If you want the short answer to this question, here it is: Steve Jobs loved self-starters.
The best evidence of this comes from when he was a young startup CEO in the 1980s. It was early days for Apple Inc.
When he was interviewed around this time, Steve and his team gushed over hires who acted like a typical self-starter.
Steve Jobs’ main takeaway quote from that interview was this:
The greatest people are self managing… once they know what to do, they’ll go figure out how to do it.
Here’s a more ground-level perspective from one of Apple’s senior employees at the time, Andy Hertzfeld:
“We sat [job candidates] down in front of [the Macintosh prototype]… We wanted them to get real excited, and then we knew they were one of us.
For senior front-line employees like Andy, excitement for the work wasn’t enough to hire someone. New hires were expected to contribute without being guided at every step:
We all knew what the computer should be and we just went and did it.
Hiring such people became part of the company’s culture. It might be the fuel Apple needed to move fast and compete against big players.