Marissa Mayer’s ban of telecommuting at Yahoo and the hiring practices she’s said to have imposed on the struggling company smack of practices at her previous employer, Google. So how come everyone in Silicon Valley is crying foul? What’s good for Google can’t be good for anyone else?
Reportedly, Mayer now requires that she sign off on every new hire, though she denies favoring those with elite university credentials, according to Reuters. Though most people assume this is a practice she picked up at Google, that’s not the case, says Gayle Laakmann McDowell, a former Google software engineer who was one of its lead interviewers and also served on its hiring committee.
Officially, Google has had an executive committee that signed off on every offer. In practice, the committee performed spot checks on application packets in order to avoid slowing down the process, McDowell says. Those packets, in which job offers are usually made, are assigned a letter grade based on the applicant’s qualifications and education. As with Google, Mayer is most likely spot-checking the packets, McDowell believes.
If she’s following the same process at Yahoo, “She’ll be looking at the packets that received lower grades to see if someone doesn’t look right to her,” McDowell explains. Mayer probably won’t look at those that receive an A or B rating, since they indicate that those involved in the process were pretty much unanimous in their judgment.
On the face of it, such attention to detail is a good idea when a company’s fortunes are as tenuous as Yahoo’s. But San Francisco-based recruiter Jon Holman thinks it’s not such a good idea if Mayer’s involvement slows down the process in any meaningful way. That’s exactly what’s happening, according to Reuters, and as a result, the company has lost out on nabbing several prospective engineers. The news service cited an internal Yahoo staff meeting where this issue was raised.
That said, Holman notes: “As much as I hate to say it, if Marissa were male, no one would be making such a fuss over every little step she takes. It would be just a new CEO trying to fix a broken culture.”
Mayer needs to move fast, so now is the best time to raise the bar on Yahoo’s hiring practices. This comes just weeks after another outcry over Mayer’s ban on telecommuting.
“It needs to be now, or never,” McDowell says. “It means more if you’ve just come out of a top company and make those changes. To do this two years from now won’t be as meaningful.”
While you could argue that making the process more difficult may create cachet for jobs at Yahoo, Holman and McDowell say that’s unlikely.
“Yahoo, for the past five or 10 years, has been considered a step down from Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft,” McDowell says. “Marissa Mayer’s arrival gives some hope that if not today, maybe in a year or two, Yahoo will be in the A league again.”