Arianna Huffington on Naps, Interviewing, and Brilliant Jerks

October 16, 2014

We’re beyond thrilled to have media mogul Arianna Huffington speak next Wednesday, Oct. 22, at LinkedIn Talent Connect, our annual recruiting customer conference and gathering of some of the brightest minds in talent acquisition.

Huffington, chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, plans to share her theories of achievement in her keynote, “Redefining Success: The Third Metric That Can Benefit Your Bottom Line.”

If you won’t be at the event in San Francisco, you can register for the live stream and tune in at 1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 ET on Wednesday. In the meantime, we wanted to take the opportunity to explore Huffington’s hiring approach at an organization that, in less than 10 years, grew from a handful of employees into the No. 1 news site in America with more than 115 monthly unique visitors.

So, what’s her secret – how does Arianna Huffington hire?

During interviews she focuses less on the resume and more on connection, personality, and passion

When Huffington interviewed Roy Sekoff, founding editor of HuffPost, their meeting involved “large amounts of food,” Sekoff says, and no talk of the project at hand. Instead, as Sekoff recounted to Business Insider in October 2013, he and Huffington spoke at length about their families, lives and other topics. After two hours, Huffington concluded he’d be a fit and Sekoff got the job.

“For me, the most important thing in an interview is how authentic the person is,” Huffington told Business Insider. That, and passion – “the fire in the belly,” as she phrases it.

In this story recounted in Slate magazine, another of HuffPost’s early-years staffers, Katherine Goldstein, notes that her 24-year-old self offered little to the fledging news blog in 2008 besides being “insanely ambitious.” After a whirlwind interview in a town car with an unexpected camera crew riding shotgun and a conversation based more on her alma mater and vision of the future than her resume, Goldstein got the job. She currently is editor of Vanity Fair's website, VF.com.

“Sometimes we hire people who have never had the job before, and they grow within HuffPost. That’s happened to people who are running the place,” Huffington told Business Insider.

Meeting every candidate in person to assess cultural fit is a must

Cultural fit is so important that Huffington takes the time to meet with every job candidate. It makes sense – hiring the wrong person often can make or break a company. And HuffPost has made the effort to construct a culture centered on their values. As the company notes on its LinkedIn Company Page:

“We are passionate. We are entrepreneurial. We are life learners who want to make a difference. We love working here because The Huffington Post provides an environment where we are empowered to take big risks, and because we are encouraged to care about what really matters.”

Even so, Huffington advocates against a hard-and-fast, 24/7 approach to work. Rather, she supports a work culture that includes two well-used nap rooms, a “no email after work” policy and a mandate for hiring managers that there are “no brilliant jerks allowed," which reflects her preference for a kinder, gentler workplace that’s short on aggressive euphemisms like “killing it” or “crushing it.”

Huffington isn’t alone in her approach to hiring. Many major brands look at talent acquisition the same way. Richard Branson also hires for personality, as well as Walt Bettinger from Charles Schwab and Spencer Rascoff of Zillow, to name a few.

As Bettinger put it:

“Everyone whom I interview is more than smart enough or technically capable for the job. When I’m interviewing someone, it’s typically for a leadership position with the responsibility for attracting the talent and building the teams that we need to get the work done and delight our clients. So what I’m after goes beyond someone’s skills and knowledge – which have already been well vetted – to an understanding of the person’s true character.”

We’re looking forward to hearing Huffington’s version of success next week, and exploring ways to apply her insight to the world of the modern recruiter. Tune in on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. ET and join the conversation: #intalent.

 

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