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William A. Swope is corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Corporate Sustainability Group. In this role, he is responsible for driving Intel's environmental efforts in the areas of[…]

Will Swope explains how he seeks, retains and lets go of his employees.

Question: Where do you find the most talented employees? Swope:    Well, we do most of our hiring directly out of college.  So we have a series of schools that we work with and that goes on through PhD programs.  Right at the PhD level, we do fellowships, scholarships.  We work with a number of university professors around the world and in different labs.  So, we’re doing a lot of that.  So, let me say for that thousand people that we hire, I’m pretty sure we hire over a thousand PhDs a year.  So, for that level, that’s a very specialized group of people, right.  But if you mean, for our general hiring, we hire mostly out of an undergraduate school, we certainly get, you know, recommendations.  We have a pretty robust interviewing process.  One advantage we have is the Intel culture at this stage is pretty well-known.  We are an established company.  One can argue big, too big but, you know, well over 30, right, 30 billion and 82,000 employees or a little more than that really.  So people kind of know a little bit, you know, do you want to work here?  But I answered this before in a different context.  It’s building the culture so you’re working with people whose views you respect and whose ethics and morals and work ethic you respect.  If you do that, and then you provide training and then you provide opportunities for advancement and a meritocracy and how you deal with employees and again this transparentness of action, that will take you a long way. 

Question: What do you look for during the interview process?

Swope: I really try to understand how the person views their own decision-making capability, because when I try to hire more than anything else, right, are people that can analyze and decide in an area that they already do not have the expertise.  Because if they already had the expertise, there’s such a high probability I wouldn’t be assigned to the problem anyway.  It’s just for what I do at Intel and when I’ve kind of done for a long time in Intel and [usually what] kind of problem we haven’t solved yet.  And the result of that is I need a few people around me that are comfortable in their ability to analyze and not defensive if they’re wrong, not [IB] of about someone else or that other person is wrong, can laugh at themselves, but we can work on it together and we can end up with a position that we think we can move forward on.  I look for people like that.  It was described to me once by a really good VC who said, I’d rather, I don’t want to hire the smartest person I interview.  I want to hire someone I want to take a two-week rafting trip with and there are a lot of those aspects, if you think about it, in terms of teamwork, trust, ability that you’re going to pull your side of the raft, as well as some quick decision-making going down the river, not second guessing yourself too badly.  I look at that as really incredibly [saged] advice and try to follow it.

Question: What’s the best way to fire someone? Swope:    Where the dignity and respect and as much knowledge as they had in advance, explaining what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, a chance for them to recover.  We have a pretty good process at Intel that explains how people are doing.  We have annual performance reviews, you know.  You can say, you know, we think you’re a great employee, but are you sure this is the right job for you, right.  Sometimes you just have a miss-fit, right.  Now, again, let me separate out those issues of ethics that there’s corruption.  There’s, I think, that kind of, you know, moral behavior that’s just different, that’s, well, really not this topic.  I’m talking about someone who’s working their tail off, not able to produce at the level that we need or that we think is required for the job or to meet their customer demand, and those it’s a matter of document it to the employee, give them every opportunity to change, making sure they realize why you’re making the statements that you do.  And then you just try do it in, you know, in the most ethical and respectful way possible.