‘What’s the capital of Canada?’ and other weird job interview questions
NEW YORK — What is your biggest flaw? Why are you looking for a new job? Why should I hire you?
These are pretty standard interview questions that any job candidate should be prepared to answer.
But what if the interviewer suddenly asked: What is the probability of an integer from 1 to 60,000 not having the digit 6?
Employers are getting more creative with their questions to help evaluate a potential hire’s skills, personality and fit with the company’s culture.
“Asking one of these questions can throw [candidates] off a little, and you get a real answer, not something they rehearsed over and over,” said Allison Berry, Glassdoor community expert.
Here are 10 tough interview questions job candidates reported being asked, according to Glassdoor:
1. “How do you explain a vending machine to someone who hasn’t seen or used one before?”
– Global Data Analyst, Bloomberg L.P.
You are really good at what you do. But are you able to convey your knowledge to people outside of your field? That’s what this question is getting at, explained Berry.
“A person in this position is mining through data all day long,” she said. “They are looking to find people who can communicate well and share results with people who might not be as well versed in data.”
2. “How many fire hydrants are there in Los Angeles County?”
– Software Engineer, Disney Interactive Studios
Chances are the employer doesn’t know the answer to this question, and is really looking to see how a candidate would solve the problem.
“Walk them through how you would approach the problem, don’t get tripped up doing math,” Berry recommended.
3. “If your current employer had an anniversary party for you, what five words would be written on the cake to describe you?”
– District Manager, Express
Think of this as another way of asking the common interview question of: How would your boss describe you?
While some people aren’t comfortable tooting their own horn, showcasing your talents is key in an interview. “You are one of many candidates, you have to show why you deserve the job over the others,” said Berry.
Berry suggested tying your answer to details from the job description.
“If the position is working on cross-functional projects with other teams, I would say, ‘my boss would say I am focused on building relationships”
4. “Who in history would you want to go to dinner with and why?”
– Flight Attendant, PSA Airlines
This is a good example of an employer trying to evaluate whether a candidate would fit in with the company’s culture and who a person is outside out of work, explained Berry.
“Be honest,” she said. “And explain why your person is interesting and why you chose him or her.”
5. “Prove that hoop stress is twice the longitudinal stress in a cylindrical pressure vessel.”
– Test Operations Engineer, SpaceX
While hiring managers want a glimpse of an interviewee’s personality, they also want to know a candidate has the required skills.
“You are likely going to be asked something directly tied to your knowledge of the skill set.”
6. “What’s the capital of Canada?”
– Team Leader, OpticsPlanet
This is an example of a question that is so random that it can get a candidate off any rehearsed answers.
“They aren’t necessarily looking for the right answer,” said Berry. “One thing you could say, ‘oh, I don’t know that off the top of my head, but I do know the major cities include…'”
P.S. It’s Ottawa.
7. “Name a brand that represents you as a person.”
– Brand Strategist, Twitter
Try and tie your answer back to the position, but don’t feel like you have to name the company you are applying to work for, advised Berry.
As a communications professional, Berry said she would answer Facebook, explaining that she’s “really focused on changing the way we communicate between people and businesses and Facebook is a great example that represents me because its changing the way people communicate and share around the world.”
8. “Estimate how many employees are in the next building”
– Data Scientist, Risk Management Solutions
Here’s a chance to show off your critical thinking skills on how you tackle problems.
Count the number of floors, windows and how many people per area and then explain your math, recommended Berry.
9. “How many happy birthday posts do you think Facebook gets in one day?”
– Sales Operations, Facebook
This is a dual purpose question: The interviewer is evaluating how much you know about the company and testing your problem-solving skills.
“You should know how many users [a company] has, recent product launched and where they’ve been in the news,” said Berry. “It’s a great way to demonstrate you are interested and excited about the company.”
10. “If you could take anyone on a road trip with you, who would you take and why?”
– Educator, lululemon
Employers like to ask potential new hires who will interact with customers questions to gauge personality.
If you are in the middle of answering a question and don’t like how it’s going, don’t be afraid to start over, said Berry.
“It’s always best for a job candidate to be honest. Take a moment and say, ‘I don’t like how I was tackling that, do you mind if I start over?'”