The Question No One Can Answer in an Interview

Know Thyself

Early next month, we’re bringing two new staff members onto our team.

Which means we’ve interviewed a lot of people over the past few weeks.

Frankly, the process has been pretty fun. We get to share a bit about our culture and vision for the world, all while meeting incredible people who are actually interested in working with our dynamic, crazy team here at GAN HQ.

Many of the questions we ask in an interview are pretty typical. We want to know a bit about their history, why they’re interested in the role they’re applying for, why they feel particularly interested in GAN, and why they think they’ll be a good culture fit. Again, they’re pretty typical questions.

But, in all of our recent interviews, there’s one question that literally no one could answer. And it was this:

What do you personally value?

After we’d ask, we were usually met with a long silence. Then the interviewee would break the silence with something like, “That’s a great question,” followed by a lot more silence.

Why This is an Issue

When I talk with most people about the companies they want to work for and ask them what they’re most interested in as they consider a new role, I often hear a pretty similar set of things, and they’re almost entirely about a given company’s…

  • Dynamic culture
  • Growth potential
  • Influence around the world
  • Ability to move quickly
  • Solid team dynamic
  • Great benefits
  • And, a desire to help its team members grow.

Another way to say this? I hear about what any given company values.

All of the “benefits” described above are a result and manifestation of the underlying values held by a company. You’re not going to have great benefits if you don’t value the people working for you. You’re not going to set up an environment where your team members can grow and develop if you don’t value people staying at your company for the long-term. And you’re not going to create a dynamic culture if you only see people as machines who need to show up every day to “get the job done.”

Fortunately, this makes it really easy to see where a company places its values. Does it value squeezing as much profit and productivity out of its people and doing whatever it takes to reach some made-up end goal? Or, does it care more about the process and how leadership interacts with all of its stakeholders along the way?

Still, values aren’t just a one-sided story.

I see so few people do the work required to know whether or not their personal values actually align with the company they want to work for. Not just a gut feeling. But, can you specifically name personal values that are important to you and that help you define what you want to do—and with who—in the world? Basically: Are you self-aware enough to know what about you aligns with the company you’re interested in, and why?

Here at GAN

We’re doing things pretty differently.

Our values were painstakingly put together—and they truly define who we are (in no particular order).

  1. Humanity
    Create environments where people are empowered to fulfill who they set out to be.
  2. Action
    Get stuff done. Continually grow and evolve based on the needs of our community, and work to proactively know those needs.
  3. Celebration
    Pop a cork when people reach greater heights. After all, getting stuff done doesn’t mean you have to be boring.
  4. Integrity
    Deliver what we say we’ll deliver, and be honest early and often when we face challenges.
  5. Service
    Exhibit a level of selflessness that makes people question our sainthood.
  6. Balance
    Define your own “enough” and create boundaries around it. Find ways to invest in yourself, your company, your family, and your community in ways that are nourishing to you.

Along with our mission, these values provide guide rails for us to determine what we do and how we do it. They’re our North Star. Knowing that these values guide every decision we make, we ask each interviewee what they value.

Why? Because we want to make sure they’re a match.

If you don’t like to “exhibit a level of selflessness that makes people question your sainthood,” you’re going to hate working with GAN. If you don’t find the idea of celebrating—even if’s just a small win—because it will give you less time to get your “real” work done, you’re going to hate working with GAN.

So in interviews, we’re trying to do something that we actually want interviewees to do: Make sure there is a match between our values and yours. If there’s not, neither of us are going to be very happy after a few weeks of working together.

Answer + Question + Match

As I’ve been coaching people heading into interviews, there are three things I’m telling them to prep for, and I recommend them to everyone:

  1. Know Your Values
    Make sure you have an answer to the question “What do you value?” before going into an interview. My wife and I sat down in Paris while I was on sabbatical last year and defined our personal and family values. It took us almost four weeks to finalize them, and now we keep them on our nightstand so we can look at them just before going to bed at night or right as we wake up in the morning. It’s a great reminder for us that, if and when we start doing things that lie outside of those values, we need to stop doing them.
  2. Have Good Questions
    When you walk into an interview, make sure that you have questions for the company you’re sitting down with that will help you uncover whether their values align with yours. Since most people leave organizations because of a bad boss or bad culture, it’s vital that you understand if the company’s values meet yours. If you don’t care about good company cultures and just want to make a buck, great. Just make sure that the company you’re joining has the same mentality (or at least knows that it’s why you’re there). Otherwise, you may end up at a company that wants to head to happy hour so they can celebrate yesterday’s win, while you’d rather stay in-office to hit your monthly quota or answer those 10 extra emails.
  3. Know If It’s a Fit
    Let’s be honest, even my wife and I have different values. There will never be 100% alignment between your values and any other human on the earth, so it’s a pipedream to think that you will find the perfect company (or political party, life partner, etc.—but I digress). Rather, it’s important to make sure that you align enough with the company you want to work for, understand where there may be misalignment, and bring up any dissonance as early as possible, ideally during the interview stage.

I can’t wait to hear where you end up in your next job search.