Ten (Okay, 13) Questions with Libby Sartain, Chief People Yahoo!

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by: Guy Kawasaki

This is HR and recruiting week on my blog! This is an interview with Libby Sartain of Yahoo. She is responsible for leading Yahoo! Inc.’s global human resources efforts and managing and developing the human resources team.

Prior to joining Yahoo! in August 2001, Sartain was “vice president of people” at Southwest Airlines. She holds an MBA from the University of North Texas and a BBA from Southern Methodist University.

  1. Question: At any given moment, how many jobs are you trying to fill?

    Answer: Our number of open requisitions fluctuate, but if I had to average, I would say about 1,000 at any given moment and 2,500 or so total per year.

  2. Question: On average, how many applications do you get per job?

    Answer: For the last few years, we have received more than 120,000 resumes a year. So, we start with about 50/1 ratio, but when we narrow that down to actual qualified candidates, we see about ten for every job.

  3. Question: How can a candidate break through the noise?

    Answer: The biggest obstacle for a candidate is if they send in a resume but don’t map it for a specific open position. With so many resumes, and recruiters looking to fill what is open today, they might be missed. So the best thing is to apply to the one or two jobs that are open and for which your skills are a direct match. It is also helpful to be referred by someone inside the company. But, be sure it is someone who can vouch for you and your work.

  4. Question: What makes a cover email and resume “pop” for you?

    Answer: In the cover email, or summary when submitting your applications through an online jobs site like Hot Jobs, we look for your personality to show through. You should be able to come up with a succinct summary of who you are, what you bring to the table, and why we should hire you…but your unique personality should “pop”.

    I suggest that you write an “elevator pitch” for yourself to have at the ready while you’re looking for a new job. You can summarize in your cover email/online submission: Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your next big personal objective? How would you like to contribute in your next role. Sitting down and writing a fifty to seventy-five word elevator pitch for an imaginary listener is a wonderful experience of self-discovery. To be able to boil down your entire existence into such a short package is one way to discover your essential personal statement to the world. At least, what you’d like your essential personal statement to be. Getting comfortable with the pitch also helps when you are interviewing.

  5. Question: What do you dread seeing in a resume?

    Answer: I dread seeing resumes that don’t tell me where you have worked and what you have accomplished there. Many people have taken to writing capabilities statements but most don’t have any meat to show how and where they developed the capabilities they claim they have. Over-inflating your jobs and experience also works against you. And, when you have seen as many resumes as our recruiters have seen, this over inflation is completely obvious.

    This sounds strange in the Silicon Valley, but i also like to see some stability. If someone held every job for two years or less, alarm bells go off in my head. I wonder if the candidate has worn out his or her welcome.

  6. Question: Does a resume that’s over one page long hurt a candidate’s chances?

    Answer: We are looking at resumes electronically, so the pages aren’t really the issue. They should be succinct, but if they are two pages, or three pages…and great, that works. Anything over three pages is too much.

    (Editorial comment from Guy: God help us, Libby is unleashing three-page resumes on us. Nota bene: she said “and great.” Of course, every candidate believes his resume is great and requires three pages just like every entrepreneur believes he needs sixty PowerPoint slides.)

  7. Question: How would you stack rank education, experience, and enthusiasm as desirable qualities of a candidate?

    Answer: You have to have the whole package, but enthusiasm goes a long way with me. I look for people who will fit in our culture and who are smart, fun, friendly, and are passionate about what we are doing.

  8. Question: How does your criteria differ from other Silicon Valley companies like Apple or Google?

    Answer: We offer a distinct opportunity. We can usually offer a candidate a variety of different experiences because we have so many different products and services and the largest audience in the world. People select us over the competition because we offer them a role that fits their interests and objectives. They also like the fact that the can move to another area in the future, so they like the prospects for their career development.

  9. Question: What’s the effect of a candidate saying that she wants to help Yahoo kick Google’s butt?

    Answer: We love people who want us to win against our competition, and we have competitors in every product and service we offer. (Editorial comment from Guy: This is HR-speak for, “It’s a good thing.”)

  10. Question: How can candidates increase the probability of a great interview?

    Answer: Be prepared! You should have at least researched the company and the business/products that you would be working with on the Internet. You should know what you bring to us and convince us that you can do the job. Once again, we want to see your personality too.

  11. Question: Can an “art history major” with no technology educational or technology work experience get a job at Yahoo?

    Answer: Sure, but not a technology job. We have folks with art history backgrounds working in a number of areas like surfing (Editorial comment from Guy: this refers to editorial work), user experience and design, marketing or maybe even human resources. It helps if you have experience in a prior company with such a degree.

  12. Question: If a candidate doesn’t hear back, at what point should she try to initiate contact—or do people basically “send and pray”?

    Answer: Praying might help, but I suggest that candidates always check back if they don’t hear. But if they get a response that says we have found another candidate, they need to move on.

  13. Question: By approximate percentages, how do successful candidates for non-officer level positions come to you?


    • Candidate found listing on Yahoo Jobs page—30%

    • Yahoo employee referred the candidate—30%

    • Yahoo internal recruiter contacted a prospect (that is, the person wasn’t looking)—20%

    • Yahoo retained headhunter contacted a prospect (that is, the person wasn’t looking)—2%

    • Conversion from contractor or temporary—10%

    • Hot Jobs and other jobs sites—7%

Original Post: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/08/ten_okay_13_que.html