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Blowing Up a Pointless Job Interview 692

Nemo the Magnificent writes "Ever been asked a question in a job interview that's just so abysmally stupid, you're tempted to give in to the snark and blow the whole thing up? Here are suggested interview-ending answers to 16 of the stupidest questions candidates actually got asked in interviews at tech companies in 2013, according to employment site Glassdoor. Oil to pour on the burning bridges."
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Blowing Up a Pointless Job Interview

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @10:51PM (#46009717)

    "Do you have any weaknesses?"
    "Yes, I hate stupid interview questions"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @10:52PM (#46009729)

    Somewhat interesting concept, but those were really lame.

    Then again, the closest I have done was when asked if I had any experience with clearcase or rhapsody. My response was something along the lines of "yes, but I've been trying to put that behind me".

    • by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:23PM (#46009907)

      Seconded. Incredibly lame answers. He missed the obvious answer to #3:

      3) "If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?" -- Apple, Specialist interview.

      That would mostly depend on which neighborhoods I'd be delivering to. I suppose I could feel a bit safer, though since almost every robber has a gun, now, I'm not sure scissors would cut it. (for best results, interrupt the next question with "get it? 'cut it'", then maintain a blank stare for as long as possible)

      • Re:Tame and lame (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:52PM (#46010079) Journal

        Actually, that question, while itself lame, does serve a purpose if the job requires creativity. They want to watch your come up with something different, and do it outside your comfort zone. If the interviewers are sharp enough, it will also give them a clue as to how you would fit into their culture.

        In my current job (originally as a sysadmin, now DevOps)? I went through a battery of technical grilling, then I was asked point-blank:

        "Is there intelligent life in Outer Space"?

        I answered yes, then asked to defend my position. I spent the next 45 minutes in back-and-forth debate involving my bringing out Drake's Equation, panspermia, extrapolation of odds, and many other related topics.

        I got the job, and quickly discovered the reason why... the company is chock-full of full-on geeks, many of whom have a passion for their respective skills, and share many common cultural touchpoints, which allowed me to fit in perfectly.

        It's stuff like that which you really cannot pick up on by asking dumb crap like "what is your greatest weakness."

        • Re:Tame and lame (Score:5, Informative)

          by mattie_p ( 2512046 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:06AM (#46010169)

          Answer: Yes.

          Rationale: There is an International Space Station currently in what is commonly known as space. This is manned by astro/cosmo/nauts, which are a subset of an intelligent species. Therefore, yes.

      • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:27AM (#46010289)

        3) "If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?" -- Apple, Specialist interview.

        It was a trick question to determine how much shame you have. The answer would be to jam them in your throat and hope you are reincarnated into a better life.

      • by strength_of_10_men ( 967050 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:17AM (#46010519)

        3) "If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?" -- Apple, Specialist interview.

        "Well, I would still have to watch out for rock, but I wouldn't be very afraid of paper."

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @10:53PM (#46009731) Homepage

    How to successfully end an interview.

    Spud's interview [] [NSFW]

    None of the ones in the article even come close.

  • The ones I hate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @10:56PM (#46009749)
    The ones I hate are the ones designed to make people angry for "psychological" reasons (they really just want to bait people), although nobody who has even read a book on the topic is involved. If it's not NASA, and even if it is and you haven't been warned that they would be such stuff, then it's not on. When the military do that sort of stuff it's not completely out of the blue.
  • by bigsexyjoe ( 581721 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:06PM (#46009797)

    When you are young, desperate, and eager to please, they ask you all the stupid questions. Their apparent motive is just to fuck with you and assert dominance.

    When you are older and have a resume, they don't bother with the stupid questions. They just ask you about code and projects.

    • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:19PM (#46009873) Homepage

      In other words, the number of stupid questions is inversely proportional to your perceived value to the company. An experienced employee can easily walk away if he does not like your questions - and what then will you tell your boss who is desperate to fill that Project Lead position? Especially if the boss was also present at the interview? Good Project Leads are hard to find. You won't even talk to a good Code Monkey every day.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:23PM (#46009905)

      Not true. It was not until later in my career that I started being asked stupid questions that had nothing to do with my expertise in interviews. Apparently, I learned later, the interviewer expected me to pull an answer out of my arse, then defend it to the death. This was for an engineering position, but his expectation was apparently that everyone who is any good's career should gravitate towards sales.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:07PM (#46009799)

    If you're that certain you do not wish the job, don't make peoples day any more difficult by being a dickhat. Just politely end the interview saying you are no longer interested in the position.

    That kind of response sends the message loud and clear that it was their interview that drove you away and may push them to explain why they were asking such shitty questions. If nothing else it avoids creating an instant adversarial position where your indignation is written off as "you being a dickhat" not that there might be something wrong with their interview process.

    We're adults, grow the hell up and stop assuming anyone gives a crap if you act like a smartypants.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:58PM (#46010115)

      Just politely end the interview saying you are no longer interested in the position.

      It's important to remember that a job interview should be a 2 way street. You need to be clear (and it may not hurt to make it clear) that you are assessing them as much as the other way round. Telling someone they failed should always be done politely and with tact.

    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:07AM (#46010173) Journal

      This, right here.

      In tech circles, your name gets passed around a lot farther than you think. Even if you turn down that job, the fact that you were a dickhat will pass around - eventually to the jobs you do want. IF you don't fit into the culture, you won't fit into the job.

      This is doubly true in medium and smaller tech markets (like here in PDX, for instance). We've been trying to hire sysadmins here with experience, and we've been able to weed out at least a couple of resumes so far based just on (bad) reputation.

      While I and my cohorts don't know everyone in the biz here, we do know who we really want, and who we don't want.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:08PM (#46009803)

    My response was never, stress gets no work done, I budget for it after the issue resolution.

    My response did not change inspite of the question being asked 3 more times, the interviewer got stressed and ended the interview. Interviews are crappy, if the manager does not know what the deliverable is

  • (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:22PM (#46009889)

    most of our employees have to do trouble shoooting at clients, so we give them a test early in the interview
    The candidate is seated in aroom with a secretary type person, who after a few minutes, says, hey are you a tech guy - my printer isn't working
    The candidates who say you need to download linux to install drivers don't get hired
    The ones who say, hey, no problem, the printer was unplugged, get to the next stage

    I actually thought a lot of the 16 questions were pretty good...fuzzy tennis balls at xerox and how does the internet work at akamai are ok questions, depneding on the job

  • Be Careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trip6 ( 1184883 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:26PM (#46009935)
    You want to be snarky? Go ahead - enjoy it and feel good about yourself. But remember that the professional world in which you play is a VERY small one, and word gets around.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      And seriously why would you have issues with these questions? You might think they are silly, but perhaps that is the point.

      There are going to be lots of crap things you have to do at work. Crap things "you" think are pointless and stupid and, despite what you may think, your employer knows that you don't want to do these things. They have their reasons even if you don't agree with them. If you respond like a cock in the interview you will be a cock to work with.

      Also lets take the tennis ball question,

      • Re:Be Careful (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @05:26AM (#46011555)
        It depends. In my 20s maybe, just maybe I wouldnt have problems with those questions. In my 40s I am negotiating a business proposition with you, I am something very solid and palpable to offer you, my vast years of experience. You are not doing my any favour at all, let me stress this, we are conducting a business. Our time is valuable too, as we already have to juggle family, work, and leisure. I also have quite a surprising war chest, and am not desperate for work. Heck, I have a good job actually, convince me it would be fantastic to work with you. Would you have issues answering my stupid questions? I believe you would have. After all, it is also in my interest not to work with dicks. Life is too short for me too. No sir, we are adults, we are conducting business, respect this, respect me and leave the stupid questions at the door. If you want respect, you have to respect.
  • um, yeah (Score:5, Funny)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:29PM (#46009955) Journal

    I would be reluctant to blow up an interview just because there aren't that many people in my field, and no matter how ridiculous this particular interview, I might run into these people in some other environment where I *wanted* the job.

    But this calls to mind a time I was trying to get an associate a job, who had been out of work more than two years. I had aced the interview, but we could not agree on price (they were offering a little less than what I was currently making) so we parted on good terms. I got in touch with them later, told them I personally vouched for another IT professional who would be a good fit for the position. They called him in for the interview. A few questions in, this happened:

    "Describe a good work day."

    "Well, I suppose that'd be a day when I haven't killed anyone."

    Interview over.

    Sigh. You just can't help some people.

  • Best way... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MasseKid ( 1294554 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:37PM (#46009999)
    The best way to light the path to your future is by burning the bridges of your past.
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:39PM (#46010015) Homepage

    "How would you move a mountain using only a spoon?
      If you were in a box, how would you think outside it?
      Last question: What is the difference between a duck?"

    • "Make the spoon the reference, then move the spoon."
      "I think I am outside it, therefore I am outside it."
      "A near miss"

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:41PM (#46010019)
    Remember that a job interview is a 2-way transaction - you should be checking out the company and staff as carefully as they are checking you out. Put them on the ropes, ask them questions that make *them* uncomfortable, see how they handle it. "How has the company stock been doing?" Whatever the answer (Good/Poor), ask "Why?". Maintain eye contact and look for shifty glances. Keep your bullshit detector on high sensitivity. "What things does your competitor do better than your organization, and what is your plan to change them?"

    It's one thing to be new to the profession and just want to steer your way to a first job. But later, after you've worked through a couple crappy companies, you'll see that it is important to be on the offensive during the interviews. Walk in like a boss and probe their weaknesses. Any organization worth their salt should be impressed at your command of the situation. And if they really were looking for a meek wallflower that would spout the most PC response - do you really want to work there? And if the responses from the interviewer are stilted and confused, do you really want them as a co-worker?
  • by TheloniousToady ( 3343045 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:41PM (#46010021)

    I once was asked the old job interview chestnut, "What is your greatest weakness?" I knew that you were supposed to lie and answer that one with a strength such as "I'm just too honest and hard-working." However, that technique always seemed too transparent to me, and I'm not a good liar. So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to answer it honestly. After that, the interviewer took a breath and said, "I appreciate your honest answer."

    I took that as a bad sign at the time, but everything else went well so I was hopeful overall. Ultimately, though, I got turned down for the job. I've always suspected that my honest answer was the reason. Maybe they were looking for a gifted liar. But the job opening was for a software engineer, not a used car salesman, so that seems an odd qualification.

    • "I'm not a good liar" would've been a great answer to the question, as far as I'm concerned.

      I'm a bit taken aback at some of the early posts here. I've had to interview a lot of people (as part of a team) for IT positions over the past few years, and quite a few of them demonstrate absolutely no correlation between what their resume says they should know and what they actually appear to know. You can get to where you're asking them stupid questions just to see if they can get something right. A lot of peopl

    • by YukariHirai ( 2674609 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @03:38AM (#46011217)

      I once was asked the old job interview chestnut, "What is your greatest weakness?" I knew that you were supposed to lie and answer that one with a strength such as "I'm just too honest and hard-working."

      Not necessarily. My mother has been on the asking end of that question, and one of the candidates she was interviewing gave the honest answer of being lazy. She gave this candidate the job, because it shows A) honesty, B) the ability to assess one's own flaws and therefore work around them, and C) lazy people tend to come up with good efficient solutions to problems. A and B are what she was really testing when asking that question.

      It's also worth noting that being too honest and hard-working are actually pretty serious flaws in a potential employee. Someone who's too honest might say something to a client/customer/whoever that they really shouldn't. Someone who's too hard-working might push themselves too far and fuck their health to the point where they'll leave a critical hole in the workplace when it finally catches up to them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @11:58PM (#46010123)

    Best. Interview question. EVER.

    "Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?"

  • WTF #28 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:02AM (#46010143) Journal

    I once was given a "security" questionnaire that asked, "Have you ever had sex with animals or office equipment?"

    I was very tempted to write in, "Do hair-dryers count?".

  • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:09AM (#46010187)

    Interviewers all too often forget that this is a two-way process. I am evaluating them as much as they are evaluating me. In a recent interview a manager (not the hiring manager) really started to put the screws to me about my job history, really harping on how long I'd been at certain places that are just plain normal these days. Engineering has become somewhat nomadic, moving on as contracts dry up, or after the place gets bought up to be run like a puppy mill.

    My takeaway was they were out of touch the industry they were looking to break into, and further probing by me bore this out. At that point I was still smart enough not to "blow up" the interview, as as others have noted, niche industries are alarmingly small and interbred. You never know who you will run across again down the road.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:20AM (#46010259) Journal

    If you find yourself in this question just say something along the lines: "This interview is over. I am only interested in companies that have a passion for quality and making a difference as opposed to playing pointless games."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:28AM (#46010567)

    Several years ago I was looking for a tech writing job. Found a local company advertising for a lead writer to (among other things) redo their user manuals for networking gear. I sent them my resume, the HR guy called, we spent an hour on the phone and it sounded like we had a perfect match. He asked me to download one of their user manuals (about 100 pages) from their web site and critique it and bring it to an interview. I grabbed the doc, spent about three hours reading and annotating it and writing up a recommendation (and it needed a hell of a lot of work).

    I get to the interview a few days later and the head of engineering is in charge, and the HR guy is there. Engineering guy obviously thinks there's no need for anyone, ever to employ a technical writer, engineers can do everything (which no doubt explains the train wreck I saw in the manual I reviewed), and was very rude. I stayed upbeat and polite, even though it was clear I had zero chance to get a job that he didn't think should exist, until he pointed to the marked up document I'd brought along and said, "I don't know why we would care about what you thought of our current work." I pointed to the HR guy and said, "I did this at his request. Who's doing the hiring here?" They looked at each other, and it was clear I had just poured salt into a fresh wound.

    The interview ended shortly thereafter, and when the HR guy walked me to the door he apologized for what had happened. I told him to keep my resume on file in case they figured out how badly they needed professional help. Never heard from them, and their manuals are still a train wreck.

  • by phoenix182 ( 1157517 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @02:03AM (#46010751)

    My personal fave:

    After the spending the first gulf war in the military and then working a decade in extremely active security companies (we're talking 200+ combats a year and solo commercial and industrial armed alarm responses) I was ready to break into IT. On my first interview (for @Home phone network support) the hiring panel asked me "how I would handle the extraordinary stress of having to deal with people who were so very angry with me".

    I started laughing like a lunatic, and couldn't stop until the tears were rolling down my cheeks. I realized they were horrified at my behavior and had been serious. I asked if they'd even read my resume and cover letter, and when they hemmed and hawed I explained further.

    It went something like - "Look, 6 months out of boot camp I spent a night in ops watch at a flag command as the 4th link in the chain of nuclear response...that means that had anything happened I would have been one of the first people to get the ball rolling towards global nuclear armageddon. In security I was called upon to rush alone into a warehouse in the middle of the night with hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise all around me and find out if it was on fire, or if a half dozen armed criminals were robbing the place. I had to put myself (unarmed and unarmored) into melees with a pack of armed gangbangers out for revenge over a recent shooting. I had to restrain psychotic killers who were on PCP before they could murder the 19yr old nurse on duty. Look I realize you take your job seriously, but quite honestly none of you have the slightest idea of what stress or anger are. Next question please."

    I figured that was gonna wash me out in a heartbeat, but surprisingly I got the job.

  • ebay interview (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swframe ( 646356 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @02:09AM (#46010809)
    I walked out of an interview at ebay. In the middle of the interview, they told me the position had been filled but they wanted me to talk to one more person to complete the process. I didn't know until after that it was a "stress interview". The interviewer was clearly enjoying watching me struggle. The first question the interviewer asked was which java packages I felt comfortable using. After I told him, he said "those are the ones I won't ask you about". The best question from that interview: "If you were given a technical design document how would you tell if it is good without reading it?" Later, I ended the interview when he told me I couldn't use the whiteboard to make it easier for me to show him the answer.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @03:02AM (#46011035) Journal
    My roommate back in the early 90s went on a job interview in the late 80s. He said he walked into the place, took one wiff and said "No. Fucking. Way." But, he had budgeted the time, so he figured, "Why not?" So he goes to the interview and he's interviewed by some twit (we'll call him "Jimmy") right out of university who has no idea what he's doing. He's reading questions off a card. At that point, my friend, Mr.Max, had had enough and said to himself, "fuck this shit."

    So, the conversation went like this:

    Jimmy: so, Mr Max, um, what was the worst job you ever had? M: Pulling the gold teeth out of the mouths of people who had just been shot. JImmy (appalled, but compelled to follow form): And, uuuuh, why did you leave that job? M: No career advancement - what was I supposed to do, graduate to actually shooting people? I don't think so. That requires skill. Jimmy: OK... well let's change subject to more psychological questions. What is your favourite colour? M: Clear. Jimmy: Clear's not a colour. M: I have a crayon that says it's clear. Crayons have colours. If I had said teal, or Forest Green what that have been OK? They have crayons for those too, ya know. Jimmy: Right. Well one more question... What do you like best about yourself? M: (leaning in closely to Jimmy and in a low voice): I'm a good friend.... Jimmy: Well, thank you very much and we'll call you if we feel there is a position for you here. M: Right. Have a nice day! Jimmy: good bye... (throws resume in trash...)

  • by hackus ( 159037 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @03:05AM (#46011055) Homepage

    Interviewer: Describe your dream job.

    Me: I will have to sleep it, I will be right back.

    (Put the phone down and let them eat crickets until the line disconnected.)

    Best nap I ever had too.


    PS: Oh, as for the Dream. I forgot to write it down when I woke up. Go figure.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @04:08AM (#46011301)
    ... of the interview; e.g. to test the candidates reaction to stupid questions. Depending on the job, he might have to face those on a regular basis and certain response patterns may not be considered adequate.
  • BBC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @04:09AM (#46011303) Homepage

    I was interviewed for a position at the BBC, back in the early days of digital TV, working on their digital "teletext" service (i.e. that pseudo-HTML stuff they shove down the DVB channels).

    Application went fine, was asked to interview (from thousands of candidates). Went in, did some tests (technical, editorial, etc.). Seemed to all be going well. Went to interview where the panel were half-technical, half-management.

    Was all going alright right up until the last question. It was so wrapped up in management-ese that honestly, even as a vaguely intelligent person, I could not understand what it meant (let alone provide an answer). It was literally that impenetrable, and not even something that made any sense whatsoever. I couldn't even begin to waffle some management-ese in reply, it was that bad.

    So I told them. "I don't understand, sorry". They repeated it, word-for-word. "No, no, I heard. I don't understand what you're asking." This went on for several minutes. The management in the room looked quite annoyed. Meanwhile, the techies in the room were making a show of writing a large "tick" (check) symbol on my application in front of them and grinning inanely.

    Sadly, I think the management overruled or outnumbered them, and I wasn't offered (though I was told that I still came quite close).

    To this day, I still can't even remember what the question was (it was just random words strung together than didn't even seem to ask a question), let alone work out what kind of answer they wanted. And, surely, if someone doesn't understand something, what you want them to do is stop you and say "Sorry, no, I don't understand", not plough on regardless making up some rubbish?

    Needless to say, I actually felt quite sympathetic for the people who DO have to work under that person all the time.

  • by rebelwarlock ( 1319465 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @04:37AM (#46011389)
    I don't, but no one will pay me for my real passion, which is being completely lazy and worthless, and I need money to survive.
  • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @09:51AM (#46012655)
    The best questions are the ones where you have to write code on a whiteboard but where the person asking the question doesn't know the answer.

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