- Steve Jobs interviewed former GE and NBC exec Beth Comstock for a job in 2005.
- Comstock remembers chatting with him for an hour before Jobs offered her the position of general manager at iTunes, which she declined.
- Jobs then invited her to take a walk with him, after which he offered her to work directly for him, and she turned him down again.
As the head of digital at NBC, in 2005, Beth Comstock was responsible for coordinating with Apple to get NBC’s digital content on iTunes.
That meant she worked closely with Eddy Cue, vice president at iTunes and Steve’s “right-hand man.”
In her new book, “Imagine It Forward,” written with Tahl Raz, Comstock recalls the somewhat surprising turn her relationship with Apple took from there. Cue approached Comstock about working for him, as a general manager for iTunes.
In November, Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs called Comstock personally to “seal the job offer,” she writes. “It came so out of the blue that I couldn’t think of anything to say, except that anyone would be stupid to not consider such a great opportunity.”
Comstock travelled to Cupertino to meet with Jobs. She remembers sitting in his “stark-white conference room next to his office.” She writes, “Steve seemingly materialised out of nowhere in his black mock turtleneck and jeans. He was smaller in person than I expected.”
For an hour, they discussed projects Comstock had worked on at General Electric (then NBC’s parent company) and NBC.
“He didn’t make any specific offers or mention a title other than iTunes management,” Comstock writes. “I realised I was being felt out. It was all very Jedi.”
A few days later, Comstock received a message from Jobs on her cell phone: “This is Steve Jobs. I just wanted to say how much we’d like to have you work for us at Apple. We’re about to make something really big happen. You haven’t seen anything yet. If you have any questions, I’m happy to talk to you directly.”
Though Comstock was torn, she ultimately turned down the job offer, largely because “the environment seemed very command and control, and I had been trying to get away from that environment at GE/NBC.”
Jobs wasn’t deterred. Two months later, he called Comstock again: “I understand why you didn’t take that role with iTunes. I get it, it wasn’t big enough for you. But I have an idea for another role. When can you come to see me?”
When Comstock said she’d be in San Francisco in two weeks, Jobs suggested that they “take a walk.” Jobs talked about issues around sustainability and asked Comstock to tell him more about Ecomagination, GE’s clean technology business strategy.
Finally, he made his case: “I want you to work at Apple. So here’s what I have in mind. You’ll work directly for me. I need someone who can help us get a better handle on the environment. We’re not where we need to be, and I’m committed to doing a much better job on the green front. And I think there are other things you’ll do down the road.”
Jobs was notorious for his relentless pursuit of people he wanted to work for him
Jobs used a similar strategy with other executives he was hoping to recruit. Fast Company reports that, in 1997, Jobs interviewed James Green, who was then working for the Walt Disney Company in Asia, for a position at Pixar Animation Studios.
Green told Fast Company that the interview took place at Jobs’ home, and felt more like a conversation. Jobs wanted Green to manage the relationship between Disney and Pixar – and Green declined. So Jobs offered Green another position: managing marketing for Pixar’s short film department.
Green accepted the second offer, realised during the first week of work that he was essentially doing the job he declined, and resigned a few months later.
As for Comstock, she was torn regarding Jobs’ second job offer – but again, she turned him down, telling him honestly that she didn’t want to uproot her family. “You have to take care of your family first. I understand,” Jobs said. “I’m sorry. But I understand.”
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