Watch Out for 1 Red-Flag Personality Trait, Says a Manager Who’s Hired for Amazon and Google

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Amazon and Google get their pick of top talent. The world’s most profitable tech companies offer competitive compensation packages and attract the industry’s best and brightest candidates.

So who ultimately makes the cut?

Ask that question to Nancy Wang, who’s been a hiring manager for both companies. She used to be a product manager for Google Fiber. Currently, she’s a senior manager for Amazon Web Services. Wang is also the founder and CEO of Women in Product, an organization that aims to empower more women to be tech leaders and role models.

What makes successful candidates stand out from so-so ones.

“The most successful candidates I’ve seen are naturally curious,” she wrote on Quora “What is most important is their ability to pick things up quick and their ‘can do’ attitude.” Just like Steve Jobs, Wang looks for problem solvers and who can learn as they go.

Wang says expertise is only one part of the hiring puzzle. She believes there’s only so much knowledge one person can have. And in an interview, it’s not fair to assume the candidate is an expert on everything.

It’s not related to how smart they are, what degrees they have, or which top-tier university they did or didn’t go to. Being able to dive in and let your curiosity lead you to finding answers will help a new hire be successful at any job.

Candidates with 1 red-flag trait are less likely to get hired.

In her experience hiring for Amazon and Google, Wang has also figured out how to quickly identify candidates who probably won’t work out. Know-it-alls tend not to do well at either company.

“What worries me during interviews is when candidates purport to know something and then when I dig deeper, the whole house of cards start falling apart,” Wang writes.

No matter what their level, employees need to be leaders. And leaders need to be able to be comfortable asking questions if they don’t know something. They also need to admit when they’re wrong.

The strategic interview question that weeds out the know-it-alls.

The personality trait that worries Wang is interviews is one that Boxed CEO Chieh Huang also avoids. He wants to hire people who are comfortable being honest what they don’t know. Those people tend to be better collaborators and more pleasant to work with.

Huang even has an interview question that gets to the heart of overconfidence: He asks people to rate their knowledge of technology trends on a scale of one to 10. He doesn’t believe anyone who answers a nine or a 10, because no one can know everything.

“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.