Barry Diller’s best hiring advice

& Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller
speaks onstage at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on October
25, 2017 in New York City.

Ord/Getty Images

  • Barry Diller is the chairman of media holding company
  • In his long career in media and show business, he’s
    hired and trained power brokers from when they were young and
  • He believes that it is best to promote inexperienced,
    hungry people to leadership roles, so that they grow into the
    role in a way preferable to a veteran set in his or her

Barry Diller — the chairman of IAC, whose holdings include
Tinder, the Daily Beast, and Angie’s List — has a knack for
picking talent. But, as LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman explained
in a recent episode of his podcast “Masters
of Scale
,” you won’t find Diller’s advice “in any HR manual.”

Diller has groomed executives like former Walt Disney Company CEO
Michael Eisner and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Instead of hiring
them as C-suite executives, he threw them into the deep end after
determining they showed some natural talent and plenty of desire
to learn.

“Here it is, in a sentence, whether it’s dumb or smart,” Diller
told Hoffman after Hoffman asked him for his secret to
recruiting. “Which is: If you hire people at senior positions,
you are a failure.”

That is, if you hire a CEO because he or she was a great CEO at a
different company, you missed a great opportunity to grow someone
into the role in a way that would yield a better result.

Diller came to this conclusion because of his own experience.
Diller was just in his early 20s when former ABC president Elton
Rule put him in charge of negotiating rights to films made for
television. The way Diller tells it, the only thing exceptional
about himself at that age was that he was willing to learn as
much as possible about any task assigned to him so that he could
give the job his all. Rule respected that and took a chance on

“So I have always believed to hire people, bring people into your
organization who are young, and who are inexperienced for the job
that you give them,” Diller said.

Sometimes, of course, this doesn’t work. But it’s similar to a
venture capitalist’s approach to investments, according to
Diller’s logic: The risk is balanced out by the high chance that
if such employees take to the new role given to them, they will
end up forcing themselves to work harder and smarter than a more
established candidate would.

“When you drop somebody into deep water, and you see they
flounder, and they really are gasping — unless that happens,
development rarely happens,” Diller said. “And then slowly they
get above the water line, and then they start to go.”

You can listen to the full episode

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