Five Tricky Job Interview Questions (And The Right Answers)

No matter how much interview preparation you do, there’s always that moment when the unexpected question shows up. Here are five particularly sneaky examples, why they get asked, and how you should respond.

Interview picture from Shutterstock

Our sibling publication Business Insider Australia rounded up some of the trickiest questions which Amazon asks potential employees, based on submissions to Glassdoor. We’ve picked out five particularly notable questions, analysed why they might be asked, and then discussed how best to answer them.

#1 Tell the story of the last time you had to apologise to someone.

Why this gets asked: This question exposes two abilities: your willingness to admit to mistakes (no-one is perfect) and your ability to manage a team.

What you should say: Don’t say you’ve never had to do it. That makes you look arrogant. Admit to a mistake, but place the emphasis on how you apologised and — even more importantly — what you did afterwards to fix the underlying issue.

#2 What would you do if you found out that your closest friend at work was stealing?

Why this gets asked: This measures your loyalty to the company versus your loyalty to an employee. Both matter, but the second tends to matter more.

What you should say: Emphasise that you’d want to be clear about the nature of the offence before deciding on a response.

#3 Here’s a string with numbers from 1-250 in random order, but it’s missing one number. How will you find the missed number?

Why this gets asked: It’s a good test of your analytical ability (and your capacity to think on your feet).

What you should say: A functional but slow Sieve of Eratosthenes-style method is to print out a list of the relevant numbers and cross them out. This is thorough and you won’t make a mistake, but can be slow, especially if the number is at the end of the list.

My smart-aleck answer would be to photograph the list, feed that image into Google Docs so it can be converted to characters, find and replace spaces or commas to create a line-by-line list, and then sort it in order in a spreadsheet. The missing number should jump right out. For longer lists, you could then write a formula checking for the presence of each number rather than scanning visually.

#4 Do you think you’ll reach a point where you storm off the floor and never return?

Why this gets asked: Again, it’s a balancing act: you don’t want to say you’re so passionless that you don’t care, but you don’t want to come across as a flake.

What you should say: Explain the tactics that you would use to control your temper if such a situation loomed. Emphasise that it would be rare.

#5 Do you know our CEO? How do you pronounce his name?

Why this gets asked: It demonstrates that you’ve actually researched the company you’re applying to.

What you should say: Find out. Amazon’s CEO is called Jeff Bezos; his surname is pronounced to rhyme with Day-Dose. For prominent listed companies, this isn’t a difficult question — video interviews are a good indicator. Check more than one, however; not all news outlets are perfect.

Check out these posts for even more tricky interview answers:

Have a different answer to one of these questions, or another example of a shocker? Share it in the comments.

If You Want To Work For Amazon, You Better Be Able To Answer These Questions [Business Insider]

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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