My jaw hit the floor. I said 'you're hired'

Most CEOs don't have the time to personally interview every person who joins their company. But they absolutely set the priorities and culture that factor into every single hiring decision, and are intensely involved with top level hires.

Those are some of the most important decisions they can make, so company leaders tend to have strong opinions about the kind of people they want at their company.

My jaw hit the floor. I'd hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I said, 'you're hired.'

Following the revelation that Wall Street's top banks are falling over themselves to hire an unheralded undergraduate who wrote , here are 15 of the best tips that top executives have shared over the years on what impresses them.

Richard Branson - founder and chairman, The Virgin Group

"The number one thing that matters, especially if you're going to be manager at Virgin, is how good you are with people. If you're good with people and you really, genuinely care about people then I'm sure we could find a job for you at Virgin."

From a 2005 American Express event, via

John Chambers - chairman and CEO, Cisco

“All of us have had mistakes and failures. And it's surprising how many people say, 'Well, I can't think of one.' That immediately loses credibility. It's the ability to be very candid on what mistakes they've made, and then the question is, what would you do differently this time?"

From a 2009 interview with


Jeff Bezos - founder and CEO, Amazon

"Some companies, if you wanted to put it into a single word, they have a conqueror mentality, and we have an explorer mentality. And the people who like our mentality of exploration and pioneering, they tend to stay here, and have fun here, and that's self-reinforcing."

From a 2013 interview with the

Ursula Burns - CEO, Xerox

“You have to have a very strong opinion with some facts and data to stand it up, you have to prove that you are right more times than you are wrong, and then you better walk into the room with something to say because otherwise you don't really add a whole lot of value to the group."

From a 2011 interview with

Mickey Drexler - CEO, J. Crew

“The person is a resume, not what's on a piece of paper. Whoever gives advice about resumes in college should be dismissed. Titles don't matter. GPAs don't matter, nor does what school you go to. What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence.”

From the

Kenneth Chenault - chairman and CEO, American Express

“At the end the day because I believe so strongly in leadership, what I look for first, what I try to assess is integrity. For me integrity is the consistency of words and actions. Part of the way that you do that is to ask people questions on some of the most difficult issues that you confront. 'Take me through where you felt you had to compromise your values.'"

From a 2009 interview with the

Lloyd Blankfein - chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs

"I look for two things that may sound a bit inconsistent, but they're reconcilable. I look for people who are willing and able to get very deeply involved in something. And at the same time I like people with broad interests, so that they're well-rounded and interesting people, and are interested in a lot of different things.”

From a 2009 interview with

Howard Schultz - chairman and CEO, Starbucks

“We want people to join Starbucks who have like-minded values. We need happy people — we're a people company that serves coffee, not the other way around.”

From a 2011 interview with Career Builder

Mark Pincus - co-founder and CEO, Zynga

"I like to bet on people, especially those who have taken risks and failed in some way, because they have more real-world experience. And they're humble.”

From a 2010 interview with

Alan Mullally - president and CEO, Ford

"Your résumé tells a lot about what you've done. I would want to know what you've enjoyed about what you've done, what areas you feel comfortable in making a contribution right away, what areas have you struggled with, what do you really want to do, and, especially, what are your strengths? And between what you've done and the way you communicate, I can just look in your eyes and tell a lot."

From a 2009 interview with

Elon Musk - CEO, Tesla Motors and SpaceX

"I actually interview everyone at SpaceX personally. And we're a 500-person company, so that's a lot of interviews. Generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them?"

From a 2008 interview with .

Sheryl Sandberg - COO, Facebook

"When I was first at Facebook, a woman (who) was working in marketing at eBay called me and said … 'I want to know, what's your biggest problem and how can I solve it?' My jaw hit the floor. I'd hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I said, 'you're hired.'"

From a 2012 speech to the graduating class at Harvard Business School,

Eric Schmidt - executive chairman, Google

“We spent more time—and pretty ruthlessly—on academic qualifications, intelligence, intellectual creativity, passion and commitment. What bothers me about management books, they all say these things generically, but nobody does it.”

At a 2011 McKinsey conference,

Tony Hsieh - CEO, Zappos

"We've passed on a lot of really smart talented people [whom] we knew could make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line. But if they're not good for our culture, which is more of a long-term play, then we won't hire them."

From a 2010 interview with

Robert Iger - chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company

“You've got to be an optimist. You can't be a pessimist. When you come to work, you've got to show enthusiasm and spirit. You can't let people see you brought down by the experience of failure. You don't have that luxury."

From a 2011 interview with the

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