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1/17/2014
10:46 AM
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.

Employment site Glassdoor on Friday plans to publish a list of the Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2014, compiled from tens of thousands of interview questions shared by job seekers last year. Of these, 16 come from tech companies.

Job interviews are nerve-wracking enough, but when combined with ill-conceived questions, they can be downright harrowing.

It doesn't have to be that way. Job interviews can be conducted diligently and respectfully. But both parties have to do their homework. Sadly, that isn't always the case and job interviews, at least during the first round, often include one-size-fits-all questions that amount to being poked with a pole, so a reaction can be recorded and some poorly reasoned conclusion can be drawn.

Now it's probably never advisable to be a snarky job seeker. But if you find yourself confronted by such eye-rolling questions as these and you abandon, then and there, any continued desire to work with a company that doesn't take hiring seriously, here's some fuel to burn bridges.

1) "If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be?" -- The Zappos Family, Customer Loyalty Team Member interview.

Since Parade is the most widely read magazine in America, I feel that any issue would be of suitable quality to throw through the office. But I would be reluctant to do so for fear of injuring a coworker. Paper cuts can be painful.

I would return the money for the parade to shareholders.

2) "How lucky are you and why?" -- Airbnb, Content Manager interview.

Luckier than EJ, that woman in San Francisco who rented her apartment out through Airbnb and was subsequently robbed.

Luck can't accurately be measured.

3) "If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?" -- Apple, Specialist interview.

I would be equipped to become a pizza delivery woman.

I would also be able to deliver cold cuts.

I'm sorry. I didn't realize auditions for MacGyver were ongoing.

4) "Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?" -- Dell, Account Manager interview.

They're the same thing once the prey stops moving.

At times like this, I'm convinced I'm a martyr.

5) "If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?" -- Yahoo, Search Quality Analyst interview.

Larry Page's yacht, fueled and provisioned, a qualified crew, and a copy of Yahoo For Dummies, to read on the journey home.

Really, such questions only reveal the questioner's laziness. Not enough information is provided to make an informed answer. Maui qualifies as an island. In such a case, a credit card and driver's license would suffice. Were this hypothetical island near the North or South Pole, I might opt for warm clothing to accompany the satellite phone topping my list.

6) "Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?" -- Xerox, Client Manager interview.

Because they're too ornery to shear.

Because you're relying on a cue ball for the relative definition of "fuzzy" rather than a hairball.

To judge whether job applicants know enough about aerodynamics to sail through what has become a standard interview question.

7) "What is your least favorite thing about humanity?" -- ZocDoc, Operations Associate interview.

Being judged by others.

Moments like this that I will never get back.

Inadequately framed questions. There are so many potential answers here, the question is meaningless. Mortality. Disease. Cruelty. Reality television. Does that really tell you anything?

8) "How would you use Yelp to find the number of businesses in the U.S.?" -- Factual, Software Engineer interview.

I'd google it.

Then I'd use the Yelp API to fetch the JSON-formatted business phone number.

9) "How honest are you?" -- Allied Telesis, Executive Assistant interview.

I plead the Fifth.

Honest enough to refuse to answer a question that could only be answered inaccurately.

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Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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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.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
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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).
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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1/17/2014 | 4:14:17 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
Jellybean counting? Would "I'd ask Watson" be an acceptable answer?
Kristin Burnham
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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.
Ariella
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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."
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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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."
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
1/17/2014 | 1:51:53 PM
Re: Your worst interview questions?
I'm surprised the interviewer wasn't looking for a purple squirrel.
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
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."
Somedude8
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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.
Ariella
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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. 
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