Over the last year, a number of my UBC Faculty of Management students have asked me about so-called behavioral interview questions, which seem to be the new norm in job interviews. Behavioral interview questions or role playing situations are designed to get the interviewee off balance and to elicit more revealing responses about the character, ethics and personality of the candidate.
Frankly, I had a couple of situations where I was fairly convinced that the student would face some kind of awkward interview question. At least so far, that has not occurred. There was one situation with a prominent international commercial bank, where the student was asked to role play with seven other job candidates, she had never seen before. Nevertheless, job candidates should anticipate more of these “behavioral” questions, be prepared to think on their feet, and develop creative responses to these behavioral questions. Most important of all, students and alumni job seekers should keep their feet firmly on the ground of “who they are.” This means being themselves, honest and straight. That will come through in any interview. If that doesn’t work, it probably wasn’t a good fit for you anyway.
Following are 14 of the weirdest questions known to have been asked of job candidates at Apple, Google, Dell and a number of other companies. My recommendation for dealing with these questions is to recognize that they are in many cases unanswerable. Some can be answered with your personal experience, but most will require you to think on your feet. Today, I had an example on Quora, a site designed for asking and answering questions of any kind. The question was, “How many people work in technology in Silicon Valley?” I decided to reply, “About half of them.” This was actually an answer I remembered from Pope John XXIII in the 1960’s, when asked how many people worked at the Vatican… This is what you need to do.
Amazon asks: “Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?”
MasterCard asks: “Can you say: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?”
Dell asks: “What songs best describe your work ethic?”
Jiffy Software asks: “Have you ever stolen a pen from work?”
Google asks: “How many cows are in Canada?”
Kimberly-Clark asks: “If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?”
LivingSocial asks: “What’s your favorite song? Perform it for us now.”
Zappos asked: “What superhero would you be and would you dress up at work given the chance?”
Warner Bros. and Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Gallop asked: “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?”
Andre Vieira/Getty Images
JetBlue asked: “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?”
Clark Construction Group asked candidates for an engineer position: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”
PriceWaterhouse Coopers asked: “My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?”
Bain and Company asked: “Estimate how many windows are in New York.”
Apple asks: “What kind of animal would you be and why?”