The Meta-Data That Comes from Certain Interview Questions

In an expansive interview with Fortune displayed on 15 different "slides," Steve Jobs says this about interviewing potential employees:

How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they're challenged? Why are they here? I ask everybody that: 'Why are you here?' The answers themselves are not what you're looking for. It's the meta-data.

It's the meta-data. I like that. I once mused that asking the question, "Do you have self-confidence?" can be an effective interview question not for the answer that's given (everyone will say yes) but for the meta-data that comes with the candidate's answer: body language, tone, approach, etc.

Jobs also says in the interview that when it comes to choosing strategies, "We do no market research. We don't hire consultants."

3 comments on “The Meta-Data That Comes from Certain Interview Questions
  • Once again I question the use of the word “meta.” The right word here is “implicit” (vs. the explicit data of the answer itself).

    Here’s a meta-question: does using the prefix “meta” make Jobs’ quote seem smarter, even if he is using it incorrectly?

    By the way, not everyone will answer “yes” to the self-confidence question. The people you hang out with will.

  • What Jobs is saying is that the actual answers to the questions are not the data he’s looking for. The data he is looking for is, for example, “How do I feel about this person?” The answer to *that* question is not data about the answer to the original question (as the Wikipedia definition requires). It’s just different information. *Implicit* information.

    If he had said “I look at body language to determine whether the answer is sincere,” then THAT would be meta-data, because it is actually information about the answer (it would also be implicit).

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