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

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1/17/2014
10:46 AM
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
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Kristin Burnham,
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2/7/2014 | 3:00:32 PM
Re: Two from IBM
Ha--how did you answer those questions?
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
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
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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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. 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
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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!"
Kristin Burnham
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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?
Ariella
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Ariella,
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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. 
Shane M. O'Neill
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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?

 
Thomas Claburn
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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.
Marilyn Cohodas
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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).
Laurianne
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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?
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