What are these weird job interview questions really looking for?

By Elizabeth Bromstein

Weird job interview questions“If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out? …Uh huh, I see. Sorry, you can’t work here.”

It could happen to you.

Glassdoor.com, an online “career community where anyone can find and anonymously share an inside look at jobs and companies,” has compiled a list of the most off the wall job interview questions posted on the site. Apparently they culled through “tens of thousands” of them before coming up with the top 25 (10 of which are listed below).

Among them is the above headscratcher from Goldman Sachs. I tried to figure out how I’d answer it, like “Well, if I lived in a world where I can be shrunk to the size of a pencil, then I could just as easily grow right back at will, right? So, I’d just grow back and get out,” which is probably a terrible answer, even though I had hours to think about it and in real life I’d have been expected to answer on the spot — so in truth my answer would probably have been “What!?” I mean, come on. There’s not nearly enough information here. Who shrunk me? How? And, more important, why would someone do that? Then put me in a BLENDER?! What kind of sicko even came up with this question?

I bet I wouldn’t get that job. Interviews, as we have mentioned before, are not my strong point.

My husband said he’d tip the blender over, which probably makes more sense but might require violence since you’d have to slam into the blender walls. And maybe they’re looking for a more thinky answer…(see below for more responses).

What ARE they looking for?

I asked Alexandra Levit, author of such books as They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, How’d You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. She says they may be looking for a variety of things.

“Depending on the specific odd question, employers are trying to assess your creativity, problem-solving ability, or analytical ability,” says Levit. “They may also be feeling out how you behave under pressure by asking questions that cannot be answered easily and that you cannot prepare for. Given that, the best way to cope with them is to anticipate that you may be asked questions of this nature.”

Other questions on the list include “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” and “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum number [of] guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ for each guess you make?”

Pfffft. Who doesn’t know that?

Workopolis also did its own survey of weirdest job interview questions last year, which you can find here.

Levit adds that you shouldn’t stress about the answer. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to answer these questions perfectly, as that will cause you to appear stressed out and flustered. Keep in mind that most of the time it’s your approach and attitude toward the question rather than the actual answer that interviewers are paying attention to.”

So, what have we learned? There are no right answers. But, don’t kid yourself, there are probably wrong answers. Just be prepared.

The top ten weirdest questions as found on Glassdoor.com:

    1. “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” Asked at Goldman Sachs.

    2. “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” Asked at Deloitte.

    3. “What is the philosophy of Martial Arts?” Asked at Aflac.

    4. “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.” Asked at Boston Consulting.

    5. “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are.” Asked at Capital One.

    6. “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room?” Asked at Google.

    7. “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?” Asked at Bloomberg LP.

    8. “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” Asked at AT&T.

    9. “You have a birthday cake and have exactly 3 slices to cut it into 8 equal pieces. How do you do it?” Asked at Blackrock.

    10. “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum number [of] guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ for each guess you make?” Asked at Facebook.

See the rest of the questions on Glassdoor.com.

And here are some answers we gathered to the pencil conundrum.

I would stand on the blades, in the middle. Then I would use my puffy shirt as a parachute, and hope that the wind from the blades pushes me up sufficiently towards the top that I could manoeuvre my way to the spout, and FREEDOM! – Neil

Unscrew the nut, remove the blades, go out the bottom…- Peter

I’d just pray that the blender had been through my dishwasher and therefore still had dried berry seeds coating the insides. This would turn the once smooth glass sides into a climbing wall like on a cruise ship or co-op owned mountain equipment retail store. Then I’d just coat my fingers with some protein powder (also left over from dishwasher) in place of chalk and ascend sans rope like Mr Cruise in Mission: Impossible II. Not like Mr Franco in 127 Hours. All (miniature) limbs will remain intact. – Tim

Remove cell phone from pocket. Call for help. – Peter

Beg. – Lee

Go to the corner of my blender, get bare feet and hands and use the friction to climb high enough to pull myself out. – Amanda

I’d wait for someone to add the margarita ingredients and then I’d swim to the top and wave my arms, and yell HELP! HELP! I can’t swim. Then I’d probably drown. – Daphne

Pencils are pretty tall, compared to blenders, so I bet you’d be big enough that you can press your back against one side & your feet against the other, and walk up to freedom (unless it is a slippery blender). – Katarina

18 Responses to “What are these weird job interview questions really looking for?”

  1. Doug says:

    Question two(2): Is that a Canadian or American quarter?
    Question six(6) requires two(2) qualifiers. 1: Is the furniture in the room? and 2: Are the basket balls inflated.
    The only correct answer to question ten(10) is one (1). If we are to use critical thinking here, and the question asks for a guess, if you guess the right number the first time them minimum would have to be one.

    Do I get the job?? lol

  2. HaHa says:

    Just walk out :) (Assume the blender is lie on the table and not standing there)

  3. Sameer says:

    For Question # Seven (7) the Answer is 6. Here how I derived @ this number.

    First Race 5 horse will run and 1 will be a winner Second Race another 5 horse will run and 1 will be a winner Third Race another 5 horse will run and 1 will be a winner Fourth Race another 5 horse will run and 1 will be a winner Fifth Race another 5 horse will run and 1 will be a winner By this time all the 25 horse had atleast one chance to run and in the Sixth Race all the winners from these 5 race will compete and the top 3 will be your three fastest horse.

    Any comments?

  4. Steve says:

    The trick is to have a method that approximates the result – close is good enough. So….
    2. Ridges on a quarter – the circumference is pi x D – maybe 3 inches? Guess 30 ridges / inch so 90 ridges.
    6. Basketballs in a room – the balls will stack like boxes, guess 1 cu ft / ball, then the cube of the room et voila!
    9. Birthday cake – two cuts to create quarter pieces, then one horizontal cut to make four pieces (and I get one of the top pieces because I like icing!
    10. Keep choosing the number halfway (500 – higher – 750 – lower – 625 – higher – 688 – lower – 657 – higher, etc. Those with a math background will go in the other direction – 2 to the 10th power is 1024 so 10 is a good guess.

  5. John says:

    I dont think quesion 9 is weird…..just an easy logical question. If someone had on their resume that they are very good at problem solving I would ask something like that.

    My weird interview experience has been:

    What do you mean your not a Canadian Citizen, what the hell is a permament resident? …….(I have a bloody strong English accent….this question came up about 45 mins into the interview)

    Explain to me about xxxx? To which one of the interview panel said “that is not a fair question”…..I realised this was not going to go well when the interview panel could not agree and I was being defended by one of them.

  6. Joanne says:

    Just walk out of the interview. The so called interviewers compiling these questions are too far out there….not in the real world….and would you want to work for this company asking these ridiculous questions, or the person who took the time out of their “busy schedule” to actually waste company time thinking this up!!

    Sorry I’ve been in too many situations where you just look at the interviewer and wonder what fucking planet they came from!!! I was asked once if I was a golfer, as I would be required to go to “business” meetings on the golf course? The company was Marketeers….and Pinball Clemons was a partner….it went under a few months later….leaving the employees high and dry and owed money for wages lost and vacation pay. At Radio Shack (The Source)…I was in an interview with a young exec…whom didn’t make eye contact…and just wasn’t interested in listening at all…another waste of time…..When you’re in an interview, and the person yo!
    u connect with feels positive, knowledgeable, resourceful….intelligent…asking proper questions…you’ll know the job is right…for you…..

  7. Pam says:

    3 slices of cake – 8 equal pieces? Easy – eat one, quarter the other two.

    Basketballs question – as many as will fit and not a one more – same answer whether they are deflated or inflated.

  8. Linda says:

    Question #7, Only 5 races would need to be run, all the horses will run once and since they time all races you will know who was fastest by comparing their finishing times.

  9. Dave in BC says:

    ALL of you are wrong! Why else are you here, reading these emails if you’re not still looking for work? ;-)

  10. anthony says:

    stab at #9 – I would cut the cake twice in two perpendicular lines and then cut the cake in half horizontally. Now I have 8 half-quarters.

  11. anthony says:

    #10 answer is one…that is the MINIMUM…you can’t go lower than that…

  12. Harry says:

    Sameer asked for comments for #7.
    Even with your logic 5 races is enough. People already invented stopwatch – run 5 races and pick 3 best results. BTW, your 6 does not work since second place (and any other) in one race may be still faster than a winner of any other race.
    But such an answer probably give little chance anyway, if i would ask such a question I will be interested to know if person is always need to experiment to find an answer, or simply use already available answer, somebody may already know what the best 3 are, just find the answer without doing your own experiment and save the effort

  13. Chris says:

    One year ago, I was given a 45-minute written IQ test with over 100 questions, plus an additional part with verbal IQ tests similar to the ones in this article. Then I had regular interviews with two people. The whole process took 2 hours. This was for a temporary position as weekend receptionist for a storage company, that was 12 hours per week. Some companies go too far.

  14. Kelly says:

    To Dave BC – I read them to entertain me at work :)

  15. Stephen says:

    I think some of these questions call for a little imagination.

    How would you get out of a blender if you were the size of a pencil?

    By not blending in.

    What do you mean by that?

    I take this question as a metaphor for someone locked in a rigid company role, a very confining situation. So don’t blend in. Excel and be noticed.

    How many ridges on a quarter?


    Can you explain your answer?

    Sure. There are grooves on a quarter, not ridges.

  16. Mike says:

    Answer to question 7. 5 races. Horses are timed even if they lose. All horses will be timed when they run their races and the fastest time can be used to pick the 3 fastest horses.

  17. Joe says:

    Question 10 like many of these idiotic questions is a trick one. If the number chosen was 500, then the “Minimum” number of guesses possible would be One! This question is like many multiple choice test questions in that you have to read ALL the words carefully before answering. It is a test of a persons attention to detail.

  18. cakeboss says:

    8 pieces of cake ,from 3 slices .
    The cake has to be square with 2 diagonal slices and the third slice in the middle of the cake .


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