Job Interview Hell

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Fortunately my days of giving and sometimes attending interviews are now past but I’m still interested in the process of how people get promoted, get new jobs etc. It’s a common topic when I get together with (younger) friends and colleagues. In my own experience most interviews have been reasonably civilised affairs, with both sides trying to achieve something informative and useful, even if the process is inevitably a bit fraught and artificial.

In this respect, I came across this set of ‘tough’ interview questions (originally gleaned from the careers website Glassdoor):

1. “What on your CV is the closest thing to a lie?” – Marketing and Communications Employee, The Phoenix Partnership

2. “What am I thinking right now?” – Regional Director, TES Global

3. “How would your enemy describe you?” – Advertising Sales Grad Scheme, Condé Nast

4. “If you had a friend who was great for a job and an identical person who was just as good, but your friend earned you £2,000 less, who would you give the job to?” – Associate Recruitment Consultant, Hays

5. “What’s the most selfish thing you’ve ever done?” – Graduate Consultant, PageGroup

6. “You are stranded on the moon with a group of other astronauts and you need to travel 200 miles back to base, here is a list of 15 items salvaged from the wreckage of the spacecraft you were travelling in. List them in order of importance.” – Sales Employee, Turnstone Sales

7. “If your best friend was here what advice would he give you?” – Central Clearing Counterparty, American Express

8. “Describe your biggest weakness. Then describe another.” – Forward Deployed Software Engineer, Palantir Technologies

9. “How do you cope with repetition?” – Product Specialist, Tesla Motors

10. “How would you describe cloud computing to a seven-year old?” – Graduate Scheme, Microsoft

11. “There are three people, each with different salaries, and they want to find the average of them without telling any of the other two their salary. How do they do it?” – Technical Delivery Graduate, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

12. “Who is your hero, and why?” – Product Quality Employee, GE

13. “What’s your the biggest regret managing people so far?” – Area Director, Regus

14. “What would you ask the CEO if you met him one day?” – Performance Analyst, British Airways

15. “You have 50 red and 50 blue objects. Split these however you like between two containers to give the minimum/maximum probability of drawing one of the colours.” – Operations Analyst, Clearwater Analytics

16. “What does social justice mean to you?” – Content Marketing Manager, ThoughtWorks

17. “What is your coping mechanism when you have a bad day?” – Consultant, Switch Consulting

18. “Are you a nice guy?” – Product Manager, Badoo

19. “Provide an estimate for the number of goals in the premier league.” – Management Accountant, VAX

20. “Tell me about your childhood.” – Learning and Development Employee, Next

They are actually quite interesting questions, although hardly likely to be appreciated in the stressful atmosphere of a job interview.

For question 9, I’d be quite tempted to reply ‘Can you repeat the question please?’. Well, at least you’d then know if they had a sense of humour!

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2 Responses to Job Interview Hell

  1. Jeremy says:

    Yes, well, I wonder which interviewers ask this sort of inane question for which sort of post. I have to interview for document controllers from time-to-time, and all I am interested in is whether they can do the job (or could do the job) and fit into the company persona.

    Of the questions above, only (7) comes close to anything I would ask (which actually be, “What about your current job would you be most likely to complain about to your partner/best friend?”)

    As for (15), the question as stated can’t be correct. However you split the objects, the probability of drawng one of the two colours is always 100% …

    • David Pottinger says:

      I’m sure these are ‘outliers’ picked to be outrageous and may not even be correct (inaccurately remembered). However I’m also sure a milder version of these crop up in ‘aggressive’ environments (in fact friends have reported as such). Some of the questions are similar to those allegedly used by Google and others (easy to find examples through a web search). As you say, apart from shock tactics (testing ability to handle awkward people or pressured situations), how effective or useful they may be in choosing candidates is quite another matter! Thanks for the comment.

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