A former Google HR exec asks job candidates a tough question to figure out how they will act 'when the chips are down'

Courtesy of Thumbtack‘It’s easy to have strong values when things are going well,’ said Justin Angsuwat, pictured.
  • In almost every job interview he conducts, Justin Angsuwat asks the candidate to talk about a trade-off they have made to uphold a core value.
  • Angsuwat is the VP of people at Thumbtack and a former Google HR exec.
  • He said the candidate’s answer not only shows how they think, but also how they will deal when the going gets rough.

Justin Angsuwat doesn’t believe in tricking job candidates. He also doesn’t believe in asking easy questions inclined to elicit canned responses.

One of Angsuwat’s go-to interview prompts, he told Business Insider, is: “What’s a company or a personal value you hold really strongly and what’s the toughest trade-off you’ve made to uphold that value?”

Angsuwat is the vice president of people at Thumbtack, an online platform that connects people with local professionals. He was previously the head of human resources for Google’s go-to-market functions, and a human capital manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers.


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Angsuwat explained why this question is a favourite of his. “It’s easy to have strong values when things are going well,” he said. “But when you’re making a decision that trades off something else that’s meaningful to you, whether it’s keeping up revenue or not getting to make that hire you really want to make, I want to know how strongly you hold true to your values.”

What’s more, Angsuwat said, when a candidate reflects on a difficult work experience, they will ideally show some humility and self-awareness.

Read more: An executive coach says practically everyone forgets to ask the job interview question that exposes a big red flag

Those are qualities some other executives also look for during interviews. Traci Wilk, a former Starbucks HR executive, previously told Business Insider that she was impressed when a job candidate asked about the challenges she’d face should she get the job. The question simultaneously showed confidence and vulnerability, Wilk said.

As for Angsuwat, he said the question about values shows him “how they [the candidates] think, how they operate, how they make decisions, how they manage their stakeholders. What do they do when the chips are down?”

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