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How Do the Top Business Executives Hire?

Recently Linkedin ran a series titled, “How I Hire” in which more than 80 top executives, including a notable billionaire, shared their thoughts on what they look for when they hire. Below are a few notable excerpts, which I will summarize at the end.

“Some managers get hung up on qualifications. I only look at them after everything else. If

Clara Shih, CEO - Hearsay Social

Clara Shih, CEO - Hearsay Social

somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.” Richard Branson

“I look for people who make me somewhat uncomfortable. I look for people who are different from me, who hold different views than I do, who have different areas of expertise than I do.” Sallie Krawcheck – Former Bank of America exec.

“If you agree that direct experience isn’t always a requirement, how should you operationalize this fact in your hiring process? Start with the assumption that great people are everywhere, but they may not have found their passion. Or they may know their passion, but they haven’t gotten a foot in the door yet.” Cyrus Massoumi, ZocDoc CEO

“I find that people who are curious, and who care about their companies and industries can grow their roles to become company leaders.” Jim Whitehurst, Redhat CEO

“Whether a company is large or small, diverse backgrounds and experiences make for better business decisions by fostering healthy debate, more ideas, new perspectives, and increased innovation.” Clara Shih, Hearsay Social CEO

“I want anyone I bring onto my team to be someone I can learn from, someone who inspires me, someone I can see taking the company to the next level. Someone I can trust. Someone who I believe will go far in their career down the road.” Randi Zuckerberg 

“The four Es [energy, energize, edge, execution] are great individually, but they’re even better when a candidate has them all wrapped up in a burning ball of passion.” Jack Welch

“I want smart people who want to learn. It doesn’t matter who you know, where you went to school, or where you grew up.” Ted Fine, Head of Programming at Bloomberg 

Here are the key takeaways as I see them that we can learn from the quotes above:

  • Don’t get hung up on qualifications – Find the person with the best personality.
  • Don’t get hung up on grades – Straight As or the school attended mean little if the candidates are being placed into the wrong areas.
  • Hire outside your comfort zone – Hiring for diversity brings fresh ideas to the table and helps to increase innovation.
  • People can be trained – Though not directly mentioned, the top executives agree that hiring for personality or passion rather than skills is more effective.  If someone is enthusiastic about the role, they will learn what is necessary.
  • Passion – Your organization can’t be taken to the next level without individuals head over heels for what they do.

While the traditional hiring process of finding the most skilled candidate to do the job makes sense, successful business leaders beg to differ.  Passion, personality, energy and even a differing point of view trumps skills, good grades and an Ivy League pedigree.  I would encourage all hiring managers when evaluating their job candidates during the interview to read between the lines.

About The Author

Ryder Cullison

Ryder has more than 10 years of experience working with retained search clients as a search professional. As a pioneer of Interview4 he has great knowledge of video interviewing. He writes about all things hiring and looks forward to engaging with his audience on topics of leadership, recruiting, candidate screening, and employee satisfaction. Follow him on Twitter: @hireintelligent and @cullison1

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