Friday, February 28, 2014


 Last week Facebook agreed to purchase WhatsApp for $19B.   The real story from the purchase was that in 2009 Brian Acton, Co-Founder of WhatsApp tried to get a job at Facebook and was turned down.  Many of the headlines are talking about how Facebook’s recruiters “Blew it” or “Cost the company $19B.”

I would argue that there is the very real possibility that the Facebook recruiters didn’t blow it, but may have made the right decision.  Lets look at the critical criteria in hiring a new employee:

·      CULTURE: Every business has its own values and way of operating.  You want to hire people that fit into your culture, or the culture you want to move your business closer to.

·      DRIVE: In all businesses, especially startups, you want employees who believe in working hard to over-achieve a goal, and get upset when it is missed.  They believe that every hour…minute worked is an opportunity to make a goal happen.  Look for people who believe that to make something cool happen - you go home exhausted at night because you did your part for the greater good.  Look for people who are excited about what you are trying to accomplish.

·      CONFIDENCE: Does the potential employee seem to have the right level of confidence to get the job done or excel in your organization?

·      PERSONALITY: This is the first cousin to “Culture.” Does the potential employee have the right personality to fit with the company, or the specific team they will be joining?  If this fit is off, then you may have problems.

·      SKILL SET:  Has this person had the experiences required to have the skills to excel in the role?  Don’t confuse this with looking to see if they have done the job before – as that is rarely a good gauge into future success.  You really want to dig into the experiences they have had to make sure they match with what you know will cause a person to excel in this job.

·      CHARACTER:  Does the person have values that align with yours?  Do they seem honest and above reproach?

·      COMPENSATION: Is the compensation they are looking for in line with your compensation structure?

Some may argue that education is missing from the list.

Avoid focusing on education from the standpoint of making sure the degree a person has matches what you are hiring for.  Studies have shown that there is not necessarily a correlation to being successful in a field because that is what your degree is in.  That said, there is a great deal of merit to valuing someone with a college degree over someone without.  A great deal is learned during those years of education beyond the education itself – maturity, cooperation, critical thinking, etc.

At the time of Brian Acton’s interview with Facebook, it is entirely possible that one or all of the important criteria did not match with what Facebook needed.  If that were the case, then the Facebook recruiters made the right decision.  Hiring people that are off on any of the above can be disastrous for the organization.  All it takes is a few bad hires to slow, or halt, the growth of a company.  A few bad hires can also cause your best people to leave.  Great people want to be surrounded by equally great people.

Entrepreneurs have to be hired into the right roles, with the right amount of freedoms to be successful.  If Facebook were not in a place to be able to do that when WhatsApp’s future leader was interviewed then that would have been a bad hiring decision.