How Amazon, Facebook, and other major companies recruit their C-level executives

Mark zuckerberg sheryl sandbergDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSheryl Sandberg was recruited to join Facebook as COO in 2008.

Even top executives — the Sheryl Sandberg’s and Marissa Mayer’s of the world — have to go through a hiring process.

However, it’s way different for them than it is for the typical job seeker.

“These are not jobs that are posted on a website and this process is not about screening out applicants,” says Charley Polachi, managing partner at the executive search firm Polachi Executive Access Search. “It is very much a recruiting process of targeting individuals, calling them up, and probing on their interest and availability.”

Polachi, who has been recruiting top talent for over 30 years for major companies such as Amazon, iRobot, and, starts the recruitment process by sifting through a proprietary database that his company has built up over several years. He also uses LinkedIn, Zoom, and most importantly — old fashioned phone work.

“You use a lot of different search tools to identify people, but at the end of the day you still have to make the phone calls,” he tells Business Insider. “You have to talk to people. You have to socialise the opportunity and see if you can get someone’s attention.”

He will talk to roughly 80 candidates initially. Of those 80, he will narrow down the pool and meet with 12 to 15 of them before selecting four to six finalists to introduce to his client.

The entire process can take up to 100 days, he says. “It will either be what I like to call a ‘quick no’ or a ‘long yes:’ I introduce a candidate and within 24 hours both parties call me back and say ‘that was terrible!’ or they will say ‘I really would like to spend more time with that person,’ and from there it becomes an iterative event.”

If there’s not a “quick no,” a series of two or three meetings between the candidate and company will ensue, but these are not typical interviews taking place over a desk in a conference room; they’re happening in social settings — dinners, galas, or events, Polachi says.

“It’s important to see how the candidate interacts with people and behaves,” he explains. “At the executive level, you’re really not probing for competency. You’re not asking if this person can do marketing or engineering. You’re more trying to understand personal motivation, management style, the issues around leadership potential, and what the person has learned from failure.”

Although the process looks different, at the end of the day, an interview is an interview; even the hot shots have to bring their A game to land the job.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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