Tech & Work

Glassdoor's top 25 oddball interview questions for 2013

Here are some odd interview questions by hiring managers at some leading companies.

Glassdoor, a jobs and career community, released today its annual list of Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions, which is compiled from the tens of thousands of interview questions shared by job candidates over the past year.

You may not be faced with any of these questions in any of your interviews, but it's a fun list to look at.

  1. "If you were to get rid of one state in the US, which would it be and why?" - Asked at Forrester Research, Research Associate candidate. More Forrester Research interview questions.
  2. "How many cows are in Canada?" - Asked at Google, Local Data Quality Evaluator candidate. More Google interview questions.
  3. "How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?" - Asked at JetBlue, Pricing/Revenue Management Analyst candidate. More JetBlue interview questions.
  4. "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero.  What does he say and why is he here?" - Asked at Clark Construction Group, Office Engineer candidate. More Clark Construction Group interview questions.
  5. "What songs best describes your work ethic?" - Asked at Dell, Consumer Sales candidate. More Dell interview questions.
  6. "Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea.  What is it?" - Asked at Amazon, Product Development candidate. More Amazon interview questions.
  7. "What do you think about when you are alone in your car?" - Asked at Gallup, Associate Analyst candidate. More Gallup interview questions.
  8. "How would you rate your memory?" - Asked at Marriott, Front Desk Associate candidate. More Marriott interview questions.
  9. "Name 3 previous Nobel Prize Winners." - Asked at BenefitsCONNECT, Office Manager candidate. More BenefitsCONNECT interview questions.
  10. "Can you say: 'Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper' and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?" - Asked at MasterCard, Call Centre candidate. More MasterCard interview questions.
  11. "If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?" - Asked at Trader Joe's, Crew candidate. More Trader Joe's interview questions.
  12. "How would people communicate in a perfect world?" - Asked at Novell, Software Engineer candidate. More Novell interview questions.
  13. "How do you make a tuna sandwich?" - Asked at Astron Consulting, Office Manager candidate. More Astron Consulting interview questions.
  14. "My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?" - Asked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Advisory Associate candidate. More PricewaterhouseCoopers interview questions.
  15. "You are a head chef at a restaurant and your team has been selected to be on Iron Chef. How do you prepare your team for the competition and how do you leverage the competition for your restaurant?" - Asked at Accenture, Business Analyst candidate. More Accenture interview questions.
  16. "Estimate how many windows are in New York." - Asked at Bain & Company, Associate Consultant candidate. More Bain & Company interview questions.
  17. "What's your favorite song?  Perform it for us now." - Asked at LivingSocial, Adventures City Manager candidate. More LivingSocial interview questions.
  18. "Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when time is 11:50." - Asked at Bank of America, Software Developer candidate. More Bank of America interview questions.
  19. "Have you ever stolen a pen from work?" - Asked at Jiffy Software, Software Architect candidate. More Jiffy Software interview questions.
  20. "Pick two celebrities to be your parents." - Asked at Urban Outfitters, Sales Associate candidate. More Urban Outfitters interview questions.
  21. "What kitchen utensil would you be?" - Asked at Bandwidth.com, Marketer candidate. More Bandwidth.com interview questions.
  22. "If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?" - Asked at Kimberly-Clark, Biomedical Engineer candidate. More Kimberly-Clark interview questions.
  23. "On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer." - Asked at Kraft Foods, General Laborer candidate. More Kraft Foods interview questions.
  24. "If you could be anyone else, who would it be?" - Asked at Salesforce.com, Sales Representative candidate. More Salesforce.com interview questions.
  25. "How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?" - Asked at PETCO, Analyst candidate. More PETCO interview questions.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

143 comments
jrusch
jrusch

I'm here for the fish tacos!

rpeteg
rpeteg

You weigh an empty sealed jar. The jar weighs five pounds. You weigh a housefly, which weighs .00001 pounds. You place 10 houseflies weighing the same in the unsealed jar and reseal it. How much does the jar weigh assuming the flies continually fly around inside, do not touch the sides or top, or land?

SemiSpook
SemiSpook

Just had an interview last week where I was asked this question: "Why are manhole covers round?" Now, I can suggest you Google the answer, but the point of the question was not so much the answer, but how do you get to the answer. First thing that I thought of, and what the interviewer was looking for was exactly that (or "Well, why ARE they round? Never really thought of the why before.").

markb91731
markb91731

If the candidate for a programming job was American I would ask them - Who officiated at Mr. Spock's wedding in Star Trek? I figure you can't be a geek if you aren't a fan of Start Trek

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

How many times are you going to post this article?

captainanalog
captainanalog

are why I have so much trouble getting past the first interview. AND, why I end up working with so many idiots when I get the job. I have no patience for such nonsense.

rudyard
rudyard

top of the the empire state building it's 168 quarters for an adult and 156 for a senor.

crtlbreak
crtlbreak

If a result is achieved form your reply and that result is used to make a determination on your suitability for the role then it is justifiable. Some of these seem like they have been added as a last thought to the interview in order to stir without just cause. Whether these questions seem asinine, incredulous or plain stupid, at least they stir up polar opinions on the subject. There are very few bland, middle-of-the-road opinions from all the comments - this is commendable as open debate has been stirred. Whether they are correct in being asked during and interview? You don't have a choice when you are on the replying side of the table - how you deal with that question should be particular to the job being applied for - a market analyst should give a different reply to a software developer or database analyst . Whether those questions are structured towards the job description is not to be debated in the interview, unless you are being recruited for a human rights lawyer position?

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

1 California (just give it back to Mexico, would solve most of the debt issues)but if WDC was an actual state :-) 2 There is no "cows" in "Canada" (the wording anyway) 3 92 - the cost to take the elevator to the top :-) 4 says 'hey man shouldn't have drank all that tequila and is here since I would be hallucinating 5 don't worry, be happy 6 open a bar 7 How nice it is to be alone in my car 8 Huh, what was the question again ? 9 I would if my memory was better :-) 10 let's see, NO 11 delivery 12 sex 13 Google it 14 Disney world 15 Hire another Iron chef to train the staff and watch - publicity, advertising 16 I don't have that many fingers 17 don't worry, be happy 18 huh, my clock is digital, does not have any pointers 19 never, I forget they were in my pocket 20 Arnold Schwarzenegger, Betty white 21 spoon 22 Demon phone ! 23 you suck 24 Sir Richard Branson 25 Google it

bkdirks
bkdirks

This just goes to show that almost all companies, no matter how large or prestigious, have various kooks working in them, who are clueless about how to go about hiring quality employees. If a company has a serious opening, and is looking for a serious applicant, why wouldn't they ask serious questions that pertain directly to the job at hand? If they are looking for people that like to play games, then I guess they get what they deserve.

nospam
nospam

Oooh,,,,,,theres probably at least one in nearly every office PC

th3_sniff
th3_sniff

I'd answer all your question after you answer mine: How many smartass HR people thinking they are funny are there in your company?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it? Potential Intelligent responses. 1) Was I in at the time? 2) I'm on the f'ing phone Bezos! Sheesh! 3) If you'll just sign here. (non disclosure agreement) 4) This is my bank account number, lets just pause until the money goes in. 5) What sort of idiot do you think I am? 6) Good bye! 7) What will be my cut? Now I'm talking a wild guess here, but I don't think these are what the questioner had in mind as answers. So potentially dumb responses 1) Any great idea Mr Bezos might be prepared to invest that much of his hard earned money in. The guy interviewing you will steal it, and won't want you muttering in the corridors about it, so no job. 2) Any great idea that turns out to be really dumb Gives interviewer an immediate no, with option to point out how stupid you are, and No job 3) An idea that has some potential one you can explore with the interviewer and massage towards one with some real value. (See option 1) 4) You offer a really stupid idea, like say HTML, www, texting, mass market production, a computer anyone can use. If it's recognised see 1, if it's not see 2. About the only response you could give, that SHOULD get you somewhere. 1) You offer an idea that sounds right and then pull it to pieces yourself. So what exactly was the purpose of this question again? Was the last answer the one you were aiming at? If not, why not?

JCitizen
JCitizen

1. California - because everyone is moving away from it, and everyone knows full well it is going to fall into the sea. 2. Less than in the Mid-US. 3. Less than one Qtr. as a quarter is 3 months, and I could climb that building in less time than that, with ordinary mountain climbing equipment. ]:) 4. I've migrated too far north, haven't I ( true story, they were trying to save a bunch of them on the beach, I saw the story on the BBC) 5. "I been working on the RAAAIilroad! All the live long daaaay!" 6. Buy all the guns and ammo you can; they are flying off the shelves so fast, thanks to Obama, that they are tripling in price every three weeks! 7. God that free XM radio offer sounds good on my Bose system! 8. Scary! - I have 3D video memory. But unfortunately it is tinged with Alzheimer's and a touch of Parkinson's! 9. Obama, Einstein, and Nobel himself; his dymo-mite was better'n than Jimmy Walker's!! 10. I have said that many times - what is so challenging about melding it with selling washing machines - piece of cake! 11. Roasted pheasant! 12. By ESP! 13. Take the chicken of the sea to the can opener, and slap it on the bread man! 14. Hiroshima! - we always wanted to see virtual destruction! 15. We immediately realize our business could be ruined by this ridiculous reality show, and refuse to show up! 16. Nine time four quad-drillion. Zaphod Beeblebrox came up with the formula himself! 17. Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz) - just like I'd do at the interview - BTW 18. I use digital - sorry. Not that I don't know Sine Law. 19. I keep all pens tied to the clip board by string - that would be rather difficult - you see - so many people steal them, I'd never get anything done! 20. James Garner and Natalie Wood 21. Spoon - I like digging to the bottom of things! 22. Nothing - I'd be too busy stomping the crap out of my cell phone! ]:) 23. Stupid! That is how I'd probably rate him/her, I have always been able to find a job - screw that! 24. Walter Mitty - he had practice! HA! 25. Take omlet in bag and throw in microwave for 2 min 30 seconds - tastes great! I do it every other morning!

aphorist
aphorist

I was once asked in an interview, by a Consultant Anaesthetist, #If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would it be?~ He also offered me snuff. I answered, didn't sneeze and got the job.

david.m.acre
david.m.acre

Many choices here: To reach the height. One is a stack of quarters and determine how many will add up to the toal height. Another is the number or quaters charged to ride the elevator to the top. Another is that it is impossible since the elevator doesn't go to the top of the antenna on the very top. Another is that using pennies would be more cost effective.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

That for highly qualified professional IT people who have high structural visualization (consult information on the Johnson O'Connor Labs) with talents fewer than 25% of the population, skills and experience beyond what even 10% of the population could even begin to have, communicating with the smarmy highly socialized gregarious ideaphoria managers is much like explaining rainbows to earthworms. Four decades ago, a person who performed to provide superior work were skilled for their high technological expertise and skills were still highly honored has yielded to "team" players who are little more than Generation Whine children with short attention spans. It's sort of like little Timmy in the Twilight Zone who has the power to put people away in the corn field but no real knowledge of the realities of the situation (the corn field being outsourcing to a third world country). So HR asks stupid questions. And the technologist has to don the mantle of a top level manager, pretending to be something they are not, to squeak past the incompetent brigade of dysfunctional interviewers powered by HR to attain the job that majority of those in the corporation or agency can't even begin to understand. As long as all of us technologists recognize what the deal is, we can prepare for it, and after we get the job, revert to highly skilled professional competence.

jsargent
jsargent

Would you wear a tu-tu on Tuesdays?

MeijerTSR
MeijerTSR

don't seem to get it. I have never worked a single day in HR but I can see the point in these types of questions. It is not to show the interviewer how the interviewer’s stayed awake last night to think of something totally stupid to ask. The point of the questions is to see how the interviewer thinks on their feet to a completely unpredictable situation, also to gauge the interviewer’s cleverness. Some people can’t see that? For real??

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Well my math isn't that strong, so I'd have to think about that, then check it, and check it again. so 6 pies + / - a 12 th ... Stupid question, stupid answer..

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

"BEHIND YOU" 1 million up. It's the simple ideas that are the best. I was going to come up with selling someone the same product again, but in a different format, but some bloke called Jeff staked that one out already. My first answer to this question would be my bank account number. I'ma propeller head because I like it, not because I'm too dumb to understand Business 101

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

I've actually been asked #24 ("What well-known person would you be?"). They were serious, and thought it was a good way to get to know what kind of person I thought I was and what kind of person I wanted to be. Fortunately, it was something that I had thought about (not as an interview-prep question, however) so I didn't panic. Unfortunately, there is a "right" answer to many of these (even the 'opinion' ones), so if you don't provide what they have decided is the "right" answer, they can reject you "objectively"

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Just before retiring these stupid questions became the vogue. Luck for me I had worked long enough in the computer industry to be fairly well known. After a couple of interviews like this I began telling the interviewer politely to shove these questions where the sun doesn't shine and to get on with it. I remember one instance where the interviewer got his nickers in a knot and dismissed me out of hand. On my way out the VP (a friend of mine) asked me how it went and I laughed telling him I wasn't hired and why. Well, the next day the VP called me and asked me to come to work, which I did. After a couple of days there one of my friends who worked at the company ran across me and recounted what happened after I had left the first time. The VP of the division and the President, and HR held a meeting with the hapless project manager and verbally peeled the hide off this guy and fired him after recounting some of my history and why he should have listened to me. It seems that not only had the VP worked with me, but about half the people in the work group I was going to work in had worked with me and let it be known they were unhappy, not only with the results of the interview, but with the current project manager. Needless to say I was hired and after looking over my experience (since I had known my friends at various locations) I ended up with the late great project manager's job. In parting I will recount one of these questions that I did answer before I started refusing to play this game. You have to get across this chasm and you have two short ladders and all the rope you want. How do you get across. Well I asked how much rope and they said all you want. So I said I would fill in the chasm with rope and walk across. Now the "answer" was some techincal whiz bang solution I found out later. It was at this point I said to myself, "I am not going to participate in this stupid song and dance again."

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

In total, or just the ones currently living, Also, would you count heifers?

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

It was for an electronics degree course, not a job, and was aimed at seeing if I could think on my feet: You have a plastic sphere. A hole is bored right through the middle of the sphere. The hole is 4 cm long. What is the volume of plastic remaining? I needed one hint and then came up with the correct answer (a number times pi). I didn't try to do the multiplication by pi in my head! I subsequently used the question when interviewing a candidate for a software development job. The candidate not only had no idea how to tackle the question; he didn't even understand the solution when I explained it to him. He was not suitable for the job. A question I was asked during a job interwiew was "What car do you drive?" When I replied "A Toyota Corolla", the interviewer said "Isn't that what taxi drivers in Luton drive?" I replied "It could well be" and made no further comment. The same interviewer asked "Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?" I replied "Still doing the job rather than moving into Sales or Management but having more say in decisions affecting my work." I thought this showed sufficient ambition without threatening the existing management structure. I got the job but was laid off 7 years later, and then 6 months on was asked to come back!

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

"My best entrepreneurial idea is the one I'm working on with Patent Pending that will put you out of business" "When I was in my car on the way here, I was thinking how stupid this interview could be and you just proved it" "On my last job I worked for IT where two managers were married to each other in violation of the law against conflict of interest and an IT Director whose last words to me were, 'I don't know what I am doing' -- so my question to you is, do you have adults working here that have one shred of integrity?" "If you came to dinner, I would serve you Fugu, but I have to warn you, it's my first time preparing it" "Why would I steal a pen at work when I have my own perfectly good Parker and an advanced mechanical pencil?" "There are as many cows in Canada as there needs to be" "In a perfect world, what need would there be for communication?" "The three Nobel Prize winners before me? Why would I bother after I got the prize?" "I rate you a big fat zero" "I would get rid of the state of confusion, but unfortunately, the administration has a lock on that one" "I wouldn't want to be anyone else, particularly I wouldn't want to be you" "Omelet? Omelet? I'd tell them how to make the perfect Soufflé -- you people don't have much vision or imagination, do you?" "I'd tell you who I'd pick for celebrity parents, but you've never heard of them" "My memory is better than yours: I'll remember this long after you've forgotten me -- but that shouldn't be hard seeing as how I've noticed that you have to keep consulting your note cards to remember the questions" Actually, I would say, "I'm retired; you are the weakest link! Goodbye!" You have to know I like the "Fugu" answer best... subtle.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

1 Florida. Why not? 2 As many cows as there are in Canada. 3 A lot. 4 He's here to ask you "What have you been smoking, dude?" 5 "Maniac" 6 Not before you sign a non-disclosure agreement. 7 Driving. 8 What was the question? 9 Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Aung San Suu Kyi 10 No. 11 Something edible. 12 Telepathy. 13 Slice a tuna lengthwise, insert lettuce, tomato, onion, seasoning, some lemon juice, slice in half and fasten with a long toothpick. 14 What kind of places do you and your wife like to visit? 15 I don't like to cook. 16 Are you talking about the Operating System or architectural? 17 "The Sound of Silence" ...silence... 18 Large hand approx. 350° Small hand approx. 357° 19 No. Why? Are some missing? 20 No thank you. My parents were perfectly good. 21 I wouldn't. 22 Sorry...gas. 23 I'm sorry, but I don't rate on the first interview. 24 No one else, because then I couldn't be me...and I like being me. 25 I wouldn't. Cooking an omelet is a personal experience, best kept personal.

Slayer_
Slayer_

1: Considering the economic problems in the USA. I would suggest selling Alaska to Canada or russia. 2: None, can't make Canada into a cow. 3: Well I would need to know the height of the tower and the thickness of a quarter. Also I would have to cement each one together and shape them in a triangle formation. otherwise they will just fall over. 4: The penguin says nothing, penguins can't speak. Maybe he is the iKea penguin? 5: Fake it by Seether. 6: Pay off mortgage, that's about a million dollars now in todays money. 7: Gas mileage. 8: Good 9: Just a second while I use my phone to google that. 10: Yes but I am applying for a programming position. 11: Whatever was in the fridge since you came without notice. 12: In a perfect world, they would use that magical universal translator from star trek. 13: With a can of tuna, some mayonnaise, and some bread. 14: What sort of Vacations do you and your wife like? Driving (road trip), beaches? cold? scenery? 15: I would have them exercise their skills and their weaknesses. 16: What defines a window? 17: I have no favorite song, but I am a metal head so you really don't want me to try and perform. 18: 35 degrees 19: No 20: I can't, I prefer my current parents. They are celebrities to me. 21: Spork, I usually like to scoop things but occasionally I need to stab it. 22: Just a moment while I rip the battery out of this thing. 23: 7 24: I'd still be me, just a richer and better looking version of me. 25: I would ask them how they want their omelet cooked and instruct them in the method that will give them the results they want. So how did I do?

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Some are just so asinine, that any company asking them deserves to get what they get...and not necessarily the best person. Really smart people will recognize those questions as such and go elsewhere. As for the number of cows in Canada, only a company intimately connected with the dairy industry, either in Canada or in the US dairy import/export business would have any interest in asking it of a candidate.

bhaven23
bhaven23

8 days a week................ That penguin says nothing and it took a left at Albuquerque........

MeijerTSR
MeijerTSR

Answer = none. You don't have the correct letters in Canada to spell cow. Just mho.

Not~SpamR
Not~SpamR

The first time I was presented with the clock question I blew all the other candidates out of the water by asking for a piece of paper and solving the puzzle. It's not difficult, the idea of questions like this is often to test how well candidates can think on their feet when something unexpected comes along. Nobody knows how many cars there are on the road network right now, or how many windows there are in New York or similar, but it's possible to take a best guess based on some guesstimates. You know, if there are 10m people in the city, living two to a property that makes 5m properties, times four windows per property makes 20m windows, plus maybe another 10m for offices, total 30m windows. Could be way off the mark, the interviewer probably wants to see some form of thought process rather than a blank look and an answer that boils down to "no idea"

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

In an interview for an IT Managerial position, I was asked these questions: 1. What is your favorite movie? - I always answer "The Lion King" because it's about getting what is rightfully mine. 2. If you were to be President for a day, what would you do? I answered: I would concentrate on education because education is the country's future so we can have better citizens who can do well at their jobs or businesses. There were many others of these types of questions but I remember these two quite well. Oh, I did not get the job or even a call back. :(

a.kenter
a.kenter

So, basically, they've already seen that you're fit to do the job, technically speaking. These questions are brilliant to determine what kind of personality you are, how you think, what your MO is, how you cope with whatever comes your way. It tests your flexibility and ingenuity, your wit and your ability to deal with the (seemingly) absurd. I wish these were the sort of questions I'd gotten on some interviews. Or then again: probably not. Happy where I am.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

BTO: Taking Care of Business -- "we love to work at nothing all day." Sort of like when Microsoft used the Stones' "Start Me Up" for Windows 95, in which the lyrics include "You make a grown man cry."

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