Comments
16 Stupid Tech Job Interview Questions: Show Your Snark
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 11:26:38 AM
Your worst interview questions?
What's the most ridiculous question you were asked in an interview?
dblake950
100%
0%
dblake950,
User Rank: Strategist
1/17/2014 | 12:20:34 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
Someone I know recently interviewed at Facebook for a procurement position and, after a lengthy discussion of the job and his skills and experience, was told by his inquisitor that she was actually looking for a unicorn, which left him speechless. I told him he should have leaned in and whispered to her, "They're not real."
Stephane Parent
100%
0%
Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
1/17/2014 | 1:51:53 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I'm surprised the interviewer wasn't looking for a purple squirrel.
TullotoeU883
100%
0%
TullotoeU883,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 2:29:03 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I think every employer is looking for a mythical employee, just like every employee is working for a mythical situation.

 
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 12:42:12 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
A colleague was asked who the better Enterprise captain was (will be?): Piccard or Kirk? (Kirk, of course.)
Ariella
100%
0%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2014 | 1:03:21 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
@Rob I'm sure that fans debate that one! I'd guess that the people who answer Kirk break rules more quickly. So you'd have to know if that's the kind of thinking they want.  One of my kids told me she heard of people applying for a school program being asked what kind of tree they would be. 
ChrisMurphy
IW Pick
100%
0%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 1:53:29 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
A classmate of mine was going through on-campus consulting interviews, and he was pretty sure the interviewer was working through his stock list of questions, and not looking very closely at the resumes, when he asked: "What would you say is the biggest risk you've ever taken at work?"

My classmate's response: "I'm going to have to go with flying combat missions over Iraq."
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2014 | 1:59:26 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
@Chris He had a good answer there! Another question that knocks some people for a loop is "Where do you see yourself in 5 years." Now I'd be tempted to answer, "I'd have to get a tardis to find out. Then I'll have to be careful not to cause a time paradox by coming in physical contact with my future self. That could be quite a challenge."
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 3:54:58 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
My husband was asked how many jellybeans fit inside a 747 aircraft to gauge critical thinking skills. Not necessarily a stupid interview question, but certainly one to trip you up.
Laurianne
100%
0%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 4:14:17 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
Jellybean counting? Would "I'd ask Watson" be an acceptable answer?
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 4:22:38 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
Who's the better Star Trek captain. Kirk or Picard. (I answered Picard).
asksqn
50%
50%
asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2014 | 3:01:31 AM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
@Marilyn LOL I would have said Flying Leg Kick
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 8:43:57 AM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
LOL! @asksqn! The second most stupid interview question (from the same interview) was "Where do you exect to be in five years?" Now that's a common question. But in this case the position was a contract job and the interviewer worked for the company that was outsourcing my work from  another company. So what happened was: I got the job but at the end of one year, the company didn't renew the outsourcing contract with my employer. 

What I wanted to respond during the interview was: "Where will you be when the contract expires at the end of the year!"
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 4:31:42 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
>how many jellybeans fit inside a 747 aircraft

One 747-sized jellybean, liquified for easy insertion.

As with the pizza example, basic area or volume calculations aren't too hard if you accept approximations of the required inputs. But I'm skeptical of their value as a measure of employee resourcefulness.

The ability to figure out how much of x fits into y should be assumed, at least for jobs requiring a high school degree. It's not as if, say, an Amazon warehouse ever got backed up because workers kept trying to put orders into boxes that were too small, leaving managers wishing for employees with better volume-calculation skills.
anon5781225738
50%
50%
anon5781225738,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 10:17:03 AM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I would ask: What model of 747?  What is the size of the jellybean? What has the carrier doen to the aircraft's interior? Are there any people on board?  What is the average mass of the occupants?  Etc...  If the interviewer can't answer one of the questions accurately, the question is moot.
jagibbons
100%
0%
jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2014 | 8:25:45 AM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
@Ariela, what would it say about someone who answered Archer or even Christopher Pike? I've never thought of myself as a great interviewer, but I've never asked or been asked any questions as idiotic as these, so I guess that's a good sign.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2014 | 6:37:24 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
@jagibbons that would prove they are even bigger Trek fans than the questioner, right? I know nothing about Archer and only a bit about Pike (seemed a bit more like Kirk than Picard).  Of course, a real geek would have to take Spock or Data as a role model. 
jagibbons
100%
0%
jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/19/2014 | 4:26:58 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I wonder how most interviewers take it when they are stumped or thrown a curve ball by an answer to a question they've asked. If you ask an oddball question and get an even more bizarre answer, that shows creativity on the part of the applicant, right?
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2014 | 12:57:30 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I had the HR person doing initial interview ask: How do you feel about testing?

The job was to lead a 25 person team in using one of those automated testing tools and a corresponding testing methodology, which I did not know going in. Company was one of those health insurance HMO providers. I knew I was in wrong place when she said they had close to 400 IT employees for a company with 2500 employees. I had spent my entire career with no more than 2-3 IT coworkers, I knew right then this was not going to work. I told her I couldn't even imagine what you do with 400 IT people. There was no 2nd interview.
asksqn
50%
50%
asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2014 | 2:57:36 AM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
Q. If you were a color which would it be and why? A. I then broke out into the following chorus >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6d8eKvegLI&feature=youtube_gdata_player
anon0216530296
50%
50%
anon0216530296,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 9:36:11 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
" Goodnight. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding- ding-ding-ding. Goodnight. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding."

 

http://montypython.50webs.com/scripts/Series_1/35.htm
David F. Carr
100%
0%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 11:55:05 AM
"I would be equipped to become a pizza delivery woman."
Ouch
jmumford913
50%
50%
jmumford913,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 2:19:05 PM
Re: "I would be equipped to become a pizza delivery woman."
"If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?"

I'd use them to commit suicide, because I have such a crappy job.
Somedude8
100%
0%
Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2014 | 1:03:27 PM
Those logic puzzles, ugh
Great article!

I have a good one to share. Interviewing as a programmer for a biotech firm. Very open office trendy kind of place. There are 3 of us in a small-ish room. The part that might not play well in a typed story is that my answers were immediate. I didn't sit there and think about for a few minutes or anything like that.

"Nobody can tell anyone else how much they make a year. With only the items in this room, how can you figure out how much everyone makes in a year?"

Looking around, I see a whiteboard and some markers, there are a few pieces of blank paper and pens on the table. My laptop bag is next to me, and in the middle of the table... a phone.

"I would pick up that phone and call HR."

"Okay, lets say that the phone isn't here. How would you figure out how much everyone makes a year?"

"I would get my cell phone out of my laptop bag and call HR."

"Okay (big exasperated breath), lets pretend you don't have your cellphone. You don't have any kind of phone. How would you figure out how much everyone makes per year?"

"I would pull out my laptop, find the company website, and email HR."

Main interviewer's face is noticably redder now. I remember thinking that was unusual for someone who looked to be about 27 years old. "Okay... lets pretend there is no HR department. How do you figure out how much we each make a year?"

I stopped right before saying something about how if there is no HR, who do I turn this paperwork they gave me in to. Instead, I said something that, in retrospect, was probably as bad. "I just came up with 3 fast and effective solutions to the problem I was presented. Why would I want to continue to search for more solutions, all of which are likely to be more complex? I am sorry, but I guess I just don't get it."

The interviewer proceeded to outline some strange scenario invloving passing papers from one person to the next, with each person adding their salary to what amounted to a hash, then me subtracting something to arrive at the desired answer.

Something felt wrong about his solution, mathematically speaking. Next day I emailed him a proof that showed that his solution was flawed.

I didn't get the job.
DarrenD418
50%
50%
DarrenD418,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/19/2014 | 10:15:52 PM
Re: Those logic puzzles, ugh
Apart from any possible mathematical dubiousness, passing papers around and adding/subtracting numbers is STILL TELLING EACH OTHER YOUR SALARY. Just because you obfuscate it with hashes and additions/subtractions DOES NOT CHANGE THE FUNDAMENTAL FACT YOU ARE TELLING EVERYONE ELSE YOUR SALARY.

I'm not yelling at you, just sharing my frustration with stupid interview questions that I have gone through myself.
RussellC169
100%
0%
RussellC169,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 12:28:49 AM
Re: Those logic puzzles, ugh
Then I would say you answered the question correctly.

 

Avoiding a job where arbitary limitations were set to get the "right" answer.
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 8:29:52 AM
Re: Those logic puzzles, ugh
^^Great point. If a company asks a question with only one right answer, how does that similar scenario play out in the boardroom when there's a critical decision to make?
TullotoeU883
50%
50%
TullotoeU883,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 2:24:41 PM
Re: Those logic puzzles, ugh
Yes, the proposed solution still has everyone divulging their salary.  I am sure we don't all appeciate the math involved, and will believe you when you say that even that was flawed, but even if the math wasn't, you still each shared your salary.
BitTownJoe
50%
50%
BitTownJoe,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/4/2014 | 10:30:13 AM
Re: Those logic puzzles, ugh
My first thought before even finishing reading this was "I'd ask hr if they pay their employees with bitcoin and then ask them to give me their central wallet. I would then look at the bitcoin blockchain." After reading the rest of your respnse proving their algo was messed up, i would ask them if they would like a copy of the satoshi nakamoto whitepaper on blockchains and some education on how a hash actually works.
Stephane Parent
100%
0%
Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
1/17/2014 | 1:29:34 PM
Stupid Interview Question
Question: "You are driving a two-seater convertible. At the bus stop, you see your best friend standing beside a gorgeous woman. You only have room for one passenger. What do you do?"

Answer: "I lend the car to my best friend and wait for the bus alongside the girl."
anon5781225738
100%
0%
anon5781225738,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 10:19:02 AM
Re: Stupid Interview Question
Not stuff your friend in the trunk?
TullotoeU883
50%
50%
TullotoeU883,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 2:15:49 PM
Re: Stupid Interview Question
The weight of a plane is important to determine the amount of fuel.  If you are forced to land in the middle of timbuk 2, and can simply truck in jet fuel, but need to know how much, you don't need to know all of those questions, the original question most certainly is not moot, and you are too much of a closed minded rube for use to even offer minimum wage.
Shane M. O'Neill
100%
0%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 5:39:20 PM
Trick question
"Are you a tactician or a strategist?" Not a stupid question, but a trick question because the job was a strategic role. If you said tactician you were cooked. I didn't bite. I said strategist.

But still didn't get the job.

Maybe I should have said I'm a tactical strategist. Or perhaps a strategic tactician?

 
rodneyd439
50%
50%
rodneyd439,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:48:03 AM
Re: Trick question
Or perhaps neither. I am a visionary...........

 

Master Rod
ytjameslee
50%
50%
ytjameslee,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2014 | 1:20:41 AM
Zappo's at number 1!
Not surprised to see Zappo's on this list.  I had a phone interview with them once and they actually asked me on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird did I think I was?  The whole interview was just bizarre.
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/20/2014 | 4:13:53 PM
Re: Zappo's at number 1!
When every company on the planet is trying to use technology and save some cash by phone interviews and video interviews etc, putting in such a curve ball would just undermine the whole process.
lairy
100%
0%
lairy,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/21/2014 | 12:55:28 PM
#2 How lucky are you and why - actually there is a good answer to this one!
Great article. Thought of a good answer though to number 2 (how lucky are you and why?): "Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity. I'm prepared and looking for opportunity
yinzara
50%
50%
yinzara,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/21/2014 | 3:27:00 PM
Just a bad article
I disagree greatly with the entire tone of this article. Many of the questions stated actually have valid reasons for asking them.  For instance, if I want to know how the new employee works through problems, the question about the number of sq ft pizza in the US is actually completely viable.  You need to ask a question that you know the person would have no idea on the answer to see how they break the problem down into parts.
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/22/2014 | 1:32:44 PM
Re: Just a bad article
yinzara, you found one question you find plausible out of this batch of inane questions and you think the whole tone of this article is off base? Have a little fun with it. And the author makes a good case for why the other questions are misguided, useless, or just plain odd. 
yinzara
50%
50%
yinzara,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 3:20:03 PM
Re: Just a bad article
Actually that was just one example of a question I found quite appropriate.  I'd say at least half of the questions have valid reasons for asking them.  So no, I still agree this article is just off base.  Interviewing someone isn't about assessing their technical skills (that method of interviewing is just archaic).  It's about finding if that person is a fit for your corporate culture and team.  To do that, many times you have to ask some pretty off the cuff questions and their reactions to the questions sometimes tell you as much about the candidate as their answer. For instance, Zappos asking a question about what kind of parade you would hold speaks to the Zappos sorta of "crazy" corporate culture.  Additionally, answering trite quips to an interview question is the best way of ensuring you don't get the job.  I would definitely find that disrespectful unless the tone of the interview was set in a joking sort of way.
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
1/25/2014 | 5:21:45 AM
Re: Just a bad article
yinzara, 

"I'd say at least half of the questions have valid reasons for asking them." 

If it's not too much to ask, I would like you to list the questions that you say have valid reasons to be asked in a job interview.

It would be great if you could answer them, too, to see what would it be a proper answer to such questions. 

-Susan
rodneyd439
50%
50%
rodneyd439,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:36:22 AM
Re: Just a bad article
Au contraire, mon ami! These questions are baseless, and useless. It is simply just an HR asshole trying to make fun of you. And beleive me, HR people can be total assholes. Not to mention my utter distaste of a 26 year old snot nosed punk telling me that I am not qualified to do the work I have been doing for 30 years in technology. Another question often asked is "What is the worst experience you have had with a customer, and how did you deal with it".  First off, it is none of your damned business. Second of all, if I knew that I was going to be interviewed by an idiot, rather the the person doing the hiring, I would not have wasted my time. Thirdly, so as this not to be a waste of time, I will be charging you a consulting fee for answering your questions."... answering trite quips to an interview question is the best way of ensuring you don't get the job.". Stupid people ask stupid questions, idiots, ask idiotic questions, and of course, assholes, ask assholish questions. A good deal of us are professionals that do great work. We deserve respect. I don't want to lower my standard of work, and ethic for such a poor choice of job. That is not to say there can't be a somewhat candid interview. Sadly, the younger generation being given the reigns are nothing more than monkeys. I hope they (monkeys) don't take it as an insult.


 

Master Rod
rodneyd439
50%
50%
rodneyd439,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:40:30 AM
Re: Just a bad article
And since when are these nincompoops psychologists? Half these idiots barely have a homeprinted degree. Do you honestly think that they can evaluate a person when they are idiots themselves? You make no sense.

 

Master Rod
TMagrini850
50%
50%
TMagrini850,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2014 | 12:34:37 PM
Two from IBM
Here are two I was asked during an interview with IBM about a decade ago.  What is the square footage of the grassy area of a baseball field?  How does a toilet work?  Needless to say I didn't take the job as I left the interview wondering if they were looking for a network engineer, a groundskeeper, or janitorial staff.
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 3:00:32 PM
Re: Two from IBM
Ha--how did you answer those questions?


Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.