The ‘oddball’ interview questions

The ‘oddball’ interview questions

As much as excitement an interview call causes, the moment it settles in you realise that you will be sitting in front of hiring managers, or even the directors of some companies, who will throw a barrage of questions towards you. That part is known as fear.

With organisations in search of brighter talent, the way they determine a great candidate from a good candidate has changed too. The traditional ways of recruitment was to call a candidate in for an interview and after a few interpersonal questions, managers would switch to more particular questions more specific to the position you have applied for. This practice is now obsolete. A candidate I recently sent through for an entry level position had to undergo 5 different interview processes to be able to secure the position. One of the interviews was an “organisational fit” interview to determine how capable are you to align with the organisation and its culture.

Walking into and interview, you’d typically expect the interviewer to hammer you with questions testing your abilities, past history and knowledge of the company. Let me tell you that you are probably wrong. You’d think that it’s probably not the time or the place to find answer and solutions to the world hunger crisis .Again, you are wrong. That is exactly what happened to one candidate looking to be a software developer at Amazon.

Google’s odd questions range from relatively straightforward mathematical brain teasers like “Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes–without the process taking longer than nine minutes,” to truly head-slapping queries such as “A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?”

Google isn’t alone in this practice. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and many others have challenged the brains of prospective job candidates in some truly odd ways for a long time. Glassdoor has been publishing a compilation for only since 2009, but the idea has been around a lot longer than that.

This raises another question which is what is the reason and the need for the oddball questions? It is meant to challenge the candidate to think outside the box. A lot of us try and prepare answers to possible generic questions interviewers might ask. A candidate I recently sent through for the position was smart enough to prepare all the answers to question he thought might come up. They were the answers the interviewers wanted to hear, but their complaint was that the candidate had answered everything too correctly. Unfortunately, he did not get the position for answering everything correctly. This is why interviewers have designed oddball questions. It forces the interviewee to reach beyond prepared remarks and start engaging in problem solving on the spot.

Here are a few questions for your reading pleasure.

“How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 pm on a Friday?” undefined Asked at Google, vendor relations manager candidate

“If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” undefined Asked at Hewlett-Packard, product marketing manager candidate

“Given 20 ‘destructible’ light bulbs (which break at a certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height that the light bulbs break?” undefined Asked at Qualcomm, engineering candidate

“How would you cure world hunger?” undefined Asked at Amazon.com, software developer candidate

“You’re in a row boat, which is in a large tank filled with water. You have an anchor on board, which you throw overboard (the chain is long enough so the anchor rests completely on the bottom of the tank). Does the water level in the tank rise or fall?” undefined Asked at Tesla Motors, mechanical engineer candidate

“Please spell ‘diverticulitis’.” undefined Asked at EMSI Engineering, account manager candidate

“You have a bouquet of flowers. All but two are roses, all but two are daisies, and all but two are tulips. How many flowers do you have?” undefined Asked at Epic Systems, corporation project manager/implementation consultant candidate

“How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?” undefined Asked at Consolidated Electrical, management trainee candidate

“If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?” undefined Asked at Summit Racing Equipment, e-commerce candidate.

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Mansoor Walli

Google