IT Employment

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"

jsargent
jsargent

It's the same as the bird in the cage question. I might expect such a question going for an engineering or a physicist's position. One question I was asked was: Two bicycle wheels, one covered in grease and the other with sticky paint. If you let them both go down a hill which will reach the bottom first ? I got the position but turned it down for somewhere else. Don't try to guess the correct answer since it's never the answer that matters but how you get there. Sometimes there are no correct answers.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Unless the asumption that the unsealed jar + the lid masses the same as the sealed jar, before it was unsealed is an acceptable assumption... Oh and are we using the same scales. When are you going metric? What if you put the jar on the scale upside down so they land on the top? :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

How do I know that? It's obvious.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Man hole covers were made round due to the previous interview question How would you design a manhole cover so it couldn't fall in? This is a stock question your interviewer googled it or read it in "Interviewing for real dummies"

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

Not only Americans watch Star Trek. I know for sure it was T'Pau from the episode "Amok Time". His fiance was T'pring but she wanted the challenge because she wanted to marry Stonn and she chose Kirk to be her champion and there had to be a fight to the death. However, since McCoy was present he was able to inject Kirk with a trioxide compound that simulated death. As a result, Spock's Pon Farr, or Blood Fever was resolved. Do I get the job? ;)

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Do you recognize it as a problem with yourself or the employers that ask them and don't hire you?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Given that you don't accept the underlying assumption that you want the employer and the role... If you do, practice balancing a beach ball on your nose, while flapping your flippers so they intersect. Might as well gets used to the manouever...

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Your conclusion assumes that these were the only interview questions asked. They could have conducted a very professional interview and just wanted to find out how you think through questions like these.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

When I was at the University, the professor asked us to come up with a new invention, so I dutifully did my assignment and came up with two: A catsup bottle holder that would hold the bottle upside down so all the catsup could be used and an electronic door key. So several years later, I saw my invention for the catsup bottle holder in a restaurant (draining the contents of one nearly empty bottle into a more full one) and, of course, we all know about electronic door keys. My ideas were ahead of our time. I can never prove it, but I'm pretty sure that he was taking the best of the class assignments and making money on them by getting patents. In these days, when pharmaceutical companies can patent your DNA right out from under you (speaking of those non disclosure agreements and the woman who finally won the first case after her DNA was used for a cancer cure), giving any potentially lucrative idea to an entrepreneur during an interview is shooting yourself in the foot, whether you need the job or not. My son worked for Amazon.com in Seattle and it was a miserable job which was just a bit on the shady side. Our illustrious Mr. Bezos may be innovative and gives the public what it wants with advanced technology, but he also does have manic depressive disorder, which can lead to some quite problematic situations if you have any sort of relationship. I've worked for the severely mentally ill and it is (and I'm being serious here) totally crazy. You would not believe.... My answer to the question to Jeff Bezos would be (since I'm happily retired and absolutely do not need a job) is, "Have you taken your meds?".

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The fact that you anaesthetise people is making us all uncomfortable...

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

If I am paid to. The only reason I get up and go to work is for money, anyone who says otherwise is a blatant liar. For a decent base salary, I'll wake up and go to work. For a good base salary I'll actually do work when I get there. For a lucrative opportunity where I make 6 figures, I'll wear that tu-tu, if it really floats your boat...but the money has to be there. We are all slaves to the grind, even those of us that are self employed. Money talks, BS walks.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Would you wear a tu-tu on Tututuesdays? And no I'm not taking ppps out of those struggling with a speech impediment.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

What you will end up with is someone who can BS on their feet rather than someone who will sit down and meticulously dissect a problem. Also, many of us will simply find the questions to be stupid and irrelevant to the task at hand and move on, as we should.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Most people who run businesses loathe upredictability. Their first reaction is what did you do wrong? Their second is to cut you mid flow, on account of you attempting to answer, means it was all your fault The third is to make sure you get the honours, now you've admitted it. My first reaction to a strange situation is questions not answers. So if that was the intent of these, and a quick glance at many of the actual questions should show it wasn't. Fail... Know your audience.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Did my math lack a rigorous proof? Okay I'll do the empire state one. H/h

Slayer_
Slayer_

Giving the actual answer doesn't tell them anything about your personality.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you are capable of coming up with and selling a million dollar idea, why are you applying for a 10$ an hour corporate wage slave position. You are going to be on Dragons den not in it.

jsargent
jsargent

Wasn't there a serial killer nurse that used a common substance used by anaesthetists to kill patients in a hospital?

Slayer_
Slayer_

That requires a 7 figure salary at least.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

that said the answer was so superheroes could throw them like a discus, they'd sit there waiting for you to 'know' that. Any interviewer who used this question over the last two decades is a waste of space.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Michael's link also confirms this - but then I still remember that, even though I was a kid when it aired! :)

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

Right! The Tri-ox compound was a ruse that McCoy used to allow Kirk to breathe easier in the thin Vulcan air. Which in fact was a neuroparalyzer . I still pass since the question was who officiated at Spock's wedding, and she is T'pau.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I've know a couple of people that were on that show and they were given the same comments everyone here in town gave them. A) until you own the patent on the whole package, it's not a worthy investment B) I've seen one, in a movie made over 40 years ago! They both had snuffed the feedback and went on the Den with no further preparation. First guy was shot down due to A, second was shot down due to B. Seriously, if people around you are coming up with this stuff. the dragons are bound to as that's what they do for a living. People always go on the fact that you should never give up, even if one person says it wont work, but at least get your act together first! LOL.