Closing The Gap

How to ace the simple exercise LinkedIn's chief people officer has interview candidates complete

LinkedIn SVP and Chief People Officer Christina Hall.
Photo credit: LinkedIn

As LinkedIn's senior vice president and chief people officer, Christina Hall is responsible for hiring and developing new talent as well as overseeing all of the company's benefit and employee programs. 

Throughout her six years at LinkedIn, she's hired and promoted employees while managing a team of roughly 500 people. To ensure she's hiring someone who's a great fit, Hall has each candidate complete a simple exercise during their interview.

"I usually try to offer up the opportunity for a candidate to get a dry erase marker and to use the whiteboard to explain something they're passionate about," she tells CNBC Make It. "It gives them a chance to tell me whatever it is they want to tell me and I can sort of get a chance to see how their mind works."

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Hall says she tries to make the activity light and fun, and she explains that what they put on the whiteboard does not have to directly relate to the job. "What I want to see is that people are, you know, able to convey clarity and really show energy around the topic."

In the past, Hall says she's seen people draw graphs to try and express what they're passionate about, and she's seen people write out keywords that best describe what they love. "When I think about a candidate coming into a job, my advice is they walk in thinking about the messages they want to convey about themselves," she says. "They use that time at the whiteboard to tell me about who they are in some way."

She says passion and enthusiasm are two of the top qualities she looks for in a new hire, and they dictate how she conducts an interview.

"It shapes how I think about candidates as they're being introduced to me," she says. "We have a ton of different roles here at LinkedIn, and so not every person needs to have the same kind of personality. But as I talk to people, I like to think about how they're bringing in sort of a real energy around what they want to do."

Like Hall, Twitter's chief marketing officer and head of people, Leslie Berland, guides the direction of her interview towards a candidate's passions and interests. She tells CNBC Make It she likes to start her interviews with a very open-ended question like, "Tell me everything I should know about you."

"It's always interesting to see where people start a conversation and what they focus on," she says. "What I don't ask is, 'Take me through your resume.'"

Asking this question, Berland explains, allows her to hear a detailed response from the candidate about the experiences they value most. "I always enjoy having the person sort of drive the conversation and bring forth the things they care about or they think are most important," she says. "I think it's very telling."

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