Marissa Mayer’s quest to upgrade Yahoo ‘culture’ continues. Apparently, she’s very focused on hiring only the best and brightest, which in her worldview equates to top universities and good grades. She also something of a control freak, reviewing every candidate being offered a job, personally. And the latest wrinkle was a plan to test Yahoo admins academically, now shelved:
Alexei Oreskovic, Yahoo’s Mayer gets internal flak for more rigorous hiring
“Why can’t we just be good at hiring?” Mayer said, playing off a line from what she called one of her favorite movies, 1989’s “Say Anything”, according to the employee. He did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss Yahoo’s internal matters.
The question, according to Yahoo insiders, reflects wider concerns among hiring managers and rank-and-file employees over the way Mayer has tightened hiring practices since becoming CEO last July, as part of an effort to transform Yahoo’s workforce and culture.
The controversy has caused consternation in the administrative assistant ranks as well as the professionals.
Mayer has brought Google’s high recruiting standards to Yahoo, in particular its focus on academic credentials, according to current and former Yahoo employees. High grades from top-rated schools such as Stanford University, where Mayer earned her masters in computer science, are important. A computer science degree is much more valued than others, even the electrical engineering degree that Yahoo co-founder David Filo earned, these people said.
Yahoo said in January that it added 120 employees with computer science degrees in the fourth quarter. It is not known how many employees quit that quarter, but two former executives said Yahoo’s attrition rate averaged at 20 percent historically.
Mayer’s focus on academics extends to existing staff as well. For instance, some administrative assistants were recently informed that they had to take a modified version of the law school admissions test, for reasons not fully explained. The demand sparked consternation and Yahoo later backed off, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who said it was unclear how widespread the requirement was intended to be.
We’ll see if she can out-Google Google.
By the way, I think the line from Say Anything was this:
Lloyd Dobler: I am looking for a dare-to-be-great situation.
Mayer’s also contemplating shutting down or trimming remote locations like Bangalore.
My bet is that she’d be much happier — except for the paycheck — starting a new company and building it piece by piece, every cog and piston. But that would require a vision for a new company, a new direction.
Except that she doesn’t seem to have a real vision for Yahoo, yet, does she? She’s moving around the furniture, and ordering people to march up the hill and down again, but what is Yahoo supposed to mean? Has she clarified anything about Yahoo’s direction, yet? Not to me.
This is someone who made her bones A/B testing how much whitespace should appear on the Google search page. We’ll have to see if that aspergerish obsession with product minutiae and domination of corporate culture will add up to sustainable brand value, or even a worthwhile product introduction.