Hiring in the Woods

I read an interesting piece about the Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) approach to recruiting. There is a new tech bubble puffing up in Silicon Valley these days, and the competition for talent is fierce. When Facebook identifies a candidate they are hot for, Zuckerberg takes over the close. His approach is “the walk in the forest.”

Near the Facebook campus is a forested area abutting Stanford University. Rather than holding an office interview, the 27-year-old CEO asks the person he is interested in to take a hike with him through the nearby woods. You don’t turn down the boy billionaire’s request for a one-on-one walk. According to several Facebook employees who have done the trek, Zuckerberg listens and tells the recruit about his vision for the company. The walk takes a while as Mark points out the local sites, such as the Apple and Hewlett Packard campuses that are visible. At the end of the walk he says that Facebook will be bigger than any of the tech giants and he would like his fellow trekker to join him to help grow the company.

I love the story, because it shows that Zuckerberg is much more than the lonely geek portrayed in the movie The Social Network.

From my own experience “the walk” can be so much more effective in lubricating a conversation than an inside encounter. My wife Risa and I have often utilized the walk with a ground rule to develop dialogue. The rule is that for the first 15 minutes only one person can talk. The other is obliged to nod, or say, “uh huh,” or “yes,” but give no verbal interchange. After 15 minutes, conversation between the two of us is permitted. We invariably have fulfilling conversations on such walks.

Zuckerberg is a very shrewd young guy. We can learn from his active physical approach to recruiting. When we only color between the lines as we run our businesses or apply for jobs or try to make deals, we end up with predictable often disappointing results. People looking for jobs so often go through the motions of sending out cookie cutter resumes. If I am hiring, the applicant loses me at “To Whom it May Concern.” Why not send a video, or an interview transcript, or a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies?

Zuckerberg plays the game to win. He understands the power of the hike.

Question: What do you find to be the most effective way to find and hire good people?

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