Managing Engineers, Recruiting

21 Quotes on Hiring and Managing Talent

March 17, 2015

More than just the heart of a story or an interview; a good quote can get to the essence of things. They convey maximum meaning with a minimum of words.

Here are 21 exceptional quotes on hiring and managing talent by thought leaders in business and industry:

Ray Kroc, Former CEO of McDonalds

Ray Kroc

“You’re only as good as the people you hire.”

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc.

Steve Jobs

“After recruiting, it’s building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision — all those things. Recruiting usually requires more than you alone can do, so I’ve found that collaborative recruiting and having a culture that recruits the A players is the best way.”

(Source: Hiring is Your Most Important Task)

Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox

Ursula Burns

“Many things I had to learn through life to be a leader of a large corporation. One of the most interesting was how to deal with people who are not engineers. Engineers have a characteristic of having an organized thought and approach to a project that’s process based. This idea that most problems can be solved with smart people and hard work. Those sets of attributes are actually not native to all disciplines.”

(Source: Ursula Burns: From Engineer to CEO)

David Ogilvy, CBE, Founder of Ogilvy & Mather


“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

(Source: Oglivy on Advertising)

Thomas J. Watson, Chairman and CEO of International Business Machines

Thomas Watson

“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”

Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX, CEO and Chairman of Tesla, and Chairman of Solar City

Elon Musk

“I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them?  It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and] your job is gonna be quite miserable. And, in fact, we have a strict ‘no-assholes policy’ at SpaceX.  And we fire people if they are. I mean, we give them a little bit of warning.  But if they continue to be an asshole, then they’re fired.”

(Source: Hiring the Right People with Elon Musk)

Jim Collins, Best-Selling Author of Good to Great

Jim Collins

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.”

Eric Shinseki, 34th Chief of Staff of the US Army

Eric Shinseki

“More importantly, if you are in a position to hire, hire a veteran. They will be the best employees you have.”

Robert Bosch, Founder of Robert Bosch GmbH

Robert Bosch

“I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.”

Lee Iacocca, Former Chairman of Chrysler and Former President of Ford Motor Company

Lee Iacocca

“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

Andrew Carnegie, Industrialist and Founder of Carnegie Steel Company

Andrew Carnegie

“You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb.”

“The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell.”

Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Limited

Steve Wynn

“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.”

Warren Buffett, Chairman & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett

“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first the other two will kill you.”

Lawrence Bossidy, Former CEO of AlliedSignal, COO of General Electric

Lawrence Bossidy

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”

Peter Drucker, Best-Selling Author and Management Consultant

Peter Drucker on hiring

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

“The better a man is the more mistakes he will make for the more things he will try.”

Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric

Jack Welch

“Globalization has changed us into a company that searches the world, not just to sell or to source, but to find intellectual capital – the world’s best talents and greatest ideas.”

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express

Ken Chenault

“What I look for is first what I try to assess is integrity. For me – integrity is the consistency of words and actions. I believe if you’re a leader you have to inspire trust. … The second thing I look for is, I want the person to be intellectually curious and open to a range of perspectives. You can’t just be a one-trick pony… a narrow thinker.”

(Source: What AmEx’s Ken Chenault Looks for in Hires)

What are your favorite quotes?

Do you have a favorite quote on hiring, recruiting, or managing talent? Please drop a comment below or tweet us at @HireEngineers and let us know!