Who asks the World’s toughest interview question? (And how would YOU answer it?)

The toughest question asked at an interview is posed by Facebook – according to a recent Business Insider article. Why? Because Mark Zuckerberg will…

“Only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person”

Miranda Kalinowski (Facebook’s Global Head of Recruiting) and Lori Goler (Vice President of People Operations) concocted the killer question for prospective candidates to help them secure talent who are a ‘perfect fit’ for their organisation. Asking interviewees mundane questions about their previous work experience (yawn), getting them to (often falsely) wax lyrical about their ‘best qualities’ and probing them on (that old chestnut) their ‘biggest failings’ do not exist in the Facebook recruiting guide. I think it’s fair to say their method is a tad more unconventional…

They initially soften up candidates with a few punchy inquiries such as:

“How do you manage work if you lose track of the time?”

Well I’m always losing track of time but I still manage to do my work. Am I missing the point here?

Anyway, then they quiz candidates across a range of 5 key topics including:

  1. Comfort zones: Basically, forget them. Goler got her job at Facebook by cold-calling Sheryl Sandberg (who, in case you didn’t know, is Facebook’s COO). Goler’s opening gambit? “I want to help Facebook achieve its mission. Whatever that means for Facebook is what I’m happy to do.” Ballsy right? Or desperate? Depends on your perspective I suppose. Just one query – how did she get Sandberg’s number to cold call her?
  2. Codification: you don’t have to be a code master but a passing knowledge of Javascript wouldn’t do you any harm it seems (that’s me out then)
  3. Being Bolder: in Facebook parlance they are seeking someone who utilises the tools of their trade in smart and previously unimaginable ways (‘smart’ I can’t do but I could have a decent shot at ‘unimaginable’)
  4. Self Management: don’t expect to be told what to do at Facebook. Minimal supervision and flexible hours are the order of the day. As long as you yield results of course (take a look at my previous article ‘Working 9to5 is No Way to Make a Living’ for more on that very topic)
  5. Daring to be Different: thinking outside of the proverbial box naturally but also ‘diversity’ is currently a hot topic in the tech world

And finally (thanks for being so patient, dear reader, but if I had told you earlier then wouldn’t have read this far would you?) we get to that elusive million dollar question. Well not actually a million bucks per se, but an average salary of around $170,000 per annum at Facebook according to various sources.

So without further ado, the World’s toughest interview question is (silent drum roll):

“On your very best day at work… the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world… what did you do that day?”

There you go then, that’s the big one. So are you over or under whelmed? It matters not a jot, that’s the question and that’s all there is to it.

As for the correct answer? Well come on, Facebook are not going to divulge that are they? Although they do kindly offer a clue. If your response coincides with Facebook’s mission ‘to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected’ (whatever that means) then you have a more than decent chance of progressing to the next round.

So, I have given this an awful lot of thought (roughly about a minute) and I reckon that I have come up with a most awesome reply. Now I will concede that time to think (even for just a minute) is a luxury that potential employees don’t receive in the white heat intensity of an interview with Facebook. Still, if they are giving away their HR secrets then I’m going to capitalise on the opportunity. And so here it is, my absolutely definitive and (I personally believe) almost perfect answer to their most vexing interview question:

“I totally screwed up… but I didn’t get found out”

Totally nailed it. Now Lori, what is Sheryl Sandberg’s phone number?

Hang on though. Not convinced by my answer?  To be honest, me neither. So how would you answer it?

Steve Blakeman
About the author: 

Steve Blakeman is the Managing Director – Global Accounts at OMD Worldwide, and is based in London and Paris.  Previously Steve lead the Asia region for OMD and prior to that he was the Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). Mr. Blakeman was recognized by Media Week in their first-ever ’30 Under 30’ people to watch in the industry, and he is a regular judge at award events such as the Cannes Media Lions, AME’s, EFFIE’s, Festival of Media, Cristal Global and Spikes. Follow Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn.