Business Leadership: Both Sides of High-Level Hiring


Gabrielle Toledano
Amy Chang
Catherine Courage
Moderator: Robin Wolaner

Gabrielle: I’m a value based administrator. I influence the executives I work with to think my way. This means “being who you are.” People sense if you are not being yourself. Find your own strengths and play on those. It works for me to be very direct and very honest. Have a point of view and have passion. There is something important about “likeability.”

Robin: Companies have different styles right?

Amy: Can I ask a question from the audience? How many of you are from startups vs. large companies? (Audience raises hands)

Amy: If you have done your homework with off-sheet references you have not done your homework. Ping a few folks that is not on the persons reference sheet.

Robin: Cultivating a network of folks who will tell you the truth about folks is very important. Keep the “favor bank” balance in your favor.

Amy: When you call and get a reference and it is not glowing that is a signal.

Gabrielle: People still give references they just don’t say it for liability reasons.

Audience: I think many people can be in a position of getting acquired, How do you retain the talent that you require?

Catherine: It's a balance of allowing the company to maintain some control. It depends on a case by case basis. You have to have a lot of respect for small companies and have an integration plan.

Gabrielle: I agree with Catherine. That is a perfect strategy. You have to evaluate whether or not it is healthy to keep the founders or let them leave. I go with the assumption that they are not going to stay. I evaluate whether that change should happen in the future or is it better to do that transition now. Sometimes exiting people early is best. Ask them the question.

Amy: Most times at Google they are acquiring the company FOR the people. What’s interesting is who is your sponsor and how much chemistry do you as a founder have with the Exec in the company who is acquiring you. Figuring out the chemistry is important because you will become part of that team. Get a sense of them beforehand is important. At Google they leave teams intact as much as they can. The more time you can understand chemistry the better.

Audience: Have you ever done any team retreats/team-building activities to integrate new folks into the group?

Gabrielle: The right kind of team and relationship building with the right group, right size, right time can be super powerful. Because relationships matter. People stay at companies and leave companies because of people. Know the people you work with on an intimate level. It makes a huge difference.

Catherine: I think team-building is one aspect of relationship building but it will not fix broken relationships.

Gabrielle: Ropes is not going to build trust. It's about relationships. We recognized a difference in expectations between Millenials and GenXers. You need to understand what motivates you team.

Amy: Or creating a space for it.

Audience: What are your thoughts about choosing a more experienced person who costs more versus a less mature person who will be less to bring on?

Robin: I always go with paying more than I wanted to for someone who can do what I need. It depends on the maturity of your company .

Catherine: Prioritize what you need to get done and decide where to spend your time, dollars, and resources.

Amy: I think composition matters. Who do you already have as your right and left hand. I found that it depends on the composition of a team now and the choices I make. For Google's culture I err on enthusiasm, hunger, and getting them more runway to grow.

Gabrielle: A lot of small companies are built with smart and passionate people.

Robin: Sometimes its based on serendipity and you end up with a younger more inexperienced person who grows with the company.

Audience: How do you attend to the entrepreneurial mindset and still keep someone employed?

Amy: I prob have 50 people out of a team of 200 who have a long term vision that does not include Google. I have honest conversations with my team and provide them with opportunities to gain these skills while there and get their job done as well. Keep them really engaged and motivated during the process and helping them to reach their goals.

Catherine: At Citrix we like to give time for innovation. We pull people onto special projects which is different from their normal jobs. People find it satisfying to be able to use their creativity in this way.

Robin: I am amazed with the talent at some startup companies who have developers that are amazing and working on side projects. Most startup companies don't necessarily like this.

Gabrielle: We dialog with employees about what they are working on because there are legal and IP issues which may come into play.

Audience: If you have a job that you have open do you require a candidate must meet 100% of the skill-sets required?

Robin: My experience is that women are much more likely to see the holes in their resumes.

Amy: It is a different mindset between women and men. McKinsey report shows women are promoted on the basis of performance and men on potential.

Gabrille: Recruiting is a very flawed process. It is more than just the skills on paper. Team based interviews help to catch some of the gaps in the hiring process. It clarifies together what you need and if the particular candidate is right for the role.

Amy: I think no one expects the person to fill every single criteria.

Robin: I think there is a difference in house recruiters and retained recruiters. Retained recruiters tend to look for every criteria to be filled. So in this case try to network inside the company if you are looking to get hired.

Audience: Is there a quick way to screen out gender biases in interviewing?

Gabrielle: Behavior based interviews are good for getting past canned answers. You need to get them to relay a story and experiences and tap into it.

Amy: What is the worry behind this question?

Audience: Just my radar has been heightened about gender differences and I have experienced or noticed some biases in my operations in my business dealings.

Gabrielle: You find your own way to cope with it and to learn and grow. I use humor but some of these occurrences are realities.

Amy: A good indicator to me if you meet this person's spouse outside of the office.

Gabrielle: Yes definitely. Take them out to dinner and it will show a lot.

Audience: I have found a real benefit for hiring and diversity is advocating for diversity in the way I communicate with candidates.

Robin: When I was starting Parenting, another male run company similar was starting and his board looked radically different than mine.

Audience: We have been able to hire superstars because they find startups “sexy.” We are good at early stage hiring. But how do you handle more mature and experienced talent when you are ready to grow beyond the startup phase?

Gabrielle: Most small companies I work with don't know when to make this shift. It is something you need to think about as part of your business strategy. Then you can attract the folks you need. You have to spend time understanding how to transition the two different groups of executives versus company founders.

Robin: I have done this before at CNET. Figuring out which candidates are different enough to fit into your existing culture is very important.

Gabrielle: Look for folks who are looking for more than just the big payday.

Audience: Do you have any thoughts about promoting from within versus hiring from outside?

Catherine: There needs to be a balance. But you do need to have some outside perspective.

Amy: Some of the managers I most admire are those who carve out enough headroom for their stars. You don’t want to demotivate your team. I err on the side of hiring from within.

Gabrielle: Yes this is best practice, succession planning etc. The problem is many leaders don’t do this. We would all default generally to hire from within but most folks don’t do it well.

Robin: We both agree that the biggest danger spots is that if someone is not dying to hire folks or to bring their best folks with them. That is a sign that folks are not following them or they are not a great leader.


[Editor's note: The transcript above reflects what the liveblogger heard, to the best of her ability, but is not a verbatim transcript of the session. As such, it may contain abbreviations or paraphrases.]