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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.

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.

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
2/7/2014 | 3:00:32 PM
Re: Two from IBM
Ha--how did you answer those questions?
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.
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.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:48:03 AM
Re: Trick question
Or perhaps neither. I am a visionary...........


Master Rod
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
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
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
1/25/2014 | 5:21:45 AM
Re: Just a bad article

"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. 

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."
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.
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.
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