Open-ended interview questions are meant to give you a glimpse of how candidates work and think.
Simon Anderson, CEO of DreamHost, a web hosting provider and domain name registrar, says he asks one question to determine what motivates candidates: "Tell me about the first experience in your life when you realized that you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful."
"It’s open-ended. Some people might tell the story of when they were five and there was some incident and they had to take more responsibility for their baby brother or sister," he tells The New York Times. "Maybe it was from their teenage years: 'Something bad was going to happen at school and I stood up for this friend of mine and all of a sudden I felt self-empowered to do things.' I think that’s really important. If someone sits there and they’re stumped, I think that tells you something."
Anderson says that if he were asked this specific question, he would talk about the time he got separated from his dad and brother surfing at age seven. Instead of getting stressed and giving up, Anderson made the decision to work through it on his own: "For me, there’s a lot of those kinds of experiences in my upbringing that have helped me feel very self-empowered, and that I can effect change."
"I think there’s this big shift under way in business where you have to respect the fact that people are going to forge their own path, and they’re going to be motivated by different things and they’re going to want to do meaningful things," he says. "So in our business, finding people who are equally motivated and believe in that is really important."
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