When Eric Schmidt joined Google as CEO in 2001, he was put in charge of a few hundred employees; when he stepped back as CEO to become chairman 10 years later, there were around 32,000 employees at the company.
Schmidt is now the executive chair of Alphabet, Google's parent company and one of the world's most influential conglomerates. It has more than 60,000 employees and a market cap of about $663 billion.
It was the early years, when growth was especially rapid, that gave him the foundation of both his and all of Google's management philosophy, he explained to LinkedIn cofounder and chairman Reid Hoffman for an episode of Hoffman's "Masters of Scale" podcast.
One of these lessons concerned finding a "smart creative" who could "thrive in chaos," Schmidt said.
He told Hoffman that as Google scaled, they kept hiring "glue people," people who may be pleasant and competent but "who sit between functions and help either side but don't themselves add a lot of value." He and Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, decided it was time to overhaul their hiring system.
They developed various processes for finding talent — including peer interviews, tests, and lines of questioning — but Schmidt said that ultimately two simple things matter more than anything in a job candidate, and they're the same for a startup or a massive corporation.
They are persistence and curiosity.
Schmidt told Hoffman that "persistence is the single biggest predictor of future success. ... And the second thing was curiosity. What do you care about? The combination of persistence and curiosity is a very good predictor of employee success in a knowledge economy."
He said it matters less how you discover those traits in the hiring process than the actual discovery of them. And then finally, ask yourself if you would enjoy working with that person, since your final decision "has a lot to do with if the person is interesting or not."