25 Inspirational Quotes for CEOs about Attracting, Identifying, and Hiring Difference Makers

I love quotes as I find that they inspire imagination and are more often remembered. As a premier-level retained executive search headhunter who finds difference making talent for top positions, I am often asked why hiring is so expensive. My answer is simple: because it's too expensive not to have great talent. Here are 25 of my favorite quotes on the importance of hiring the right talent, inspiring current talent, and retaining the same talent. The clear theme for business owners, CEOs, and key executives is the necessity to attract, identify, hire, and retain difference making top talent.


  1. “Executives owe it to their organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs.” - Peter Drucker, Author

  2. “Hire people who are smarter than you are—whose talents surpass yours—and give them opportunities for growth. It's the smart thing to do and it is a sign of high personal humility.” - Bruna Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow

  3. "If you pick the right people and give them opportunity to spread their wings – and put compensation as a carrier behind it – you almost don’t have to manage them." - Jack Welch, CEO, General Electric (1981-2001)

  4. "Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you." - Warren Buffet, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway (1965-Present)

  5. "I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies." - Lawrence Bossidy, Chief Executive, General Electric (1979-1991)

  6. "I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way." - Lee Lacocca, President, Chrysler Corporation (1978-1992)

  7. "Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity. What do you think is the most important factor when building your team? For us, it's personality." - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Brands

  8. “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Brands

  9. "Hire character. Train skill." - Peter Schutz, President and CEO, Porsche (1981-1987)

  10. "A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people." - Jim Collins, Author, Good to Great and Built to Last

  11. “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” - Jim Collins, Author, Good to Great and Built to Last

  12. "In technology, it's about the people. Getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment, and helping to find a way to innovate." - Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo! (2012-2017)

  13. "I'd rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person." - Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon

  14. "Hire right, because the penalties of hiring wrong are huge." - Ray Dalio, Author and Investor

  15. "The secret to my success is that we’ve gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world." - Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO, Apple

  16. "My theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve [Jobs] called ‘the bozo explosion’ to happen in your organization." - Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist, Apple (1983-1987)

  17. "Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth… Hiring was- and still is- the most important thing we do." - Marc Bennioff, Co-Founder and CEO, Salesforce

  18. “I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.” - Robert Bosch, Inventor

  19. “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” - Chinese Proverb

  20. “When you hire people that are smarter than you are, you prove that you are smarter than they are.” - Richard H. Grant, Vice President, General Motors (1929-1942)

  21. “If you can 'hire tough,' you can 'manage easy.” - Sue Tetzlaff, Author, The Employee Experience: A Capstone Guide to Peak Performance

  22. “Dating and hiring have a lot in common.” - Scott Wintrip, Author, High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant

  23. “Recruitment IS marketing. If you’re a recruiter nowdays and you don’t see yourself as a marketer, you’re in the wrong profession.” - Matthew Jeffery, Global Head of Sourcing and Employment Brand, SAP (2014-2019)

  24. “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire and amateur.” – Red Adair, Innovator

  25. And lastly one of my own, in line with the maxim of pennywise and pound foolish, when considering investing in recruiting services, please remember that 'the sting of poor quality lingers long after the remembrance of a good price.'