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Would You Be Willing to Leave Your Family at Disneyland?

Every Sunday, the New York Times business section publishes an interview with a CEO. The feature is called “Corner Office” and is well worth following to understand what people mean when they talk about “company culture” and “fit.” Towards the end of the column, the interviewer always asks about the specific interview questions that CEO uses for hiring. Here’s the answer in last Sunday’s column, with Don Mal, the CEO of a software company,

To understand their work ethic, I do ask this question: Would you be willing to leave your family at Disneyland to do something that was really important for the company?

Some people have said no, and I haven’t hired them.

It’s interesting because I did leave my wife and kids at Disneyland once. It was to close the biggest deal of our company’s history. I left for two days. It wasn’t like I was leaving them there for the whole vacation.

To me, it’s not so much a loyalty question. It’s more of just trying to understand their work ethic.

There are a number of takeaways here.

  • To work at this company, you have to be able to answer “yes” with sincerity.
  • If your answer would be “no,” you wouldn’t get the job. But that could be a good thing.
  • It might be worth asking yourself: what is the work for which you WOULD leave your family at Disneyland for two days? A career-making writing opportunity? The chance to do some game-changing fundraising for your nonprofit? An international conflict that needs your particular skills?
  • If you can’t imagine the career goal that would take you away from a family vacation, that may be a non-negotiable core value that will shape your career decisions. Or it could mean that you haven’t yet discovered the work that means that much to you.

There is no “right” answer to an interview question — there is only the answer that accurately conveys whether or not you would be a good fit for that organization (and by extension, whether the organization is a good fit for you).