There are some interview questions so tricky, so devilish and antagonising you almost respect your interviewer for asking them. However, there’s also a layer of resentment for trying to throw you off balance especially if you feel like the interview has been going well until that point.
In a piece from Business Insider, the topic of ‘superbosses’ is discussed in the context of Dartmouth professor Sydney Finkelstein’s new book of the same name. They describe a ‘superboss’ as a leader who thrives on the success of his or her employees or peers.
In the book, Finkelstein references Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison as the prime example of what a superboss is. He referenced specifically Ellison’s hiring and interview style where he would pose a single question at the end of an interview to determine whether someone, regardless of their abilities and training, is worth hiring – one question to decide everything.
Ellison was a firm believer that exceptional talent stems from exceptional intelligence and thus set out to separate the brilliant from the exceptional with this one question.
The question is this: “Are you the smartest person you know?”
If the interviewee answered “Yes”, the job was theirs. “No” and they were asked “then, who is?”. Ellison would then try to hire that person instead since they would have come highly recommended. It’s cruel but you have to respect his gaul.
Business Insider make the excellent point that this method seems to succeed in hiring arrogant people rather than the absolute smartest. The story does, however, prove more about Ellison as a boss than the modesty, or lack thereof, of interview candidates.
So next time you’re in an interview and faced with a difficult question, remember that you’re there to prove your abilities. Stay humble and answer honestly, if you’re not the smartest person you know, maybe the job just isn’t for you – or, more likely, the boss isn’t for you.