America's Hottest CEOs Are Devoting More Time Than Ever To Hiring

Wall Street Journal TechFrom left to right: Spencer Ante, WSJ’s deputy bureau chief, Serkan Piantino from Facebook and Katia Beauchamp from Birchbox at Think Coffee in Manhattan’s West Village.

More and more we’re hearing of CEOs who devote significant portions of their time to a task long considered beneath them: hiring.

Dave Gilboa, co-founder of Warby Parker, said Wednesday at The Wall Street Journal’s “Secrets of Tech Recruiting”  that he spends 25 per cent of his time recruiting and that being a CEO also means you’re the “Chief Recruiting Officer.”

Gilboa says he relies on in-house referrals when hiring talent and interviews every potential hire. He’s not alone in his hands-on approach.

The biggest advocate may be Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who made waves last year when she announced she’ll be personally reviewing every potential new employee. Mayer’s decision was controversial, with complaints that she was wasting her time or causing delays in the hiring process and losing some potential candidates, along with praise for ending a culture where “B-players” hired “C-players,” according to one Yahoo executive.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spends up to 50% of his time recruiting talent, according to LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in his new book “The Start-up Of You.” In fact, Zuckerberg adopted at least part of his hiring philosophy from legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Like Jobs, Zuckerberg reportedly takes some potential hires on long walks, taking the time to get to know them and to present the most strongest possible pitch.

Arianna Huffington is similarly focused on recruiting, taking the time to interview each and every hire at The Huffington Post.

To be sure, such hiring-focused executives are still rare. As recruiting software startup Resumator (a somewhat partial observer) said regarding Mayer’s announcement, “A CEO who possesses both the time and enthusiasm to review all of the hiring decisions made by their company is about as common as an albino zebra.”

But there’s growing support for this approach

Forbes’ Joe Trammel believes CEOs must “own” the recruiting process and “lead by building a well-managed recruiting function that is closely monitored and measured.”

Hoffman says regarding startups, “not only should the founder be talented, they should be committed to getting other talented people on board. The strength of the co-founders and early employees reflects the individual strength of the CEO.”

Other executives at the Journal’s panel talked about preferring in-house to external recruiting. When they do make hiring decisions, the panelists agreed that they make them quickly and trust their gut.

Are these snap executive hiring decisions any good? It’s hard to say until there’s more research and evidence.

On one hand, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and others have argued that gut decisions are a terrible way to make hiring decisions. On the other, star psychology writer Malcolm Gladwell has popularised the concept of “thin slicing” which holds that gut decisions can be highly effective.

In any case, executives who know the company vision better than anyone else may be better at making snap hiring decisions than anyone else.

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