How many cows are in Canada? Photo via JelleS

Oh my, job interviewers will sometimes say the darndest things. And thanks to Glassdoor now we know what might be on top of their list next time you roll into the offices of Google, Amazon or Microsoft.

Glassdoor, which compiles salary reports and CEO reviews for companies, has now released a list of the top interview questions encountered by job candidates.

The top 25 list is below, including some doozies from Trader Joe’s, JetBlue and Forrester Research. But first I wanted to share some of the weirder interview questions from tech giants in our backyard, including Microsoft, Expedia and Amazon.

How would you answer these?

Microsoft:

“How many diapers does America go through in one month?” – Asked at Microsoft, Associate Product Manager candidateMore Microsoft interview questions.

“Why is a manhole cover round?” – Asked at Microsoft, Product Unit Manager candidateMore Microsoft interview questions.

Amazon:

“How much of your day do you smile?” – Asked at Amazon, Associate candidateMore Amazon interview questions.

Google:

“How many cows are in Canada?” – Asked at Google, Local Data Quality Evaluator candidateMore Google interview questions.

Zillow: 

“Will the company succeed? Why or why not?” – Asked at Zillow, Business Team Director candidateMore Zillow interview questions.

Expedia:

“Given a 7 digit phone number, find out all the words that can be formed using this number based on the T9 keypad.” – Asked at Expedia, Software Engineer In Test 1 candidate. More Expedia interview questions.

Meanwhile, here’s Glassdoor’s list of the top 25 oddball interview questions, a compilation from thousands of interview questions posted on the site. 

Which of these states would you kick out of the union? (Photo via Kevin Hutchinson)

1.       “If you were to get rid of one state in the US, which would it be and why?” – Asked at Forrester Research, Research Associate candidateMore Forrester Research interview questions.

2.       “How many cows are in Canada?” – Asked at Google, Local Data Quality Evaluator candidateMore Google interview questions.

3.       “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?” – Asked at JetBlue, Pricing/Revenue Management Analyst candidateMore JetBlue interview questions.

4.       “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 candidateMore Clark Construction Group interview questions.

5.       “What songs best describes your work ethic?” – Asked at Dell, Consumer Sales candidateMore Dell interview questions.

6.       “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 candidateMore Amazon interview questions.

7.       “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?” – Asked at Gallup, Associate Analyst candidate.More Gallup interview questions.

Know the Nobel prize winner on the left? You should if you want a job at Benefits Connect.

8.       “How would you rate your memory?” – Asked at Marriott, Front Desk Associate candidateMore Marriott interview questions.

9.       “Name 3 previous Nobel Prize Winners.” – Asked at BenefitsCONNECT, Office Manager candidateMore BenefitsCONNECT interview questions.

10.   “Can you say: ’Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?” – Asked at MasterCard, Call Centre candidateMore MasterCard interview questions.

11.   “If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?” – Asked at Trader Joe’s, Crew candidateMore Trader Joe’s interview questions.

12.   “How would people communicate in a perfect world?” – Asked at Novell, Software Engineer candidateMore Novell interview questions.

13.   “How do you make a tuna sandwich?” – Asked at Astron Consulting, Office Manager candidateMore Astron Consulting interview questions.

14.   “My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?” – Asked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Advisory Associate candidateMore PricewaterhouseCoopers interview questions.

15.   “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 candidateMore Accenture interview questions.

16.   “Estimate how many windows are in New York.” – Asked at Bain & Company, Associate Consultant candidate.More Bain & Company interview questions.

17.   “What’s your favorite song?  Perform it for us now.” – Asked at LivingSocial, Adventures City Manager candidateMore LivingSocial interview questions.

18.   “Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when time is 11:50.” – Asked at Bank of America, Software Developer candidateMore Bank of America interview questions.

Have you ever stolen a pen from work? (Photo via yoohoojuju)

19.   “Have you ever stolen a pen from work?” – Asked at Jiffy Software, Software Architect candidateMore Jiffy Software interview questions.

20.   “Pick two celebrities to be your parents.” – Asked at Urban Outfitters, Sales Associate candidateMore Urban Outfitters interview questions.

21.   “What kitchen utensil would you be?” – Asked at Bandwidth.com, Marketer candidateMore Bandwidth.com interview questions.

22.   “If you had turned you cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?” – Asked at Kimberly-Clark, Biomedical Engineer candidateMore Kimberly-Clark interview questions.

23.   “On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.” – Asked at Kraft Foods, General Laborer candidate.More Kraft Foods interview questions.

24.   “If you could be anyone else, who would it be?” – Asked at Salesforce.com, Sales Representative candidate.More Salesforce.com interview questions.

25.   “How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?” – Asked at PETCO, Analyst candidateMore PETCO interview questions.

Here’s how some random people on the street reacted to some of those questions.

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Comments

  • Guest

    Some of these questions are incredibly asinine. Do what I do when you’re faced with one: think outside the box.

    Interviewer (moron): How many cows are in Canada?

    Me: (blank stare)

    Moron: How many…

    Me: (intense stare)

    Moron: Is something wrong?

    Me: I’m applying to be an engineer. I have 24 years of education.

    Moron: How many cows –

    Me: — and you’re asking me about cows –

    Moron: — are in Canada.

    Me: I can do your job better than your entire team. Stop dancing around it and hire me.

    Moron: I just need to know how ma –

    Me: I’ll need $350,000 a year, 8 weeks’ vacation, and stock.

    Moron: — ny cows are in Canada.

    Me: I don’t usually come in until 11:00 AM and I usually leave by 5:30 PM. This is okay.

    Moron: How many cows –

    Me: I’d like premium meal service. Don’t make me wait in line with those live-tweeting mongoloids who wouldn’t know reality if it hit them right in the face.

    Moron: — are in Canada.

    Me: I think we’re good to go here. Would you kindly send an HR rep in so I can sign an employment contract?

    Moron: Cows?

    Me: Hang on. *removes phone from pocket, calls HR rep*

    Moron: Canada… da?

    Me: Hi, Nell? Yeah, it’s Leigh. I aced the interview and I’m being hired.

    Moron: How cows?

    Me: Yup, $350,000. And all the sugar on top. You can let this interviewer go now.

    Moron: So, any questions for me?

    Me: *shakes moron’s hand* Thank you. You won’t regret this.

  • Peter H

    I disagree with “Guest” — to the contrary, the estimation qusetions are fairly good tests of various types of reasoning. Most of us do estimation every day — from the rigorous type when planning a release, to the more ambiguous type when contemplating big new strategies.
    Estimating is a critically important skill. The reason for using “cows in Canada”, etc, is that it’s a new problem the candidate is not likely to have considered before — thus you get to see fresh thinking on the spot.
    I actually think a lot of these questions have great merit.
    OK, the question I don’t get is the one about the penguin in the sombrero. Outside of testing team fit (humor capacity) … what could they be measuring with this question?

    • Guest

      These questions generally server very little purposes. Interviewers like to think they are offer some great insight but really….how can they? I got asked once how I would go about building an airport. I answered, I would start by hiring someone with experience with building an airport. I thought it was a pretty good answer to a stupid question. But the interviewer seemed downright offended I didn’t play along.

      • Peter H

        So you are in charge of building this airport, and you totally delegate the task to someone else? You have no oversight, no planning, no involvement of any kind?

        If you were a mayor or governor, or CEO of a company that needed an airport, you’d just hire someone else and that’s it?

        In my view then, sir, you are a “No hire”.

        • Guest

          After seeing his response to my answer, I wouldn’t have taken the job anyway. See these questions can turn away good candidates, too.

        • KG

          No, all the mayors and governors and CEOs of the companies actually oversee and understand everything, do the engineering themselves and even go to the construction site to get involved in screwing bolts and mixing cement! What a brilliant question! I hope not all HR people are like you. Get more creative than that – ask interesting questions to get interesting answers and stop blaming people giving you the awkward answers.

    • zentechinc

      Says: “Stay away from the tequila.”
      It answers both what he would say and why he is there.
      Also, explain that of the 17 (or 19, its debatable) species of penguins, the majority don’t live in arctic climates so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see one all together (i went to the aquarium with my family over the Christmas =D).
      Basically, its a wise-ass test.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TiffanyRBenitez Tiffany Benitez

      I wouldn’t have a clue how many cows are on one farm let alone to estimate how many farms are in Canada to estimate the total number of cows!

  • Nathan Alden

    Most of these questions are purely about the interviewer getting to feel smug and in control in an interview rather than learning about the candidate. It’s an ego trip for the interviewer, plain and simple. Stop trying to find any kind of deep meaning in these questions, for there is none.

  • nymus

    All questions are about finding out your psychology, motivation and triggers, self esteem, creativity etc.!! It’s most often times stupid to answer these questions clearly and not answering is socially wrong. It’s best to clear the situation by responding with the hidden answer they try to reveal, if you want to play with open cards. Otherwise just play along and manipulate the interviewer into believing what he needs to belief, by solving the questions dependent on the job’s requirements. Only if you want the job.

    If you apply as a designer the penguin would be able to speak and the story behind it can be vibrant and creative. If you apply as manager the penguin’s presence would say that your subjects have gone out of control and require better leadership. And of course the penguin would only squeak, because it can’t speak. But beware that whatever the penguin says can speak for your reflecting and mirroring personality.

    If you’re intellectually more aware than a cow you would feel intimidated by these questions, but most people only see the question and not the intents behind them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TiffanyRBenitez Tiffany Benitez

    Where in the heck do you get answers to these kind of questions???

  • davidjovaz

    If an interviewer asks an off-the-wall question, such as used for the article’s headline — it’s a green-light to be creative & have fun by turning the tables. Having vast experience with bovine demographics, I’d ask the interviewer for clarification of what specific Canadian cows were of interest; Holstein, Jersey or Longhorns?

  • person

    Some of these questions have merit because they examine your thought process. BUT some of the others (sing to us? really?) seem like they’re downright demeaning, almost brinking on hazing. This IS the HR department, right…?

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