Research from Michael Page Recruiting revealed that weird job interview questions – such as ‘Which three non-essentials would you pack on a trip to Mars?’ – offer the opportunity to shake up the interview processes in the fight to secure talent.
The research study found that 41% of people have been asked an out of the ordinary question in their job seeking history, but 54% would not expect to be asked a question of this sort whilst being interviewed.
Dean Ball, regional managing director of Michael Page, says: “Weird interview questions can spark interesting reactions from candidates but they are also an extremely useful way for businesses to differentiate between candidates who have similar qualifications and experience on paper… They give candidates a chance to step outside the traditional boundaries of the interview process and really demonstrate their creativity, ability to apply logic and how they work under pressure.”
According to new Glassdoor research – Do Difficult Job Interviews Lead to More Satisfied Workers? Evidence from Glassdoor Reviews – hard job interviews have been statistically linked to higher employee satisfaction.
The interview difficulty was measured on a five-point scale, was four out of five. Scale one is very easy, three is average, and five is very difficult. However, once the interview surpasses the difficulty of four out of five, subsequent employee satisfaction drops… The easiest two-point interviews, and the most difficult five-point interviews, are both associated with lower employee satisfaction, says the research study.
The research shows that the interview processes can affect employee satisfaction, by affecting the quality of matches between job seekers and positions and hence the broader company culture for years to come.
Alistair Cox, CEO of recruitment Hays focuses on 3 key questions.
- ‘Would I enjoy working with you?’
- ‘Would they work well with the team?’
- ‘Will you help make my firm succeed?’
Cox says: “As many recruitment failures stem from a cultural mismatch between individual and organisation, you need to give your interviewer enough insight into your character to assess whether you have the humour, resilience, adaptability, initiative, ambition, passion and integrity to work well together.”
“When preparing for an interview, think of how you have created effective and valuable working relationships. Share instances where you have put aside personal ambition for the benefit of the wider team.”
“Similarly, I want to hear specifically what they had done to solve problems and deliver successful results in their previous roles. I don’t want people who will just do their job; I want people that consistently make a positive difference.”
The following lists of tough interview questions asked by recruiters at Google, Apple, Facebook and elsewhere, was compiled by Business Insider using Glassdoor’s research. The questions were designed to challenge the candidate to act under pressure and see how the applicant solves problems.
Susan Underwood, Glassdoor’s Head of Global Recruiting and Talent Acquisition, said: “Job candidates at employers across all industries should be ready to answer any question, from the most basic to the most challenging. Employers are asking tough interview questions to test a job candidate’s critical thinking skills, see how they problem solve on the spot, and gauge how they approach difficult situations. Employers want to determine how different candidates respond to challenges, and those who respond well may have the edge when it comes to receiving a job offer.”
Joe Wiggins, Glassdoor’s Head of Communications – Europe, said: “It’s all about finding the right fit and for certain jobs and certain industries, there is a place for unusual, brain-teaser interview questions. Just make sure you know why you are asking them… Often it is to see how you react under pressure. It’s to see what happens when the rug is pulled from under you – how do you prepare for the completely unexpected? … The message for candidates is to be prepared for anything and try to practice these sorts of questions, but not to worry too much. No one is going to know the answer to these things.”
Google’s interview questions:
- List six things that make you nervous. — Android Support
- If you wanted to bring your dog to work but one of your team members was allergic to dogs what would you do? — Associate Account Strategist
- Describe AdWords to a seven-year-old. — Associate Account Strategist Interview
- What do you know about Google? — Administrative Business Partner Interview
- How many cars travel across a bridge each day? — Advertising Interview
- If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be? — Associate Account Strategist Interview
- If I gave you 10 million dollars right now, what would you do? — Associate Account Strategist
- What would you want to do if you didn’t have to work? — Interaction Designer
- Tell me a joke. — Executive Assistant Interview
- How would you improve a shoe factory? — Field Operations Specialist
- Name a prank you would pull on x manager if you were hired. — Google Applications Support Engineer
- If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be? — Associate Account Strategist Interview
- If you had access to a bank’s database, how would you use that information to design an ATM for elderly people? — Associate Product Manager
- You have a colony on Mars that you want to communicate with. How do you build a system to communicate with them? — Associate Product Manage
- How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack? — Business Associate
Apple’s interview questions:
- “How many children are born every day?” — Global Supply Manager candidate
- “If you have two eggs, and you want to figure out what’s the highest floor from which you can drop the egg without breaking it, how would you do it? What’s the optimal solution?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Describe an interesting problem and how you solved it.” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Explain to an eight-year old what a modem/router is and its functions.” — At-Home Advisor candidate
- “You have a hundred coins lying flat on a table, each with a head side and a tail side. Ten of them are heads up, 90 are tails up. You can’t feel, see or in any other way find out which side is up. Split the coins into two piles such that there are the same number of heads in each pile.” — Software Engineer candidate
- “How would you breakdown the cost of this pen?” — Global Supply Manager candidate
- “A man calls in and has an older computer that is essentially a brick. What do you do?” — Apple Care At-Home Consultant candidate
- “You put a glass of water on a record turntable and begin slowly increasing the speed. What happens first — does the glass slide off, tip over, or does the water splash out?” — Mechanical Engineer candidate
- “Tell me something that you have done in your life which you are particularly proud of.” — Software Engineering Manager candidate
- “You seem pretty positive, what types of things bring you down?” — Family Room Specialist candidate
- “Why do you want to join Apple and what will you miss at your current work if Apple hired you?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labelled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” — Software QA Engineer candidate
- “How would you test a toaster?” — Software QA Engineer candidate
In a recent interview, CEO Tim Cook said that the hiring process itself was key to maintaining the company’s culture during a period of growth.
Speaking to Fast Company, Cook said: “You’re trying to pick people that fit into the culture of a company. You want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it.”
Once through the door, new starters are initiated in to the Apple way by an orientation process that focuses on the company’s philosophy – a process called Apple U.
Cook said: “Apple U takes things that happened in the past and dissects them in a way that helps people understand how decisions were made, why they were made, how successes occurred, and how failures occurred. All of these things help.”
So what is this philosophy? Arrive at simple solutions to complex problems. As Jobs put it: “Work hard to get your thinking clean”.
“Ultimately, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone,” Cook explained. “Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Glassdoor also reported on the weirdest and toughest questions asked during the recruitment process at Facebook.
- “How many birthday posts occur on Facebook on a given day?” – Data Scientist candidate
- “How much do you charge to wash every window in Seattle?” – Online Sales operations candidate
- “Describe how the website works. (That’s the whole question, with no context.)” – Technical Project Manager candidate
- “How do you deal with communicating less than favourable information?” – Training candidate
- “How would you build Facebook for blind people?” – Product Manager candidate
- “How many vacuums are there in the USA?” – Risk Analyst candidate
- “What options do you have, nefarious or otherwise, to stop people on a wireless network you are also on (but have no admin rights to) from hogging bandwidth by streaming videos?” – Production Engineer candidate
- “A Russian gangster kidnaps you. He puts two bullets in consecutive order in an empty six-round revolver, spins it, points it at your head and shoots. *click* You’re still alive. He then asks you, do you want me to spin it again and fire or pull the trigger again. For each option, what is the probability that you’ll be shot?” – Internet Marketing Analyst candidate
- “You’re about to get on a plane to Seattle. You want to know if you should bring an umbrella. You call 3 random friends of yours who live there and ask each independently if it’s raining. Each of your friends has a 2/3 chance of telling you the truth and a 1/3 chance of messing with you by lying. All 3 friends tell you that ‘Yes’ it is raining. What is the probability that it’s actually raining in Seattle?” – Data Scientist candidate
Recent Research by Glassdoor brought to light more tough interview questions.
The list of questions is set below.
1. “Which magic power would you like to have?” – Topshop Sales Assistant job candidate (Portsmouth, England).
2. “If you were a fruit, what kind would you be and why?” – Topdeck Travel Trip Leader job candidate (London, England).
3. “If you could have dinner with three actors that are no longer living, who would you pick?” – Blackberry Commercial Director job candidate (Berkshire, England).
4.“How many hours would it take to clean every single window in London?” – IBM IT Role job candidate (Portsmouth, England).
5.“How do you get an elephant in a fridge?” – Gemalto Software Engineer job candidate (London, England).
6. “If the time is quarter past 3, what is the angle measurement on the clock?” – Standard Bank Group Product Control Lead job candidate (London, England).
7. “If you had three minutes alone in a lift with the CEO, what would you say?” Network Rail Management Accountant job candidate (London, England).
8. “How many people born in 2013 were named Gary?” – BT Senior Proposition Manager job candidate (London, England).
9. “What will you be famous for?” – EY Director job candidate (London, England).
10. “How many nappies are purchased per year in the UK?” AVIVA Graduate Programme job candidate (London, England).
Business Insider has compiled a list of some tough and a weird questions asked by recruiters at Netflix. The list was compiled using Glassdoor’s research.
- “What would you tell someone that is calling to talk about how Blockbuster is better than Netflix?” — Customer service representative candidate
- “How many cans of paint would you need to paint one wing of a 747?” — Marketing manager candidate
- “A customer calls and angrily tells you that they ordered Barney (or similar toddler show) for their kid. The kid can work the DVD player, and knows the Netflix envelope. When the movie arrived the kid grabs it and pops it in. Turns out it’s a slasher movie. What do you do?” — Customer service representative candidate
- “How would you test the latest iPhone’s new antenna system?” — Senior QA engineer candidate
- “Who do you think is Netflix’s competitor and why?” — Creative coordinator candidate
- “Explain how the process works from the time you enter http://www.Netflix.com into your browser and the data is rendered on screen.” — Software engineering manager candidate
- “Tell me something that you did in the past, but don’t want to do ever again.” — Engineer candidate
- “How will you handle the culture difference from where you come from and Netflix?” — QA engineer candidate
- “What was the most difficult termination you faced in your work history?” — Supervisor candidate
- “Tell us about a time you screwed up at your previous job.” — Coordinator candidate
- “What’s your favorite TV show and movie, and how do you like to watch them?” — Senior software engineer candidate
- “How would you handle an employee that has attendance issues when we do not have an attendance policy in place?” — Customer service supervisor candidate
- “Say the CEO stops by your desk and asks you whether or not we should go into an untapped market. How would you determine the size of the addressable market and the factors the Netflix should consider before deciding to enter the market?” — Senior financial analyst candidate
- “Of everyone on your team at your current employer, who would you keep and who would you fire and why?” — Senior software engineer candidate
- “How many people have you fired?” — Director of engineering candidate
- “If Netflix is looking to expand its presence in Asia, what are some factors that you can use to evaluate the size of the Asia market, and what can Netflix do to capture this market?” — Senior financial analyst candidate
- “How would you determine if the price of a Netflix subscription is truly the deciding factor for a consumer?” — Market research analyst candidate
- “Name 5 devices you can watch Netflix on.” — Systems engineer candidate
- “How do you handle managing someone that is more than twice your age?” — Operations manager candidate
- “What would you do if you were the CEO?” — Partner product group candidate
Here are the trickiest questions asked by LinkedIn recruiters to challenge the candidate under pressure and assess their problem solving abilities:
- Which part of our product do you dislike the most? — Senior Data Scientist Candidate
- What would you do if you won $100 million? Relationship Manager Candidate
- What TV shows do you enjoy watching? – Customer Success Representative Candidate
- How many pens can you fit into an airplane? – Sales Development Specialist Candidate
- How would you measure the weight of the Earth? Products Candidate
- What would you like to be known for in the office? “The guy who…”? Sales Development Specialist Candidate
- How many windows are there in San Francisco? Sales Development Specialist Interview Candidate
- If you were leaving on a one week vacation what are the three things you would bring? Business Leadership Program Candidate
- Tell us about a weakness in working for a team? Technical Operations Candidate
- What problem did you solve in your career that you are most proud of? Site Reliability Engineer Candidate
- How many golf balls would fit into a 747? Recruiting Associate Program Candidate
- How do you measure success? Marketing Candidate
- How many cubes are exposed in a Rubrik’s Cube? Scientist Candidate
Business Insider using Glassdoor findings compiled a list of the toughest questions asked by recruiters at Snapchat.
“Who is your favourite author and director?” – Content Analyst candidate
“What is something you noticed in the consistency of our stories?” – Content Analyst candidate
“They ask you to create a part of a [Snapchat] Story during the in-person interview process.” – Content Analyst candidate
“Which [Snapchat] story was your favourite, and which was the one you liked the least?” – Content Analyst candidate
“How do you work under pressure? Are you willing to work long hours, nights, and weekends?” – Trust and Safety Specialist candidate
“Who would you bring to Mars with you, and what values would you want the team there to have?” – Trust and Safety Specialist candidate
“If you could rename Snapchat without using the words ‘snap’ or ‘chat’ what would you name it?” – Content Analyst candidate
“What kind of storyteller are you?” – Content Analyst candidate
Business Insider has used Glassdoor data to find some of the most unusual questions asked by Dropbox.
“If you were given a genie lamp that can grant you any power to any person, what would you give, to whom?”
“What is something you’re geeky about?”
“What is a super power you would give your best friend?”.
“If you have 1,000 sales leads/inquiries a day, how would you prioritise them?”
“What metrics would you use to see how happy customers are?”
Recruitment Grapevine reported on the favourite interview questions that successful leaders like to ask during the hiring process and the surprising results those questions could have.
A full list of the remaining executives and their questions can be found below;
“How would you describe yourself in one word?” – Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA
“How old were you when you had your first paying job?” – Hannah Paramore, President of Paramore
“What’s your superpower … or spirit animal?” – Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite
“What is your spiritual practice?” – Oprah Winfrey
“What is your favourite quote?” – Karen Davis, Senior Vice President at Hasbro
“Can you tell me the story of your prior successes, challenges, and major responsibilities?” – Lonne Jaffe, CEO of Syncsort
“What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?” – Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
“’Walk me through your résumé, particularly why you changed from one job to the next.” – Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest
“If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great 12 months it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?” – Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack
“What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?” – Brad Jefferson, CEO of Animoto
“What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them, ‘What is the one characteristic that they totally dig about you, and the one that drives them insane?’” – Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon
“A hammer and a nail cost $1.10, and the hammer costs one dollar more than the nail. How much does the nail cost?” – Jeff Zwelling, COO of ZipRecruiter
“If you worked in a restaurant, what role would you want?” – Ajeet Singh, ThoughtSpot CEO
“If I were to say to a bunch of people who know you, ‘Give me three adjectives that best describe you,’ what would I hear?” – Michelle Peluso, CEO of Gilt Groupe
“Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.” – Peter Thiel, President of Clarium Capital
“What was the last costume you wore?” – David Gilboa, Co-CEO of Warby Parker
“Can you tell me about a time you ran with a project from start to finish?” – Jess Levin, Chief Executive of Carats & Cake
“Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?” – Wayne Jackson, CEO of Sonatype
“What would someone who doesn’t like you say about you?” – Stanley McChrystal, Founder of the McChrystal Group
“What have you invented?” – Lori Senecal, CEO of the MDC Partner Network
More tough questions compiled by Glassdoor:
Interview questions in the UK
1. “Can you calculate how many tennis balls are used during the course of Wimbledon?” – Accenture
2. “Estimate the total number of cars in the UK.” – Barclays Investment
3. “How many calories are in a grocery store?” – Google
4. “How would you sell a fridge to an eskimo?” – Harrods
5. “What would you take to a lonely island with you and why?”– Urban Outfitters
6. “Is Batman a super hero?” – AlphaSights
7. “You have 17 red and 17 blue balls, and you remove 2 at a time. If the two are the same colour, add in one extra blue ball. They are different colours, add in an extra red ball. What colour is the final ball removed?”– Geonomics
8. “What cartoon character would you be and why?” – ASDA
9. “What is the wildest thing you have done?” – Metro Bank
10. “What was your opinion of the film Blair Witch Project?” – Jefferies & Company
Interview questions in the US
1. “What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?” – Airbnb
2. “What’s your favorite ’90s jam?” – Squarespace
3. “If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them how would you choose which ones to answer?” – Dropbox
4. “Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” – Stanford University
5. “If you had a machine that produced $100 for life what would you be willing to pay for it today?” – Aksia
6. “What did you have for breakfast?” – Banana Republic
7. “Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.” – Spirit Airlines.
8. “If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, what would you do?”– Bose
9. “How many people flew out of Chicago last year?” – Redbox
10. “Who’s your favorite Disney Princess?” – Cold Stone Creamery
According to Recruitment Grapevine one firm recently made the candidates kiss a living crocodile as a part of the interview, while a restaurant asked their prospective workers to show off their limbo dancing skills.