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I’ve interviewed hundreds of people for numerous companies over the past 20 years of building businesses. I’ve experimented with many interview questions and most are only semi useful, but one, above all, has been the most useful. A thread...
About halfway into the interview, when the candidate seem a bit more relaxed, I always ask them: “Think about something you deeply love. Take a few minutes to prepare and then teach it to me in a few minutes.” What do I get from this?
First, everyone has something they are passionate about. It could be a book they’ve read, a game they play, a side hustle...whatever. Everyone has something. Putting people on the spot isn’t a strong look but when you do it about something they have mastery around, it gets fun.
Now everyone has a chance to be a teacher and you see the clarity, enthusiasm and lucidity of someone. Are they a learner? Do they dig beyond the obvious? Will they unpack the thing they love from first principles?
What does this question EXPLICITLY minimize yet maximize focus on: 1. School 2. Gender 3. Race 4. Upbringing Labels fall away and you see a person who cares about something to know it better than anyone else in the world (in their mind).
Ivy League grads suddenly look like boring, box-checkers because they are boring and checking boxes too much to have a passion so they talk about something safe. Random kid from Spain talks about the aerodynamics of a plane and beyond his accent or his lack of credentials... a really smart guy. PoC isn’t a diversity hire but a lifelong learner about something technically obscure. Their mastery jumps off the page and you realize she’s a genius hiding in plain sight. Bro from a crappy school just taught me about nuclear reactors.
Modern interviewing sucks for everyone. It’s fast-paced, pressure filled and more mistakes are made in hiring and also NOT-hiring. You need to find ways of seeing past the superficial and find a comfortable way for someone to demonstrate what they are good at.
Abstract these and see how they can apply those same skills to your company and you will find a much more diverse, happy, productive and engaged workforce. 🙏🏽🙏🏽
Also, I should appropriate this properly: I heard secondhand that Larry and Sergei at Google did this pretty religiously in the early years. I didn’t know them at the time but thought “If it worked for them, who am I to second guess it!” It worked for me, too.

My Notes:

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Chamath Palihapitiya

Pro Curator

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