Technology

Odd technology job interview questions revealed

Apple's Steve Jobs
Image caption The late Steve Jobs was no stranger to asking tough questions during interviews

"If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?"

That was the head-scratcher asked during a job interview for a product marketing post at Hewlett-Packard.

Technology firms featured heavily in this year's list of the 25 most oddball questions compiled by the US employment website Glassdoor.

Careers experts said the questions were intended to make a candidate display a thoughtful approach to problem-solving.

As well as HP's brain-acher, interviewees at other companies were asked:

  • "How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2.30pm on a Friday?" (Google)
  • "How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?" (Consolidated Electrical)
  • "If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?" (Summit Racing Equipment)
  • "You're in a row boat, which is in a large tank filled with water. You have an anchor on board, which you throw overboard (the chain is long enough so the anchor rests completely on the bottom of the tank). Does the water level in the tank rise or fall?" (Tesla Motors)

Glassdoor said that while technology companies included questions designed to catch candidates off guard, they also posed tried and tested queries such as "Why did you apply for this job?" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?".

Apple abuse

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was notoriously tough on employees. In his authorised biography, Mr Jobs is said to have asked an "uptight" interviewee: "Are you a virgin?"

However, surprising questions can be an effective way to gauge a candidate's character, said Rusty Rueff, careers and workplace expert for Glassdoor.

"There's a bit of pressure to find how you think on your feet, trying to test that a little bit," he told the BBC.

Image caption Tough questions help test the best prepared candidates hoping to work for the top tech firms

"But more importantly, they're trying to get at how someone thinks, how they solve the problem."

Users submitted over 150,000 interview questions to Glassdoor this year.

Mr Rueff said the interviewers often did not have a correct answer in mind, but wanted candidates to display a coherent, logical thought process.

"What's most important is that you take a big deep breath, you don't get flustered, and you think out loud," he said. "Talk right through it."

Other questions included:

  • "Please spell 'diverticulitis'" (EMSI Engineering)
  • "How would you cure world hunger?" (Amazon)
  • "Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?" (Deloitte)
  • "Given 20 'destructible' light bulbs (which break at a certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height that the light bulbs break?" (Qualcomm)
  • "You have a bouquet of flowers. All but two are roses, all but two are daisies, and all but two are tulips. How many flowers do you have?" (Epic Systems).

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