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The Most Important Question I Ask Candidates: "What’s Your Crazy?"

  |  August 1, 2014   |  Comments

This interview question can truly show you what kind of digital marketer you might be getting ready to hire. Those who can embrace their "crazy" and turn it into a passion are the kind of digital marketers you want on your team.

Over the past decade or so I've been a part of hundreds of interviews as GroupM built its search marketing practice. From interns and recent college graduates to senior executives, I developed a single question that told me virtually everything I needed to know about compatibility and success within the organization.

"What's your crazy?"

On the surface it has absolutely nothing to do with a person's ability to execute against a job description in the digital marketing space. Yet, I found it has everything to do with what doesn't go on the job spec that differentiates between succeeding or not.

The answer gave me perspective in two key ways:

  1. It's Unexpected: Everyone goes into an interview expecting a curveball question - something they cannot prepare for, designed to show how they respond on their feet. Well, being asked to articulate what it is that you are neurotic or obsessed with, something that defines your quirkiness, is as unexpected as it comes, in my opinion. But that's how this industry is at times. This business is unexpected, with questions asked ranging from strange to flat-out absurd. If you can't handle this kind of friendly fire, well maybe this isn't the space for you.
  2. It Shows Self-Awareness: It's one thing to understand the question; it's another to be honest with the response. There have been more people than I can count who gave a perfectly acceptable, rational answer. And I doubt I hired many, if any, of them. Because the nature of the question seeks a level of truthfulness about your own self that many people are not comfortable sharing in a first interview with a complete stranger. True crazy - and everyone has true crazy - is not rational or measured. People who have embraced this passion are the kind I want on my team.

At the end of the day, many people are qualified to "do the job." To be successful you have to find people who want to win. Those individuals will do the job while looking for ways to evolve the job into something new and more impactful. They do that because they can adapt, think on their feet, challenge themselves, and have passion. People are fanatical for a reason. They have a passion, a zeal for something. Find someone who can define their own crazy, who has embraced it, and is unafraid to share it and you've found someone you want on your side.

That's the crazy you need to win.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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