25 of the Most Outrageous Interview Questions
CNBC.com News Editor
"If you could get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?"
Florida? C'mon, you've always had a thing against Florida since that whole hanging chad business. California? Alaska? One of the Dakotas? Do we really need two Dakotas?
This is just one of the 25 weird questions that job site Glassdoor.com found in its annual survey of oddball interview questions. The question was asked by a Forrester Research interviewer for a position as a research associate.
Most people walk into a job interview expecting, "Tell me a little bit about yourself," or "What are your strengths and weaknesses," but the truth is, these crazy questions get asked at all types of companies, from Bank of America to Amazon.com.
"What do you think about when you are alone in your car?"
That question was asked during an interview for an associate analyst position at Gallup.
How would you answer it? I suppose "a string of profanity and karaoke" would be an unacceptable answer.
"I would say, 'On the way to work I'm thinking about the 20 things on my to-do list when I get into the office,'" said Amanda Lachapelle, director of HR and talent acquisition for Glassdoor. "That demonstrates that you're on and ready to go when you get there."
"What song best describes your work ethic?"
That question was asked at Dell for a consumer sales job.
"'Under Pressure' by Queen!" Lachapelle said.
"'I'm a Rolling Stone,' because I take it as it comes!" one man said.
"'She Works Hard for the Money!'" a woman responded.
(Watch a video of employees randomly asked some of these oddball questions by Glassdoor.)
"Have you ever stolen a pen from work?"
That question was asked during an interview for a software architect position at Jiffy Software.
"Yes, but not on purpose!" the candidate answered.
We're not connecting any dots here, but just sayin' ... that candidate did not get the job.
"Glassdoor gives us free pens!"
Most difficult questions, such as, "How many balls would it take to fill this room?" are designed to test your creativity, critical thinking, and how you handle pressure.
But some are designed just to see if you're a good cultural fit for the organization.
Here's by far the best one on the list this year:
"A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?"
That question was asked by a recruiter for a position as office engineer at Clark Construction Group.
If you're really thrown off by an oddball question, stop for a moment. Take a breath ... and think of something! A clever response is to use something like that to sell yourself.
"My penguin is going to come in the door and say, 'You should hire Amanda — she's organized and she has her stuff together. You want her to lead your team,'" Lachapelle said.
Uh, yeah, but what about the sombrero?
"He had a margarita before he came in!" she said.
"It's how you think. Your social fit," Lachapelle explained. "Are you fun?"
Incidentally, the candidate for that job answered, "Where's the sun screen?" ... and got the job.
If you're stumped, whatever you do, don't say, "I don't know."
Employers are trying to test your creativity, critical thinking, and your ability to handle pressure and all you've got is, "I don't know?"
"Part of it is kind of creating good conversation," Lachapelle said. "Saying 'I don't know' stalls the conversation a bit," she said.
I'd say. That's a conversational dead end!
Seriously, do you really want an interviewer to conclude that, after knowing each other just five minutes, you have nothing else to say to one another? God forbid you run into one another in the kitchen while heating up a Lean Cuisine — those will be the longest five minutes of your life!
On the "don't" list, Lachapelle suggests, never speak negatively about a past employer or former co-worker.
And never, under any circumstances, miss an opportunity to sell yourself. Even if a penguin walks into the room!
Here's the full list of Glassdoor's 25 outrageous interview questions for 2013:
"If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?" — Asked at Forrester Research, research associate candidate.
"How many cows are in Canada?" – Asked at Google, for a local data quality evaluator position.
"How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?" – Asked at JetBlue, for a job as a pricing/revenue management analyst.
"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.
"What songs best describes your work ethic?" – Asked at Dell, consumer sales candidate.
"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.
"What do you think about when you are alone in your car?" – Asked at Gallup, for an associate analyst position.
"How would you rate your memory?" – Asked at Marriott, front desk associate candidate.
"Name three previous Nobel Prize winners." – Asked at Benefits CONNECT, office manager candidate.
"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.
"If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?" – Asked at Trader Joe's, crew candidate.
"How would people communicate in a perfect world?" – Asked at Novell, software engineer candidate.
"How do you make a tuna sandwich?" – Asked at Astron Consulting, office manager candidate.
"My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?" – Asked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, advisory associate candidate.
"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.
"Estimate how many windows are in New York." – Asked at Bain & Co., associate consultant candidate.
"What's your favorite song? Perform it for us now." – Asked at LivingSocial, Adventures City manager candidate.
"Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when time is 11:50." – Asked at Bank of America, software developer candidate.
"Have you ever stolen a pen from work?" – Asked at Jiffy Software, software architect candidate.
"Pick two celebrities to be your parents." – Asked at Urban Outfitters, sales associate candidate.
"What kitchen utensil would you be?" – Asked at Bandwidth.com, marketer candidate.
"If you had turned your cellphone to silent mode, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?" – Asked at Kimberly-Clark, biomedical engineer candidate.
"On a scale from one to 10, rate me as an interviewer." – Asked at Kraft Foods, general laborer candidate.
"If you could be anyone else, who would it be?" – Asked at Salesforce.com, sales representative candidate.
"How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?" – Asked at Petco, analyst candidate.
How would you answer these questions? Have a crazy question of your own? Drop your comment in the box below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.