individuals better but also gain insights into their experiences in their respective industries and companies.

“This practice extends to our CEO and CXOs as well. Sometimes, as individuals become more acquainted with our organisation, they become enthusiastic about the challenges we are addressing. When the right opportunity arises, this is how some of our hires, especially for mid-senior and senior levels, have come about,” shares Arora.

Sharing her own experience here, she admits, “I, myself, am an example of such a coffee hire, where the hiring process is not a one-sided evaluation but a two-way exchange. We understand that it’s not just about us assessing a candidate; it’s also about the candidate getting to know the company and its people better.”

For fresh or entry-level hires, the company is highly dependent on campus hiring. The company recruits freshers from specific universities such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), including IIT Kharagpur and IIT Kanpur. “Hiring from universities carries the advantage of shaping and nurturing fresh graduates. Last year, we initiated a robust internship programme and extended pre-placement offers (PPOs). This year, we are continuing to collaborate with universities to attract young talent directly out of college,” asserts Arora.

As campus hiring is a regular practice at Simpl, it has managed to create a strong base of alumni. It also organises interactions between the campus students and their alumni to help them get insights into life at the company, expectations and the nature of work.
To get the right cultural fit, the company depends highly on its employee referrals.

“When we have open positions, we occasionally advertise ‘hot jobs’ that come with a referral bonus incentive. This approach has proven highly effective, and we are proud of the strong commitment our employees have demonstrated in referring potential candidates,” points out Arora.

The company’s talent strategy with regard to skill sets, job functions and organisational levels involves the implementation of two key initiatives.

The first includes establishing a structured career framework, referred to as ‘career architecture.’ It helps the employees get clarity regarding their professional growth. It also helps them understand the criteria for advancing from one level to the next or ways to excel in their current roles to achieve a specific rating or be recognised as high performers.

“Our goal is to construct a career architecture that defines the competencies and skills required for different job functions at various organisational levels. This approach aims to provide employees with clear guidelines on what they need to do to progress within the organisation and also identifies areas where they may need improvement,” points out Arora.

Furthermore, the company conducts its annual ‘talent review,’ which was initiated as a formalised process last year. This involves a collective assessment where managers within a specific team or group convene to evaluate the top-performing individuals based on predefined criteria, including performance and alignment with company values.

“Each employee is provided with a comprehensive dossier, which includes their self-assessment, performance evaluations from their manager regarding goal achievement, as well as feedback gathered from peers, senior stakeholders, colleagues, and where applicable, direct reports. This process serves as a solid foundation for identifying top performers and appropriately rewarding them. Moreover, it promotes consistency in our evaluations, and we find it to be a data-driven approach to the entire process,” shares Arora.

Established in 2016, Simpl has been putting in continuous efforts to build its culture and focuses on two key aspects on this front.

One, it incorporates values into daily practices. For instance, in the past year, the company initiated the process of formulating its core values and engaging in extensive discussions with its employees. Furthermore, it also organised workshops with the leadership team to define the principles and behaviours that the people want to uphold.

The company has also taken steps to integrate these values into its day-to-day operations. For instance, during both mid-year and annual cycles, employees initiate a 360-degree feedback assessment for themselves. This process allows them to identify individuals who can provide feedback (stakeholders) and receive evaluations on how well they embody company’s values, assess their strengths and identify areas where they may need improvement.

Two, the company invests in leadership development to cultivate the desired organisational culture. It recently launched the ‘Elevate’ initiative for leadership development. “We believe that leadership and culture are intertwined, and strengthening our leaders contributes to our cultural robustness. It’s often said that ‘people don’t leave organisations; they leave their managers’, underscoring the pivotal role of managers in maintaining and enhancing culture,” opines Arora.

Moreover, the company also prioritises cultural fit while evaluating potential candidates. As Arora explains, “At Simpl, prospective employees often go through four to five interview rounds. During the debrief process, assessing the cultural alignment is a pivotal aspect. We consider whether they can uphold our core values, prioritise customer satisfaction, work swiftly and engage in constructive disagreement while committing to decisions. Our values serve as a reference point for evaluating how well someone may fit into our culture.”

The company let go of over 150 employees in April 2023. It was the result of market dynamics, and the company’s overhiring. However, this has not affected Simpl’s overall talent acquisition and hiring strategy. “Our organisational priority remains unchanged and we are committed to expanding our business. We are placing a strong emphasis on execution and actively seeking to establish more partnerships with merchants to grow our user base,” concludes Arora.


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