How to Get a Job ...

Illustration by Neal Fox

At Ben & Jerry’s
By Jostein Solheim

Illustration by Neal Fox
Our interview process is like our innovation process; it’s pretty artisan. It is really important that people come to our office and factory to meet and engage with everyone there. There will be a team interview by a group of 10 people from all different parts of the organization. It’s really important to hang out and meet the people, eat the ice cream, and even meet the dogs—we have a pet-friendly policy—because obviously we want to have shared values and a cultural fit. If you’re not into community behavior, it’s going to be hard to fake it. Once you are through the first couple of filters, then we get down to your philosophy of combining ingredients. We talk a lot about what you know about flavor, ice cream, and other sweet things. We are very execution-oriented. It is not about the theory behind it; it’s about how it works and why it works.
Solheim is CEO of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which since 2000 has been part of Unilever.
— As told to Ben Paynter
At Dyson
By James Dyson
Illustration by Neal Fox
Not only are we trying different processes that haven’t been done before, but we always want to do things in a different way. I’d rather have people who are curious, not necessarily people who have gotten top marks at universities. One of our most inventive engineers left school at 16. When we interview, we are looking for the sort of people who ask questions, who make outrageous suggestions, and people who might even interrupt you if you say something as they get excited about how to add to that idea. Once they get here, we’ll encourage them to make silly, wrong, or improbable suggestions. Sometimes I’ll ask someone, “Did you take things apart as a child?” I’m much less interested in whatever they took apart than if they tried to put it back together again. If you can’t put it back together, that doesn’t really matter. What is important is what you learned. I had 5,127 prototype projects before I got my first vacuum right.
Dyson is founder of Dyson, a maker of vacuum cleaners, fans, and hand dryers.
— As told to Ben Paynter
At Bridgewater
By Ray Dalio
Illustration by Neal Fox
Interest in the subject matter is a minor consideration. Unlike a lot of firms, we look at what someone is like rather than what they did before. We are first interested in people’s values, second interested in their abilities, and least interested in their precise skills. We want independent thinkers who are willing to put aside their egos to find out what is true. Did the candidate come up with a new idea and build it out? Like if when he was 15 he mowed lawns and developed that into a business by getting others to mow lawns with mowers he bought them. We ask people questions that actually don’t have a right or wrong answer, such as: Should there be a market for transplant organs? The answer doesn’t really matter. It’s totally great if the person’s thinking on the subject ends in a different place than the beginning, because moving forward together to get at the best answer is more important than being right from the outset.
Dalio is the founder and president of investment management firm Bridgewater Associates.
— As told to Ben Paynter
At Palantir
By Alex Karp
Illustration by Neal Fox
Companies typically look for well-rounded people. They want an A-plus in every category. We tend to think it’s better to have an A-triple-plus in one area, which presupposes an F in other areas. So maybe we end up with someone who solves problems very creatively but can’t interact with people. We look for people within uneven IQs, then we build a role around their strengths. I like to meet candidates with no data about them: no résumé, no preliminary discussions or job description, just the candidate and me in a room. I ask a fairly random question, one that is orthogonal to anything they would be doing at Palantir. I then watch how they disaggregate the question, if they appreciate how many different ways there are to see the same thing. I like to keep interviews short, about 10 minutes. Otherwise, people move into their learned responses and you don’t get a sense of who they really are.
Karp is CEO of Palantir Technologies, which mines data for intelligence and law enforcement communities.
— As told to Ashlee Vance
At the Boston Beer Company
By Jim Koch
We are a small company, with only a few hundred employees. We have to be smarter, quicker, better than the big companies we compete with. Typically, we want someone with a skill that we don’t have. One of the most recent guys we hired was a winemaker who was interested in barrel-aging beer using other microorganisms beyond standard yeast. Another guy had a brewmaster’s degree from the best brewing school in the world, Weihenstephan, the German brewing university. He had a résumé full of technical training but didn’t want to work in a big brewery, so he had been working at a smaller place, making an almost extinct style of beer. That showed me his commitment: He was able to make sacrifices for a thing he loved. In my interviewing, I’m interested in what behaviors are natural and comfortable. We want people who don’t respect convention, don’t respect doing things the way they have always been done. We need people who are driven to find their own better way. If you are not, you are not going to fit into this culture. We are a small entrepreneurial company still run by its original founder, so it is also hard for us to hire from bigger companies. I think of it as being Dilbert-ized. People from those places don’t discuss things, don’t confront things. That doesn’t work here.
Koch is the founder and CEO of the Boston Beer Company, the maker of Sam Adams.
— As told to Ben Paynter