Weird Interview Questions That Google, Dell, and Amazon Ask

by Vault Careers | August 21, 2013

For years, corporations large and small have been using the same prescription when conducting interviews: ask candidates what they can bring to the table, ask candidates about their experience, tell candidates about the job and company, then ask candidates if they have any questions. However, recently, many corporations, including Google, Dell, and Amazon, are finding that they’re drowning in a sea of impressive resumes and, as a result, are testing, along with technical knowledge, creativity and ingenuity by asking candidates to field some rather unusual interview questions.

For example, Dell has been known to ask this question in interviews: “What song best describes your work ethic?” Meanwhile, the Marriot Hotel chain has asked job candidates this: “How do you rate your memory?” And Amazon has at times required applicants to respond to the following: “If Jeff Bezos [Amazon’s CEO] walks into your office and tells you he’s going to give you a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea, what idea do you give him?”

What all these questions aim to test, along with the ability to think creatively and cope under pressure, is whether candidates have outside interests and, perhaps, a passion for something.

And some companies are taking this interview-question tactic one step further, also testing applicants’ analytical skills, maturity, and capacity to have a little fun on the job.

For example, Forrester Research has posed this interview question to candidates: “If you could get rid of one state in the U.S., which one would it be and why?” Google has asked this brainteaser: “How many cows are there in Canada?” And MasterCard has put this tongue twister/mind bender to applicants: “Please say ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ while cross-selling me a washing machine.”

Sadly, there are no textbook answers to these questions. But what might help you field these questions is this: walking into your next interview realizing that your sense of fun might be more closely examined than your latest employment responsibilities. This just might help you relax enough so that you’ll be able to adeptly answer any curveball question thrown your way.

Of course, you could also just hope to receive a relatively easy unusual interview question, such as this one recently posed to a Kraft Foods applicant: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate me as an interviewer?”

Emma Street is an HR manager for a Fortune 500 company with over a decade of HR, management, and recruiting experience. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer for Free Resume Builder.

Filed Under: Interviewing


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