Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. These two men are among the most successful entrepreneurs of the past fifty years.

Gates grew richer, becoming the wealthiest man in the world, while Jobs touched more industries, including movies, music, TV and phones.

The two men have always been compared to each other, as both men were born in 1955 and have competed against each other as they rose to success. People ask, who was more innovative? (Probably Jobs). Who had a better business mind? (Probably Gates).

But who hired better?

Key Takeaways: Gates vs. Jobs in Hiring Practices

  1. Bill Gates’ Approach: Gates emphasized intelligence and potential over experience, using IQ tests and problem-solving challenges. He innovated with stock options to attract talent despite lower initial salaries, aligning employee motivations with Microsoft’s success, creating a workforce of “little Bills.”
  2. Steve Jobs’ Strategy: Jobs valued soft skills and cultural fit, conducting thousands of interviews to ensure hires shared Apple’s vision and passion. He believed in the disproportionate impact of top-tier talent, preferring a small team of A+ players over a larger group of average performers.
  3. Compensation Innovation: Gates’ strategy of offering stock options proved to be a game-changer, motivating employees through direct investment in the company’s success, leading to significant personal and organizational wealth.
  4. Legacy through Successors: The ultimate test of their hiring acumen came with their choices of successors. Jobs’ selection of Tim Cook has led Apple to continue its trajectory of success and innovation, while Microsoft under Steve Ballmer experienced challenges in maintaining its innovative edge.
  5. Final Verdict: Despite the strengths of Gates’ approach, Jobs’ emphasis on passion, vision, and the right soft skills, coupled with the strategic selection of Tim Cook as his successor, gives him the edge in hiring practices.

After all, both men weren’t just superstars by themselves, they had teams of people who helped push their companies forward. So who was better at identifying and bringing on top talent?

Well, without further ado, we’ll break down the way both men hired, and then determine a winner.

How Bill Gates Hired

When Gates was around at Microsoft, candidates didn’t go on job interviews.

They took IQ tests.

Gates, at his foundation now, talks about skill-based hiring. In other words, he doesn’t care what school you went to or how many years of experience. (In fact, too many years is seen as a detrainment.)

Instead, he focuses on if you have the skills to do the job. And, at Microsoft, the primary skill was intelligence.

Interviews at Microsoft included incredibly difficult riddles to gauge intelligence. And Gates was opposed to hiring people with too much experience, preferring candidates with brilliant, untrained minds who would be known as “little Bills”.

One genius move by Gates was that Microsoft couldn’t pay the same high salaries as his competitors in the early years, so he offered them stock options. That aligned their motives with his, and ultimately resulted in Microsoft creating approximately 10,000 millionaires.

Those payouts obviously didn’t hurt Gates either, considering that he became the richest man in the world. An obvious example of how paying people more can actually make companies more money.

How Steve Jobs Hired

Jobs put a premium on hiring, as he believed “hiring the best” was the most important job of a manager. He never delegated the task, conducting over 5,000 interviews himself, as he believed there was a huge difference between the very best and the pretty good.

“I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1,” Jobs said. “A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

During the hiring process, Jobs focused on finding people who share Apple’s vision, who were innovative and, most importantly of all, loved what they were going to be hired for. In other words, he put a lot of emphasis on soft skills, instead of just the skill of the candidate.

The actual hiring process at Apple is unique, as the first-round interview is often a group interview, where 25 candidates are considered. There, Apple employees look for leaders out of that 25, while eliminating the wallflowers.

The candidates that pass through then generally have to go through two more traditional interviews before finally getting the job. Again, for high-end positions, Jobs himself would be involved in the last interview.

So, Who Hired Better?

So who did it better – Gates vs Jobs?

One thing about Jobs’ strategy is that it was more compressive than Gates, in that it put more of an emphasis on soft skills. The group interviews are a good example of that, as people are really screened on how they interact with others.

However, although this isn’t directly related to hiring, we love Gates’ compensation plan. By giving employees stock options, it tied Gates’ incentives to his workers. That led to both becoming very rich.

So who did it better? Well, for that we have to look at their most important hire, the people who replaced them.

Jobs had Tim Cook replace him as CEO when he died in 2011. Cook has been solidif not spectacular, as Apple continues to be one of the most successful and innovative companies in America.

Gates, conversely, tabbed Steve Ballmer to replace him as CEO in 2000. While Microsoft is still a successful company, it became much less innovative under Ballmer and fell behind in key areas like smartphones andtablets. Also, he is sort of insane (but so are we, so who’s to judge).

Obviously, both Gates and Jobs were great at just about everything, including hiring, or else they wouldn’t be the successes they are today. But, gun to our head, largely because of the Cook decision alone, the edge goes to Jobs.