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Over the years I A/B tested each of my interview questions in order to better measure what I was looking for. It sounds like you might have been asked an early version of one of the questions I used to ask so sorry you didn't get the "optimized" version. (there was a big difference in responses between only 3 years and 10 years to live)

Also, to clarify, I used to end my interviews with TWO questions: (1) if you had 10 years to live, what would you do? [wait for answer] (2) if you had 10 years to live, would you take this job?

The things I was assessing in these questions were candor, intellectual honesty, and passion. Sure, it would be great if people authentically were passionate about taking the job if they had ten years to live. That was a tiny minority of responses.

The only "wrong" answer to these question was when someone would answer YES to the second question after clearly answering something completely different to the first one. For example, if someone would say travel the world to #1 and yes to #2.

The reason why this measured candor was because if someone could tell me to my face during an interview they wouldn't take this job, then I knew they would tell me to my face when something was broken in the company after I hired them. I was looking for the exact opposite of what this thread implies I was looking for. I didn't want ass kissers. I wanted truth tellers.




Reading the op's post and your reply, I can only come up with two possible conclusions:

1. The op is lying about his experience.

He states he answered NO to question 2, which is what you claim to be looking for. Unless his answer to question 1 was "Work for Optimizely" (which, I guess, someone might say, maybe) then I don't see how you get a contradiction. By your logic, he would have been a hire.

2. The recruiter lied to him about why he was rejected.

Maybe everyone got a short sit down with the CEO back then and he took that to mean he passed all the other interviews? Maybe something else didn't check out and that was an easy way to let him down?

Anyway, if you're A/B testing, wouldn't you hire people regardless of their answers and then assess their performance over a longer timeframe to determine the efficacy of the questions and answers?


Not sure exactly what happened but I did personally interview the first hundred employees so that means I probably interviewed him or her and would have done so regardless of how the other interviewers felt about the candidate. My interview feedback was treated like the rest and I rarely if ever vetoed a hire if everyone else was unanimously in support.

And you are right, I did hire people regardless of their answers to some questions and I would then assess how they turned out to figure out if my questions were any good. I basically gave everyone I interviewed a pass on at least one question even if they bombed it abysmally. Some of those folks turned out to be our best employees so I learned to never hold one bad answer against someone. It also gave me a dataset to improve my questions for the next wave of candidates.


Of all the questions I've been asked in interviews over the course of my career, this is the only one I can actually still remember to this day. Partially because it's extremely unique. And partially because I was fairly certain at the time, judging by the look on your face, that I'd completely bombed it. (Also reading your explanation above, I now KNOW that I bombed it.)

Anyway, I'll attest to the fact that Dan at least didn't veto all candidates purely on the basis of their response to this question (unless I was the result of a massive clerical error).

Outcomes aside, I'm very thankful for my experience at Optimizely. My time there was a major inflection point for me both personally and professionally. I wouldn't be as effective in the workplace as I am today—nor would I have some of my most meaningful friendships—had I not cut my teeth at 631 Howard — thanks Dan (and Pete, if you're reading this too).

EDIT: Also considering the timeline and the role described in the OP's message, there's a nonzero chance we were interviewing for the same role. Small world!


Surely another possibility is that dsiroker has lied about his experience?


Yeah, that's a possibility too. Thinking about this more (really, why am I still thinking about this more?), I regret positing that OP was lying without including the possibility that dsiroker was lying.

Additionally, I should have considered the possibility that both parties are mis-remembering the interaction. Seems I owe @worldsoup an apology.

@worldsoup I apologize for suggesting you were lying about your experience.

Anyway, if I had to guess as to what really happened, I expect the recruiter told a small, white lie when pressed on why OP didn't get the job.

Probably OP though they'd passed the interview because they got a meeting with the CEO. Or OP thought passing the interview meant they had the job, when in reality there were multiple qualified candidates and Optimizely chose another one.

There's other information in this thread to support this conclusion. I won't rehash it here.

In conclusion: the most charitable explanation is both parties are telling the truth to the best of their memories, and maybe a third party was a bit dishonest in a way meant to spare someone's feelings.


Either way, pretty stupid questions to ask


It always amazes me that people who achieve so much or hold a high ranking position within the company can ask such ill conceived questions.


> The only "wrong" answer to these question was when someone would answer YES to the second question after clearly answering something completely different to the first one. For example, if someone would say travel the world to #1 and yes to #2.

That is a strange assumption.

My answers to #1 and #2 would have been contradictory to you, but with 10 years to live I would see working at Optimizely for 3-5, then doing what I wanted to do for 7-5 years a great tradeoff.

Would I have said that in answer to #1? No. I'd have said "Travel and more time with friends and family", while knowing full-well I had to work, or I would starve.

Would I have said it in answer to #2? Perhaps, but unlikely.

What was the success rate with these two questions?


This is something I wanted to say in my response but left it out to avoid taking away from my other thoughts.

Circa 2013, had I been asked this series of questions, the answers almost certainly would have been:

1. Spend as much time with my friends and family as possible. Do a bit of traveling. Try to finish off seeing all the MLB parks.

2. Yes. I want to leave a legacy for my children. I figure there are a few ways to do that. Join a very promising mid-stage startup, e.g. Optimizely, Pinterest. Join a very promising late-stage startup, e.g. AirBnB, Dropbox, Stripe. Join a FAANG.

I was super hot on Optimizely back then, so I would have jumped at the opportunity to get in relatively early. With ten years to live, and a family to think of, you can be damn sure I would have given all I had for 3-5 years.

With three years to live, I _might_ have taken a moonshot on a mid-stage like Optimizely. In that case my plan would have been to negotiate a high-equity package, early exercise the first year, then quit and live the next two years of my life however. But, I never would have said that in an interview.




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