red-frog-treehouseI love checking out cool offices, so when I walked into Red Frog Events, I knew I was in for a treat. Their whole office has an outdoors theme, and right in the middle of it there’s a huge indoor treehouse. “It’s hard not to be creative when you’re working out of a treehouse,” said Joe Reynolds, the company’s founder, in a 2012 interview with Crain’s Chicago Business, and that creative streak is pretty hard to miss as you walk through their offices.

I sat down with Lauren Shield, the¬†Communications Director at Red Frog, as a group of Red Froggers sat outside playing XBox in one of the office’s common areas. I wanted to hear more about Lauren’s experience getting hired here and see if she had any advice for job seekers.

How did you get hired at Red Frog? Is there an interesting story there?

“I was scouring the job market for anything involving marketing, communications, PR, whatever it was. I stumbled across Red Frog in a Craigslist ad, which at the time was pretty much the only thing we did. So, I got a call back for an interview and it was in a very small office in Lincoln Park with Joe Reynolds and Ryan Kunkel who were two of three full-time employees at the time. It was a very interesting interview. One of the questions they asked me was, ‘What’s in your refrigerator right now?’, but obviously they were trying to learn about me as a person. I left the interview feeling okay, but with some of those questions, you never know. I ended up getting a call back, started right away, and got in at a pretty early level.”

Note: Now all of Red Frog’s employees start as interns, so if you’re looking to work there, you should apply.

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Back in the early days, I’m guessing you had a pretty big role for somebody who was relatively inexperienced. How did that feel?

“The first year or maybe two were even more exciting than it is now. I can honestly say that every day here is exciting because things are constantly changing and we’re launching new events, but the first year or two, when we were really growing was even more so. I’ve never felt more alive to tell you the truth, and part of it does go back to Joe and Ryan. We were all learning together – this wasn’t something that Joe or Ryan or any of us had done before. They put a lot of trust in us as a young staff to make the right choices. There were definitely a lot of first time experiences, but I think that’s the best way to learn.”

What do you think is the key to getting hired at a small company or startup like Red Frog?

“Obviously, you should know what the company is about; know what they do. I think understanding who you are as a person and as an employee is important. You’ve got to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you would really be a good fit for the company. I knew right away that I was ready for a big challenge – I would work as many hours as I could – but you’ve got to trust your instincts and think about how working for someone would fit with your lifestyle.”

Let’s talk about Red Frog in general. I think from walking through the office I have a pretty good feel for what the culture might be like, but in your own words, how would you describe it?

“Ever evolving, full of creative, fun, and unique people.

It’s really not about what we have in the office necessarily. Something that we’ve learned is that bringing in the right people builds a culture. It takes a lot more than just having a bar in the office or a rock wall. Yes these are great assets that we want to give our employees access to, but our culture is really about bringing in the right people and treating them the right way.”

How do you go about finding these “right people,” who would thrive in an environment like Red Frog’s?

“We definitely look for the right educational background, but on top of that we look for people who are really just nice to the core. People you can tell are very good-hearted and are passionate about what we do. They’re the kind of people who you can tell will work hard for the goals we’re working towards.”

Experience or energy? Which will get you further at Red Frog?

“A mixture of both.

As far as experience, we don’t necessarily look for someone who’s had 8 different internships. It’s about the person and their drive to become knowledgeable in a specific area. We have a very large professional development department here too, so if someone says, ‘Hey, I really want to get better at this,’ we will give them whatever they need to grow in that department. So, experience isn’t necessarily the only thing that sets people apart. It’s really about energy and the culture fit.”

Unlimited vacation? How does that work?

“Unlimited vacation time has been instilled since day 1. Joe [Red Frog's founder] said that he didn’t want to make people feel bound to coming to work. As long as everyone’s getting what they need to get done and staying on task and deadline, it’s a great thing because having the work and life balance motivates people to work even more. Giving people the opportunity to take a vacation when they need it is better overall for productivity.”

See more of Red Frog’s office in this video from Crain’s Chicago Business: