The hiring methods of top companies like Google and Netflix seem to be on the radar of just about every HR professional.
We love to read about the strange quirks and cutting-edge tech that they’re using to fill some of the most competitive positions around.
Before these candidates get to dive in with unlimited leave, free lunch, fitness classes and even contributions to student loans (yes, really!), they’ve got to get through the interview process. These companies generally put huge effort into their brand reputation and management, so they can really afford to be picky due to the generous number of applicants.
At many of these companies, culture is king. Oftentimes this is prioritised over experience, qualifications and achievements in candidates that are closely matched. This can lead to out-of-the-box and sometimes downright bizarre questions designed to really get to know the person behind the CV.
If you’ve ever wanted some inspiration as to the interview questions you might want to try (or ones to avoid), then check out the top seven weird interview questions that we’ve found…
What was the last gift you gave someone?
This question is used by Gallup, to give more insight into who the candidate is outside of the workforce. It also keeps the candidate on their feet as the interview changes pace to include more about their personal life.
This often prompts a warm and emotional response that bridges the gap between professional appearances and creates a common ground with the interviewer. They may reveal the birth of a new family member, a close friend’s birthday or memorable moment. This is a great way to open up the interview and get to know that person on a more authentic level than simply the contents of their CV.
As an interviewer looking to understand where this person would fit within the company culture, a peek into their personalities and values can be essential.
How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
This question comes to us courtesy of Google, as a common question for Product Managers. This isn’t designed to test the most obscure knowledge in the world, it’s an exercise in logical reasoning. Even if you have no idea how many pianos there are in the world or how often they have to be tuned, you can still excel at this question.
The candidate has to reason through the number of pianos they believe there are in the world, how often these need to be tuned and how long this would take. From there, they can work out how many tuners would be required to do the job, breaking down the required hours into full-time positions.
Candidates that baulk and can’t reason their way through this problem won’t succeed in these interviews! Their culture is built on clear communication and reasoning, they really want to see that candidates can talk through what they’re thinking and why.
How would you handle an employee that has attendance issues when we do not have an attendance policy in place?
It’s well known that Netflix has a culture like no other, and as such, this can make for a tricky adjustment for supervisors. This question aims to decipher how a supervisor would deal with this culture shift.
Ideally, the candidate will focus on the workload, rather than the attendance of the individual. They may approach the question with the caveat that action should only be taken should the level of work not be what is expected of the position.
Authoritarians don’t fit in with this culture, so if someone was to state they would come down hard, they wouldn’t be likely to make it to the next stage. They want to see that potential managers would be considering the contributions of the staff member, rather than how often they’re at their desk.
However, the exception to this would be where the attendance begins to impact the work that is being completed. In this case, the second part of their response tells the interviewer how they would deal with this.
How would you assemble a piece of IKEA furniture without instructions?
This is a question posed by Uber for Remote Community Support Representative candidates. Most of us find flatpack furniture difficult enough to assemble, even with the instructions! Thankfully, this is a hypothetical question, so candidates don’t have to take on this mammoth task.
The key here is understanding how the candidate thinks; are they the kind of person that will work backwards from the big picture or use the clues they have to understand what the big picture is?
Candidates might start by counting the numbers of various items that you have and plotting where they’ll fit before tackling the assembly. Others might lay out all the large pieces and work out how the object fits together then take assembly to the next level.
Assessing the communication style and thought process of the candidate is the goal here; how will these styles mesh with others in the same team?
What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?
Airbnb wants you to think about how you’d survive on a desert island, so watching all of those seasons of Lost might just come in handy! This is another reasoning question, in which it’s essential for the interviewee to show that they can prioritise the most immediate needs, like food and shelter.
Depending on how the candidate approaches the question, you get an insight into what makes them tick. Are they a methodical thinker or do they add more tasks as they think of them? This helps to gauge whether they will fit into the culture of the office too, will this complement others in the same role or team?
This can also lead to a good discussion about Desert Island Discs, which can add a fun, informal element to bring the candidate further out of their shell.
Why should we not hire you?
This question from recruiters at Twitter seems almost impossible to answer! It calls into the same arena as recruiters asking you to name your biggest weaknesses or worst qualities.
Just like with these questions, candidates are so accustomed to talking themselves up in an interview that the idea of speaking negatively can be shocking. As they scrabble for something that’s negative, but not too negative, some recruiters and hiring managers believe that this shows the candidate’s true colours.
However, as we discussed in a recent blog, there are some much better alternatives to get a measure of your candidate. Negative questions tend to make candidates clam up and analyse their answers more, which leads to a stilted and uncomfortable interviewing scenario.
How would you solve problems if you were from Mars?
This question, used over at Amazon, is definitely a tricky one! It plays on your assumptions of what you’d be like if you were from Mars and how you would translate your Martian experience to earthling problems. Sounds confusing, right?
For the interviewer, you’re looking to see how the candidate reasons through the challenges that being from Mars would present. They might think about how they would communicate, the preconceived notions that would be challenged or even the logistics of being on another planet!
There’s a lot of room for interpretation with this question, so it can tell you how the interviewee thinks based on which challenges they attempt to tackle first.
Best Practice for Interviewing
While these questions can be interesting, remember that an interview should be “a controlled conversation with a purpose”, according to Torrington and Hall. Bear this in mind through the process to direct the interview with purpose.
The CIPD also suggest standardising all questions for all candidates, so don’t just pick and choose the questions that you feel like on the day. While you want to be able to be flexible, you also want to be able to compare them easily.
Above all, think about any confirmation biases that you may be unaware of. Mirror imaging, for example, can cause you to subconsciously favour a candidate with a similar personality or traits to your own. This can be remedied by having additional interviewers or practical tests, which give you more of a measure of their potential job performance.
Plan, measure your objectives and use the interview tools at your disposal to get the best candidate for the role – whether you want to know how they would survive after a plane crash or not!