We’ve all heard about the unusual interview questions coming out of silicon-valley and the fad of interviewers asking candidates to draw a pig, but the jury’s still out on the purpose of these questions.
Google’s senior VP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, admitted that quirky questions don’t indicate anything, yet others say they aid the recruitment process.
Some say oddball questions expose qualities like how candidates think or how creative they are. Others believe they can ascertain if a candidate is right for the company.
Whatever the purpose, there’s no doubt that interviewers are asking some crazy questions these days.
Here are ten of the most unusual interview questions we could find.
1. ‘A penguin walks through that door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?’
The Clark Construction Group asked this when interviewing for an office engineer.
This is all about ‘how you think. Your social fit,’ according to Amanda Lachapelle, director of HR and talent acquisition for Glassdoor.
If your office has a specific culture, carefully chosen (albeit odd) questions might help to determine if candidates will fit in at your workplace.
Also, in case you were wondering, the answer that landed the job was ‘where’s the sunscreen’.
2. ‘How do you fit a giraffe in a fridge?’
This question is courtesy of UBS and the key to answering it well is simplicity. According to this ‘IQ’ test the best answer is ‘open the door and put him in’
Some roles require people who think of every possible scenario. Others, the opposite. This question encourages candidates to over or under scrutinise, depending on their perspective, so if you want some insight into how much your candidates think, the question could help.
3. ‘Do you believe in Bigfoot?’
When recruiting a new casino marketing coordinator, Norwegian Cruise Line took a legendary direction.
Suggested answers ranged from ‘do you want me to believe in Bigfoot?’ to ‘yes, I am married to her.’
Unfortunately we’re none-the-wiser as to what this question is supposed to reveal about your candidates, so let’s move on.
4. ‘What do you consider to be the greater good?’
This question might make your brain hurt, so it’s apt that it came from software company ThoughtWorks.
A spokesman explained that this question establishes goal compatibility.
“Our mission is to better humanity through software and help drive the creation of a socially and economically just world. Finding capable people who share this mission is important to us.”
If your company has specific goals or ideologies creating quirky questions surrounding them might help you to find like-minded candidates.
5. ‘How many ping pong balls fit into a 747?’
For wannabe ‘masters of the universe’, this is the kind of question Goldman Sachs might ask you.
The aim of this question probably isn’t to get the right answer, although if you happen to know (42 million, according to Boeing) it probably won’t hurt.
Instead this could be to see how much thought candidates give the answer. Are there passengers aboard? Does the plane need to be able to transport the ping pong balls? Can you squash the balls?
These questions will all change the answer. If you need someone detail-orientated, this question could expose this quality.
6. ‘What’s the colour of money?’
Glassdoor’s community expert, Scott Dobroski, cited this question (from the American Heart Association) as his favourite.
For some people the answer might feel obvious. Green, right?
Where you’re from the currency may be green, but it’s not the only currency in the world, and even if it were, coins aren’t green.
This question could uncover how much homework your candidate has done. Those looking to make a good impression could turn this question around to be relevant to the company in some way.
7. ‘Is this round?’
During an interview for the London School of Economics, mid-answer, the interviewer interrupted the candidate by holding up a tennis ball and asking ‘is this round?’
Years later the candidate was able to ask the interviewer his intentions. He explained that ‘It is very tedious listening to so many students talking the same old rubbish, I do it to alleviate the boredom.’
While this isn’t advisable, perhaps this tactic could be adopted to see how distractible a candidate is.
8. 'How would you explain Facebook to your grandma?'
Huddle asked this question to budding sales executives, and though it seems random, the thought behind it is simple.
This question is about describing something technical to someone non-technical. Given Huddle deals with the abstract business of the cloud, it’s easy to understand why they wanted prospective salespeople to demonstrate this skill – even if the specifics were irrelevant.
Still, the candidate admitted ‘it threw me at first.’
Not strictly a question, but nonetheless highly unusual.
Electronics retailer Currys gets a zero for professionalism after recruiters asked candidates to dance to a Daft Punk song during a sales assistant interview.
Currys has since apologised and stressed that this is not an official part of their recruitment process.
Do not try this one at home.
10. ‘Are you an asshole?’
LinkedIn group Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi opened a discussion topic asking the group ‘What are the worst interview questions you’ve ever heard?’
The best contribution came from Heather Wilde who wrote:
‘When interviewing people, I always ask "Are you an ass****?"’
A little extreme, but Wilde elaborates, this is about the response, not the answer.
‘I use the interview time to try to gauge if you're a good fit for the corporate culture.’
Bonus question: ‘is it easy to get away with stuff around here?’
It’s not just recruiters who ask strange questions. John Kador, from Monster, once met an interviewer who was genuinely asked this by an interviewee.
Many of these questions show that the occasional unusual question doesn’t hurt if your intentions are good.
As for this person, however, I don’t think he got the job.
(Updated December 14th 2018 by Callum Sharp)