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by Vault Careers | January 10, 2011


Perhaps the stranger the interview question, the tougher the job market.

Unless companies are desperately trying to weed out as many applicants as possible, how else could one explain an interview question like “Explain to me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years”?

That was just one of BNET’s top 25 Weirdest Interview Questions of 2010.

A few of our other favorites:

  • • Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required? (Reportedly from Bloomberg LP)
  • • An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents. How much is a pear? (Reportedly from Epic Systems)
  • • You are in a dark room with no light. You have 19 grey socks and 25 black socks. What are the chances you will get a matching pair? (Reportedly from Convergex)

So what’s an interviewee to do?

Well, frankly, we can’t help you with the math problems. But when answering most oddball queries, especially open ended ones like, “If you were a punctuation mark, what would you be and why?”—it may be helpful to keep in mind that the “because” part of your answer is usually more important than your actual pick.

That’s because interviewers are usually just trying to get a feel for your management or leadership style, or your overall personality.

Before you answer, go over your “story” in your head (who you are, what you do, and how that fits in with the position and company in question).

Then, instead of worrying you’ll be judged for picking an m-dash over a set of ellipses, ask yourself what ideal quality the company is trying to wheedle out here. You may think of something like innovation, or creativity, or detail-oriented. Great! Work back from that to your answer.

“Period, because I finish what I start,” or “Exclamation point, because of my passion and enthusiasm.”

And there you have it: your answer to the bizarre interview question.

Unless that question is "How many traffic lights are in Manhattan?" (Reportedly from Argus Information and Advisory Services). Then you’re in trouble.

Read more:
BNET’s top 25 Weirdest Interview Questions of 2010.

-- Posted by Cathy Vandewater,


Filed Under: Interviewing