Category: executives

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

All books are labors of love.

Some are also the fruits of a mission.

That’s the case with my new book, Hire Smart from the Start. It launches January 18 from AMACOM Press.

I wrote Hire Smart from the Start aiming to do nothing less than to disrupt the entire business of hiring.

Disrupt it for the good of the entrepreneurship economy. Because no company is immune to making a bad hire. Everything bad that happens at a company is fundamentally a people problem. This creates massive uncertainty for your colleagues and their families. Good companies fail all the time. Because too many CEOs are winging it.

Disrupt it for the good of all the incredibly dedicated people — the leadership teams, the operations managers, the engineers, marketers, product, sales, client services people and all those who get left behind and miss out on turning entrepreneurial dreams into realities. They deserve better.

Disrupt it because there is a better way. Every leader can read this book and they can make people and culture their strategic competitive advantage. They can make leadership their legacy. And, if they have current success, they can take their success even higher. There is a brighter future. They should know that they can live and they can fight. There can be a new tomorrow.

Sound like a lofty mission? Maybe even a grandiose one?

Let me explain.

For more than two decades I’ve poured my heart and soul into the art of the hire. I started as a humble associate in a traditional placement firm. I found success there because I was hungry and hardworking—at it every morning while most folks were still thinking about their first cup of coffee—and maybe, just maybe, because I truly cared about the people I placed, and the organizations I placed them in.

But there was nothing unusual about my modus operandi. I cold called; I scanned the listings; I cold called; I collected resumes; I cold called; I matched skill sets with role specifications.

Meanwhile the world around the placement firm was plunging headlong into change. The Internet. Search engines. Google, cell phones, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, data-driven analytics, social media. The entire nature of business and marketing was in flux.

Yet, curiously, the hiring process went on much as it always had: post a role specification, gather in the resumes, match the skills with the job description, run an interview to check the candidate didn’t have two heads – et voila!, some random “new hire” was born.

I knew things had to change.

Seizing opportunity, I became an entrepreneur, and over the next decade I helped to pioneer the Online Recruiting industry through two amazing ventures: HotJobs and Ladders. Those experiences taught me so much. They taught me what it’s like to risk everything on a business venture. What it’s like to build out a company of 650 employees from scratch. What it’s like to take a company to an IPO and watch the value soar.

In the end, I knew deeper transformations were afoot, and I was hungry to do more, to really get at the heart of what hiring meant in the new economy.

So I struck out on my own, as a trusted advisor to boards and CEOs of high tech startups with enormous growth potential, helping them extract and secure extraordinary talent—the right talent for them. People who would flourish in their enterprises; people who would make sure those enterprises flourished.

That venture tested everything I knew and confirmed the strategies, their value and how any leader can create the most important things in business — a common purpose, shared values and clear objectives to achieve their mission. These three vital principles formed the basis of Hire Smart from the Start:

  1. People are everything.

No matter how important you think your business concept or branding or technology might be, your fate as an entrepreneur will be decided by the leadership team you assemble. Your people strategy is your company’s operating system. The quickened pace of our economy means that teams must work seamlessly to provide agility and speed. Old-style firms could “eat” a few bad leadership hires and keep moving along in their own, cumbersome, hierarchical way. Not so today, when competitors can come from down the block or across the ocean, and startup funding flows from a greater variety of sources than ever before in capitalism’s history. A strong leader can establish a strong vision, and that’s crucial. But only a well-tuned team can Get. It. Done.

  1. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Entrepreneurs are susceptible to blind spots when it comes to the human dimension. They tend to be innovative and restless, relentlessly driven folks with a single-minded focus that is usually tied to a sense of personal significance. They tend to see HR as a nettlesome necessity and hiring as a chore. But experience means so much in this respect. I travel the country speaking with seasoned entrepreneurs—women and men who have built billion-dollar businesses and reached the pinnacle of success in their fields—and uniformly they echo the truth of Point 1: People are everything. These high-powered entrepreneurs draw inspiration from great, human-centered change makers like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, and they look to business leaders like Richard Branson. They have learned to build and trust their teams. The ones who succeed are the ones who have awakened to the value of personal growth and crossed the critical chasm from entrepreneur to leader. They understand that while personal growth is linear, team growth is exponential.

  1. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Once you realize the single importance of your team, you need to understand what makes a hire right—how to find the folks who won’t just “do a great job,” but who will build enduring value for your enterprise and help achieve your mission. The key isn’t about skill set, or even a record of past success. Skills can be learned, and folks successful in one context can founder in another. The key, is core values, finding the people who share your beliefs, your priorities, your sense of how a business should run. Those are the people who will put everything they’ve got into your venture. The ones who will make the right calls under pressure. The ones who will help project the sense of unified mission that inspires employees and builds the type of customer experience no amount of marketing can buy.

We are living in an age of abundance. That includes abundance of talent and abundance of entrepreneurial activity. Never in the history of the world has there been a greater flow of resources to good ideas. For every talented candidate, there is a perfect fit. And when the right fits are made, people flourish—and so does the bottom line. Because ultimately the success of every entrepreneur will be determined by their ability to recruit and build culture to achieve their mission.

Recruit better. Achieve more. Make leadership your legacy.

Hire Smart from the Start.

PS – We need to do more than just build leadership values among today’s entrepreneurs; we need to help pave the way for tomorrow’s innovators. That’s why 100% of profits from Hire Smart from the Start will go to Room to Read, a fantastic nonprofit that is breaking down the barriers to literacy, education and gender equality for millions of children worldwide. World Change Starts with Educated Children.

How To Assault People With Your Resume

How To Assault People With Your Resume

Send them a seven (7) page resume.

Worse, write a long boring email that no one wants to read introducing yourself.

Worse plus, have a four (4) page cover letter in addition to the long, boring email self-intro.

The most worse, get someone to introduce you while violating the double opt-in email intro rule.

Regardless, I offer help. Kindness is so important. Especially, when people are in career transition and need advice. Here’s how I responded to Peter’s assault (yes, all of this really happened. Exactly like this. It happens every day. People think they are actually doing you a favor. I know! Crazy.):

Hey Peter — thanks for your note!

I want to be helpful to you.

Here’s my straight impression. Your email and cv are too long. Also, they lack a clear focus.

2 most important points to convey clearly:

What can you do? (no one buys the hammer that is also a screw driver — decide & commit!)

Who (what kind of company) can you do it for?

Trying to be all things to all people is not the answer. Also, writing a resume like a technical manual (list of your accomplishments) is less effective than writing it like a marketing brochure (benefits to the buyer).

If you get your resume professionally written, send that to me.

All the best,


Here is his original, cold outreach email (it came with an attached 7-page resume, and a 4-page cover letter titled CoverLetterSynopsis. The ‘synopsis’ was more than 900 words):

Hi Dave,

Thank you for connecting via LinkedIn.

I have been a venture executive in large companies/entrepreneurial firms and have experience with new ventures/startups, tech investment, international business development, marketing, strategic alliances, P3 and emerging tech/innovation. My career track has placed me at the intersection of energy/transportation/technology /innovation/alliances and venture capital.

I have worked in sales and corporate development, venturing and venture capital environments within large organizations, in consulting/professional services firms, with P3 public-private partnerships, with fledgling startups, with new technologies/IP and with new approaches/business models. Each of these experiences honed abilities to move from concept to commercialization; to act as a change agent, trusted advisor or interpretive manager; to work with global, multidisciplinary and multicultural teams; to structure strategic alliances among diverse groups; and to cultivate an appreciation for the long, complex sales cycle for consultative and iterative client engagements. 

In several of these roles, I have successfully identified, grafted and combined smaller companies’ technology breakthroughs with the wherewithal and staying power of larger companies, enabling sustainable innovation. I have also engaged in active scouting and evaluation of several emerging technology areas: energy-mobility, multimodal & autonomous transportation, smart cities, IoT, predictive analytics, connected home/health, digital lifestyle and block-chain, as examples.

Please see attached my resume/CV and cover letter overview.

I believe these skills and performance metrics are markedly transferable to opportunities you may be pursuing. I look forward to commencing a dialogue. Thanks again.

Best regards,


It all ended quite nicely:


Thank you for your helpful and candid feedback. I will get back to you with a professionally crafted resume for your review.



We live to triumph and inspire another day!

How To Triumph With People & Executive Recruiting

How To Triumph With People & Executive Recruiting

The most highly qualified, high caliber talent that you need are not unemployed, sitting on a couch eating potato chips, waiting for the phone to ring.

The three truths about high achievers are that:

  1. They are good at what they do.
  2. People like them.
  3. And they are generally capable of creating the circumstances in their lives for this thing called happiness.

So, at a minimum, they are at least mildly interested, actively engaged in whatever they are currently doing. Recruiting is about disrupting their comfort to ‘extract and secure’ the talent you need for your company.

You must believe that everybody is on the market for the right set of circumstances. Identify who are the all stars that you need inside of your company, extract and secure them. It’s not easy. Stop whining. Be persistent.

People. Idea. Capital. Capital is abundant. Idea is over-rated, more important than an idea is execution. Execution is all about people. So, you are left with people and capital. People are by far the most important.

All teams are not created equal. Build executive teams with purpose.

The advantage that agency recruiters have in assessing the best talent, culture fit and securing the right hires is that we get to go in clean and clear of predisposed notions or any colored thinking about your company.

Offering candidates clean, objective, unbiased data about the market, compensation and opportunities with the leading executive teams in growth companies is valuable in creating a relationship, first.

To understand first, a candidates motivations and where they are trying to get to, allows for trust and a better partnership in career guidance.

Social media, blogging can be distracting. Staying focused on the primary work is the key for creating high-quality results, first.

The best self promoters and propaganda creators are not the best at what they do. It’s important to prioritize high-quality work, first.

So much noise, people want to be marketed to less and less.

Say meaningful, thoughtful things.

Connecting is more important than noise.

When you’ve identified the people with whom you want to connect, find out about them and connect with them in a way that is more interesting.

Connect as a human being first. Understand their interests.

Triathlons and Ironman racing is awesome. Fitness is a great way to make connections!

Great recruiting can only happen by building trust and being an effective partner to the top executives in your market.

Talk for as long as possible about human interests — rapport, laughter and common interests create real connection.

People want to do business with people who are like them. Find the similarities, the things that bring you closer. Delay for as long as possible talking about business. Learn about their deepest desires, dreams and motivations. Only this way can you then jump in to help them and be an effective partner to them.

To lead is to recruit and build culture. Make recruiting and culture your strategic competitive advantage. And, make leadership your legacy.

These were some of the insightful takeaways from a great panel discussion. In attendance were some of the brightest stars in human resources, talent acquisition and People teams from NYC tech and from all around the country at the JobMobile Summit. The panel was led by Career Advice Expert Amanda Augustine, CPCC and included Cat Hernandez @CatMHernandez, Deb Josephs, and Susan Yun @SusanEYun.

The Nobel-Prize winning author, Isaac Bashevis Singer said “Two important things are to have a genuine interest in people and to be kind to them. Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything.”

He was right.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.


How to Lead Across Cultures: Global Insights from Top Exec Chris Hummel

How to Lead Across Cultures: Global Insights from Top Exec Chris Hummel

Chris Hummel is a one-of-a-kind international executive. He has years of experience leading global organizations in places as far-flung from his hometown of Boston as Kazakhstan and Singapore.

Chris is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of United Rentals and has also served as the chief marketing officer of Schneider Electric SE. Chris has more than two decades of executive leadership experience in senior sales and marketing positions at Unify, SAP and Oracle. Over 13 years in a number of senior roles at Oracle, Chris helped Oracle’s customer service organization earn certification from J.D. Power and Associates for its “outstanding customer service.”

Chris’ success is proof that anyone can define his or her own unique path. He started on a track to become a U.S. diplomat. And he soon found himself traveling and working with some of the greatest tech companies in the world. Here’s how he built Oracle’s office in Kazakhstan from the ground up:

Great leaders don’t all march out of prestigious business school doors. Chris learned early that being different from the rest could become one of his strongest assets.

Leadership, for Chris, is more than a title — it’s a mindset. Chris looks for these three defining characteristics that all great leaders share.

For the rest of my conversation with Chris Hummel, check out You’ll find more insights from some of my favorite leaders on the planet.