Hiring Employees

The CEO of Zenefits Told a Prospective Employee to Join Uber Instead -- And His Reasoning Is Brilliant

The CEO of Zenefits Told a Prospective Employee to Join Uber Instead -- And His Reasoning Is Brilliant
Image credit: Zenefits
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Two-year old Zenefits is quickly becoming one of the hottest employers in the Valley.

This thanks to its astoundingly fast growth, a huge infusions of VC cash — $500 million at a $4.5 billion valuation — and its rock-star leaders, including PayPal "mafia" member David Sacks, who is an investor AND its COO.

So when an engineer posted a question to Quora asking for opinions on which recent job offer  he should take, one from Zenefits or Uber, Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad jumped in with a surprise answer:

"Definitely not Zenefits," Conrad wrote in reply.

And then Conrad said he was revoking the job offer altogether. (He later edited his answer to remove this information.)

The engineer explained his dilemma between the two job offers. He's just starting his career and his ultimate goal was to work for the "likes of Google."

The engineer said he was more excited about Uber's product and the work he would be doing at that company, but Uber wasn't negotiating on salary and acted like they could take him or leave him.

Zenefits was trying hard to woo him, had offered him $15,000 more, and he thought upper management were more accessible.

Then the engineer wrote:

My biggest problem with Zenefits is that it isn't a buzzword like Uber. Most people won't know what Zenefits is (or so I think). I think that this isn't as exciting a brand name to have on your resume when applying to the likes of Google.

So Conrad told the engineer that he should "definitely not" take the job at Zenefits (which he couldn't do anyway, since the offer was off the table.)

And Conrad explained (emphasis ours):

Mostly, it seems like where you really want to work is Google. ...  You should just apply there. If you're able to pass our engineering interview, I'm pretty sure you could get a job there. ...

We really value people who "get" what we do and who *want* to work here, specifically. It's not for everyone, but there are enough ppl out there who do want to work here that we can afford to be selective.

One of our company values is to have a bias towards action — which means that when people are hesitating / going back and forth about whether they want to work here, we usually view that as a bad sign. ...  We don't have terribly high regard for ppl who would choose where to work based on "buzzwords" and how big a brand it is (or simply to position themselves for later in their career).

Conrad also threw in a dig at Uber: "Uber is just a taxi-hailing company, right? What's the big technical challenge there?"

And then an Uber spokesperson jumped in with a long list of why the guy should take the offer at Uber, although he didn't say that Uber was willing to match a higher salary offered elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Conrad's reply, and his decision to drop the offer, riled others.

One mobile app developer called Conrad's reply a "tantrum" and told the young engineer:

The CEO revoking your offer after this perfectly reasonable question makes it sound like a bad place to work. ... Lack of humility is a bad signal.

A guy who runs a headhunting service for engineers also slammed Conrad's answer and Zenefits generally, writing:

Zenefits has a "no-PM" mindset. They're experimenting with a "engineer-product person" model. This is, frankly, incredibly silly. It's highly likely PMs will be needed sooner rather than later at Zenefits.

But Conrad had his share of supporters, too.

One person likened the situation to a high school kid trying to get into the popular crowd.

No one wants to hire someone who doesn't appreciate the company or its people and is thinking about leaving before he even joins.

One thing is for certain, Conrad is quickly becoming known as one of the most unabashedly outspoken young CEOs. (He recently got into a Twitter debate with a Techcrunch writer who wrote about Zenefits, too.)

Whether you like that style or not, we think it's refreshing to see a CEO openly say what he thinks.

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