Hiring Lessons from the Who’s Who of Business

How do the biggest companies tackle the most common hiring problems? What's the best way to source candidates who are the right fit for the role and company?


We all have our hiring problems. They could stem from almost anything: Less number of qualified people; if they are qualified, then they don’t have the right attitude; fantastic CV but not a great culture fit and so on. So, how do the big giants like Facebook, Amazon, the Mahindras etc. hire the talent that is best suited for them? Let’s attempt to understand what they are looking for when they scout for talent.

Mark Zuckerberg: Develop good hiring strategies that are consistent with your culture to bring the right people on board

We all envy our friends at Facebook for all the freebies that they have access to. What, however, is not written enough about is the culture at Facebook. Everyone is equal. You can do anything there if you can prove it. You are respected and recognised for your contributions to the product. This culture directly feeds into their hiring strategy. For when Mark Zuckerberg looks to hire, he not only looks at the skills, but also the person’s ability to see the future. Well, not literally, of course, but more like ‘What’s their vision for the future?’. One employee, when hired, was told to “take a look around and figure out what’s wrong and how to fix that”. Here, age and tenure are not the considerations for a career path—contributions and value-based behaviours are.

Read: Are you hiring the best people available?

Jeff Bezos: Be picky about people

One of Amazon’s core values is to have a high bar for recruitment. They bring in a new employee only if they think that the person is a good fit. Jeff Bezos famously said, “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.” “Cultures aren’t so much planned as they evolve from that early set of people,” he added. The impact that a hire can have on a startup is tremendous and a wrong hire can completely set the company off the growth trajectory. You have to be ruthless about the bar you set. Jeff Holden, who once worked with Bezos, said this in an interaction with Peter Diamandis, “We had to make sure that we kept the bar high, so we created a program called Bar Raisers. It was very powerful and the idea was pretty simple. First, we handpicked a small group of people who we knew were ruthless hirers with very high standards. We dubbed them ‘Bar Raisers’ and their role in the interview process was pretty simple: (i) There always had to be one Bar Raiser in every single interview; and (ii) the Bar Raiser had veto power and nobody could override their veto, including the CEO and the hiring manager.”


Anand Mahindra: Empathy should be your cornerstone for hiring

There are two major things that Anand Mahindra looks for when he is hiring: Empathy and the ability to think with both sides of the brain. In an interview to Bizpunditz, he says, “When I talk to someone, I try to find out if the person is able to exercise empathy.” The person should know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. You cannot be a good listener if you cannot empathise with someone. The reason empathy works with people is because it makes you inherently curious about the other person. You will need more information to sympathise with the other person’s point of view and as you do you get to learn new things. Secondly, Mahindra says he looks for people who can combine the strengths of both the right and the left hemispheres of the brain. Good leaders are people who understand how to think visually, creatively and therefore are able to visualise different worlds, understand different perspectives and integrate points together.

Read: 6 hiring problems to solve in 2016.

Richard Branson: CEOs must be involved in leadership hiring

Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson does not see his role as just being symbolic when it comes to hiring, but something that he needs to be actively involved in, even if that means flying the applicants all the way to Necker Island! On the Virgin website, Richard Branson writes, “Like all young entrepreneurs, the first thing I learned was that you have got to delegate your duties if you want your venture to survive and (ideally) grow. And you should be hiring with an eye to the day that you’re going to delegate even your CEO position and step back from the business’s day-to-day operations so that you can focus on ensuring that your company is prepared for what’s next.” While you can teach a person skills, you can’t teach him/her ‘personality’. The biggest litmus test that Branson applies: “Purpose is no longer a buzzword. It’s a must-have. Passion and purpose will keep people focused on the job at hand, and ultimately separate the successful from the unsuccessful.”


Larry Page: A group’s decision is better than relying on one decision

Apart from following Steve Jobs’ mantra of hiring the smartest people around and setting a very high bar for talent, Larry Page decided to shake things up on who gets to decide on hiring the talent. Page hates traditional bureaucracy and hence he organised the hiring process in Google in such a way that the hiring decision does not lie on a single judgment call. Rather than relying on the opinion of the hiring manager, the candidate goes through multiple screenings and interviews with several hiring managers, potential boss, potential colleagues, a hiring committee, a senior leader and then finally Page himself. Each week, Page is sent a review packet containing recommendations along with executive summaries. He then sends back his final approvals or denials in a few days. Since the final word is with Page, the company sends the signal to leaders across the company that in Google hiring is taken very seriously at the senior levels. The new joins are obviously thrilled that the big boss himself has taken a look at their applications and has a say in their hiring.

Read: How to retain your best employees.

Pallav Sinha: Analytics will help majorly in dealing with hiring problems

For many years, many companies struggled to fill jobs where mass recruitment was required, such as in field sales, back office, customer service and delivery & logistics. Companies also struggled to find the right talent for the right role. As MeraJob entered the market, companies finally saw light at the end of the dark tunnel called hiring. Sinha knew that finding talent in this country was not a problem. In an interview to Your Story, Sinha said, “I moved to India in 2008 and soon realised the challenge of hiring good resources. I knew from my past experience in building teams that there was plenty of talent available in the country but it missed the employer’s attention due to lack of right exposure.” But, beyond talent acquisition, what the market today requires is predictive analytics—information that will help a recruiter understand whether or not a candidate will show up for the interview. Such analytics goes beyond collecting resumes and conducting interviews—it significantly improves the conversation ratios, reduces cost and improves the predictability of recruitment. An ideas man, Sinha believes that apart from predictive analytics, behavioural analytics will be the next big disruption in the field of recruitment.

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