Recruit Rockstars 346: What Happened When Facebook Bought Instagram For a Billion

You’ve probably seen Sarah Frier, since she’s been an award-winning tech reporter with Bloomberg News for 9 years.

But have you read her thrilling new book “No Filter” ?

It’s the inside story of how Instagram became the most culturally defining app of the decade.

And how this 13-person company sold to Facebook for a Billion dollars.

Sarah had unprecedented access… from the founders of Instagram, as well as employees, executives, and competitors; Anna Wintour of Vogue; Kris Jenner of the Kardashian-Jenner empire; and a ton of Instagram influencers worldwide.

In 2010, Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger released a photo-sharing app called Instagram, with 1 simple but irresistible feature: it would make anything you captured look more beautiful.

After the acquisition by Facebook, Kevin & Mike stayed on, trying to maintain Instagram’s beauty, brand, and cachet. They considered their app a separate company within the social networking giant.

They urged their employees to make changes only when necessary, resisting Facebook’s grow-at-all-costs philosophy in favor of a strategy that highlighted creativity & celebrity.

But… Just as Instagram was about to reach a billion users, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg —once supportive of the founders’ autonomy— began to feel threatened by Instagram’s success.

And that’s where the story really gets interesting.

It’s ALL about the culture of your company. Sarah shares the story behind Instagram’s & Facebook’s cultures.

Strong Suit 322: 22 Million Hidden Candidates You're Missing

In the war for talent, you need to turn over every stone. And here’s one you’re likely missing?
There are 22 million veterans in the US, and there are probably just as many myths & misunderstandings.
So I sought out an expert to fill us in.
I found him in Silicon Valley. Chris Galy is Chief People Officer at Ten-X (formerly
After his graduation from West Point, Chris served in the Army Flight School before building a successful career as VP Talent Acquisition at Intuit.
In this 20-minute interview, Chris reveals the secrets of tapping into the veteran candidate pool. Where to find them? How to recruit them? What types of roles are the best fit?
And how to finally debunk the myths.

Show Them The Money: The Small Way To Build A Big Pool Of Candidates

“Show me the money!”

It’s one of the most memorable movie quotes ever. I’ll never forget sports agent Tom Cruise shouting it to his star client in the critically acclaimed movie Jerry Maguire.
It can work for you too.
Very simply, if you want your recruitment ads to stand out from other companies and get the attention of more candidates, you need to do one thing:
Show them the salary!
I know… You’re thinking you couldn’t possibly do that. But keep reading. I’ll share why, how, and give you a real-life example that worked.
Being transparent about compensation in job descriptions can save you time, establish credibility with candidates, and put an end to the always-awkward conversation about money later in the recruiting process.
A recent survey by Glassdoor revealed that lack of compensation information is the #1 frustration among job candidates.
I’m not surprised.
As a lifelong headhunter, there’s nothing more disappointing (for both parties) than investing time and energy in the interview process, only to find out that there’s an irreconcilable gap between the salary needs of the candidate and the salary offer from the company.
In today’s labor market, the tightest in 50 years, virtually no strong candidate switches jobs without at least a bump in salary. (The average bump, in case you’re wondering, is 18%.)
Posting the actual salary in your job ad (instead of the phrase “competitive compensation”)-and revealing it to candidates you’re recruiting directly-will put you at a big advantage over companies that delay talking about salary until they’re ready to make a job offer.
By then, it’s too late.
Years ago, when unemployment was at or near double digits, there was a certain logic to waiting until the end of the hiring process to reveal your salary offer.
Good jobs were scarce and you could always negotiate upwards if the candidate balked at your first offer. Why risk overpaying?
In today’s market, if you come in with a lowball offer, you risk losing the candidate altogether, particularly if the person has other options and stronger offers on the table.
Research shows that including the salary in your job description will deliver a number of benefits:
More candidates: A study by SMART Recruit Online found that when job ads include a salary range, they attract more than 30% more candidates.
Happier candidates: Over 70% of professionals want to hear about salary in the first message from a recruiter, according to LinkedIn.
Employer differentiation: With less than 50% of U.S. companies including salary information in their job ads, you have a chance to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Make it a job Invitation, not a job description
In addition to listing a salary, you can attract more interest from candidates by writing compelling job invitations that emphasize the long-term opportunities in the position you’re trying to fill and describe the great things about working for your company.
As I’ve discussed previously, most job descriptions discourage people from applying because they are written from the perspective of the employer and overemphasize the stringent requirements of the position.
Here’s an example of a recent great job ad that describes the position with absolutely no jargon and explains exactly what the company is looking for and the application process.
Oh yes, it also includes the salary ($181,000).
I love this paragraph from the ad:
“This is a role for someone who knows how to mix a wild idea with a practical pitch. Someone who’s who has an eye for talent, a nose for bullshit, ears close to the ground, and the creative mind of a conductor.”
Why aren’t more job ads written this way?
Instead, the vast majority of ads are mind-numbing, boring and filled with a long list of must-haves that frequently have little to do with the reality of the job and what it takes to succeed in the position.
Remember, in addition to compensation, top performers are looking for three things: a challenging environment that encourages their best work; work/life integration; and job stability.

To attract these kinds of candidates, you must deliver a job value proposition that describes your company’s mission and growth trajectory and the challenges and career potential of the position you seek to fill.
If you’re like most employers, your job descriptions need work.
Hire a copywriter, focus on what you can offer candidates and talk to your best employees about what they like most about your company.
But most of all, include compensation details right upfront.
Candidates will appreciate it and you’ll be free to focus entirely on finding the best person for the job.
Let’s end the hiring salary dance once and for all.
Show them the money!

The Five Cardinal Sins Of Recruiting

Recruiting can be a humbling business.

I’ve made every mistake in the book. And I’ve seen countless other executives fall prey to the same errors.
How many times have you been sure you had snagged the perfect candidate, only to see a short time later that the sure thing turned into a big bust?

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re likely to repeat them time and time again. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of what I call the Cardinal Sins of Recruiting. Avoid these, and your hiring success will surely increase:

Gut feelings: After 25 years in executive search, I’m convinced that choosing candidates based on intuition and feelings is the major reason only about 50% of new hires don’t work out for most organizations.
It’s human nature to decide whether you like someone or not within a few minutes of meeting them. From there, we tend to look for evidence that supports our initial feeling and discount evidence that runs counter to the feeling. The psychological term for this is Confirmation Bias and it’s something we all must resist.

My solution is simple: If I find myself feeling overly positive or negative about a candidate early on, I consciously try to find evidence that counters my feeling. Not infrequently, this exercise will lead me to change my mind completely about a candidate.
Poor DNA match: This is the second biggest error in recruiting. DNA mismatches create conflict, disengaged workers and high levels of turnover.
DNA is the three to five qualities that are most important to your organization and are expressed in the actions and behaviors of your top performers. DNA is the soul of your company.
The solution to DNA mismatches requires work and discipline: First, model the traits and characteristics of your best performers. Second, make sure everyone you hire going forward shares the same DNA as your best people.
Overreliance on interviews:  Too many hiring managers believe that they are terrific interviewers and place too much stock in their subjective impressions of candidates.
My solution is simple: If I find myself feeling overly positive or negative about a candidate early on, I consciously try to find evidence that counters my feeling. Not infrequently, this exercise will lead me to change my mind completely about a candidate.
Poor DNA match: This is the second biggest error in recruiting. DNA mismatches create conflict, disengaged workers and high levels of turnover.
DNA is the three to five qualities that are most important to your organization and are expressed in the actions and behaviors of your top performers. DNA is the soul of your company.
The solution to DNA mismatches requires work and discipline: First, model the traits and characteristics of your best performers. Second, make sure everyone you hire going forward shares the same DNA as your best people.
Overreliance on interviews:  Too many hiring managers believe that they are terrific interviewers and place too much stock in their subjective impressions of candidates.

Throw new hires into the deep end: Hiring executives often think that the battle is won when the candidate accepts the offer.
Be aware, 20% of all staff turnover occurs within 45 days of employment. Even the most qualified candidate needs time and guidance to understand the organization, their role, and how to work with others.
Commit your organization to a comprehensive and effective onboarding process and you’ll experience better retention, a more productive workforce and a stronger culture.
Self-Awareness Is Critical
While these are the most damaging mistakes in recruiting in my opinion, there are plenty of other things that organizations get wrong.
Self-awareness is critical. In any endeavor–recruiting included–understanding and avoiding mistakes is essential to staying on the right path and producing successful results.
If you can avoid these Five Cardinal Sins of Recruiting, you will make much better hires and build a much stronger and more productive workforce.

In Recruiting, Everything Old Is New Again

Let’s be real. Young people do some things better than older people. And older people outshine young workers in other ways. Have you ever seen a 50-year-old centerfielder or a 25-year-old baseball manager?

A provocative cover story in the most recent Harvard Business Review, titled When No One Retires, argues convincingly that businesses have little idea on how to respond to the aging employee population or how to build an effective multi-generational workforce.
The world is getting older quickly. By 2035, the number of Americans over 65 will exceed the number of people under 18 for the first time in history. Globally, the ratio of retirees per worker is expected to decline from 8:1 today to 4:1 in 2050.

There’s no turning back.
Global life expectancy has risen from 53 years in 1960 to 72 years in 2015–and it’s projected to climb by 1.5 years per decade going forward. At the same time, fertility rates are falling worldwide–and nowhere faster than Europe and North America.
Quite simply, you almost certainly will have an older workforce in the future than you have today. By figuring out now how to elicit greater contributions from older workers than your competitors, you will gain an unfair advantage.
But here’s the problem (or opportunity): While the trend toward an older workforce is unstoppable, most organizations continue to favor younger workers in their hiring decisions and workforce strategies. A study based on the responses to 40,000 fictitious résumés conducted by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco determined that older applicants–and particularly older women–suffer significant age discrimination. Perhaps more troubling, a 2018 Deloitte survey revealed that, while some companies are preparing for the aging of the workforce, about half of the respondents have done nothing to help older workers. And 20% view older workers as a competitive disadvantage.
To a degree, I understand the bias. Younger workers cost less and–while they lack experience–they frequently are more driven to kickstart their careers than older workers who have settled into comfortable routines and are cruising toward retirement. But at the same time, it’s a huge mistake to overlook the positive attributes of older workers and to fail to provide them with new roles where they can make important contributions into their 60s and 70s.
Sure, young people in general have superior technological skills than older workers–but skills involved in a variety of jobs such as technical writing, human resource management and most types of sales actually improve as a person gets older, according to the research paper “Population Aging and Comparative Advantage.” The challenge for organizations is to leverage the skills, experiences, and ambitions of both young and old workers in a way that provides engaging work, flexible career paths, and work/life integration for all.
If you’re behind the curve on this aging workforce issue, what should you do?
First, get rid of these traditional assumptions and HR policies:

  • Education and learning ends by the mid-30’s
  • Career progression stops in the 50’s
  • 30-year-olds can’t manage 50-year-olds
  • Everyone should retire when they hit their 60s.

They’re dead wrong. And if you’re unwilling to embrace new workplace strategies and non-traditional paths for individual employees, your competitors will out-recruit you.

  • Instead of allowing older workers to remain in the same role as they approach retirement, offer them new opportunities such as mentoring younger employees or part-time work that allows you to tap into their expertise without holding back the progression of younger workers.
  • Re-design your workforce to take advantage of the “gig economy” and encourage retired workers to work for your organization on a project-by-project basis.
  • Expand your employee development and training programs. Challenge middle-aged workers to develop new skills. For example, push your older software engineers to learn about artificial intelligence or blockchain technologies.
  • Re-engineer your salary policies to reduce the discrepancy between high-priced senior workers and younger employees so that there is less of a financial incentive to remove older workers or push them into retirement. In select situations, offer older workers lesser roles (and reduced hours) at salaries you can better afford.
  • Train young leaders to better manage employees that are significantly older than themselves, and teach older employees to coach and mentor young employees.
  • Assemble older and younger workers with complementary skills on key projects so that they can learn from each other.
Companies that tap into the capabilities of both young and old workers–and succeed in getting them to work together effectively–will have an enormous advantage over slower-moving organizations that devalue the potential contributions of older workers.
Older workers are your future. Don’t get left behind.

Why Humble Leaders Make The Best Leaders

When hiring for a leadership role, you may be overlooking one of the most important traits of top performers: humility.

Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?
Humility is not typically the first trait that comes to mind when you think about great business leaders like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Bill Gates.
Visionary, courageous, charismatic – these are the qualities most of us associate with great leaders. The idea of a humble, self-effacing leader often doesn’t resonate.

Hold on.
A number of research studies have concluded that humble leaders listen more effectively, inspire great teamwork and focus everyone (including themselves) on organizational goals better than leaders who don’t score high on humility.

Case in point: A survey of 105 computer software and hardware firms published in the Journal of Management revealed that humility in CEOs led to higher-performing leadership teams, increased collaboration and cooperation and flexibility in developing strategies.
And you likely recall that, in his seminal book Good to GreatJim Collins found two common traits of CEOs in companies that transitioned from average to superior market performance: humility and an indomitable will to advance the cause of the organization.

At a managerial level, traits associated with humility–such as soliciting feedback and focusing employee needs–generated higher levels of engagement and job performance from their direct reports, according to research published in Administrative Science Quarterly.
So, what makes humility such an important quality?
Humble leaders understand that they are not the smartest person in every room. Nor do they need to be. They encourage people to speak up, respect differences of opinion and champion the best ideas, regardless of whether they originate from a top executive or a production-line employee.
When a leader works to harness input from everyone, it carries through the organization. As other executives and line managers emulate the leader’s approach, a culture of getting the best from every team and every individual takes root.
In short, leaders know how to get the most from people.
When things go wrong, humble leaders admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.
I suspect that humility gets a bad rap because it is sometimes linked with subservience or weakness or introversion.
Psychological research actually indicates the opposite. Humility is most closely associated with a cluster of highly positive qualities including sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness, unpretentiousness and authenticity.
And there’s nothing about humility that makes it incompatible with strength and courage.
Quite the opposite.
In 25 years of recruiting, I’ve observed that leadership is far less about style than it is about execution. Some leaders are screamers while others are quiet and introverted. Some are intuitive geniuses and others are total pragmatists.
But regardless of their approach, at the end of the day, leaders must inspire trust, cooperation and commitment among the workforce.
When it’s time to make a hiring decision, how do you assess humility in a candidate?
Do they credit others? If a candidate fails to acknowledge the contributions of others in helping to achieve their successes, it’s a red flag.
Do they admit to mistakes? A humble person not only admits to making mistakes; they seek to understand what they did wrong and what they should change going forward. Be especially careful of candidates who blame others and exempt themselves from responsibility.
Do they accept constructive feedback? Does the candidate admit to receiving criticism in previous jobs? How did they respond? Ideally, the candidate will acknowledge the validity of the feedback and demonstrate a thoughtful response.
I know a CEO who early in his career was criticized for creating polished pieces of work without talking to anyone else in the organization. The work product was great; the problem was that he received lukewarm support for his recommendations because he didn’t consult key stakeholders. He learned to engage others early in projects, build a consensus and present a united front when he unveiled his work to the broader organization.
Do they strive to overcome their weaknesses? We all have skill gaps. Has the candidate recognized their own and sought to improve?
I worked with a technology executive who simply dreaded public speaking. I encouraged her to join a Toastmasters group and in just months, she was able to transform a weakness into a strength.
Do they help others? In prior jobs, did the candidate demonstrate that they cared about their direct reports, gave them the tools and training, and helped to advance their careers?
The bottom line: we tend to be impressed by charismatic candidates with powerful personalities and a commanding presence.  My advice: dig deeper. Your gut reaction is often wrong.
Search for quiet confidence, humility and a focus on others.
That’s where great leadership begins.

Recruit Rockstars 284: How to Scale a CBD Company

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that CBD is the hottest thing in health & wellness.
One of the pioneering companies is Sera Labs, based in Southern California.
CEO Nancy Duitch recently raised $5 million in growth capital from ToroVerde, the Canadian-based Cannabis private equity fund.
Sera makes products for CBD-based products for health, wellness, and beauty. They’ve even created Sera Pets (to relax Fido.)
In this 20-minute conversation, Nancy reveals how she’s building the team to capitalize on this burgeoning market category.

Recruit Rockstars 283: Building The Team That's Building API Heaven

If your team develops software, you know that building API’s are the key to pretty much everything. But they get cluttered & messy.
So Adam Leventhal decided to do something about it. Now, he’s Co-Founder and CEO of Transposit, one of SF’s fastest-growing tech companies.
Adam was Chief Technology Officer of Delphix, and spent time in venture capital. Then he saw an opportunity create Transposit.
In fact, they recently raised $12 million from top venture capital firms Sutter Hill Ventures, SignalFire, and Unusual Ventures.
In this 20-minute conversation, Adam reveals how he’s building the team that’s building this great new product.

Strong Suit 282: Lighting Up The Cannabis Job Market

Four years ago, Karson Humiston had a vision.
And now she’s Founder & CEO of Denver-based Vangst. It’s the recruiting platform created exclusively for the cannabis industry.
Unless you’ve been under a rock (or leaf), you know that the cannabis field has created 300,000 new jobs in the past couple of years. And research projects that’ll triple again shortly.
So she built Vangst to connect industry workers & employers.
In the process, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. And Vangst was ranked amongst Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Brilliant companies.
In this 20-minute interview, Karson reveals how she’s building the team that’s building one of the fastest-growing industries in history.

Strong Suit 281: Combining Fulltime & Parttime Employees

Can an old dog learn new tricks?
Erick Eidus is betting they can.
He’s CEO of PupPod, which he founded 4 years ago.
Based in Kirkland Washington, they’ve created a smartphone-connected puzzle toy for dogs.
When dogs interact with it, they earn food rewards from a bluetooth-connected dispenser
Previously, Erick was with Microsoft and Motorola. Now he’s raised outside funding to scale PupPod.
In this episode, Erick shares how he’s built a virtual team of employees, some part-time & some full-time. And he reveals the biggest learnings & mistakes as you do the same.