When you're the founder of Amazon and tracking to become the world's first trillionaire, you have a certain degree of credibility when it comes to team building. You don't build a $136 billion business by hiring C players.
If it works for Jeff Bezos, I'm paying attention.
Early in my career, I read that Bezos took the time to conduct the final interview with each and every person that Amazon hired. That fact really stuck with me; here was the CEO of one of the highest-profile companies on the planet (yes, even back in 1998) who would spend hours of his time each week conducting final interviews.
After 20 years of conducting interviews, I can confidently say that this singular habit has been a major contributing factor to the growth trajectory of the companies I've managed. I continue to see a huge return on time invested, even as my company prepares to cross the 150-employee mark.
There are three reasons why all founder-CEOs should conduct a final interview with every hire that's made.
1. You own the culture.
It's the CEO's responsibility to create and maintain the company's culture. From the core values to the work ethic to the strength of the company's recruiting and selection process, the buck stops with you.
I've found that conducting the final interview gives me a priceless opportunity to preview our company's culture in a way that our recruiting team or managers cannot. Beginning with the statement, "Let me share with you why I started this company, where I see us going, and what it takes to be successful here," I take finalists through a 20-minute discussion about the why, what, and how.
The dialogue I have with the candidate in this context tells me a lot about how the person is wired, and I have the opportunity to set clear expectations about what it means to work here. It's a base lining exercise that pays huge dividends in terms of alignment.
2. It's a competitive market.
"Wow, I can't believe you actually take the time to interview every candidate."
That statement is music to my ears, and it's said to me by the candidate nine times out of 10 at some point in the conversation. It tells me that my competitors aren't doing it, and that it's a real differentiator as we compete for skilled talent in the tightest labor market in decades.
Recruiting is a sales process, and it's my job as CEO is to give our organization the greatest possible chance to hire the right people for the team. I'm learning about the candidates' wants, needs, fears, and dreams. I'm listening to them as they envision what the next three years of their life could look like as a contributor to our team.
Recruiting is also a zero-sum game. When it comes to hiring top talent, if I win, my competitors lose. Only one firm gets to hire that superstar, high-potential hire. I'm doing everything I can to make sure it's us, and if a 20-minute conversation is the effort that pushes the math in our favor, wasn't it worth it?
3. It protects your balance sheet.
Even though we follow a proven and highly predictive hiring process, approximately 10 percent of the time I hear or observe something in the final interview that causes enough concern for me that I exercise my veto power and say "no dice."
Keep in mind that this individual would have been our newest team member but for my veto. In my opinion, operating this way gives us an additional 10 percent edge when building the team. And with our internal cost of mis-hire calculated at a conservative $50,000, the returns add up quickly: For every 100 hires, we avoid half a million dollars in hiring mistakes.
That's $500,000 we can deploy to grow the business. That's $500,000 less dilution we're forced to take in an equity raise. That's (at least) $500,000 in brain damage and distraction our managers won't have to endure because we hired the wrong people. The list of benefits is endless.