The Most Important Question I Ask Candidates

by Chris Copeland

Over the past decade or so I've been a part of hundreds of interviews as GroupM built its search marketing practice. From interns and recent college graduates to senior executives, I developed a single question that told me virtually everything I needed to know about compatibility and success within the organization.

"What's your crazy?"

On the surface it has absolutely nothing to do with a person's ability to execute against a job description in the digital marketing space. Yet, I found it has everything to do with what doesn't go on the job spec that differentiates between succeeding or not.

The answer gave me perspective in two key ways:

  • It's Unexpected: Everyone goes into an interview expecting a curveball question - something they cannot prepare for, designed to show how they respond on their feet. Well, being asked to articulate what it is that you are neurotic or obsessed with, something that defines your quirkiness, is as unexpected as it comes, in my opinion. But that's how this industry is at times. This business is unexpected, with questions asked ranging from strange to flat-out absurd. If you can't handle this kind of friendly fire, well maybe this isn't the space for you.

  • It Shows Self-Awareness: It's one thing to understand the question; it's another to be honest with the response. There have been more people than I can count who gave a perfectly acceptable, rational answer. And I doubt I hired many, if any, of them. Because the nature of the question seeks a level of truthfulness about your own self that many people are not comfortable sharing in a first interview with a complete stranger. True crazy - and everyone has true crazy - is not rational or measured. People who have embraced this passion are the kind I want on my team.

At the end of the day, many people are qualified to "do the job." To be successful you have to find people who want to win. Those individuals will do the job while looking for ways to evolve the job into something new and more impactful. They do that because they can adapt, think on their feet, challenge themselves, and have passion. People are fanatical for a reason. They have a passion, a zeal for something. Find someone who can define their own crazy, who has embraced it, and is unafraid to share it and you've found someone you want on your side.

That's the crazy you need to win.

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