I read a fascinating article by Bill Murphy, author of The Joy of Quitting, in which he analyzes Mary Barra’s interview process. Barra, CEO and chairman of General Motors, has three questions that she always asks during job interviews:
- How would your peers describe you in three adjectives?
- How would your supervisor describe you in three adjectives?
- How would people who’ve worked for you describe you in three adjectives?
Barra says that ideally, you don’t want the adjectives to change much because you don’t want people to manage up differently than they manage down. The operative word here? Ideally. While Barra’s theory is interesting, it’s not reality. People absolutely manage up differently than they manage down. They always have and they always will, because it’s no secret that the people above you control your destiny and your paycheck.
Do some people manage up and manage down similarly? Yes, but these people are rare. They are our true leaders and we all know there is a huge shortage of leaders in our world. Research from Accountemps reveals that 55 percent of American workers say they “play the game,” and engage in conduct like sucking up to superiors, and spreading rumors or gossiping about colleagues in an effort to get ahead. And those are just the people who admit to this behavior. My guess is – based on my personal experience – the number is higher than 55 percent.
WHAT CAN I DO? Barra is right. If you ask these three questions during your interview process, ideally, you don’t want the adjectives to change much. However, my guess is that they will change much because the truth is most people manage up and down differently. If you begin using these three interview questions, I’d love to hear about your experience. We don’t live in an ideal world; we all need to live in truth.