Young CEO Offers Hiring Criteria

   Aaron Levie   

Two years ago, I read Inc. magazine’s top 30 under 30 feature story (a.k.a. America’s coolest young entrepreneurs).  At the time, I wondered how many would find ultimate success in business.  Today’s New York Times Corner Office column validates the career and wisdom of one of those young entrepreneurs–Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of, an online file storage company that allows access of data from anywhere. 

What I love about the Corner Office column is the weekly questions about how CEOs hire.  Hearing how a 25-year-old CEO thinks about hiring is especially relevant to young job seekers as well as hiring managers.  Here’s how Aaron responded to two key hiring questions: 

Q: Let’s talk about hiring.

AARON:  One thing that’s really important is understanding what they’ve done in their career.  Just walk me through how you got to where you are today.  What are the factors that led to specific decisions — that can give you a level of insight into behavior and how they make decisions. One thing that I’m asking now is to talk about a project or job — “What could you have done differently to do that bigger or get more revenue or execute better?”  You see if they can look back on their decisions and find out where they could have improved.

Energy and persistence are the two most important factors, in addition to just having a clean résumé where there’s nothing crazy going on.  In a business like ours, we have to be super, super competitive, and we have to be able to get people who are going to be persistent and relentless and have a level of energy that gets them through challenging things.

Curiosity is another big thing and a way to identify who’s going to be energetic and have the right attitude. Sometimes the best people are the ones who are very curious about our business model, how we’re going to grow.  They actually care a lot about us as a company; that’s actually been a pretty good way to find people who are going to be really dedicated to the business.

And ultimately, we’re looking to hire people who can adapt to what a role might become, not just what it is today.  When you’re at a start-up, things move and scale very quickly, and you want to hire people who can grow with the company and into roles that expand beyond the job description they were hired for.

Q:  If you could ask a job candidate just a few questions, what would they be?

AARON:  “What questions do you have for me?” That will help you see how they’re thinking about the challenges.  A lot of times I’ll say, “When you’re thinking about Box as an opportunity, how do you compare it to other organizations? What do we have that you want to be a part of?”  Getting them to articulate the values back to you about what kind of organization they want to be a part of can actually be very useful.

Leave a comment