By the time you've made it to Chieh Huang's office, you've almost got the job.

Almost.

Huang is the cofounder and CEO of of Boxed, a retailer that ships everything from paper towels to sriracha in bulk. He has a strict no jerks hiring policy. Huang hates big egos and people who can't work well with others. Here's how he weeds those people out.

No questions about skills or experience. 

When a candidate gets invited to interview with Huang himself, they've already been vetted. He knows they're perfectly well qualified for the job. They wouldn't have made it this far otherwise.

So Huang doesn't ask about skills and qualifications. He's looking to learn something something else. Huang just needs 15 minutes to administer his jerk test and spit out the results. It all comes down to these three questions. (H/t to the TED Blog for surfacing these.)

The "tell me about yourself" question, with a twist.

The question: Tell me about yourself. You can't mention anything on your resume.

Why it works: A candidate who solely defines themselves by their professional accomplishments will not be a good fit at Boxed. The best-fit employees are curious and passionate. So it's important that employees have interests outside of work.

Huang also uses this question to see if this person can carry on a regular, non-work conversation. He points out that we spend more waking hours at work than even with our families. "Selfishly, I just don't want to spend it with folks I don't like," he explains.

The wrong way to answer: Don't talk about where you went to school or where you previously worked, obviously. That's stuff is already well-documented on your resume.

Getting personal is good, but getting too deep into your personal problems is not recommended. Huang sites an example of a candidate sharing that they had a bad relationship with their sibling. This is a job interview. Keep it positive.

The question with no right answer. (But there is a wrong one.)

The question: Next up, Huang likes to ask a question that forces candidate to think on the spot. The question itself varies, but an example he's used in the past is: Which country will be the first to make it illegal for humans to drive cars? And what year do you think it will happen?

Why it works: Candidates won't be able to immediately spit out an answer. They'll have to dissect the question and break it down. This might lead to some awkward moments of silence or thinking out loud. Both are encouraged. Huang especially appreciates those who reply by asking a follow-up question to dive deeper.

The wrong way to answer: I don't know.

The trick question to gauge overconfidence and honesty.

The question: Rate your knowledge of technology trends on a scale of 1 to 10.

Why it works: Huang is looking for employees who can be honest about what they don't know. Even though Boxed is an internet retailer and staying on top of technology trends is crucial to their success, it's impossible for one person to know all the things.

The wrong way to answer: Huang doesn't believe anyone who gives themselves a nine. "The reality is, the whole industry is shifting and no one knows what's going to happen in the next 10 years -- no one," explains Huang. Anyone who acts like they think they know everything will very likely turn out to be a condensing and unpleasant coworker. In Huang's eyes, overconfidence is not a virtue. 

Published on: Feb 18, 2019
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