The One Thing Mark Zuckerberg Looks for in a Job Candidate

  • By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
  • March 23, 2015

mark zuckerberg

It pays to want the boss’s job. Or, at least, appear like you could do it.

It worked for Sheryl Sandberg, 45, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Inc., who now has a net worth of over $1 billion. And it also didn’t spoil the chances of Dustin Moskovitz, 30, Facebook’s third employee who is now worth $7.7 billion. Both clearly showed leadership skills in their interview with the richest 30-year-old on the planet.

Facebook’s co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, 30, has one rule for hiring. “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” he said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. “It’s a pretty good test and I think this rule has served me well,” added Zuckerberg, who is worth some $35.1 billion.

Hiring a person who clearly has the gumption to be your boss one day — and might even have his or her eye on the top job — shows an element of self-confidence, experts say, even for someone who co-founded the biggest social network in the world (with 1.35 billion members and counting). In fact, he also told the meeting that he considered Sandberg a “mentor.”

“It shows that he is willing to learn despite being CEO and that he wants a true leader underneath him,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of and author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.” “It’s also a sign that he’s looking to the future of his company at building a strong leadership pipeline and for potential succession planning down the road.”

Judging by recent high profile CEO exits, it makes sense to keep an eye on the longer-term survival of the company. When Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, some people wondered whether anyone could fill his shoes. And the August 2013 announcement that Microsoft Corp.’s CEO Steve Ballmer was stepping down came at a time when there was no clear successor.

Organizations that take on this type of hiring philosophy won’t lose in the end as it also means the hire will be a good cultural fit, says Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources, an information technology and engineering staffing firm in Lansing, Mich. “If I’ll work for this person, they must share some traits I admire and want to have around.”

At the end of eight hours of interviewing for a human resources job at Applebee’s, Sackett’s future boss asked him one last question: “Are you better than me?” Little did he know, if he had answered, “No”, she would not have hired him. “Thankfully, I answered, ‘Yes,’” he says. “But, most people would not have that courage during an interview.”

Studies also show that more millennials have their eye on the corner office, according to a 2013 survey of 2,000 people by the Pew Research Center. Some 65 percent of that generation — defined by the study as people aged 18 to 32 — want to be boss. The members of Generation X — ages 33 to 48 — were somewhat more evenly split, with 49 percent saying they wanted the top job, versus just 26 percent of baby boomers.

This article originally appeared on and is reprinted by permission from, ©2015 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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