YouTube Boss Susan Wojcicki gives the worst interview answer of all time

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Asa Mathat/Recode

You may have seen YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologizing to the LGBTQ community after the lack of intervention in a case between journalist Carlos Maza and Steven Crowder. But that was not the most interesting part of the conversation.

But when asked about the possible break up of Google and the possibility that YouTube would be split of she responded (at 24:14 in the YouTube video):

“I don’t know, I’ve been really busy this week…I don’t know…we would figure it out.”

and this is an obvious question for someone who should have a prepared answer. Or say “no comment”. Or declare that any breakup would be worse for the customer. For the CEO of a company estimated to be worth $80 Billion I believe this to be one of the worst responses of anyone in a position as senior as this.

Interviews are difficult, even for celebrities. Yet when candidates are interviewed for a position and clarity is missing in their answers, some interviewers do not give a second chance.

“How long will you stay with us for”

For example, in a technical interview I have been asked how long I will stay with the company for. Putting aside for a moment the validity of the question (it would not be acceptable for a candidate to ask how the company wants to employ you for, and in an ideal world would yield the same answer), I’ve previously answered that the first year is setting in and during the second we need to extend the role and look how to grow in the future. I suspect the interviewer is looking for a long term verbal commitment to the company, but instead of giving a “second chance” to answer the question simply moves on (one suspects with a cross in a box on an interview form).

Contrast this with another interview, where after telling a brief bio ending up with “as I finished my masters, I applied here” made it sound as if my application was simply by chance they asked:

“Following on from that, can you tell us why you would like to work here. We are looking for people who fit into our culture and wonder as part of that why you are interested in working here”

The generosity of the question is not only that it asks for a response, but tells the candidate what they are looking for.

During technical interviews how many times are candidates asked

“Explain the difference between reference and value types”

or similar, and give an explanation with no follow-up question. How long should the answer be? Should it be in context? In my experience interviewers just say “we want to see how you think”, but without a further question they are must think that:

  1. ) You read their mind about what the question is about
  2. ) If you make a mistake, it is because you don’t know

Interviews can select those good at interviews, rather than those good at the job

In Susan’s interview above her answer is poor. The interviewer does not push further out of generosity (damaging the relationship would be bad for both parties here) and rather laughs along with the YouTube CEO.

In an interview, if you are displaying collaborative behaviours like this the interviewee will think the interview is going well.

It is the interviewers responsibility to at least give the candidate a chance to show their best side in an interview, and to at at least be aware that they have answered some questions inadequately.

If you have ever walked out of an interview thinking you will get the job, only to be rejected it is likely that you have been subjected to a poor interview.

Worse, imagine if and asked for feedback after rejection and got nowhere with either?

Realise that being a candidate is hard, but interviewing is also a tricky business.

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