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What the Fuss is all about

“When you sit down for a talk with Cal Fussman, you sit down to talk with a friend.”

You should meet Cal. He would want to meet you. 

  Cal Fussman (left) and Austin Meyermann (right)

Cal Fussman (left) and Austin Meyermann (right)

If you don’t recognize the name Cal Fussman from his appearances on the Tim Ferriss Show or other podcasts, here is short introduction. Cal is a master of powerful questions and of the art of interview. He has interviewed presidents, billionaires, tech entrepreneurs, athletes, supermodels, famous directors and actors. For over twenty years, he worked as writer at large for Esquire magazine, writing the column What I’ve Learned, sharing the very essence of life lessons learned by some of the most interesting, powerful, rich and well connected people in the world. 

Cal and I met recently while he was in town to speak at Georgetown University. We had been connected by his manager based upon our mutual interests on the topics of hiring and how companies can dramatically improve their recruiting efforts by focusing on uncovering the why behind their work and improving their interview processes through the application of powerful questions. 

As a recruiter, I was super stoked to learn what I could from Cal about the art of the interview and the power of questions. During our time together, I discovered three surprising takeaways that will change not only how I interview but how I approach developing personal relationships.

The first thing to know about Cal is that nothing is fake. The fedora and guayabera are real. As are the big eyes and gravelly voice. Cal is authentically himself and because he isn’t fake, I didn’t need to be either. There was no false image to mediate, no facade. How often are we concerned that someone will judge us negatively if we don’t project that image of who we want them to think we are? The result of being fake is they respond with their own image projection or they start digging to uncover the authentic you, threatening your creation. Why start a new relationship with an obstacle? Get real. 

The second thing that I noticed was that Cal’s questions work not because they are clever or provocative. They work because of Cal’s 100% commitment to building trust and creating a place that is safe to open up. His questions will not embarrass, point out flaws, or trap you. Why, what, and how, let you share what feels comfortable. These types of questions let you go where you want to go. In a binary world, Cal’s questions are a chance to take a vacation, to walk down memory lane, reminiscing about awesome moments that changed your life or made you who you are. Cal’s questions leave you with more energy after the conversation not less. As Cal says, “Aim for the heart.”

The last and most fascinating discovery regarding Cal’s interview methodology is how careful he is with managing the physical space and movement involved in interpersonal communication. He seems to be subconsciously aware of how important it is to respect the need for just the right amount of distance between two people who have just met. He knows intuitively how to manage this space to build trust. Cal lets you lead the dance and deftly follows, executing hundreds of small movements all orchestrated to make it easier to connect. Cal won’t lean forward, gesture towards, or move rapidly. He wants you to see him, to be comfortable with his presence, to recognize that he is not a threat. Interestingly, it doesn’t take that long to establish this part of the relationship. It is a part of the first impression and sets the tone for everything yet to come. 

To truly appreciate Cal’s powers, check them out in action. This is amazing! Watch Joe de Sena, CEO of the Spartan Race, transform from guarded, careful, and perhaps unsure to trusting, recognizing that it is safe to be real, to open up and to talk with Cal. Don’t blink, it happens at 6:07 exactly!

Would you be surprised to learn that Joe and Cal are now friends? Interviewing is about connecting on a personal level and forming a relationship. Without meaningful connection, even the best questions will fail to deliver. To connect on a personal level requires trust, both people need to feel safe. Cal taught me that to get what I want, I have to give what I have. Be real. Be open. 

Thanks for the gifts Cal. I will do my best put them to good use and to pass them on.


Written by: Austin Meyermann, Founder and CEO, TalentCMO

Links and other interesting stuff:

Are you "marketing" your company and jobs to talent using social? Click here to check what your recruiting strategy might be missing out on.

Check out this sweet Career Showcase (a standalone microsite built for candidates to show company's authenticity) that we built for one of our clients.

Are you interested in growing your career in risk management? Would you like to join a company known for integrity, supporting their employees, and giving back to the community? If so, click here to apply for current job opportunities with Keller Stonebraker Insurance. 

Ana Filipovic Windsor