When A Company's Chief People Person Is An Introvert

LinkedIn’s vice president of talent shares tips for introverts at work and the company’s hiring secrets.

As the head of talent at LinkedIn, Pat Wadors is responsible for keeping nearly 9,000 workers happy and engaged with their jobs -- and she's also out there trying to find more promising employees. Yet she's a self-identified introvert who relishes her down time. The Huffington Post talked with Wadors about how she handles that tension, and also got the inside view on what it takes to get hired at LinkedIn.

You’re a self-proclaimed introvert. That seems unusual in human resources. Aren’t HR people supposed to be "people" people?

It’s unusual. It was confusing earlier in my career. People didn’t understand me. I kept a lot inside my head. Then I got a great coach. She told me these people don’t know you’re an introvert. They don’t know what motivates you. They’re not sure that you like them. I’m like, "Of course I like them!"

I realized if I wanted to lead I had to take more risks. I started learning how to tell people I’m an introvert and what makes me extroverted is my passion to teach. I’ll give my energy to that, but after that I’m exhausted. After an event, I’m not working the room. I’ll be in my room reading a book.

How does your understanding of introverts inform how you lead them?

Last August I did a personal post on LinkedIn -- called "I'm an introverted executive in Silicon Valley -- how the heck did that happen?!" My peers heard me talk about how I’m an introvert and wanted coaching: How do you get to be an executive [as an introvert]?

I did a training session with introverts about a month ago. Eighty-five people signed up in minutes. I kept it to 25 people because with introverts, volume overwhelms your voice. The conversation [in a small group] is more exploratory and vulnerable. Half the introverts want to lead, which puts you in conflict. How do you find a voice that’s more natural for you? How do you keep your energy going? So we talked about how to be authentic with your voice without wasting energy. I’ll host these every quarter.


Are you coaching leaders and managers on how to deal with introverts?

A big problem for introverts is in meetings. They’ll speak and people will talk over them. [I tell people] pause the conversation and say, "Let’s see what Joe has to say." Just give them space to talk. Their confidence is so much greater. The return in loyalty is huge. I’m trying to get people to be advocates -- leaders and peers.

What advice would you give an introvert looking to get a promotion?

Find moments to talk to your manager about your impact and career aspirations. Do it at a time when you don’t feel like you’ll be anxious. Make it part of a process. For an introvert, that structure gives you room to breathe.

Is there more acceptance now of introverts in the workplace?

It’s still an extrovert world. In the Valley when they talk about diversity you think age, gender, race, but now it’s also introversion, extroversion, sexuality. Including more kinds of people. The culture is evolving, more accepting.

What’s the secret to getting hired at LinkedIn?

Culture fit. Having an adaptable, agile workforce that’s humble is critical. People are scrappy and get stuff done. We can teach skills, but I can’t teach you the ability to work in ambiguity. We've turned down people who don’t fit.

Sometimes "culture fit" talk morphs into a way to keep an organization from being diverse. Do you think about diversity?

We’ve struggled with finding diverse candidates. We’ve improved with women, but we have work to do. I’m not happy where we are, but I think we’ll get there. We released our diversity numbers for the first time last year and again this year. From that action, a few minority groups sprung up. I’ve asked them to help me with hiring outreach.

What are the groups?

Groups for veterans, blacks, hispanics, women, Out@In (for LGBT), EnableIn (for disabled workers). I think there’s even an introvert group. I don't know if I’ll hear from them very often.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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