The One Question You Should Ask In An Interview...Isn't Enough
If you spend any time online looking for advice (of any sort - personal or business), you’re bound to come across articles that espouse the “1 question you need to ask” or the “3 signs that you’ll be successful”. The intention behind these articles is clear - if you’re on the path to X, and if you pay attention to these one or two or three things, then you’ll get there.
I get the simplicity of the approach and I appreciate it’s allure, especially if the advice is coming from someone we consider to be successful (or from someone who works for a company we consider to be conventionally successful).
The thing is, articles like those are, technically speaking, kinda bullshit. I appreciate what they’re trying to do but honestly, they further the narrative that all journeys are sequential, that they can be templatized and that they don’t come with plenty of uncertainty.
Scott Galloway made this point on a recent podcast - he’d seen an article where a prominent executive talked about the one question he asks every employee, and if they don’t have a good answer, then he doesn’t hire them. (The question here was “who is their mentor”.)
“It’s such incredible bullshit…if I were to take all the people who have really driven value at my firms, and then look at how they did in their interviews, there isn’t a very strong correlation. And Google spent a ton of time looking at data around who to hire, etc.and they found over time that, nope, we can’t figure it out either…”
To be clear, yes, there are signs as to what makes for a good employee, or a great partner, or a successful business, but to suggest that the inputs, the parameters, the criteria can be distilled down to a single or a handful of criteria is silly.
It’s suggests that there’s a hard science to life when there isn’t. Yes, there are drivers, yes, there absolutely are inputs, and there are plenty of folks who’ve trod the path that we’d like to take and who we should learn from. But we can’t forget the fact that each journey is unique, our situations are unique, our personalities are unique.
And, therefore, our personal journeys will be unique. The guidance is helpful but if we get caught up in the idea that there is one or two or three things that define what we’re doing as being successful, we’re more likely to stop and give up then to think, to evaluate and to persevere.
Unless you’re baking a cake (and I’d argue, perhaps even then), recipes won’t help you outright. They’re simply inputs, guides for you to then apply your own ideas, values and beliefs to, to help you get to what you consider to be success.
So don’t get hung up on that one question. It rarely suggests what you think it does.
P.S. Scott Galloway is the boss. If you haven’t heard of him or his views on business, technology and life in general, please do take the time to check him out.