10 Recruitment Tips from the World’s Best CEOs

When starting a business, if there is one thing we can learn from successful CEOs — aside from having a killer product like the iPhone, or an incredible marketing that can convince people that it’s okay to spend $4 on a cup of coffee—is that recruitment may be the most important skill to have.

Most successful CEOs are great recruiters.

Take Starbuck’s Howard Schultz for instance, who now employs more than 150,000 employees, or “partners” as he calls them, to operate a massive chain of 20,366 stores all over the world. From a small roasting business in Seattle, Howard Schultz transformed Starbucks into the largest coffeehouse company in the world. He did it in less than a decade, and he did it with lots of help.

Here are some recruitment tips we’ve gathered from the world’s best CEOs.

Howard Schultz

“Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, you need to cut your losses and move on.”

Howard Schultz
Chairman and CEO of Starbucks

Steve Jobs

“Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. We do it ourselves and we spend a lot of time at it.

“I’ve participated in the hiring of maybe 5,000-plus people in my life. So I take it very seriously. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview.

“So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? Why are they here?

“I ask everybody that.

The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.”

Steve Jobs
Co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc.

Sir Richard Branson

“It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you. Getting them to join your business. And giving them good work. Then getting out of their way. And trusting them.

“You have to get out of the way so YOU can focus on the bigger vision. That’s important. And here’s the main thing, you must make them see their work as a MISSION.”

Sir Richard Branson
Founder of Virgin Group

Elon Musk

“What do I look for? It depends on the task.

“You know, it’s different, and I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has brilliant analytical ability if their job is going to be assembling hardware.

“But I think, generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them? It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life and your job is gonna be quite miserable.”

Elon Musk
CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX

Mark Pincus

“I keep my eye out for someone who has achieved a lot, so they’ve been a great athlete or on a great team, but then something didn’t go quite right, and they’re still very hungry and want to be C.E.O. of something.

“I like to bet on people, especially those who have taken risks and failed in some way, because they have more real-world experience. And they’re humble.

“I also like to hire people into one position below where they ought to be, because only a certain kind of person will do that—somebody who is pretty humble and somebody who’s very confident.”

Mark Pincus
Co-founder and CEO of Zynga

Alan Mulally

“Your resume tells a lot about what you’ve done. I would want to know what you’ve enjoyed about what you’ve done, what areas you feel comfortable in making a contribution right away, what areas have you struggled with, what do you really want to do and, especially, what are your strengths?

“And between what you’ve done and the way you communicate, I can just look in your eyes and tell a lot.”

Alan Mulally
President and CEO of Ford

Warren Buffet

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

Warren Buffett
Chairman & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

AG Lafley

“Hire from a diverse pool of individuals who are highly talented in their area of specialization and who have General Manager potential. Over time, they’ll become good insiders—learning to manage in the context of the company’s strategy, systems, and culture.”

A.G. Lafley
CEO of Procter & Gamble

Millard Drexler

“The person is a resume, not what’s on a piece of paper. Whoever gives advice about resumes in college should be dismissed. Titles don’t matter. GPAs don’t matter, nor does what school you go to. What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence.

Mickey Drexler
CEO of J. Crew

David Ogilvy

If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

David Ogilvy
Founder and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather


About the Author:

Cloyd Waldo

Cloyd Waldo works at Staff.com, a global employment website, and Time Doctor, a productivity monitoring software designed to help reduce wasted time at work.

He has been telecommuting for work since 2008 and just loves mocha frappuccino.

Find me on Google+



  1. spotmagicsolis says:

    Inc. sent me

  2. Ava says:

    I feel that recruiting someone isn’t just about what on a CV as they don’t always reflect the depth of the real person. If I were hiring I would look at all the skills not listed on the CV but go with my gut .

  3. Amee says:

    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service? Cheers!

  4. Herby Fabius says:

    Nice, I guess Facebook’s front man Mark Zuckerberg is way too young to make the list huh. Good read thanks

  5. Sonal Arora says:

    “I also like to hire people into one position below where they ought to be, because only a certain kind of person will do that—somebody who is pretty humble and somebody who’s very confident.” – Mark Pincus, co-founder and CEO of Zynga

    Anyone care to elaborate on this particular sentence!

    • admin says:

      So he’s looking to put very advanced people in a position that is slightly beneath their level. That’s an interesting tactic! I think it would only work for companies that are very appealing to work for, otherwise most people would not want to take a step down

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