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Jamie Lawrence


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Top five tough interview questions from across the world


Last year we covered company transparency site Glassdoor’s 2014 report on the wackiest questions asked at interview. They’ve just released this year’s results and this year we’ve got data from United States and Canada to go with the questions asked in the UK.

It’s a pretty broad mix of companies asking ‘out there’ questions – this is a change on recent years when you would expect them only at a small handful of firms in specific industries, such as technology, professional services and consultancy.

Here they are…

Top five ‘tough’ UK questions
(click link to see full list)

  1. “Can you calculate how many tennis balls are used during the course of Wimbledon?” – Asked at Accenture, Analyst candidate (London, England)
  2. “Estimate the total number of cars in the UK.” – Asked at Barclays Capital, Trading Analyst candidate
  3. “How many calories are in a grocery store?” – Asked at Google, Product Manager candidate (London, England).
  4. “How would you sell a fridge to an Eskimo?” – Asked at Harrods, Temporary Sales Associate candidate (London, England).
  5. “What would you take to a lonely island with you and why?” – Asked at Urban Outfitters, Sales Assistant candidate (London, England).

Top five ‘tough’ US questions
(click link to see full list)

  1. “What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?” – Airbnb Trust and Safety Investigator job candidate (Portland, OR).
  2. “What’s your favorite 90s jam?” – Squarespace Customer Care job candidate (Portland, OR).
  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 Rotation Program job candidate (location n/a).
  4. “Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” – Stanford University Medical Simulationist job candidate (Palo Alto, CA).
  5. “If you had a machine that produced $100 dollars for life, what would you be willing to pay for it today?” – Aksia Research Analyst job candidate (New York, NY).

Top five ‘tough’ Canada questions
(click link to see full list)

  1. “If you could high five one person, living or not, who would it be?” – Lululemon Retail Educator job candidate (Toronto, ON).
  2. “If Labatt gave you a million dollars with the condition that you’d have to pay it back in 3 years, what would you do with it?” – Labatt Brewery Development Program job candidate (Toronto, ON).
  3. “If you only have one choice, do you prefer to work on time or correctly?” – BlackBerry Employee job candidate (Victoria, BC).
  4. “How can we move Mount Fuji?” – TELUS Design Specialist I job candidate (location n/a).
  5. “If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?” – Starbucks Barista job candidate (Calgary, AB).

It’s interesting to see question number three on the UK list, considering that Google’s Head of HR Laszlo Boch said in July 2013 that brainteaser questions are a “complete waste of time.”

He added: “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

I remain sceptical of the value of these questions. The rationale behind them is ostensibly finding out how someone thinks and the way they work through problems, in which case a more work-focused question would surely be more valuable.

On another note, some of these questions aren’t even that hard. I mean, who would win in a fight between Spiderman or Batman?

Spiderman, obviously. Batman’s not even got any special powers…

3 Responses

  1. Firstly, I’m going to have to
    Firstly, I’m going to have to go with Batman as the winner of that speculative fight. Batman has enough money for gadgets and gizmos to handle Spidey.

    Secondly, some of these questions are a bit off the wall and you do wonder what value they serve. Some though seem to challenge the interviewee to either think creatively or creates an opportunity to understand the interviewee on a more personal level (ie – knowing what they’d take on a lonely island, who they’d hi-five).

    I’ve never been given an “out there” question in an interview, but the one I did prepare for was “If you could be any animal, which one and why?”, which doesn’t seem to be on any of those top 10 lists so guess I better pick a new one.

    1. I know which question I’d ask
      I know which question I’d ask in an interview. It’s “If you could shrink any animal in the world down to the size of your fist and keep it as a pet, what would you choose”..

      Completely pointless, but my preference would be either a killer whale or a polar bear.

      1. I don’t think it’s any more
        I don’t think it’s any more pointless than the other questions in the list – the aim is to see how people think on their feet and problem solve.

        In any case, I think Batman would beat Spiderman on even a bad day, and if I had to shrink any animal down it would be a gorilla or an elephant – or would you have some water to keep the killer whale in?

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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