16 Stupid Tech Job Interview Questions: Show Your Snark - InformationWeek
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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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16 Stupid Tech Job Interview Questions: Show Your Snark

Glassdoor characterizes these actual job interview questions as "oddball." We give these questions the answers they deserve.

10) "How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?" -- Goldman Sachs, Programmer Analyst interview.

The precise number is unknowable, but I can provide an estimate if asked.

Wouldn't it have been easier to ask if I made it through middle school?

var pizzaRadius = 1; // one foot
var pizzaPi = Math.PI; // 3.14...
var pizzaArea = pizzaPi * pizzaRadius * pizzaRadius; // pi * r^2, or 3.14 sq.
var usPopulation = 319000000;
var pizzasPerPersonPerYear = 5.75; // 46 slices average @ 8 slices per pizza
var total = usPopulation * pizzasPerPersonPerYear * pizzaArea;
console.log (total); // +/- 5,762,466,325 sq. feet

11) "Can you instruct someone how to make an origami 'cootie catcher' with just words?" -- LivingSocial, Consumer Advocate interview.

Only if we speak the same language.

Sure. I'd say, "Search for the phrase 'how to make a cootie catcher.'"

12)  "How does the Internet work?" -- Akamai, Director interview.

It's a series of tubes, metaphorically speaking.

13)  "If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?" --  SinglePlatform, Inside Sales Consultant interview.

Jar Jar Binks, because stereotypes just save time.

Godzilla, because my life would have more than two dozen sequels.

14) "It's Thursday; we're staffing you on a telecommunications project in Calgary, Canada on Monday. Your flight and hotel are booked; your visa is ready. What are the top five things you do before you leave?" -- ThoughtWorks, Junior Consultant interview.

Inquire why I have a visa, which is unnecessary for a US citizen visiting Canada, but not a work permit. Then identify the client, the project goals, whether a car will be required, and whether Internet access is available at the hotel and on-site.

15) "Describe to me the process and benefits of wearing a seatbelt." -- Active Network, Client Applications Specialist interview.

When the seat belt sign illuminates, you must fasten your seat belt. To do so, insert the metal tip into the buckle and adjust the strap so it's low and tight across your lap. To release the belt, lift the top of the buckle. Remain seated, with the seat belt fastened, any time the seat belt sign is on.

Active Network's mission is to make the world a more active place. Passive restraints like seatbelts have no place in our new world order.

16) "Have you ever been on a boat?" -- Applied Systems, Graphic Designer interview.

Are we not all sailors on the seas of fate?

Feel better now? These may not be the best answers to these questions from an employment standpoint, but they're probably among the most satisfying. There are other places to work. Go out and find an employer that actually wants to know about you and to evaluate your capabilities as a person.

Thomas Claburn is editor-at-large for InformationWeek. He has been writing about business and technology since 1996 for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and his mobile game Blocfall Free is available for iOSAndroid, and Kindle Fire.

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Kristin Burnham
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?
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 11:55:05 AM
"I would be equipped to become a pizza delivery woman."
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."
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.)
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.
User Rank: Author
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. 
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.
Stephane Parent
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."
Stephane Parent
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.
IW Pick
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."
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