Steve Jobs and how to recruit A-Players
Last updated Mar 16, 2021
by Krista Bradford

“Steve Jobs and how to recruit A-Players


When you recruit A-Players and you are channeling a key talent acquisition strategy of Apple founder Steve Jobs. There’s a vast difference between talent that is simply qualified and exceptional. Jobs understood that, which is why he focused on the best-of-the-best senior executives and engineers.

The Apple founder pursued the best executives and engineers because they could accomplish more.

Recruit A-Players Steve Jobs Quote

Recruit A-Players to Retain A-Players

In addition, he noted that A-Players find it frustrating to work with people who churn out average or sub-standard work. They simply don’t have the chance to develop if they are surrounded by people who are not as accomplished. If you recruit the best, you attract and retain more of the best.

Author Walter Isaacson of the book Steve Jobs quotes Jobs as saying,

“I’ve learned over the years that, when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. The original Mac team taught me that A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work.”

At our retained executive search firm The Good Search, we also make it a practice to recruit technology rock stars and digital luminaries. I look for leaders who are intrinsically driven to outperform — it is just how they wake up in the morning.


A-Players Cannot Do it Alone

Those who recruit A-Players must realize their success doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as Harvard Business Review reminds us in The Risky Business of Hiring Stars.  The article by Boris Groysberg, Ashish Nanda, and Nitin Nohria explains:

“An executive’s performance depends on both her personal competencies and the capabilities, such as systems and processes, of the organization she works for. When she leaves, she cannot take the firm-specific resources that contributed to her achievements. As a result, she is unable to repeat her performance in another company; at least, not until she learns to work the new system, which could take years.”

When you recruit A-Players, it can be challenging to ensure their success in a new corporate environment. Yet, champions make such a big difference to a company’s P&L that it is a challenge top companies willingly accept.  Like Steve Jobs, the HBR article ultimately concludes:

“In business, the only viable strategy is to recruit good people, develop them, and retain as many of the stars as possible.”

For more insight into Steve Jobs, check our blog post, What Adoption Did to Steve Jobs. As an adult adopted person, I believe his adoption experience is central to his success.

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