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Old 16 January 2013, 07:03 AM
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Icon19 25 weirdest job interview questions of 2012

To help job-seekers prepare job interviews, career guidance company Glassdoor every year compiles a list of questions that companies ask. They also pick out odd and unexpected questions. Here is what the firm identified as the 25 strangest interview questions of 2012:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_1...tions-of-2012/
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Old 16 January 2013, 07:07 AM
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8. "How would you rate your memory?" - Asked at Marriott, front desk associate candidate.
How is this even a little bit weird or silly?

-Tabby
the princess with claws
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Old 16 January 2013, 07:10 AM
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It's not always the weird questions that get you. I've blanked out a few times on questions that on the surface seem like simple personal questions. I got it out eventually, but I'm not really a quick thinker and things that require me to dig through lots of memories can make me take an uncomfortably long time to sort out. When it comes to these sort of weird/surreal/impossibly hard questions I do a whole lot better, because nothing totally stumps me given a moment to think about it, and it's not like anyone expects you to have the answer on the tip of your tongue for those.

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Originally Posted by Tabbyclaw View Post
How is this even a little bit weird or silly?
Yeah, it seems like a valid thing for them to want to know about. Granted, it's easy enough to lie in an interview, but that goes for just about any interview question. If the problem is that you don't trust their responses then why have an interview at all?

Personally, I prefer interviews with tests, and if they want to know about your memory they should test it rather than just ask you. But verbal only interviews are still pretty standard, and for a hotel front desk associate verbal interviews are probably as far as it normally goes.

Last edited by Errata; 16 January 2013 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 16 January 2013, 08:00 AM
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Among the standard ones designed to test how enthusiastic you are about the general job area, and whether you know how to estimate, think on your feet, defend your opinions or explain yourself clearly (I've had "How do you make a cheese sandwich?" myself - although the answer is different to "How do you make a tuna sandwich?"), this list is unusual in that there are some genuinely weird ones on there. At least, I can't see the obvious purpose of them:

Quote:
"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.
Is that to test against prejudices or something?

Quote:
"Can you say: 'Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper' and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?" - Asked at MasterCard, call center candidate.
Um... hand gestures?

There are some like "What kitchen utensil would you be?" which I personally think are rubbish and hate, but for a marketer it's not unreasonable to expect somebody to be able to "sell" a kitchen utensil. Really it means "Pick a random kitchen utensil and explain why it's best".

Some would be pretty weird for a different job, but make sense for the job mentioned.

Quote:
"What's your favorite song? Perform it for us now." - Asked at LivingSocial, Adventures City manager candidate.
By the sound of it, the job involves hosting entertainment of some sort for visitors, so the ability to be outgoing and to be able to sing a song at short notice is probably quite useful. They wouldn't want somebody who was going to hide under the table when asked.

I'm not sure about this one:

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"If you had turned you 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.
Maybe to test the assumptions you were making? "Sorry, I thought I'd switched it off" is different from "Sorry, I switched it off, I don't know why it rang". The interviewer would presumably follow up by asking "Why did you think that?" or "How could it ring if you switched it off?" or asking them how they'd confirm their excuse by turning it off and testing whether it still rang, and so on.
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Old 16 January 2013, 11:08 AM
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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.
He's here to warn us, "Don't stand too close to the rhino."
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
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.
He says "Where are the rest of the Runaway Guys?"
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:47 PM
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I don't think I should comment on the other applicants. But let me just say that penguins are mostly pathological liars. Also, they can't fly. I can fly better than a penguin if any flying is required. If any isn't then let me say that my swimming skills are above average for a human. Penguins cheat. - What?... No penguin actually came in here? Well, I think you'll find that if one did I'm quite good at responding to pathological liars. Like you. Not that I'm calling you a penguin.
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Old 16 January 2013, 02:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
....Maybe to test the assumptions you were making? "Sorry, I thought I'd switched it off" is different from "Sorry, I switched it off, I don't know why it rang". The interviewer would presumably follow up by asking "Why did you think that?" or "How could it ring if you switched it off?" or asking them how they'd confirm their excuse by turning it off and testing whether it still rang, and so on.
I'm wondering if they are looking to see whether you make excuses or apologize and take action to make sure it doesn't happen again.
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Old 16 January 2013, 02:35 PM
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6. "[Amazon CEO] 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.
Wouldn't a product development candidate be someone who helps develop products, so should be able tocome up with a quick idea of how to spend a million?

Some of these are pretty good exercises to show how you think, like the number of windows in NYC or how many quarters tall the Empire State Building is, so nothing too weird on them.
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Old 16 January 2013, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
By the sound of it, the job involves hosting entertainment of some sort for visitors, so the ability to be outgoing and to be able to sing a song at short notice is probably quite useful. They wouldn't want somebody who was going to hide under the table when asked.
LivingSocial are a bulk-buying firm (like Groupon), so that idea doesn't work. Although I'd take that question over any number of standard questions, which all seem to boil down to "Tell us why you're the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived and also are madly in love with this company" to me.
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Old 16 January 2013, 03:06 PM
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I think that is the purpose for many of the non-standard questions; they want to get you off script and out of the mode of telling the interviewer what they want to hear. Get someone to go on about a topic that seems totally unrelated to the job and they are likely to show you who they really are and how they think without realizing they are doing so. The problem is the questions have to keep evolving otherwise candidates prepare for the odd questions to. I remember a time when asking candidates what their favorite animal or color was or how they organized their closet became so common that most interviewees would have a answer prepared ahead of time.
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Old 16 January 2013, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
I remember a time when asking candidates what their favorite animal or color was or how they organized their closet became so common that most interviewees would have a answer prepared ahead of time.
And half the time they still got it wrong and were thrown into the chasm of doom?
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Old 16 January 2013, 03:26 PM
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I like to interview candidates at the edge of a deep pit. When they get a question wrong, I yell 'THIS IS SPARTA' and kick them in. It really cuts down on unqualified candidates wasting my time.
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Old 16 January 2013, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by BringTheNoise View Post
LivingSocial are a bulk-buying firm (like Groupon), so that idea doesn't work. Although I'd take that question over any number of standard questions, which all seem to boil down to "Tell us why you're the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived and also are madly in love with this company" to me.
LivingSocial also has an event planning/hosting aspect to their business.
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Old 16 January 2013, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by dfresh View Post
Wouldn't a product development candidate be someone who helps develop products, so should be able tocome up with a quick idea of how to spend a million?
I agree, but even moreso, a candidate for product development should already have some idea- not necessarily ready to roll of the line, but some idea. So this is really just a cute way of asking "If we hire you and give you the resources, what would be your next product?" Asked in a way that also can assess ability to think quickly, and to think through at least a rough budget- it's a million, not 10 million, but also not 10 thousand. And test to see if the candidate know who Jeff B is.
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Old 16 January 2013, 04:27 PM
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19. "Have you ever stolen a pen from work?" - Asked at Jiffy Software, software architect candidate.
That's an extremely important question - software, or the corporate held methods, is much easier to steal than a pen. The old saying is, "If you stole once you'll steal again."
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Old 16 January 2013, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by hambubba View Post
That's an extremely important question - software, or the corporate held methods, is much easier to steal than a pen. The old saying is, "If you stole once you'll steal again."
May be a little more convoluted, Hambubba--IIRC, polygraph operators used to calibrate their machines before the actual test by asking questions to gauge reactions to truthful/lying responses. One standard question was "Have you ever taken something like a pen or a stapler from work?" If the person answered "No," the response was always assumed to be a lie--everyone takes something home from work. That response would be marked to help gauge how a lie would later show up.

So it's a double-reverse: If you answer "No" to stealing a pen, the interviewer assumes you've done wrong and are covering it up. If you say, "Yes," then you took something that didn't belong to you. But if you say, "Yes, and I figured out a way to improve that pen so that the next year we increased our profitability and drove our competitor to stand closer to the rhino," then you're hired.
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Old 16 January 2013, 04:41 PM
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Amazon regularly challenges interview candidates. The two I know personally who recently interviewed were challenged to write some code on the spot, over the phone. That's not too odd, for computer jobs (although both are technical writers, not programmers), but they found the question bizarre because the interviewer seemed to expect them to spit out code without first determining the parameters.

Seaboe
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Old 16 January 2013, 04:45 PM
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"Brad, stop trying to make 'stand closer to the rhino' happen. It's not going to happen!"
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Old 16 January 2013, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
Amazon regularly challenges interview candidates. The two I know personally who recently interviewed were challenged to write some code on the spot, over the phone. That's not too odd, for computer jobs (although both are technical writers, not programmers), but they found the question bizarre because the interviewer seemed to expect them to spit out code without first determining the parameters.

Seaboe
From my experience, asking them to spit out code is pretty uncommon in programmer interviews. In my days as a programmer, I was only asked to do it once. I found the test so ridiculous, that I turned it into an interview question; I asked programmers to run me through their process for creating a new program. At least in the languages I've worked in, people commonly created code from other code and rarely build a program from scratch.
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