The Definitive Guide to Business

8 highly successful entrepreneurs reveal their best hiring secrets

Daymond John, founder and CEO of FUBU and entrepreneur.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Daymond John, founder and CEO of FUBU and entrepreneur.

Who you surround yourself with matters, particularly when you're building a company.

"No one does it alone," emphasizes Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "When you look at most big things that get done in the world, they're not done by one person, so you're going to need to build a team."

CNBC asked successful entrepreneurs and CEOs how they assemble a strong team of employees. Here's what they had to say.


David Rusenko has prospective employees do a 'trial week'

Weebly co-founders, David Rusenko, Chris Fanini and Dan Veltri
Source: Weebly
Weebly co-founders, David Rusenko, Chris Fanini and Dan Veltri

"You do real work," the Weebly co-founder and CEO says about the trial week, which every prospective employee gets paid to complete before getting an offer. "You get in and hit the ground running. It's an opportunity for people to show their work and show the quality of their work.

"It's just as much an opportunity for the candidates to get a really good feel of what it's like working here."


Daymond John hires people who are smarter than he is

Daymond John.
Noam Galai | WireImage | Getty Images
Daymond John.

"I like to bring in a team of people who I consider smarter than me in various different areas," says the "Shark Tank" investor and founder of FUBU. "If you create a culture where people feel they can thrive and think, sometimes your mentors can be the 20-year-old kid that knows social media better than anybody or any service you can ever hire."


Liz Wessel likes to see how job candidates handle uncomfortable situations

Liz Wessel
Source: Liz Wessel
Liz Wessel

"Beyond doing blind references — which have saved us in the past from hiring people who turned out to be lying to us in interviews — I've found that I learn the most from a candidate when I ask them a bit of an uncomfortable question," says the co-founder and CEO of WayUp. "I like to see how they react and whether they're able to stay calm. I don't do this because it's fun. I do this because I want to see whether they can keep their composure and how they perform when they're out of their comfort zone, which is often the reality in the start-up world.

"Sometimes, I just push back on something they designed or created and play devil's advocate, to see how they react to different opinions. Other times, I ask questions like, 'Why would someone not get along with you?'

"Flexibility is so crucial when you're working in a fast-paced environment like a start-up because things change really quickly. The people who succeed will be the people who can shift gears when needed."


Nick Huzar has new employees build their own desk and chair on day one

Nick Huzar
Source: Nick Huzar
Nick Huzar

"Scrappiness is an important characteristic," says the co-founder and CEO of OfferUp. "We want people who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard. To demonstrate this, every new hire at OfferUp has to build their own desk and chair on their first day in the office."


Allison Page trusts her gut

Allison Page
Source: Allison Page
Allison Page

"One of the things I consistently look for when hiring is confidence in the role. I want someone who can come in and make an immediate impact on the first day," says the co-founder and head of product of SevenRooms. "Most importantly, I've learned that it's so important to trust your gut when hiring someone. We have several employees here who came in interviewing for one role, and we ended up creating a new role for them because we believed they could help us make an impact.

"It's always a big warning sign when someone says they need 'six months to ramp up' or that they don't expect to see result quickly. In a start-up, not getting something done quickly can make the difference between success and failure. We've learned to hire people who can jump right in."


John Kelley asks one question over and over

John Kelley, CEO of CoachUp
Source: John Kelley
John Kelley, CEO of CoachUp

"I push them to answer the whys," says the CEO of CoachUp of his hiring process. "Why did you choose that college, and that course of study? Why that company or that role? Why did you decide to move on?

"I feel this gives me a deeper understanding of their motivations and goals, which helps me determine whether our company and culture are a good match."


Michael Schwarz pays attention to body language

Michael Schwarz, founder and president of Treeline Treenut Cheese
Source: Treeline Treenut Cheese
Michael Schwarz, founder and president of Treeline Treenut Cheese

"Generally, people will say whatever they think you want to hear in interviews, so you have to ask questions that are not explicitly directed to the issue you want resolved," says the founder and president of Treeline Treenut Cheese.

"You have to read body language, listen to what people are really saying, and use your intuition. When someone's story doesn't ring true, or his or her body language doesn't match his or her answers, move on to the next applicant."


Koel Thomae looks for humility

Koel Thomae
Source: Koel Thomae
Koel Thomae

"You absolutely have to bring in people who are smarter than yourself, but who also don't have big egos — that's really important in a small, entrepreneurial environment," says the co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt. "You have to have people that are willing to roll up their sleeves and maybe be doing things that they did early on in their careers, but who are also experts in their field and can mentor the people around them."