Closing The Gap

This YouTube exec looks for these two qualities in every new hire—and neither one is listed on a resume

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YouTube's VP of content partnerships Kelly Merryman.
Photo credit: Kelly Merryman

As vice president of content partnerships at YouTube, Kelly Merryman is in charge of overseeing a team of roughly 300 people across the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America.

In her six years with the company, she's worked to ensure that YouTube's creators and media partners are able to successfully engage with their audiences around the world in order to increase growth and revenue. As an executive who has made a lot of hires in her career, Merryman, who worked for Netflix before joining YouTube, says there are a few key traits she looks for when interviewing candidates for her team.

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"There are two qualities that I look for above all else and that's horsepower and curiosity," Merryman tells CNBC Make It. "And I find those are the two things you can't train. Everything else I can teach and so much of our business is an apprenticeship business and I embrace that. I embrace the opportunity to bring people along to train them, to teach them something that they didn't know so that they can bring great ideas to the table."

YouTube's VP of content partnerships Kelly Merryman.
Photo credit: Kelly Merryman

Unlike the many different skills and experiences that are listed on a resume, horsepower and curiosity are two qualities that don't require a degree or advanced level of education. But, Merryman says they can make a huge difference in how someone performs on the job. In an interview, horsepower can be identified by listening to how someone talks about their work ethic and ability to move and adapt to new environments and curiosity can be identified by listening to how someone creatively thinks about the things they know or wish to learn.

That's why, Merryman says that in every job interview she likes to ask a candidate, "If you were at the company today, what would you change?" And she also likes to ask, "As a user of YouTube, what are the experiences that you wish you had on the platform that you don't have today?"

Those open-ended questions, she says, give "folks a lot of space to be creative and showcase" what they think. In most cases, she adds, "if you've got that curiosity, you've actually [already] spent a lot of time [thinking] about that ahead of time."

Similar to Merryman, curiosity is one of the top qualities that many executives look for in new hires, including JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s head of executive talent management and diversity Pamela Lipp-Hendricks.

Lipp-Hendricks, who oversees talent management at the senior level and who focuses on JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s diversity and inclusion efforts, told CNBC Make It in 2019 that her go-to interview question for testing a candidate's curiosity is, "Where do you get your ideas from?"

"We want people who are going to innovate," she explained, while adding that with this question she loves to hear how people use external resources to come up with new ideas.

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