Hiring Advice from Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Tony Hsieh

September 5, 2013

One of the most profound quotes from Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” especially resonated with Steve Jobs.  During an interview Jobs said - “We (at Apple) have always been shameless about stealing great ideas. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and bring those things in to what you are doing.”

Great artists steal

One way for you to learn as a recruiter is to borrow/steal a hiring strategy from some of the greatest recruiting minds of our times.  Here are a few examples to inspire you and start you off:

1. Hire Collaboratively

One of the hiring principles that made Apple a successful organization was Steve Job’s belief in a collaborative hiring process. As Jobs explained, “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.”

It’s common at Apple that interviewees will speak to at least a dozen people across several disciplines. Candidates have been known to not receive offers as a result of one interviewer having concerns.

Exposure to other interviewers could very well reveal aspects of the candidate that you might not have seen yourself.  For the most accurate hiring decision, share interview results and reach consensus among key team members who will ultimately work collaboratively with the new employee.

To develop a collaborative hiring team, include people who know the position best: employees who have previously held or are currently holding the position, fellow team members and supervisors, others who interact with the position, and HR.

2. Hire People You Need, Not People You Like

Richard Branson’s philosophy on hiring is that organizations should avoid working with friends because it will be hard to let them go if it doesn’t work out.

Whether you are considering hiring friends, people whose viewpoints or strengths are similar to yours, or individuals you simply like, it is prudent to not allow the candidates’ likability unjustifiably influence a hiring decision.

To avoid hiring for the wrong reasons, carefully define your job requirements including specific skills, behaviors, characteristics, and motivators, incorporate what motivates your customers and what drives value for your company, and prepare interview questions and a hiring process to reveal if a candidate truly meets your criteria.

3. Pass On Talented People If They’re Not a Cultural Fit

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos said, “We’ve actually passed on a lot of smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they’re not good for our culture then we won’t hire them for that reason alone.”


At Zappos each candidate goes through a cultural fit interview which represents 50% of the weight in hiring.  Behavior-based questions are asked that assess a candidate’s fit with the organization’s 10 core values including: “deliver WOW through service” and “create fun and a little weirdness”.  Candidates must pass this interview before speaking with the hiring managers.

Cultural fit can also be assessed by digging into a candidate’s past culture and determining where they excelled, what they enjoyed, what they struggled with in their jobs and in working with bosses, and how they handled change.  

Art of Hiring Manager Maintenance

* Images by Art is Life and (cc) Shashi Bellamkonda