The gruelling process behind how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hires his best employees

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick personally interviewed a potential employee for more than 30 hours before eventually giving him the role of CTO of the $3 billion startup giant.

In an interview with Geek Wire, Uber CTO Thuan Pham outlines the extraordinary lengths the founder goes to in order to ensure the company only brings the best employees on board.

Pham says the interview was originally meant to only go for an hour.

“I met with him and that one hour turned into two,” Pham tells Geek Wire.

“He invited me back for more talks and ended up interviewing me for 30 hours straight, one-on-one over two weeks.”

The pair would discuss set topics across this time, debating back and forth before a conclusion was made.

“It dawned on me afterward that he wasn’t looking for someone that shared his view – he was looking for diversity of thought, someone who could challenge him and who he could challenge,” Pham says.

While conducting these extensive interviews, Kalanick was also gallivanting across the world.

“This is how Travis does it,” Pham says.

These meetings continued until one Sunday morning when Kalanick abrubtly brought the debate to a halt.

“He just stopped – we hadn’t finished all the topics – and said, ‘I’ve had enough. Let’s talk offers’,” Pham says.

Tham has now been in the role for more than three years now and says it has been as challenging as it has been rewarding.

“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had – but that’s why it’s the most fun jobs I’ve ever had,” he says.

“Every day I get to do new things and every day I feel like I’m getting better in some way. And that’s because of the gnarly problem we have to solve.”

Pham says one of the biggest lessons he has taken out of his time at Uber is the importance of trusting your own instincts and taking risks.

“When we grow this fast, we’ll never do it perfectly every step of the way,” he says.

“We stumble, we fall; we make really big decisions and really small decisions, and some don’t work out. I’ve made big decisions that completely failed and we had to recover.

“But with a company growing this fast, not making any decision might be an even bigger failure.

“The quicker you fail, the more you learn and the better you become if you get to survive and grow.”

You can read the full interview with Thuan Phan here.

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Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.