You’ve memorized your resume and perfected your handshake, know your strengths and weaknesses like the back of your hand, and can wax poetic on where you see yourself in the next five years. But have you considered this: When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?
What sounds like a first-date-gone-wrong question was in fact a head-scratcher that was posed to one candidate on a recent job interview at aerospace company SpaceX.
According to careers website Glassdoor, 45 percent of people reported that they are either currently searching or plan to search for a new job this year. With more companies turning to bizarre brainteasers during the interview process, candidates should be prepared to answer anything.
“Anecdotally speaking, we have noticed that these brainteaser-type questions are just as commonplace as ones about your strengths and weaknesses,” said Allison Berry, a Glassdoor career trends analyst. “And it’s not just tech companies that are asking these questions. Companies across industries — like Urban Outfitters, Trader Joe’s and Delta Airlines — are determining what they can ask to make sure they get the best person for the position.” Berry notes one of her personal favorites, an interview question posed by Stanford University in 2015: “Who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and Batman?”
These types of unconventional questions are often used in the event of a tiebreaker between two candidates, giving those who responded well the upper hand. “Companies aren’t looking to make job candidates feel uncomfortable,” said Berry. “What they’re really trying to do is see how you would answer the question rather than finding exactly the right answer. They’re testing the candidate’s critical thinking skills, creativity and how they would approach a difficult situation on the spot.”
That’s not to say there aren’t ways candidates can prepare for such curveballs. “When you’re asked tough questions like this, it’s important to take a deep breath and start thinking how best to tackle the question before you start answering,” said Berry. She suggests one way to approach the situation (while also giving companies a glimpse into your thinking process), is by responding with a follow-up question.
While many companies, including Google, have stated that these oddball questions haven't been effective in finding the best candidates, Glassdoor found a statistical correlation between tougher interview processes and greater employee satisfaction. In recent economic research gathered across six countries, 10 percent of more challenging job interview processes were linked with 2.6 percent higher employee satisfaction. “Our understanding is that the interview process is just as much for the company as it is for the job candidate," said Berry. "The candidate is also at the interview determining if it’s a place they really want to work."
After collecting hundreds of thousands of interview questions shared by candidates over the last year, Glassdoor revealed its annual list of the toughest (and wackiest) questions job seekers could hear from potential employers in 2016. Without further ado, brace yourself for the top 10.
1. When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?
Position: Propulsion Structural Analyst (New York, New York)
2. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
Company: Whole Foods Market
Position: Meat Cutter (Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky)
3. If you’re the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?
Position: Rotation Program (San Francisco, California)
4. What would the name of your debut album be?
Company: Urban Outfitters
Position: Sales Associate (New York, New York)
5. How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?
Company: J.W. Business Acquisitions
Position: Human Resources Recruiter (Atlanta, Georgia)
6. If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?
Position: Account Manager (San Francisco, California)
7. What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?
Company: Trader Joe's
Position: Unspecified (Orange, California)
8. If you were a brand, what would be your motto?
Company: Boston Consulting Group
Position: Consultant (Washington, D.C.)
9. How many basketballs would fit in this room?
Company: Delta Air Lines
Position: Revenue Management Co-op (Cincinnati, Ohio)
10. If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours?
Position: Management Trainee (Los Angeles, California)