‘I would never hire anyone like you’: Sheryl Sandberg received a brutal rejection when she tried to break into tech

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“I would never hire anyone like you,” Sandberg was told in an interview.
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Allison Shelley/Getty Images

    Sheryl Sandberg worked for the US Secretary of Treasury before she moved into the tech sector. She struggled to find a job at first. “I would never hire anyone like you,” Sandberg was told in an interview.

Sheryl Sandberg, current chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of leanin.org, wasn’t always at the top of tech.

Before her move to Silicon Valley, she worked as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Larry Summers until 2001, when George W. Bush assumed the presidency. It was at that point Sandberg sought a career pivot to the private sector in the tech industry.

But the move was easier said than done, she explained on an episode of the podcast “When to Jump.”

“There was a lot of rejection, and some nervousness,” Sandberg told podcast host Mike Lewis. “Would I ever get a job in this industry?” she remembered thinking.

Sandberg began taking interviews in Silicon Valley in 2001, but struggled to land a job. Her low point was when a CEO of a tech company gave her a mid-interview rejection:

“The CEO said to me, ‘I would never hire anyone like you.’ And I said, ‘Well then why’d you take the meeting?’ And the person said, ‘because a board member asked me to.'”

It took Sandberg 10 months, but she didn’t give up and go back in the governmental sector, where she would have had an easier time securing a role. Eventually she got an offer at Google.

Her job at Google was a step back from her job as chief of staff. She went from a job with a team of tens of thousands in the US Treasury to her job at Google with a team of four.

But today, she’s glad she took a job that seemed like moving backwards. Being willing to take a step back to move forward “will make a huge difference,” Sandberg said.

Listen to the full podcast interview »