Emil Michael Shares His Secrets to Hiring Top Talent


Emil Michael is a tech executive who understands how crucial bringing top talent to a brand can be. The investor and entrepreneur has been a strategic adviser at some of the most sought-after brands in the world including Brex, Gopuff, Revolut and Thrive Global. 

The former No. 2 at Uber, who launched his career at Goldman Sachs, is also known for acquiring and fostering top talent. It’s a process he admits can take time, but he believes it’s always worth it in the long run. 

“Interview everyone on your team for as long as you can,” Emil Michael said on “The Deep End” by On Deck, with the podcast’s CEO, Erik Torenberg. “At some point you won’t be able to interview everybody. As long as you do that, it means you will have some consistency in the filter,” Emil Michael explained. “Spend a third of your time recruiting — and that means three interviews a day, 30 minutes every day.”

Emil Michael: Invest in the Best People

While Emil Michael says the process can be complicated, he also says it’s necessary. He considers the people he has hired over the years to be some of his best investments. 

“Not only will you get better at asking, you’ll get better at what kind of talent is out there,” he said. “You’ll get ideas on new things to look for, and you’ll create a machine.”

And although the process of hiring can be involved, Emil Michael says there’s a fine line between being meticulous and taking too long.

I’ve tried to hire executives fast, and I’ve tried to hire executives slow, and the result is always the same,” Emil Michael told the website Be on Deck. “The lesson here is that hiring fast is the better answer. You know you’re not going to get it perfectly right on both sides.”

 Emil Michael also mentored Katelin Holloway at Klout who went on to become an investor and founding partner at Seven Seven Six, a venture capital firm built on software by Reddit guru Alexis Ohanian.

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Prior to his role at Klout, Emil Michael was a White House Fellow working for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as a special assistant, running projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Emil Michael says he has used his network to mentor talent. In addition to staying connected on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, Emil Michael — who is a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School — continues to expand his network of resources by staying in touch with alumni networks.

“The analogy that I use is when you’re a real startup and you haven’t made it yet, you have to behave like a tribe,” Emil Michael shared. “You’re all working hard toward the same goal. You’re [making an] extraordinary effort in hours, in risk-taking, and so on. And people need the motivation of a leader who has passion and speaks with conviction.”

As that company grows, Emil Michael says there is a shift toward evolving into a civilization.

“There are many stakeholders. And making that transition is a really hard thing to do when you’ve been a tribe for so long. And becoming a civilization means that there’s a measure of diplomacy,” he explained. 

Understand That Risk Is Inevitable

Emil Michael says he also realizes the reality of big business is that 50% of executive hires at a high-growth company fail — and if someone is an improper fit, it’s best to tackle it sooner rather than later. 

“Test for motivation, test for flexibility,” he said. “Are they willing to learn a new playbook?”

And how does one separate the wheat from the chaff? He says it’s crucial to hire people who are “doing it for the right reasons” and care about the mission of the brand. 

“Make sure you surround yourself with people that you can learn from and you can teach,” he shared. “There’s no company ever created that hasn’t had its ups and downs. There are very few entrepreneurs who’ve been lucky all the way through. I don’t know any. Everyone has had their tough moments.”

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The business leader says he also leans on advice he received from Silicon Valley leadership coach Bill Campbell. Campbell coached everyone, from Emil Michael to Google’s founder and CEO Larry Page to Steve Jobs from Apple. Addressing problems immediately was a mantra of Campbell’s, according to Emil Michael. 

​​”His big lesson, which I’ll never forget, is [that] the best leaders will lean into hard problems,” Emil Michael said during a Harvard alumni event. “And that approach means you can grow faster. You’re more direct with your employees. You just move faster and better.” That especially rings true when it comes to firing someone, says Michael. “And even when it comes to letting someone go, which no one likes to do, you could be doing that person a favor because they’re not in a job that’s going to make them thrive. Let them get to a place where they can thrive.”

Don’t Shy Away From Tough Conversations

Emil Michael admits he enjoys seeing people succeed and has never been afraid to have hard conversations early so that he can help people reach their full potential. The Miami-based entrepreneur has not only built executive teams, but he has also raised more than $25 billion in capital and continues to be a sought-after expert on CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg TV, and a variety of podcasts. 

A self-described night owl, Emil Michael, says he spends most nights on calls with business lenders seeking advice on everything from acquisitions to executive hires. 

“Always hire the best people. It makes a difference in the beginning, middle, and in the end. If you’re building a hyper-growth company, make sure you’re building the company as fast as you’re building the business,” Emil Michael said in a talk at the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami. “You’re not a one-man or one-woman show anymore. You have a lot of people counting on you. Learn to serve them the best way you can.”



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