What are your interview questions for the Mea Ho‘okipa?

In this month’s issue of Inc. Magazine, Leigh Buchanan writes,

When I interview job candidates I always ask: If we had a party, what would you bring? Some people come up with fun answers (one woman who was married to a radio personality offered to supply the DJ). Some offer panegyrics to their acclaimed artichoke purée with garlic pita crisps. Some say, "The napkins." And some look annoyed and ask me what I’m getting at.

I’ve always justified the party question as one that provides insight into a candidate’s personality. And it does–a little. Mostly though, I ask it when I still have 10 minutes to kill before shuffling the poor applicant off to his or her next meeting.

Ms. Buchanan’s essay is actually written in another context about how we take candidates through the interviewing process, however, if you are looking to hire a Mea Ho‘okipa, the epitome of the graciously giving host or hostess, her question is a great one.

Those people who would then “look annoyed and ask [you] what [you’re] getting at” are definitely not Mea Ho‘okipa. If they were, they’d come alive at that point of the interview, and likely give you a rather long story of the last party they went to, or how they will normally embark on a mission to find the right ho‘okupu (hostess gift) to bring, for that is half the fun of it! To go empty-handed would be absolutely unthinkable. To re-gift something not originally and personally intended exclusively for the receiver? Pure blasphemy.

Yesterday I listened to call #2 in Marcus Buckingham’s Summer of Development Series. It covers his new book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, and the call concentrated on a step he calls “Get Clear.” Buckingham coached us to very specifically define our strengths in terms of activities and not purely with the labels of assessment tests. He stressed that we need to trust in our emotions during our work activities: Others can tell us a better way to do certain things, but we ourselves will always be the expert authority on how we actually feel before, during, and after the doing of it. Rushes of positive emotion in the before, during, and after, are pretty clear telltale signs that those activities make us feel strong.

Said another way, ask a Mea Ho‘okipa Leigh Buchanan’s party question, and they will light up in that rush of emotion they feel about “the before”—deciding what to bring. They will continue to smile inside, thinking about that moment they present their gift, and they can even imagine, quite vividly, how they will feel afterwards. Their excitement at the prospect will barely be contained, and as interviewer, you’ll feel you can taste it in the air. This is the time for you to trust in your emotional intelligence!

If the job you are interviewing them for affords them with repeated opportunities to replay this scenario you are speaking of in the interview, what you have before you is a golden opportunity to match the need for hospitality in your business with the perfect person to give it. If I were you, I’d hire them on the spot.

Let’s talk story about this;

When you think of the hospitality you want to give in your particular business, what are the questions you would ask to discover if a candidate is truly Mea Ho‘okipa?

When would they “light up” for you, same as you want them to light up with your customer?

Let’s make this a participatory posting:
Once you comment, I’ll pull your question up here and compose a more comprehensive interview cheat-sheet for us all to learn from!


  1. says

    Being in real estate, I would want to know about client service after the close.
    1 – What would be your ideal housewarming gift to your new homeowner? or moving gift for a seller?
    2 – What is your follow up strategy? How do you intend to maintain contact with your past clients?

  2. says

    Good adds April!
    I was re-reading Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table this morning, and this is what he had to say about hospitality in regard to something he calls “charitable assumption.” It is in the section of his book where he talks about what he looks for in hiring his managers – charitable assumption describes the mindset they have to have.
    “I’ve been to many restaurants where management berates guests for being twenty minutes late for a reservation – when there may well have been a good reason for their tardiness. It’s hard to justify being ungracious to anyone who wants to spend money at your restaurant. A charitable assumption might be, “You must have had a tough time getting here. We’re delighted that you made it!” I am going to get the most out of my relationship with every guest, including repeat business, when I base the relationship on optimism and trust. Hospitality is hopeful; it’s confident, thoughtful, optimistic, generous, and openhearted.”

  3. says

    Are you a Hospitalitarian? Are you a Mea Ho‘okipa?

    I have recently noticed that Seth Godin is piling up the conversational trackbacks right now about a new job description: Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer. I’d suggest to everyone showing so much interest in the idea that