HR Administration

Marissa Mayer, the Boss Who Has to Hire

By Rick Bell

Mar. 15, 2013

Ed Frauenheim is on assignment.

Your new boss is hands-on. The kind of boss who wants to leave an imprint on everything, from the contingent budget to internal communications to the brand of coffee in the break room. There’s nothing the new boss isn’t touching even though it’s almost a year into the job.

Oh, and that new position you’re ready to pull the trigger on filling? Your candidate is meeting the new boss later today. Like the coffee and the contingents, it’s required that all potential hires meet the chief.

Still, it’s a slam dunk. Your choice is a perfect fit. Then why is there this nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’ll be back to square one tomorrow morning?

Reuters recently posted a story updating the hiring policies that Marissa Mayer implemented at Yahoo last year. Like that new boss of yours, she signs off on all new hires.

Not surprisingly, some insiders at the company are grousing that, with her hands-on approach, perfectly good candidates are being tossed aside or they lose patience and walk because of interminable delays. From the story:

Another Google practice that Mayer has adopted at Yahoo is to personally review and sign off on every hire, which inevitably slows down recruiting.

Job applicants often go through the interview process, then “wait and wait,” said one executive who recently left Yahoo. “One person we wanted waited eight weeks, then they inevitably got another offer.”

Frustrating for sure, but who among us has gone through a series of interviews and then hired without meeting The Office El Jefe? My guess is not many. And delays? Whether it was a temporary hiring freeze, sudden budget constraints or a supervisor who kept putting off a decision, most of us have played that waiting game.

Before I was hired, I met with every publisher I ever worked for. The editors did the legwork, but then it was time to meet the boss. Some meetings were mere formalities; others were two hours of sheer torture. One publisher even asked me to lift up the lapel on my jacket to see if I was wearing a communist pin underneath. I think he was serious.

But that was his prerogative. To meet with me, I mean, not seek out my political affiliation.

Bosses should play a big role in hiring their next employee. It’s their company. And don’t tell me they’re too busy. Abe Lincoln signed off on virtually every federal hire after his inauguration. OK, it was the days of patronage and he owed a lot of favors, but still … “Let’s see, Georgia just seceded from the Union, Fort Sumter’s under siege, relations with England and France are sketchy at best … oh yeah, time to meet the guy who wants to be the pension office clerk.”

Mayer declared last year that she would be hands-on with her hiring. Despite the kvetching by some, it was no hollow promise. Not even a year into her tenure as Yahoo CEO, she’s realigned the C-suite with several big-name shakeups, named HR outsider Jacqueline Reses as her vice president of people and development, and implemented a telecommuting ban. Maybe there’s some merit to complaints about methodology but speed doesn’t appear to be an issue with her assault on the company’s personnel problems.

Mayer’s goal to be recruiter-in-chief is one more phase in a high-profile battle to save Yahoo. It’s one she appears determined to win.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s managing editor. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director.

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