What Drives You?

Piloting an interview during flight training high above Berlin.

2 Powerful Interviewing Questions

There are two powerful questions I ask whoever I interview:

1. What drives you?

2. What frustrates you?

Missing those two questions has sometimes resulted in wasted and unfulfilling interviews. That's how powerful they are. They are the kinds of questions that keep giving long after the interviews are over as I reflect on them and gain more experience.

Another thing is the strong bond this technique forms with a person. It can also pleasantly surprise you as the most heart warming part of a conversation. I've found that each person's driver and frustration is like a fingerprint. It's unique, and you can't guess it. 

I've asked over 100 industry leaders and underground creatives these two gems wherever I've found these amazing people, be they food activists, festival directors or designers reshaping our way of reading and consuming food... from Europe to the North Americas.

A major benefit of probing like this is to find out if a trend is forming. Is the interviewee's passion aligned with whatever is bubbling under the surface in a city - the 'stuff' that is the sign and precursor to a trend beginning to appear. Knowing that is way better than waiting for a trend report to come out months or years later.

While in Europe I was power-networking at an intense rate. Sylvie asked me how I could remember everyone I met and I put it down partly to those 2 questions:

1. I ask "What drives you to do what you do?" instead the one-dimensional question of "What's your goal?", which opens the conversation to many possible directions. I found those at the height of their career are so sure of their driver they will tell you immediately using only a few words, while those starting out will work it out by explaining their driver, often ending with a summary.

The question gives me clues to many things including their elusive dream of what they want to be doing. Because the games we create are based on the passions of real foodies I wanted to extend my list of questions to help me better mold their role in the game around them.

Positive Psychologist Dr. Lydia Jevleva who recently authored "Imagine: Using Mental Imagery to Reach Your Full Potential.", gave me a few hints:

You could ask "If you had one wish or a magic wand, what would you do with it?" to suspend negative thought and create the sense that their ambition is possible. You can also ask about what they haven't had the opportunity to do yet that they'd like to, which often results in potential ways to collaborate together I found.  

2. As a designer I like to solve technical problems, but people are emotional beings. So I ask "What frustrates you?" instead of "What's your problem?". It tells me what's stopping them from achieving their ambitions and getting in the way of their driver.  

From these two questions I build a memorable picture of the interviewee's direction and what they struggle with so that next time I meet the right person for them I'll instantly recall our earlier conversation and say "Hey I think I know someone who can help you, you two should connect."

Each time I raised these two questions when Sylvie and I co-interviewed, I could see her smile at me from the corner of my eye, knowing she was thinking "here we go again..." but the interviewees' answers always fixed her gaze back on them instantly. Their response was so unique and the bond in the room formed so fast. I will never forget those moments. Soon, asking these 2 questions became infectious.

Join me on twitter @foodfestgames and tell me:

What is it that drives you to do what you do in your career or life in general, and what frustrates you?