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Different by design

How Mozilla Hires for Principle Over Profit

‘We hire the best.’  ‘We recruit the best.’  ‘Only the best candidates make it through the interview process here.’  These claims and a plethora of similar sentiments have been expressed as long as companies have been recruiting.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “We settle for average people”?  The reality, however, is that the vast majority of employees at companies are actually by definition, average.  This presents many companies with a dilemma when hiring: How do you increase the overall quality of your hires?  There are many factors that weigh in on this: the type of business the company is in, the “brand” the company has within the candidate population and the companies recruitment strategy are some of the key factors many point to. However, something all too commonly overlooked is the mission behind the company, the overarching principles that guides its path.

This is where Mozilla excels.  We hire the best people because, quite frankly, we have a better mission than the companies we compete with for talent.  We take on some glitzy, fun, amazing companies doing great things, but each and every one are driven by the same goal, revenue.  The vast majority of companies are trying to be the most profitable out there.  Of course this is a fantastic, and many would argue, noble pursuit. Mozilla just happens to have a more noble pursuit.  Our mission is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the web.  We believe the internet is the most powerful tool mankind has ever created.  We believe that the internet should always be open and available to everyone and everyone should be able to contribute to making it better.

Different by design

Our mission frees us as an organization to focus wholly and completely on making the best products possible for users.  I began to truly appreciate the extent to which this is true when I sat in various planning meetings around our latest major initiative, Firefox OS, a transformative new operating system developed by Mozilla specifically for use in mobile devices.  I realized our discussions were always centered on how to create the best product for our current and future users.  With the world having shifted away from desktops and laptops to mobile devices, certain major players in the mobile space are starting to control the way users interact with the web.  The freedoms that are available on Firefox for desktop are not available with the other major mobile browsers.  This coupled with the fact that the vast majority of the next 2 billion internet users will only access the internet through mobile devices mean that, in order to ensure the web stays open, we had to create a product for those users.  These meetings centered on one thing, how to ensure Firefox OS will best serve all current and future users of the web.  Never was the focus on how to generate profit.

Focusing on what is best for users is what makes recruiting at Mozilla so much fun.  Our VP of Firefox Engineering, Johnathan Nightingale, points out:

 “Truly excellent people want more than a decent salary or a cool title. They want to change the world.  And they want to work with other excellent people changing the world.”

We are full of exceptional people who want to change the world.  This gives us a gravity that pulls and attracts individuals who share the same principles.  When we speak with candidates it becomes clear very quickly whether someone will fit in with our culture.  Our passion, our level of engagement, our willingness to do work, even when its ‘not our job,’ our desire, as individuals and as an organization to stand up to bullies will either completely “close” a candidate or scare them away.  Very rarely do we have to get too deeply involved in a complicated sell at the offer stage.  We pay very well and offer world class perks and benefits.  Because of this, if we get to offer stage with a candidate, they understand all the passions, driving forces and expectations of everyone who is contributing to our mission.  They are either all in or they have been completely overwhelmed early on and don’t make it that far.

I have been involved with a huge array of companies large and small, both profitable and striving for profitability, and I can say that looking back through my new perspective, the push for profitability can cloud your vision.  Being driven by principles like we are at Mozilla allows us to be very particular in how we recruit.  Being driven by principles allows us to be bold and creative.  Being driven by principles allows us to be free to try and fail and try again.

Of course, we are in a unique place.  In the current business environment, I don’t expect to see many companies come along with a mission similar to ours anytime soon.  Our principles are what attract rock-stars to us and our principles are what keep them here.  We are driven by our mission.  That drive ensures that we only bring on those who desire, not to build the most profitable company as possible, but to make the world better through the web.  That is how we hire on principle over profit.


Mathew CaldwellMathew Caldwell is Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Mozilla. He has 17 years providing executive search and recruitment leadership solutions both in-house and as a consultant with companies spanning as small as five to multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporations.  Mathew’s passion is creating solutions that align the right people with the right roles to ensure business success. 

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Mathew Caldwell

Mathew Caldwell is Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Mozilla. He has 17 years providing executive search and recruitment leadership solutions both in-house and as a consultant with companies spanning as small as five to multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporations. Mathew’s passion is creating solutions that align the right people with the right roles to ensure business success.

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