“How do you feel your life has gone so far?”

How one interview question sent me for a spin for several weeks.

A few years ago, I was interviewing to potentially take a job at Buffer. I love the company — their approach to radical transparency really appealed to me, and I was (and still am) a heavy user of the company’s products.

I remember I was sitting in a garden in the south of France. I had a glass of red wine in my hand, there was a lizard sitting on the table, looking at me quizzically. Skype notified me of an incoming call, and it was time for an interview.

What follows was the most fascinating 90 minutes I’ve ever had. The interview was about the job at hand, sure. But, far more interestingly, Buffer is strong at hiring for culture. As a fully distributed team, they kind of have to — hiring the wrong person could prove terribly detrimental, and could take months to undo.

Not a bad setting for a job interview. Not pictured: Inquisitive lizard.

At some point really early on in the interview, the interviewer asked the question.

“So, Haje, how do you think your life has gone so far?”

I free-styled my way through the answer. I think I may even have done pretty well, but I can’t remember exactly how I answered it. The question, however, stuck with me for weeks. And now — many years later — I still feel compelled to write this blog post about it.

Does Buffer have any right to ask me how I think my life has gone? I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s one of their standard questions, or if the interviewer was just ad-libbing it. But I’m very glad he did. It set the tone for the interview, and it became a conversation of philosophy, views of life, and to what degree we have agency in making our own decisions in the directions our lives take us.

It was a beautiful question. It was a fantastic conversation.

I didn’t get the job.

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