What Billionaires Say About Recruiting Will Shock You

What Billionaires Say About Recruiting Will Shock You

Following in their footsteps when recruiting Rockstars can ignite your business.

By Jeff Hyman
Chief Talent Officer, Strong Suit Executive Search
I’ve learned a ton about talent & recruiting over 25 years, but I’ll be honest with you — I sure don’t know everything.
I value — yet sometimes respectfully disagree with — the wisdom of people who have built vibrant companies with legendary corporate cultures. A bunch of them are billionaire founders.
Recently, I did a ton of research to figure out what I could learn from these greats, and I wanted to share their recruiting quotes and my own interpretations of them.

Steve Jobs

I hired the wrong guy…”

Known for being a mercurial leader, Jobs illustrates an issue that I see time & time again — hiring an individual who isn’t a culture fit for your organization. A mismatch between their DNA and that of your company can set you back. It’s vital to cut your losses early.
On a more positive note, Jobs also said:

“When you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work.”

I couldn’t agree more. Rockstars want to be on a winning team of Rockstars. They’ll actually resent you, the leader, for tolerating mediocrity. LinkedIn shares several additional lessons that companies can learn from Steve Jobs’ recruiting tactics.

Bill Gates

The key for us, number one, has always been hiring very smart people. If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become some mediocre company.”

I’m mixed on this one. He’s got it right that talent is the number one thing. It’s not just on the shortlist. It’s numero uno. But “smart” is often over-emphasized in recruiting. I’ve worked with and hired plenty of perfect-SAT-scorers, and there’s little correlation to their ability to execute. Focus instead of cognitive ability – the ability to ask the right questions, absorb new data, adjust one’s approach and iterate.

Oprah Winfrey

recruiting quotes

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

I love hiring people who love messiness. Ambiguity, change, and resource constraints. Rockstars have a way of navigating through the fog.

Elon Musk

There’s no need even to have a college degree. At all.”

Musk and I are aligned on this one. A degree isn’t predictive of success, and many of the greats on this list — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, for example — are living proof. Inc shares several additional lessons and recruiting quotes from Elon Musk.

Warren Buffett

recruiting quotes

Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

Every company has its unique DNA but integrity is non-negotiable. More than ever in today’s transparent world, it’s no longer a cliche corporate value. It’s table stakes. RecruiterBox shares additional insights (and recruiting quotes) into Buffet’s hiring process.

Mark Zuckerberg

recruiting quotes

“I would only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.”

Zuckerberg says that this recruiting principle has served him well throughout his tenure at Facebook. It’s potentially the highest-bar I’ve encountered. Imagine how powerful your business would be if each hiring manager aspired to hire only people stronger than themselves.

Indra Nooyi

recruiting quotes

In the past, if you wanted the best talent, it was all about the job. In today’s world, it goes beyond that. You need to appeal not only to your employees’ heads, but to their hearts. When Steve Reinemund was CEO of PepsiCo, he was great at that. He’d send hand-written notes to employees thanking them for a job well done.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find an employee who doesn’t appreciate recognition. Positive reinforcement is a big part of my recruiting strategy, especially when it comes to seeking employee referrals to fill a recruiting pipeline. Nooyi shares additional lessons and recruiting quotes from 10 years as Pepsi’s CEO on LinkedIn.

Meg Whitman

recruiting quotes
Whitman finds success by hiring “ahead of the curve.” This means overhiring, by filling important roles with individuals who have skills sets that exceed current job requirements. This is one of the highest-ROI investments you can make in your business.

Richard Branson

recruiting quotes

We look for people who are friendly and considerate, and who like working with others. From our airlines to our call centres, and our office buildings to our gym floors, you will always see smiling people working together to get the job done. These personalities make our staff successful, and, in turn, our businesses successful. They also keep our company culture vibrant.”

Branson brings up a crucial point here. If you’re hiring people that can’t seem to get excited about their job and what they’re doing at your company, it’s likely that they’re a mis-hire. Rather than hoping their attitudes will turn around, it’s best to part ways before they poison the work ethic of others at your company. LinkedIn shares 6 additional hiring rules that Branson swears by.

Jamie Dimon

recruiting quotes
When it comes to hiring high-level leadership positions, Dimon asks himself some vital rhetorical questions:

  • Would I want to work for you in this job?
  • Would I let my children work for you?
  • Would I give you this job if I wasn’t there to provide oversight?
  • If you went to run another company, would I, as an investor, invest in that company?

These types of questions will help you ensure that you’re putting a Rockstar in every seat.

Howard Schultz

recruiting quotes

“There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.”

I love Schultz’s latest hiring initiative because it’s bold. Even though he knows that not everyone will agree with it, it’s true to Starbucks’ DNA and will attract both employees and customers who share it.

Reed Hastings

recruiting quotes

At most companies, average performers get an average raise. At Netflix, they get a generous severance package.”

Hastings won’t tolerate mediocrity, and his company’s ever-increasing market value shows the results. Voice Glance shares 17 other recruiting quotes from Hastings that will make you rethink HR.

Susan Wojcicki

recruiting quotes
Wojcicki is known for her focus on bringing more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) roles, and says:

[There are] moments where you see something but the world hasn’t seen it yet, and you understand how the world is going to change in the future.”

In my role as an executive recruiter, I push my clients to consider more women for their key roles. It’s an uphill battle, but an important one.

Conclusion: Recruiting Quotes

The greats put recruiting talent first. Their bar is exceptionally high. And when they make a hiring mistake, they correct it promptly and move forward.
What’s the best lesson on talent and recruiting that you’ve ever received? Or your favorite recruiting quotes of all time?
You rock!
Your Chief Talent Officer
P.S. I’ve created a 7-day free video course. It takes you step-by-step through how to ensure that you hire only Rockstars.

Wait! Would you like a free copy of our bestselling book Recruit Rockstars?

“Jeff has recruited Rockstars and built winning cultures for 25 years. Finally, he shows us how!” —Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group Venture Capital