Want a job at Apple or Yahoo? You’ll have to answer these outrageous interview questions

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Here’s a wacky interview question: If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why? Photo via Flickr user dno1967b.

Why are manhole covers round? How many cows are in Canada? How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?

These are just a few examples of actual interview questions — you’ve probably heard of a few. Today we get a glimpse into even more crazy inquiries thanks to Glassdoor, which just published its annual list of the top 25 oddball interview questions for 2014.

Some of them are simply ridiculous: For example, Apple asks, “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” Or, how about this one from Xerox: “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?”

Seriously?

Glassdoor, which compiles salary and workplace data on more than 300,000 companies, has hand-picked the most ludicrous questions from companies like Yahoo, Airbnb and Goldman Sachs. (Side note: If you’re wondering what the most common interview questions are, Glassdoor has put together of list of those, too.)

How would you answer these questions? And do you think they’re even a good way to gauge if someone will be the right fit at your company? Let us know in the comments below.

1.“If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be?” – The Zappos Family, Customer Loyalty Team Member interviewMore The Zappos Family interview questions.

2. “How lucky are you and why?” – Airbnb, Content Manager interviewMore Airbnb interview questions.

3. “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” – Apple, Specialist interviewMore Apple interview questions.

4. “If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?” – Red Frog Events, Event Coordinator interviewMore Red Frog Events interview questions.

Why are tennis balls fuzzy? I have no idea.

Why are tennis balls fuzzy? I have no idea. Photo via Flickr user Horia Varlan.

5. “Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?” – Dell, Account Manager interviewMore Dell interview questions.

6. “If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” – Yahoo, Search Quality Analyst interviewMore Yahoo interview questions.

7. “If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” – Bed Bath & Beyond, Sales Associate interviewMore Bed Bath & Beyond interview questions.

8. “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” – Norwegian Cruise Line, Casino Marketing Coordinator interviewMore Norwegian Cruise Line interview questions.

9. “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” – Xerox, Client Manager interviewMore Xerox interview questions.

10. “What is your least favorite thing about humanity?” – ZocDoc, Operations Associate interview.  More ZocDoc interview questions.

11. “How would you use Yelp to find the number of businesses in the U.S.?” – Factual, Software Engineer interview.  More Factual interview questions.

12. “How honest are you?” – Allied Telesis, Executive Assistant interviewMore Allied Telesis interview questions.

pizzahut

Goldman Sachs has asked this interview question: “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?”

13. “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?” – Goldman Sachs, Programmer Analyst interviewMore Goldman Sachs interview questions.

14. “Can you instruct someone how to make an origami ‘cootie catcher’ with just words?” – LivingSocial, Consumer Advocate interviewMore LivingSocial interview questions.

15. “If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?” – McKinsey & Company, Associate interviewMore McKinsey & Company interview questions.

16. “You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?” – Urban Outfitters Sales Associate interviewMore Urban Outfitters interview questions.

17. “How does the internet work?” – Akamai, Director interviewMore Akamai interview questions.

18. “If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?” – SinglePlatform, Inside Sales Consultant interviewMore SinglePlatform interview questions.

How would you answer this question: "What is the color of money"

How would you answer this question: “What is the color of money”

19. “What’s the color of money?” – American Heart Association, Project Manager interviewMore American Heart Association interview questions.

20. “What was the last gift you gave someone?” – Gallup, Data Analyst interviewMore Gallup interview questions.

21. “What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?” – Applebee’s, Bartender/Neighborhood Expert Server interviewMore Applebee’s interview questions.

22. “How many snow shovels sold in the U.S. last year?” – TASER, Leadership Development Program interviewMore TASER interview questions.

23. “It’s Thursday; we’re staffing you on a telecommunications project in Calgary, Canada on Monday. Your flight and hotel are booked; your visa is ready. What are the top five things you do before you leave?” –ThoughtWorks, Junior Consultant interviewMore ThoughtWorks interview questions.

24. “Describe to me the process and benefits of wearing a seatbelt.” – Active Network, Client Applications Specialist interviewMore Active Network interview questions.

25. “Have you ever been on a boat?” – Applied Systems, Graphic Designer interviewMore Applied Systems interview questions.

  • panacheart

    These are all straight from the old Microsoft interview play book. I remember answering dozens of these in different interviews. Brain teasers, and seemingly innocuous fun questions that illicit creative responses, but they’re looking for your core values, “out of the box” thinking etc. They even had interview cards. I still have a set of them on my book shelves.

  • anon

    Interviewing can be a great experience for the interviewer. You can make the candidate do all sorts of wacky things, put them on the spot, make them feel dumb, even embarrass them, and come away feeling pretty darn smart about yourself! It’s great fun. Microsoft was the classic place to do this back in the day, but now there are lots of places where you can do it and it’s OK.

  • Guest-ola

    Question #17 is outrageous? You’re interviewing for a company that’s providing core internet technology and they ask “how does the internet work?” you better be able to answer it!

  • guest

    Why are you an A-hole?

  • Guest

    Excellent SEO by Glassdoor here.

    When you’re asked an idiot question like this, do what I do: take control of the situation.

    Interviewer (idiot): Have you ever been on a boat?

    Me: I’m sorry. Could you repeat that question? (Presses record on audio recorder)

    Idiot: Have you ever been on a boat?

    Me: I’m here to interview for the position of Graphic Designer. Is seafaring a requirement for your Graphic Designers?

    Idiot: Look, sir, it’s just a question we ask. Have you ever been aboat?

    Me: You’re probably aware that men of Caucasian ethnicity have been aboard boats in greater numbers than men of African and Asian ethnicity in this country have. Aren’t you concerned that this question is racially discriminatory?

    Idiot: Just tell me whether you’ve been on a boat, sir.

    Me: (Flicking through Wikipedia on my phone) And, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Now, wouldn’t you agree that this is a racially biased question?

    Idiot: Sir, it is not required that you have boated as a condition of employment here. Have you been on a boat?

    Me: Furthermore, I frequently get seasick whilst I am on a boat. Discriminating against hiring me because of an ailment that you could reasonably accommodate is a Federal crime. Would you kindly explain why you are asking your question?

    Idiot: Listen, shitbrain! TELL! ME! HAVE! YOU! BEEN! ON! A! BOAT!

    Me: This environment is far too hostile. What’s your boss’s e-mail address?

    Idiot: (Tells me)

    Me: Thank you. I’ll be sending a copy of this racist, discriminatory line of inquiry to him/her. Would you kindly hand me your I.D. badge?

    Idiot: I will do no such thing!

    Me: I’ve decided to usurp your position. I’ll report for work tomorrow. You’ve been fired.

    Idiot: No!

    Me: Afraid so.

    Idiot: Damn it!

    Me: (Presses 5 on desk phone) Security, there is a racist belligerent man in interview room 4. Please remove him. Use force if you must.

    Idiot: No force!

    • bregalad

      The candidate started by politely asking why the boat question was relevant. At that point I would have said it wasn’t relevant and moved on. However, I like to throw at least one curveball in every interview to force people to step outside their rehearsed interview answers and a candidate who responded to an unusual question with an accusation of racism would find him/herself looking elsewhere for a job.

      • Guest

        Don’t throw curveballs. They provide no insight into a cand’s suitability and they might even get you fired!

        • bregalad

          I suppose that depends on your definition of a curveball. Your boat question would be perfectly reasonable if you were trying to hire staff for a catering company in San Diego.

          I try to help introverts with easy questions about their interests. Some of our best employees were very nervous during their interviews.
          I also try to knock confident extroverts off their game a little. I’ve been fooled more than once by people adept at spinning yarns and saying what I wanted to hear.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Want a job at GeekWire? You’ll need to learn to write SEO-optimized headlines. You say “For example, Apple asks, “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors”. What a distortion of reality (perhaps appropriate given the company, eh?).

    One person at Apple (if that) asked that question and you report it as if this is a standard Apple interview question. There’s no validity to this list, nor does Glassdoor claim there is. Glassdoor compiled it to get free publicity and you fell for it. And so did I. :-(

    There is an interesting story here, buried in a side note. Anyone doing an interview should be prepared for the most common interview questions on their list. While this list is necessarily biased towards general questions (since questions for specific jobs wouldn’t be popular enough), I think most candidates could expect to be asked at least one of those questions and should be able to nail solid answers.

  • Slaggggg

    You are all missing the point that half of these are designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of ICP’s Miracles. For example the correct answer to “How does the Internet work” is “What is a horse?” Give that answer, they will know you are a true juggalo, and you are in.

  • http://www.recruitingtoolbox.com/blog John Vlastelica

    These articles make me crazy. Even though it says “outrageous”, I see so many hiring managers reference stuff like this to justify asking questions that make them look not-smart to smart candidates. Candidates learn what we value, what the job really is, who were are…all by the questions we ask.

    We’ve trained thousands of hiring managers in interviewing at all kinds of companies, including many of the tech leaders, and I can tell you that the leaders who hire great talent, who have a high bar, who can get really smart people engaged in an interview steer clear of these type of questions; they don’t predict on the job success, and they don’t position us as clever or smart.

    Focus on the real-world challenging problems that the candidate will face – and give them those problems to solve. A-players want to be interviewed, and are listening for meaty, challenging work as they interview us.

    Can I get a hallelujah? :)

  • http://www.JakeMiller.Me Jake Miller

    Google asked me how alarm clocks work.

  • John

    It’s a shame when you think of all the incredibly talented people these companies must pass on because they don’t know a sufficiently clever answer to these utterly inane questions.

  • gseattle

    Often the best answer to an odd question (or any) is to gather more information.

  • RunTheNumbers

    I was once asked which website most closely resembled my personality.

    My response: not one single website that I’ve ever found would even remotely match my personality. When you were asked this question, what did you say?

    The interviewer’s retort: I wasn’t asked this question.

    • SaurabhJays

      My facebook profile,thats facebook.com/myname