- Arianna Huffington asks people one interview question to see whether they’ll fit in at her startup.
- The Thrive founder asks them for examples of when they’ve been direct with their manager.
- If they don’t know how to answer, it suggests they’re not used to expressing themselves, she said.
No matter how good they look on paper, it’s never easy to tell how well a person will fit within a company’s culture and way of working.
Arianna Huffington, the millionaire founder of the Huffington Post, former Uber board executive and burnout entrepreneur has revealed to Insider how she tackles the challenge when recruiting for her business.
Huffington rose to prominence after founding the Huffington Post, but since 2016 she’s been running behavior change technology firm, Thrive.
She says that she asks candidates to tell her about a time when they’ve been direct with their managers, and to share examples of instances where they’ve told a colleague something they thought they might not want to hear.
She said that she perceives Thrive’s number one cultural value to be “compassionate directness”, and wants to understand whether candidates have displayed it in the past.
“I love that because we love to hire people who act like owners. I’m not afraid to be direct,” Huffington said. Thrive hands out an award every week to employees who, when asked by their manager to do something, respond with an idea of how to do it better, Huffington said.
Huffington said it’s valuable when colleagues speak up.
“It’s about those times when it would be fine to do something the accepted way it’s always done, but you see a better way it could be done instead,” she said.
As a manager it’s also good when colleagues speak to her about any challenge in their private life because she can work with them to fix any problems, she added.
Study after study shows that teams generally perform better when employees feel able to highlight mistakes or offer opinions on how work could be improved without fear of rebuke.
Having high levels of psychological safety — as it’s often known — can also reduce burnout and help employees feel more valued.
Evidence suggests that managers have a significant impact on levels of psychological safety within teams.
It’s revealing when candidates don’t know how to answer because it suggests they don’t know how to express themselves.
Huffington said she likes to ask a candidate to provide an example of a time when they were direct with a manager or someone else at work, even though they thought it could be a risky thing to do.
Some candidates have answered the question by recalling a time they’ve expressed disagreement with a boss, others have talked about instances when they’ve been open and honest with their manager about challenges they’re facing in their home life, Huffington said.
There have been times when candidates don’t know how to answer — which Huffington said is revealing about how reluctant they may be to express themselves.
“It’s not necessarily negative — not having a quick answer at the ready could just mean the jobs they’ve been in haven’t been at companies that encouraged compassionate directness.”
Finding out what’s important to an employee could help firms retain them
It’s not the first time Huffington has given insight into how she approaches hiring and careers.
She’s previously said that the labor shortage and record quit rates experienced by many companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic were caused in part by companies not knowing what’s important to their staff outside of work.
Conducting an entry interview that asks candidates about their wider career goals and life interests before they join could help companies better retain staff, Huffington said.