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How CEOs Can Personally Recruit Top Talent

Take a cue or two from Justin Yoshimura, a 23-year-old Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur who is his company's lead headhunter.

I recently received a note from the CEO of a company in San Francisco who wanted me to check out a letter posted on his website that he uses to attract talented employees. I'm impressed with his unique approach to hiring in what is an incredibly competitive market: software engineers in Silicon Valley.

Before I get more into his hiring strategy, let me tell you more about this CEO. Justin Yoshimura is only 23 years old, and he's already a serial entrepreneur. Like me, he was raised in Los Angeles, but unlike me, he started thinking about business very early. At age 12, he had 25 lemonade stands, and a couple of years later he got into e-commerce selling--a lot--on eBay. He soon realized that the key to customer retention is online loyalty programs, so he built his current company, 500friends, a cloud-based loyalty software-as-a-service that rewards customers.

There are several things I find refreshing about Yoshimura's hiring tack:

1. It's unlike any other I've seen. How many CEOs do you know who personally reach out to find good talent?

2. He's humble. In his letter, he talks about the fact that 500friends sometimes makes mistakes in the hiring process. He also promises to rectify those mistakes quickly.

3. He talks openly about trust. He mentions the relationships a new employee could have with other co-workers at his company, building that sense of trust before an individual even starts his first day on the job.

4. He'll fund employees who want to be entrepreneurs. He recognizes that many of his new employees want to start their own business someday, so he promises them seed capital for new ventures after only two years of employment.

I don't see any gimmicks here. I see someone who is genuine about his recruiting approach. 

And Yoshimura gets big payback. He's been able to recruit and hire senior executives and engineers without ever bringing on a headhunter, even though he's competing with many bigger, better-funded companies with more resources dedicated to finding talent. He's also built a team of trusted employees who are empowered and accept accountability for their successes and failures. And he'll be able to look back and feel rewarded that he had a tremendous impact on the lives of the people he worked with and gave them entrepreneurial opportunities in the process.

So when you're looking for your next key hire, think of Yoshimura and this job well done. If trust, honesty, humility, and opportunity worked for him, think of what they can do for you.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Nov 28, 2012

PAUL SPIEGELMAN | Columnist | CEO of BerylHealth

Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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