HOW WE HIREOver 1 million people publish blog posts via LinkedIn Pulse, including HR influencers and top executives. The hashtag #HowIHire has spawned a series of great insights about recruiting and team building, offering a peek at how top thinkers spot top talent and choose the right people for the job. So what’s the secret formula for hiring the perfect candidate? As it turns out, there’s no universal answer. Let’s take a look at a few execs who’ve published #HowIHire posts on LinkedIn to get three unique perspectives on team building at today’s top companies.

Angela Ahrendts: Senior Vice President, Apple Retail

Angela Ahrendts builds her hiring decisions around four main concepts:

1. Me vs. We

Ahrendts kicks off interviews by assessing how candidates see themselves in terms of priorities. She’s observing whether they care more about their own success or connecting with and empowering others. To form her impressions, she asks them about their families, their personal interests, their communities, and even their spirituality. Additionally, she states a few quotes about leadership and asks candidates what they think about them.

2. IQ vs. EQ

Candidates who make it into an Angela Ahrendts interview are demonstrably smart high achievers. She wants to know if they have emotional intelligence as well as smarts. She starts with standard behavioral interview questions, asking them to describe times when they’ve fielded challenging situations or capitalized on great opportunities. Ahrendts wants to know whether they make decisions based on observation and reason or rely more on gut instinct—and how well they balance these two aspects of self.

3. Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Some candidates are linear thinkers who focus on details rather than global concepts. Others are more creative and conceptual thinkers, and both are right for certain jobs. Ahrendts asks them about the media they interact with, including what they read and study during their spare time. When candidates light up while discussing certain subjects, she gains insight into how they instinctively think.

4. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Great leaders have perspective on where their industries have been, where they are, and where they’re going. Ahrendts likes to ask big picture questions about what influences business today and about how they expect the future to unfold. She’s ascertaining how well they manage change and whether they have the agility to run with Apple’s business. Additionally, she’s digging into what drives their entire approach to life.

Richard Branson: Founder, Virgin Group

Richard Branson hires people based on three core characteristics: personality, passion, and purpose.


Branson says people can learn company intricacies and specific job tasks, but they can’t reshape their personalities to wedge themselves into Virgin’s culture. Team building at Virgin focuses on cultural fit from the beginning by keying in on candidates who are friendly, considerate, and enjoy working with others. Branson also constantly evaluates the company’s weaknesses and looks for people to fill those gaps with both skills and needed personality traits.


Throughout Virgin’s history, Branson has had more success with people who had versatile skill sets than people who have highly specific job experience. He wants people who pitch in to help the company in multiple ways, not people who can only do the tasks on their job descriptions. To succeed, new hires have to have a ongoing passion for learning and growing. They have to be passionate about the company and about taking initiative to do what’s needed.


In today’s world, business operates 24/7, not nine to five. For this reason, Branson looks for candidates driven by purpose, not by a paycheck. He encourages managers to wait to find the right person instead of filling open positions as quickly as possible. At Virgin, people are considered the lifeblood of the brand.

David Schenkin: CEO, Agios Pharmaceuticals

David Schenkin’s company is all about innovation—knowing what’s happening on the frontier of biology and developing medicines to put in patients’ hands. He focuses on three main questions when he hires new people:

  1. Is the person someone I could learn from?
  2. Does this person have a passion for helping patients the same way I and other people at Agios do?
  3. Does this person violate our “no asshole rule”?

He asks the third question to candidates directly—no beating around the bush. If the answer to any of the questions is “no,” Schenkin knows they aren’t right for Agios.


What are your secrets for recruitment and team building within your organization? Leave a comment sharing your own recipe for hiring great candidates.