Capital Gains: Musings On Mark Zuckerberg's Human Capital Hiring Rule Of Thumb

I believe that Zuckerberg is on to something when it comes to figuring out the best people to hire, and how one should interact with them once they come onboard.

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I’ve lost count of the number of times we at Entrepreneur Middle East have featured content explaining why you, as an entrepreneur, should have the best of people working alongside you as you build up a business. Of course, this is easier said than done- great hires often ask for great packages, and startups don’t usually have the budgets to spare for this. But lately, I’ve noticed a few situations where entrepreneurs, after they’ve somehow managed to secure the right people on board their enterprises, then go on to lose these individuals, as they find themselves unable to work well with each other.


More often than not, the reason for such rifts can be drawn down to what is, quite simply, a clash of egos between the entrepreneur and the employee. While it’s a nice thing to say that you want to recruit people “better than you” in your organization, this means that you need to let them take the lead (and thus excel) in whatever they were hired to do- and insecure leaders with overtly inflated senses of self might find this hard to manage. However, getting past your ego is absolutely critical to getting your venture ahead- rest assured that if you clip the wings of the people in your enterprise, then your business is certainly not going to take flight, no matter how much you may try on your own.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touched upon this topic in an episode of Masters of Scale, a podcast hosted by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, where he talked about his hiring of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, whom he acknowledges as having strengths that he himself doesn’t possess- but that’s not something that bothers him. “When I look at my friends who were running other good companies, the single biggest difference that I see in whether the companies end up becoming really great and reaching their potential, or just pretty good, is whether they’re comfortable and really self-confident enough to have people who are stronger than them around them,” Zuckerberg declares.

“I’ve adopted this hiring rule, which is that you should never hire someone to work for you unless you would work for them in an alternate universe. Which doesn’t mean that you should give them your job; but just if the tables were turned and you were looking for a job, would you be comfortable working for this person? I basically think that if the answer to that is ‘no,’ then you’re doing something expedient by hiring them, but you’re not doing as well as you can on that. There are all these things that Sheryl, for example, is just much stronger than me at, and that makes me better, and makes Facebook better. And I am not afraid or threatened by that- I value that. That’s what makes Facebook good.”

Now, given recent developments, while there’s a whole other discussion to be had on whether Facebook is “good,” I do believe that Zuckerberg is on to something when it comes to figuring out the best people to hire, and how one should interact with them once they come onboard. It’s a lesson all leaders need to take to heart, especially when it comes to their executive teams- and it can surely help push your businesses up the ladder of success as well.

Related: Agility Needs To Be Seen In Everyone At An Enterprise (And Not Just In The People Running It)

Aby Sam Thomas

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Entrepreneur Staff

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.