5 Hiring Lessons We Can Learn From Apple and Steve Jobs

online ATS for small businessApple is one of the most influential companies of our time, and Steve Jobs is touted as one of the most successful leaders of our time. In fact, people struggle to find examples of mistakes he made. Jobs was diligent, to an extreme extent, about maintaining the company culture. He was adamant about investing in the strengths of his employees. He had an also potentially extreme obsession with focus. He worked failure into the plan so it didn’t look like a failure, just a part of the process. And competition was not his thing, innovating was. These traits can serve as important inspiration to other business owners, CEOs, and managers. Before we get started, one important hiring lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way is access to an online ATS for small business recruiting and talent tracking. Click here to start using Recruiteze for free.

5 Hiring Lessons We Can Learn From Apple and Steve Jobs

#1. Diligently Maintain Your Company Culture

A company culture is only as good as its consistency. It’s far too easy to define some values, say the pretty words, and create some cool campaigns and rest on your laurels thinking you have a great company culture. But what about the old policies and habits? Have all of the ones detrimental to your company culture been changed? And what about the decisions you and your managers make? Are they consistent, particularly when the decision is difficult?

Without being diligently maintained, a company culture is just hot, pretty air.  Steve Jobs understood this.

Chris Espinosa described Steve Jobs, “He’s a maniac, a maniacal genius. His job is to stir up everything. He will not leave anything alone. He will not allow inadequacy or compromise to exist.”

In that same interview, Jobs said, “The best way I came up with to affect change at Apple was by example. And that was probably, more than anything else, the key reason that I spent two and a half years of my life on Macintosh…[it] was to try by example, to say, ‘Hey–here’s a better way to do this. And it’s turned out it’s worked.”

He also said, “What [people] need is a common vision. And that’s what leadership is. Leadership is having a vision. Being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it. and getting a consensus on a common vision.”

While that last quote is not one of his more unique ones, the importance he placed on articulating the common vision emphasizes why diligence is so important. All team members have to comprehend and buy the vision. If you muddy the waters with conflicting values and policies, insincere practices, or simply not 100% adhering to the company culture, that vision will be lost. If the owners, CEOs, and managers don’t embody the company culture, their words won’t mean anything.


Jobs was particularly suited to that diligence because he was a huge believer in focus. Medium also shared a story about Jobs advising Google’s Larry Page that they were spreading Google too thin and needed to focus.

He told Page to “Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.”

They also have a quote from him stating, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”

Without focus, you’re distracted, you’re all over the place. Too many pots on the stove and all that. In books and films when someone’s going to do something really spectacular, what do they do? They eliminate distractions. They focus on one goal. So did Steve Jobs.

So if you’re planning a new product or service, don’t add bells and whistles, perfect it. In fact, maybe you don’t need a new product or service at all. Maybe you just need to streamline the one you have. What problems are you trying to solve? Do only what most efficiently and directly solves that problem. Only! Forget sales. Sales will come with a great product. Medium pointed out how Jobs deliberately sought out simplicity, whittling away the unnecessary. Don’t just avoid adding in the unnecessary, assume there is unnecessary stuff there and target it.

Invest in the Power of People

Medium quoted Jobs on the power of a team, “My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

And we’ve previously shared a particularly unique and powerful bit of advice Jobs gave to a colleague, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

In the early Apple days, they inscribed the names of the whole team who created a computer into the casing of the computer, on the inside. It couldn’t be seen by the customer. That wasn’t important. It was about creating a sense of ownership in employees.

Employees work their best when they have a sense of ownership, when their work matters and is appreciated, and when their talents are being put to use. Like Steve Jobs said, if you have talent, by all means, don’t waste it by not appreciating it. Nurture it, expect great things out of it, and let it do its thing. Otherwise you wasted all those hiring costs, training costs, and salary by not making the most of your employee, and you’ve wasted your business’ innovation and growth potential as well.

Plan for Failure

We’re all going to fail. Even Steve Jobs did. But he made it look cool because he learned from his mistakes and turned them into future successes.

If you’re really going to use Steve Jobs and Apple as inspiration, don’t just go, “oh, when I make a mistake, I’ll learn from it.” Be proactive. Plan for the mistake ahead of time.

A LinkedIn post said, “Great people strive for perfection. They are not comfortable showing their progress until it is almost perfect. It turns out Steve Jobs and his co-founders at Pixar found a better solution. It was counter-intuitive, to say the least. They decided to implement the culture of imperfection. They shared progress every day in order to get over the embarrassment of sharing imperfect work. This approach encouraged people to be more creative and changed the dynamics.”

They then described how Jobs, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter anticipated that Pixar would take a long time to succeed and planned ahead of time a string of alternative plans to get them through. What could have been a long, slow, painful failure-y looking process turned out to be a bunch of mini successes.

Innovation is messy. Don’t try to hide it. And don’t wait until there’s a mess to look at it likes it’s a mess. Celebrate the chaos, the very nature of creation. And telling others about it makes for a captivating and inspirational story to help your image.

Don’t Compete, Innovate

Business is all about competition, always trying to do something better or different than the rest. Thinking better is a good way to keep one-upping each other over and over again. Thinking different is a way to provide innovative solutions that are hard, or impossible, for anyone to match.

Medium shared a rather humorous and embarrassing story about the time Microsoft rolled out cd-rom drives that could burn CDs with, well people predominantly wanted to burn music onto them.  Macintosh didn’t have drives that could do that, and Jobs was moved to say about it, “I felt like a dope.”

The most obvious choice was to roll out a cd-rom drive that could do the same thing and keep Macintosh from looking dopey. But that’s thinking low. What decision would actually create something new and powerful?  iTunes. A completely different concept, addressing people’s desire to listen to music in a whole new way. This added value for customers rather than simply catching up to Microsoft for the business’ image.


Steve Jobs was a very unique and eccentric visionary. He created a sometimes frighteningly powerful company and while no one else can be Steve Jobs, and may not want to be, there is a lot to learn from him about innovation that you can’t get anywhere else. I was going to add other words than innovation, but I’m not sure they’re needed. Jobs’ investment in people, his planning for failure, his focus, and his diligence regarding company culture all lead back to innovation. I used the word streamlining before and that’s what all this seems like, shed the unnecessary, focus, optimize for success, and get where you’re going faster.

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More from the hiring lessons series:

  1. Hiring lessons from Richard Branson
  2. Hiring lessons from Dell
  3. Hiring lessons from SpaceX
  4. Hiring lessons from Yahoo
  5. Hiring lessons from Nike
  6. Hiring lessons from EA
  7. Hiring lessons from Ikea
  8. Hiring lessons from Chobani


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