14 Business Leaders And Their Advice On Hiring

Image via Flickr/ Maurizio Pesce

Starting a business and not sure how to choose the best employees? Or maybe you already have an established business but have never really established any concrete rules for hiring. Everyone could use a little guidance during the hiring process — especially if that guidance comes from some of the top business leaders in the U.S. These 14 leaders have some great advice to share about what kind of people to hire and how to it. Check out their tips for some inspiration and start crafting a hiring philosophy of your own; maybe someday people will come to you for hiring advice!

1. Marissa Mayer

The Yahoo CEO focuses on inspiring employees and hiring passionate people, she tells Inc. “Our mission is making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining,” Mayer says. “Which people come to work at Yahoo to build on that mission? Those who are inspired by that, and you can feel that passion in the products.”

2. Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook’s founder and CEO prefers to hire people he’d be willing to work for himself. “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” Zuckerberg told the audience at the 2015 Mobile World Conference. “It’s a pretty good test and I think this rule has served me well.”

3. Elon Musk

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX takes the time to interview every job candidate himself — and he has no patience for assholes, apparently. In a 2008 interview with On Innovation, he revealed the importance of hiring employees who can work well with others:

“I actually interview everyone at SpaceX personally. And we’re a 500-person company, so that’s a lot of interviews.

What do I look for? It depends on the task. You know, it’s different, and I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has brilliant analytical ability if their job is going to be assembling hardware. But I think, generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them? It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and] your job is gonna be quite miserable.

And, in fact, we have a strict ‘no-assholes policy’ at SpaceX. And we fire people if they are. I mean, we give them a little bit of warning. But if they continue to be an asshole, then they’re fired.”

4. Jeff Bezos

Amazon’s CEO asks three questions before hiring someone:

1. Will you admire this person?

2. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?

3. Along what dimensions might this person be a superstar?

Bezos focuses on these three areas so he’ll end up hiring people who are respected and looked up to by all their colleagues (not just their subordinates), continually raise the bar and bring something unique to the company — even if that something doesn’t have anything to do with their actual job.

5. Steve Jobs

The former Apple CEO prioritized hiring, explaining that it’s important to take the time to find the best.

“Assume you’re by yourself in a start-up and you want a partner. You’d take a lot of time finding the partner, right? He would be half of your company. Why should you take any less time finding a third of your company or a fourth of your company or a fifth of your company? When you’re in a start-up, the first 10 people will determine whether the company succeeds or not. Each is 10 percent of the company. So why wouldn’t you take as much time as necessary to find all the A-players? If three were not so great, why would you want a company where 30 percent of your people are not so great? A small company depends on great people much more than a big company does.”

Jobs also believed in hiring collaboratively. “When we hire someone, even if they are going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers,” he once said, leading to consensus across all departments when hiring a new employee.

6. Tim Cook

Apple’s current CEO emphasizes the importance of diversity, including different backgrounds and different experiences, telling Inc., “We want diversity of thought. We want diversity of style. We want people to be themselves. It’s this great thing about Apple. You don’t have to be somebody else. You don’t have to put on a face when you go to work and be something different. But the thing that ties us all is we’re brought together by values. We want to do the right thing. We want to be honest and straightforward. We admit when we’re wrong and have the courage to change.”

7. Warren Buffett

As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s richest people, business magnate and investor Warren Buffett has a lot of experience growing companies. According to CBS News, there are three things Buffett looks for in a potential leader: intelligence, energy and integrity. He believes that even if a person has two of these traits, the lack of the third can bring a business down.

8. Howard Schultz

Starbucks wants happy employees. Back in 2011, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told Career Builder that it’s important to hire employees with similar values:

“We want people to join Starbucks who have like-minded values. We need happy people — we’re a people company that serves coffee, not the other way around,” Schultz said, adding that people come to Starbucks for great customer service, not just coffee. “The human, emotional experience our people create is why customers come in — it’s more than just for a cup of coffee.”

Schultz also said that it’s important that employees trust each other, can leave their egos “at the door” and understand that “success needs to be shared.” The most important quality for employees not to have, in his opinion, is the ability to manage up but not manage down.

9. Jeff Weiner

LinkedIn’s CEO identified the three qualities of the people he most enjoys working with: the ability to dream big, get shit done and know how to have fun.

“My favorite exchanges are with people who are naturally predisposed to think at truly massive scale and without limitations. When well reasoned, that kind of vision can be highly inspirational, change the way teams solve for a specific opportunity or challenge, and ultimately, transform the trajectory of a company,” he wrote, adding that “Some of the most capable people I’ve worked with know how to go over, around, or straight through those walls by virtue of their resourcefulness and sheer force of will. In other words, they just ‘get sh*t done.’”

10. Bob Iger

Bob Iger, CEO of the Disney Company, likes to hire optimists. In a 2011 interview with the Harvard Business Review, he said that he looks for enthusiasm and optimism in leaders, saying, “You’ve got to be an optimist. You can’t be a pessimist. When you come to work, you’ve got to show enthusiasm and spirit. You can’t let people see you brought down by the experience of failure. You don’t have that luxury. I believe in taking big risks creatively. If you fail, don’t do it with mediocrity — do it with something that was truly original, truly a risk.”

11. Virginia Rometty

In 2011, the chairwoman and CEO of IBM was not yet the chairwoman and CEO of IBM, but she still had some advice on leadership and core values. “It isn’t so much about telling people what to do, I think it’s about getting people to understand why and have a shared passion about it,” she said during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. “So, if you’re firm on what your beliefs are, you get a great foundation.”

12. Sheryl Sandberg

In a speech to the 2012 graduating class at Harvard, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared a story about hiring someone who impressed her with her willingness to offer solutions, as well as to move down on the professional ladder in order to try something new.

“The traditional metaphor for careers is a ladder, but I no longer think that metaphor holds,” said Sandberg. “It doesn’t make sense in a less hierarchical world. When I was first at Facebook, a woman named Lori Goler, a 1997 graduate of HBS, was working in marketing at eBay and I knew her kind of socially. And she called me and said, ‘I want to talk with you about coming to work with you at Facebook. So I thought about calling you,’ she said, ‘and telling you all the things I’m good at and all the things I like to do. But I figured that everyone is doing that. So instead I want to know what’s your biggest problem and how can I solve it.’ My jaw hit the floor. I’d hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I had never said anything like that. Job searches are always about the job searcher, but not in Laurie’s case. I said, ‘You’re hired. My biggest problem is recruiting and you can solve it.’ So Lori changed fields into something she never thought she’d do, went down a level to start in a new field and has since been promoted and runs all of the people operations at Facebook and has done an extraordinary job.”

13. Tony Hsieh

The Zappos CEO believes in hiring to fit the company’s culture, and is very thorough about it. As he told Business Insider in 2010, “We actually give two sets of interviews. The hiring manager will interview for the standard stuff, you know, fit with the team, relevant experience, technical ability and so on, but then our HR department does a separate set of interviews purely for cultural fit, and they have to pass both in order to be hired.

We’ve passed on a lot of really smart talented people [whom] we knew could make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line. But if they’re not good for our culture, which is more of a long-term play, then we won’t hire them.”

14. Richard Branson

Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson prioritizes people skills in his new hires. “The number one thing that matters, especially if you’re going to be manager at Virgin, is how good you are with people,” he said at an American Express event in 2005. “If you’re good with people and you really, genuinely care about people then I’m sure we could find a job for you at Virgin. I think that the companies that look after their people are the companies that do really well. I’m sure we’d like a few other attributes, but that would be the most important one.”