Ace Your Job Interview

How to answer Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's quirky interview question

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

When it comes to working at Zappos, CEO Tony Hsieh isn't just thinking about a candidate's skills and past experience. He's also trying to find personalities that fit well within his company's culture.

To make that match, Hsieh has been known ask candidates this quirky interview question: On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?

The founder isn't looking for an exact number, but for a cultural fit with one of the company's core values: "Create fun and weirdness." Even the most skilled employee won't be successful if they don't mesh with a company's values and culture.

"Our whole belief is that everyone is a little weird somehow," he explained in a 2010 New York Times interview. "It's really more just a fun way of saying that we really recognize and celebrate each person's individuality, and we want their true personalities to shine in the workplace."

If you're ever asked this sort of question, let your personality shine, says TopInterview career expert Amanda Augustine. It's clear they're trying to meet the "real you" behind the perfectly scripted responses most applicants provide. Give your interviewer a sense for what it would be like to work with you.

Avoid being someone you're not, adds Augustine. If you'd rate yourself a "1" on the weirdness scale, let them know.

That approach might not snag you the job, says Augustine, but it's the the only way you'll figure out if the company is also the right fit for you.

As Hsieh himself said, "If you're a one, you probably are a little bit too straight-laced for the Zappos culture. If you're a 10, you might be too psychotic for us."

Lastly, consider your delivery. How you respond is just as important — if not more important — than your actual answer.

While you can't predict every interview question, there are ways to be prepared, says Augustine. Review a company's corporate website and social media accounts for tone and mission. In some cases, questions real candidates have been asked are even listed on sites like Glassdoor.

You should also review the social accounts of any hiring managers you'll be interviewing with to get a sense for how they think and what you can expect. You might also review if the execs from your company have discussed hiring in the media.

"Once you have a better idea of what traits the company values in its employees, you can determine if this is a good match for you, and anticipate what questions they might ask to assess your cultural fit," said Augustine.

Whatever you do, don't freeze. "If you look shocked or take a long time to answer such a question," said Augustine, "it's going to be a red flag."

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Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
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