Why one CEO only hires people who remind her of herself

Susan Petersen
Susan Petersen

Susan Petersen only hires people who remind her of "a young version" of herself.

It isn't a narcissistic hiring strategy; it's a smart one.

Petersen is the founder of baby moccasin and apparel company Freshly Picked.

In 2009, after having trouble finding well-designed baby shoes for her son Gus, the very frustrated and cash-strapped mother of two bought a bag of scrap leather at a yard sale and decided to find a solution to the problem herself.

Working at her kitchen table on a shoestring budget, Petersen began experimenting with designs and eventually created pair of soft-soled shoes "that not only looked cute, but also stayed on Gus' chubby little feet," her website says.


That's when she realized she was on to something.

But money was tight for the young Utah mom.

In order to earn some cash to start her business, Petersen knew she had to get creative. She tells Business Insider that she convinced her brother, who owns a window installation business, to let her keep the old windows that he was removing from the houses in the summer of 2009.

She spent two months banging the glass out of those windows, and then sold all of the aluminum frames to the scrap yard at the end of the summer.

Her earnings: $200.

It doesn't sound like much, but she says it was enough to get her business going.

She used the money to buy her first hide of leather.

Freshly Picked
Freshly Picked

Since then, Freshly Picked has exploded.

Petersen appeared on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2014; Nordstrom began selling the moccasins last year; Freshly Picked was featured on "Ellen" this May; and the company has nearly a half million followers on Instagram.

In the last three years alone, Freshly Pickedsales have grown from $120,000 to $5.4 million (Petersen told Business Insider her company sold 101,516 pairs of moccasins through its website in 2014, and already sold 81,000 pairs in 2015) — and she has hired a dozen new employees.

Petersen got to where she is today because she was hungry, humble, and a good problem solver. And those are the exact traits she looks for in job candidates eager to join her team.

"I also want people who are smart and great team players," she says.

"The culture of your business ends up reflecting the owner's personality, so these are the qualities that I want our culture to have," Petersen adds.

Freshly Picked
Freshly Picked

To determine whether someone fits the bill, Petersen asks: "What is a time in your life that you've not been able to afford something that you really wanted? Did you figure out a way to purchase it? Tell me about it."

Another telling query: "Have you ever worked really hard on something and someone else either received or took the credit?"

"After asking these questions, I like to see how the candidate interacts with our whole group," she says. "Service is a value that I hold very close and if I see them serving in any way — taking out the trash, jumping in to help when someone is in the weeds — it speaks volumes to me."

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