The one question I ask in every job interview

Hey guys, just a few weeks left in the year and with 5 blog posts to go, I’ve got to crank out some “mini-blog posts” to hit my goal of 25. These are still technically blog posts, so back off!

As some of you know, FlapJacked, the "company/family business/place where I eat protein snacks all day in my workout pants" is experiencing some tremendous growth. 


So I’ve been interviewing a lot of candidates this month to build up a new marketing squad for the company. I personally love to interview people. And somewhere along the 15+ years of interviewing people for jobs, I’ve discovered the one question that will tell me what kind of worker they’ll be and whether they’ll be a good fit for the team that I’m trying to build.

Here’s how it goes. And feel free to pretend that you are interviewing for the job and answer this question in your head as I go through it. 

I’m going to describe 4 different work styles, each represented by a letter. At the end, I want you to tell me which letter is the MOST like you and which letter is the LEAST like you. 

Q: Quality

The first one is Q for quality. Meaning, you pride yourself on the quality of your work.

That means, if we give you a project or assignment, you won’t give it back to us with any errors or typos. All of the stats are triple-checked for accuracy. If it’s a design or visual-related project, it looks amazing with very few or no edits needed. It may take a little longer than originally anticipated, but in the end it’s A+ work.   

T: Timeliness

The next one is T for timeliness. Meaning, you pride yourself on getting work done in a timely fashion.

You thrive on getting your “to-do” lists done each day, you’re highly productive with your time and you never miss a deadline. The results aren’t always perfect, but hey, in your mind something good enough today is better than something perfect down the road.

F: Flexibility

The next one is F for flexibility. Meaning, you pride yourself on how flexible you are in the workplace. 

You thrive on multi-tasking and working on a lot of different projects across all areas of the company. You can talk to customers, work with product developers, help out operations and much more. While you’re never a “master” of anything in particular, you’re a solid “generalist” we can plug anywhere we need help. And you like it that way. Variety is your spice of life.

I: Innovation

The final one is I for innovation. Meaning, you pride yourself on how innovative you are and how much change you can bring to our company.

You thrive on trying cutting-edge things at work and bringing the rest of your coworkers along on the journey. Sometimes these experiments fail but sometimes they’re amazing. And sometimes you ignore or pass up smaller, less impactful projects in favor of larger projects that might really move the needle. Basically, you prefer to hit home runs over singles. 

Q. T. F. I.

Which one sounded the MOST like you and which one sounded the LEAST like you?

At this point, I shut up and wait for an answer. A lot of candidates will immediately try and convince me that they’re all of these things, which is not the best response. 

The really good candidates are the ones who know themselves well and aren’t afraid to say not only what they’re good at, but what they’re not good at. This is called self-awareness and it’s pretty important :)

So, of the 4 letters, what’s the right answer?

The reality is there is no right answer. I’ve hired Qs, Ts, Fs and Is and have had good and bad experiences with all of them.  

Okay…if there is no right answer, why do I do this? Two reasons. 

First, it sets expectations. People like their work styles and the later you get in your career the harder it becomes to change your work style. And if I hire a strong Q (quality) and what I really need is a F, then they might be frustrated that I’m asking them to bounce around from one task to the next without them feeling like they’ve "mastered" that task (which is what Qs love). There's potential for problems galore.

Second, you ultimately want a team with balance. If everyone’s a T, you might be getting a ton done, but a ton of mistakes are also probably being made. If everyone’s a Q, projects might be delayed for perfectionism. If everyone’s an F, no one is really developing the deep expertise that’s needed as the company matures. And the list goes on and on.

So, there you have it. For all those who have interviews scheduled with me later this week and next and have cyberstalked me on this blog in preparation, congrats. You are now a little bit more prepared for our conversation 😃

Assignment for the week:

  1. Which work style are you?
  2. Have you ever had issues with a boss over this? (e.g. they wanted you to be something you weren’t?)
  3. If you’re a manager, which work style do you tend to prefer to hire?

Let me know in the comments or over on FB. 

What I’m listening to: 

Not sure this is technically a Christmas song, but it's my fave old school hymn and Sufjan Stevens crushes it.