Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Asking Absurd Interview Questions

Maybe you’ve seen lists of unusual interview questions. Jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor publishes such a list each year to emphasize that job seekers need to be prepared for anything during the interview process and show they can think on their feet.

What Companies Ask

Here are the most recent Top 10 Oddball Interview Questions from Glassdoor, compiled from job seeker submissions:

  1. Asked at SpaceX: “When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?”
  2. Asked at Whole Foods Market: “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?”
  3. Asked at Dropbox: “If you’re the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?”
  4. Asked at Urban Outfitters: “What would the name of your debut album be?”
  5. Asked at J.W. Business Acquisitions: “How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?”
  6. Asked at HubSpot: “If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?”
  7. Asked at Trader Joe’s: “What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?”
  8. Asked at Boston Consulting Group: “If you were a brand, what would be your motto?”
  9. Asked at Delta Air Lines: “How many basketballs would fit in this room?”
  10. Asked at Uniqlo: “If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours?”

More Than a Laugh

While these questions may be good for a chuckle, do they actually reveal anything about the candidate? And are they relevant to the job?

Glassdoor and a number of experts say yes. Answers allow job candidates to showcase their problem-solving ability and creativity. Answers may also reveal whether a candidate fits with the company culture.

The theory is that these kinds of questions get candidates to relax, let down their guard, and demonstrate what they have to offer.

Going Too Far

For some candidates in some situations, perhaps.

However, many candidates—including qualified, highly capable candidates—find the interview process stressful. Ask these candidates about exploding hot dogs and you probably won’t get the desired response.

Indeed, when you ask absurd interview questions you run the risk of alienating candidates, and they may leave (flee) the interview questioning your company’s hiring practices and then talk about the experience on social media.

Obtaining Insight

Granted, success with these kinds of questions depends partly on the delivery.

A personable recruiter or hiring manager who exhibits a sense of humor and provides context for the questions has a better chance of eliciting meaningful responses, especially if the interview takes place in person. Virtual interviews don’t lend themselves to picking up on personality cues as easily. As for telephone interviews, well, tossing out an oddball question is likely to land flat.

Which begs the question: Why chance it? Arguably, there are better ways to find out what you need to know about candidates.

Behavioral interview questions provide insight into a candidate’s problem-solving ability and creativity, and show how he or she has applied them in the workplace.

Work history speaks to past success.

Reference checking allows you to obtain information about the candidate from people who have worked with him or her.

Pre-employment testing provides additional information.

Asked, and Answered

Oddball interview questions may come across as smart and trendy to those doing the hiring. But candidates scrambling to ace a tough interview in order to secure what seems, or seemed, like a great position aren’t as impressed, as evidenced by comments at Glassdoor and on social media.

Companies appear to be getting the message that they sometimes go too far. Google, known for an intense interview process that includes downright bizarre questions, has stopped asking some of its more difficult questions.

Still, don’t expect oddball interview questions to completely vanish from the recruitment landscape. Glassdoor has been publishing its annual list for the past five years, and the company indicates it “combs through hundreds of thousands of interview questions” to arrive at the top 10.