Strange interviews

by Sheep Farmer

DD recently had an interview for a summer job in the water department of a small New England city. One of the questions that they asked her was if she knew how to operate a boat. It was a question that DD was not expecting.* What is the strangest question that you have been asked or have asked in an interview?

*DD told the interviewer that she did not know how to operate a boat, but that she lives on a farm and knows how to drive a tractor and that her truck is a manual transmission and that she is sure that she would have no problem learning how to operate a boat. DD got the job.

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74 thoughts on “Strange interviews

  1. Not particularly strange, but the one I still remember @35 years later was my application interview at Swarthmore, which was at the time my #1 choice by a lot. The guy asked me how many kids were in my HS class, and then argued with me about the answer and acted like I was lying. I said I thought it was around 400-450 (it wasn’t exactly something I paid attention to, you know?), and that we had about 1200 total students, and he said that I couldn’t possibly have 400+ kids in my class if we only had 1200 total students, because that would mean the HS would have to have 1600 kids. Was the school bigger? No, I was sure it was around 1200-1300 kids. So how could my class be 400+ kids? He was very accusatory — almost angry — as if I were lying to puff up the value of my class standing, and I just sort of said, well, I thought it was 400-450, but maybe it was 300-350 and I was remembering wrong. I was pretty much speechless — I was sure I was right but didn’t know how to respond to the barely-contained anger and disdain. I am convinced that interview is why I was not accepted.

    Oh: and there were 439 kids in my class. I had forgotten that my HS had been 10-12, and that they had just started a 9th grade class that year with only 50 kids.

    But Carleton was much friendlier and threw a lot of money at me, and I’ve donated every year since I graduated out of gratitute. So, you know, f$#^% Swarthmore.

  2. Sheep Farmer – I would never have thought that operating a boat would be a “weird” request… but that’s my bubble. I’m glad she got the job. She can add boat operation to her list of very impressive skills.

    The oddest interview request for me was to discuss something I purposefully left off my resume. I knew the person interviewing me, and left some union work off my resume on purpose (so as not to cloud the company’s judgement of me). He pointedly asked about my union work. I realized he confused other work with that union work (the organizations have similar names), but I answered anyway. I think it actually helped me get this job because I have worked with many groups who do not want to be at the same table, let alone work together for a common cause.

    I interviewed one person who listed parallel parking as a skill on his resume. In the interview, he also used his “new dad” status evidence of his ability to multitask and be equal to challenges. He stated his evidence as if he were the first person to be a working parent, or the first dad in the world to be involved with his newborn. The comment bothered me so much because I was visibly pregnant. I had a feeling he would use his “new dad” status as to why he couldn’t get work done. He didn’t get the job.

  3. I once was asked to describe my relationship with Jesus Christ. It was a registered religious organization so they were allowed to ask. I didn’t get the job.

  4. I’ve never had an odd question – just odd interviews. I had one where I arrived and they sat me down and proceed to complain for almost an hour about how much they hated their jobs. I don’t recall them asking me any questions. I got back to the car and barely had my hand on the door handle when the recruiter called saying they loved me and wanted to know when I could start.

  5. Sheep, waterfront or supplying water & sanitation? I’d find that question odd in one but not in the other.

    Laura, that’s outrageous. Also sounds like a story you could’ve told DD a couple months ago before she was ready to make the switch to Wake, because you might’ve chosen Swarthmore, but had such a great experience at Carlton.

    My weirdest interview experience wasn’t a question; it was an answer to a concern I raised about my son in the NW US. At the time I was still hoping he could link into cultural groups from his fathers home country. The interviewer shook his head, gave me a brief history of racism against Black and Asian people in that part of the country, and shut down the interview.

  6. In my previous career, we regularly hired student interns. The job involved collecting information and it was helpful if they had some idea of agriculture or at least some sense and smarts. So, one of the questions was, “what do cows eat” the best answer, “I don’t know about adult cows, but baby cows drink milk” He got the job and was a really good hire.

    It is amazing how many college kids/young adults don’t realize that the questions are trying to get at whether a person can think and is willing to learn. Or, as I tell my nephews, the job description is a wish list, everyone settles for less than everything they want.

  7. I was asked if I was homophobic. I paused for a second before answering no because I didn’t think I heard her right. I was interviewing for a summer job at a florist that was owned by a gay couple (I did not know this at the time). I got the job.

  8. It is amazing how many college kids/young adults don’t realize that the questions are trying to get at whether a person can think and is willing to learn.

    Exactly. I think it’s also a great way to judge attitude. Don’t get panicky or defensive, etc.

  9. Speaking of odd interview situations, when I was in law school, there was an on-campus interview process for second-year students every fall. For a period of a few weeks, firms would come to campus, and you could sign up to interview with them. The law school scheduled many of these interviews in a hotel near campus, and the interviews took place in the hotel rooms where the interviewers were staying. Which was generally fine, but there was one where my interviewer was a middle-aged man, and it was twilight, and the hotel room was getting dark, and he didn’t turn on the lights. Sort of weird for me as a 30-year-old female to be having a job interview in the dark-ish hotel room of a 50-something male. I wonder if the school even allows those hotel-room interviews any more.

  10. SM

    ” waterfront or supplying water & sanitation? I’d find that question odd in one but not in the other.”

    Water supplies often come from bodies of water. Sanitarian often involves discharge to water bodies, which requires monitoring. Both could involve boats.

  11. Pretty sure I had a consulting interview with a variation on the how many piano tuners are there in a city…I hadn’t practiced for those types of questions at all and so totally bombed.

    In the last few years of interviewing people, I am really surprised when people don’t interview well and still get hired at really good firms, BUT OTOH we have had an undersupply in our specialty lately – I think the recession meant that the people coming out of law school in 2012-2014 were specializing in different fields.

  12. NoB – our OCI interviews were in the 1st year dorms. They generally set up a table in the room so no one was sitting on the rubber dorm mattresses. It was pretty odd, still. Did you have the 20-minute interviews also?

  13. I am really surprised when people don’t interview well and still get hired at really good firms,

    IIRC Google and others have done research that has shown that interview performance doesn’t correlate with job performance.

  14. When I was applying for academic jobs, I had an interview at the APA with a second-rate university in the upper midwest. I had reason to believe I wasn’t likely to get the job, but what the hell, interviews are always good practice.

    I gave my elevator pitch about my dissertation, which had to do with how friendship affects moral rules. It was a response to all the philosophy at the time that discussed the morality of A’s interactions with B without ever giving any context. Who are A and B? What’s their deal? I argued that context mattered in the assessment of moral behavior, and specifically, that personal relationships might change which behaviors were acceptable or unacceptable.

    Anyway, there were two interviewers, one man and one woman. The man listened to my pitch, and then stared at me and said “How could anybody think that?” I was a little startled, but I started giving some reasons why one might think my thesis was correct. That was just met with a repeat of “How could anybody think that?” His colleague was shifting a bit nervously in her seat. I knew that the interview was screwed at that point, so I stopped caring. I said, “I don’t understand your confusion.” He said, “Well, what would you say if I told you that I would never take that attitude in any of my friendships?” I smiled prettily and told him, “I would think that you don’t have any genuine friendships.”

    We wrapped up that interview pretty quickly after that. “How could anybody think that?” is a long-standing joke with DH and me. We say it to the TV occasionally.

  15. Sort of weird for me as a 30-year-old female to be having a job interview in the dark-ish hotel room of a 50-something male.

    Oh, yeah, that was common at the APA too. My friend got interviewed in a hotel room with just one faculty member, who was sitting on the bed wearing his bathrobe. Male philosophers are pigs. After a bunch of complaints the APA changed the rules and said you can’t interview in hotel rooms anymore, the interviews have to be in common areas. The men all grumbled about how political correctness was destroying philosophy.

  16. Rhett – true, but what else do we (in smaller companies, not like Google) have? We hire based off the resume and interview, sometimes informed by the reference – nothing else. Like for the person who was really quiet during the interview, their reference said XYZ good things about their work that pushed us more toward making an offer. We don’t have structured questions either, it’s based on the needs of the group doing the hiring.

  17. Not a weird question, but an eye-opening experience into how culture within the same company can be different depending on where you are geographically and the demographics of the people.
    (long, I’m afraid)

    2nd yr of B-school I do the on-campus initial interview. Subsequently I get invited to the company’s sites in LA and here for the full-day set of interviews.

    Friday of week A: I’m in LA for that day’s interview. HR followed by 6-7 Finance people, then HR. Except for the 2 guys who were second level managers, everyone was 30. But everyone here had this in their description of why should I work here (geographically) “it’s a great place to raise a family. (and the HR person said it in the morning and afternoon meetings)” ** Oh, and the on premises lunch place served draft beer (Genny, natch, if you’re reading PTM).

    One other thing. Finally, the last Finance person before HR at the end of the day and I had to say to him “I interviewed in LA last week and here today and it doesn’t seem like they knew I was coming here and none of you guys have brought up me being there last week.” He said “treat us like two different companies.”

    I got separate offers to work at both locations and clearly Jack had not blown me in because they were for different amounts and the offer here was 5% HIGHER than in LA. I took the LA job after they matched the pay.

    ** Seemed strange to me as DW was only of girlfriend status at the time and I/we knew kids were down the road a ways. It has been a great place to raise a family and live for the past almost 30 years. We missed out on real estate appreciation, but otherwise it’s really great to live in an essentially zero-traffic environment.

  18. but what else do we (in smaller companies, not like Google) have?

    I guess the takeaway is that you shouldn’t invest too much time into the hiring process as it’s a total crap shoot. Although they did say that, “Tell us about a problem you had and how you dealt with it.” Is far better than asking how many acres of AstroTurf there are in the US.

  19. Well, I have been through my share of tech interviews which are always horrific. They heard you into some conference room where you sit with a couple of geeks who fire questions at you, or perhaps you sit in a little room and answer a bunch of questions about Java trivia. I have answered so many variations of the goat-cabbage-wolf cross the river question and white boarded so many recursive tree walks. Most of the interviewers barely even say hi when you arrive and no one ever offers coffee or tells you where the ladies room is. Ugh, ugh ugh. I have always thought that the nasty, cold tech interview style is one of the things that drives women out of the industry.

  20. In tech companies, usually you don’t find out a candidate is interviewing with your group until maybe an hour before, or even less. The manager runs around to the developers and says So and so is going to be here for an interview in 15 minutes, can you tech him? No one wants to do it, because it takes time from what you need to be doing, but eventually the manager twists a few arms. You don’t usually see the resume until literally one minute before the person arrives. Usually people have their stock set of questions they ask every candidate. And normally, if the tech people give a thumbs down, the candidate gets escorted out before they even meet a manager. So if you make it to the manager, it is usually a good sign.

  21. I interviewed for a job with Giant Foods when I was in college. They asked if I could stand on my feet for 7 hours. They also asked how long I thought I could stand in a freezer.

    I received some rude questions during my college interview at Wesleyan. An admissions officer asked if I had ever been mugged. I said no and he asked in a different way. I asked why and he said it was based on my home address and the location of my HS. He also asked if my mom read a newspaper and then he asked if it was the Daily News or NY Times.

    I didn’t like the school when I saw it, but I really didn’t like it after meeting this guy.

  22. I was once asked what my favorite bird was and why? Totally random and not related to the industry. I think the interviewer just wanted to see if I could think on my feet.

    At my company we have very specific questions we can ask. There are several questions per category and you have to ask at least one in each category. If the candidate makes it to the second round they are asked the questions in the packet that weren’t asked round one. I’m under the impression that Legal is why we have such strict interviewing policy. No off the cuff, random, or inappropriate questions.

  23. I was once asked what my favorite bird was and why? Totally random and not related to the industry. I think the interviewer just wanted to see if I could think on my feet.

    Don’t leave us hanging! Cormorant, cockatiel, canary…which one is it?

  24. When I interviewed at Wendy’s my senior year in HS, the interview consisted mostly of proving that I could make change. Apparently, the cash register at the time did not have the ability to tell you what the change should be, so it was just an arithmetic and US coin quiz. I got the job, but I quit after my 2nd day when I got a better job as a waitress at a sit down restaurant.

    The thing I hate about interviewing is that there are many times when I know 5 minutes in that the person is absolutely wrong, but I have to force conversation for the full time allotted because I’m in the middle of a group of interviewers. I think interviewing junior candidates is the hardest because they don’t have a lot of concrete work experience to talk through.

    Our HR team provides zero guidance for interviewers, which I find to be a bit of a risk. They are throwing inexperienced people in front of candidates all the time. God knows what some of them say. The first company I worked for, was extremely regimented, and we could not deviate from a prescribed list of questions. That worked well though since I was a baby interviewing other babies for the internship and training programs.

    The tech/quiz interviews sound awful. I have never been in a situation like that. Most of mine have been pretty standard – tell me about a project you worked on, tell me about what types of software and models you’ve worked with, tell me about a tough conversation you had, tell me about how you dealt with a performance issue, etc. (Same for you Fred?)

    I think interviews are helpful as a candidate just for getting a feel for the place and the people. Never has my impression from the interview been wrong. There are a few places where I turned down offers after going to the interview because *shudder*.

  25. At the time I said the robin because they are the traditional first sign of spring, of a new beginning. That they often arrive so early in the year that they are forced to tough it out during spring snow storms, battle the elements and not flee back south where life might be easier for a few more weeks.

    I was pretty proud of my quick thinking. I got the job too.

  26. Great answer, Lemon!

    My instant response is Stellar’s Jay, because they’re so flashy and bossy and in-control. That’s probably a bad interview answer, though.

  27. @Fred: My DH had a similar experience within the same office at his current employer. He was offered to come interview in one department, and while he was out there someone grabbed him and interviewed him for a completely different job in another department. He ended up getting two offers from the two separate groups, which struck me as extremely weird based on my own experience (although apparently it’s not in the corporate world). I think he made the right choice, given that the group he now manages has since subsumed the area that he first interviewed in. ;-)

  28. Lemon Tree, I like the bird question….may use it in the future. Mine is Scissor-tailed Flycatcher….we had to learn local bird silhouettes one year in elementary school science class. That one had a neat silhouette and was easy to remember. (looking back, perhaps teacher was an avid birdwatcher) I’ve had several bad interview experiences…..

    1) for B school, my interviewer caught a typo on my resume and I was thrown off….I had forgotten to change date of my past job when updating my resume — I had 2 with XX-present. It was my final interview and I had several people proof and not catch that. This school also had a very cumbersome interview request process — email someone from this automated list, neither 1st or 2nd responded after 1 week each time. Then I was timed out. I apparently was a good enough candidate for admissions to get involved before being rejected after that interview.

    2) I had language skills on my resume. Interviewer switched to the other language. I did a semester abroad in college (classes in the language), but had not had a chance to practice. Lesson learned: be clear on “conversant” language skills or drop it.

    3) How much does the paint on a 747 weigh?

    My sister was on a panel interview where a girl described herself as “promiscuous” not knowing what it actually meant. All the interviewers had a hard time not laughing.

  29. When I went to work in Alaska, the director called each of my three references and ask them point-blank if I was racist. It seems like they may of had a problem with that the past.

  30. My brother interviewed at Microsoft in the 90s. He was asked a classic question about three lightbulbs in a room and only one switch, how would you know which one had been turned on if you could only flip the switch once. He got it wrong, he did not get hired by Microsoft. I don’t know if the two are connected.

    The funny part of the story, is I told my boyfriend about the question (now my husband) He looked insightful for a while and asked a few appropriate questions. He then gave me a clear and smart answer. I was super impressed with how intelligent he was. It turns out, he had heard the question before and had the answer already. He wasn’t nearly as clever as I thought, or maybe clever in a different way.

  31. When I interviewed for my current job, the questions were all in the behavioral style which is meant to show how you react to stress etc. I was asked what was something I believe that the majority of people do not and the example they gave from someone else was that person believed in ghosts.

    My friend was asked what kind of car she would be. She went with an SUV that had the ability to go off road for the impression of stable but also fun.

    My biggest beef with interviews is how many people on the hiring side suck at it. When I was laid off a few years ago I had over 30 interviews and I would say that half had shitty interviewers; it is not always a bad interviewee.

  32. I have never once been asked a question like:
    How much does the paint on a 747 weigh? (no idea)
    or, what’s your favorite bird? (Big Bird? Chicken? – so many ways to prepare it to eat.)

    IME, once you have the credentials and qualifications they’re looking for, as long as you don’t come across as someone people won’t want to work with, I think you’re in.

    I’ve interviewed a lot of people. Tips – don’t call the (female) interviewer “Dude”. Don’t say “yada yada yada”. Don’t say “I will service all of the people in the department.” (that one was a “English is not my first language” issue.) Proofread your cover letter and resume. Don’t address a woman in correspondence as “Dear Sir” or “Mr.”.

  33. When I was in my early 30’s and interviewing a man around 50, he said “I noticed there are women in a lot of these offices. Are you sure this is a professional position?” So that wrapped up quickly.

  34. Not a weird interview question, but an early misunderstanding of the process. One of my first ‘real’ interviews was early in my senior year of college, I spent a good part of the day at a big accounting firm and I was horrified that they hadn’t asked me about the oh-so-important classes I had taken my junior year that I had put in a prominent position at the top of my resume. Went home and told my mother that I was certain they weren’t interested in me and why. Mom asked what we talked about and I said, “Nothing on my resume, we talked about everything BUT my resume! They didn’t ask about a single class.” Mom understood what I didn’t and was convinced that I would get an offer and of course she was right.

  35. “Lesson learned: be clear on “conversant” language skills or drop it.”

    I tell my students that if they list a computing skill (Python, SQL, Hadoop) on their resume, they better be prepared to answer detailed questions about that technology. It can be a real problem because someone who got say a C in their Java programming class probably will be unable to answer typical Java interview questions (unless they do a bunch of studying to learn the material after the fact). Grades do matter, even though very few employers will ask for transcripts, because employers very much expect candidates to know the material.

  36. Time for a rant…
    My son signed up for a number of AP classes for the next school year. The school wants all the kids to sign a contract and get the teacher of the AP class to sign the form, and pickup the AP summer busywork to do over the summer. A slight problem, the school won’t have the kids’ schedules out until August, so he doesn’t know which classes he actually has. Also, some of the teachers he needs to get a signature from haven’t started working at this school.

    Anyone else having similar school issues?

  37. Cassandra, that is just 15 kinds of stupid. We all survived in the old days by just showing up for class on the first day. A contract? If it’s really a contract, maybe he should provide a counter-offer and wait to see if it’s accepted. Like, “I promise to come to school and do the work if you promise not to be a bunch of numb-nuts.”

  38. RMS, if only I could say such things without them taking it out on him.

  39. “Grades do matter, even though very few employers will ask for transcripts, because employers very much expect candidates to know the material.”

    That’s consistent with my experience. GPA has always been one of the first things we look at, especially for candidates right out of college.

  40. “Chicken? – so many ways to prepare it to eat.”

    That’s pretty much how I’d have answered it.

  41. Cassandra, yeah, I thought of that, and am sure that if you worked for one of Florida’s water districts, boats might be involved. But there are also a lot of sewage plants where workers don’t go into the canals. So if I was applying to a position at a treatment facility, the question would surprise me. But not if the job was what i first understood—some kind of fish & wildlife or recreation position.

  42. San Francisco has the highest salaries in the world, with residents bringing in an average of $6,526 a month, according to Deutsche Bank’s “Mapping the World’s Prices 2019.” The city also has the highest disposable income (after rent) at $4,710 a month.

    I’m surprised about post rent disposable income. From what you hear about housing costs you’d expect it to be among the lowest.

  43. “He was offered to come interview in one department, and while he was out there someone grabbed him and interviewed him for a completely different job in another department. He ended up getting two offers from the two separate groups”

    I had a similar experience. I ended up with a dual offer and a chance to choose between two jobs at the same salary. I ended up taking the second job, but worked several times on projects with the manager who brought me in, and maintained a good relationship with him.

    I also remember that before bringing on site for an interview, he phone screened me. He called me at about 10 or 11 pm on a Friday night, which was about 1 or 2 am in his time zone.

  44. Rocky, good thing you didn’t wind up with that psycho as a departmental colleague!

  45. “In tech companies, usually you don’t find out a candidate is interviewing with your group until maybe an hour before, or even less. The manager runs around to the developers and says So and so is going to be here for an interview in 15 minutes, can you tech him? No one wants to do it, because it takes time from what you need to be doing,”

    That’s not my experience.

    My SV employer had a standard interview routine: Breakfast with hiring manager; group interview where you make a technical presentation, a couple of one-on-ones for an hour or so each; group lunch with prospective work group; more one-on-ones; HR rep meeting; then dinner with hiring manager, sometimes with others included as well.

    Because we did a lot of work in cross-functional project teams, hiring managers tried to get interviewers from other groups with which they regularly worked. Depending on where the group lunch would be, it was typically pretty easy to get people to agree to be interviewers.

  46. Here’s a question I’d like to ask to see how an interviewer thinks:

    Why are manhole covers round?

  47. Finn, the only interviews where I have done a presentation have been in academia. I’ve never seen it done in industry and honestly, I don’t think most of the people I worked with would have been capable of a presentation!! And I have never been fed a meal at an industry interview, though I did buy an ice cream pop for one of our candidates when I was at the software company. It was hot and I felt sorry for him
    Here is a great description of tech interviews
    View at Medium.com

    In academia, however, you do a presentation, you meet one on one with the faculty, and they usually feed you lunch or dinner. I had a great Arthur Avenue Italian meal while interviewing at a college near there back in 2009, and when I was first out of grad school, a lovely seafood dinner in Seattle – I was interviewing at Seattle University. CUNY Staten Island, on the other hand, fed us all saran wrapped PB&J sandwiches – I kid you not.

  48. When I worked in IT, our tech interviews were similar to Mooshi’s experience.

    The weirdest interview I had was I got a call back from an application at about 5:15 with two people on the line for what ended up being a 45 minute interview with no warning whatsoever. No email or call to set it up ahead of time, just completely out of the blue.

  49. Oops, that is a question to see how an interviewee thinks.

    But it’s a question of fact. They are round so they can’t fall into the manhole.

  50. “They are round so they can’t fall into the manhole.”

    That’s one answer.

  51. My current company follows the behavioral interview technique. There is a set of questions interviewers get to choose from. Most people prep by looking at sample questions. I don’t think most interviewers or interviewees like it. Most interviewers just want to ask you about your prior positions based on your resume.
    When I started interviewing the work visa would come up. In those days many companies didn’t state upfront that they didn’t do work visas. So, I would go for the interview and find out that I did well but couldn’t be hired. I was very lucky to find employers who were willing to do visas. The situation is different now.

  52. My first thought was the obvious– manhole covers are round because manholes are round.

  53. I was looking up interview questions and this one popped up.

    What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?

    Makes you think…

  54. At my previous job, a big part of the interview was evaluating technical competence.

  55. My first thought was because they’re heavy and you wouldn’t want to have to carefully line up the corners of the cover to match the corners of the opening – with a round cover any rotation fits.

  56. Rhett’s answer is supposedly the “correct” answer, but there are other answers that make sense, e.g., HM’s answer.

    The corners of a rectangular cover could cause a lot of damage, and are also susceptible to damage themselves.

    It’s easy to roll a round manhole cover out of the way, or from a truck to the manhole, or at least it’s easier to roll than any other shape.

    After all, the point of these questions isn’t the “correct” answer, even if the job is designing manhole covers, it’s to gain insight into the candidate.

  57. We do behavioral interviewing here too. I have a pretty good instinct when hiring people, and a couple of the times I’ve been outspoken about disagreeing on hiring someone, the person got hired anyway and was a major flop. I’m super picky about resume errors.

    Weirdest question – it was an interview for a different job at the same company, and the hiring manager asked if I was smart. Umm, what’s the right way to answer to that question? It was just awkward.

  58. Finn,

    So now the question – if manhole covers are round why are storm drain grates square or rectangular?

    My money is on clogging.

  59. Another possible answer to the manhole question is that it’s easier to dig round manholes than rectangular ones.

  60. I don’t think storm drains/grates are removable, so they’re made in an easier shape to produce.

    The main thing you could tell about someone’s thought process from the manhole cover question is if they knew how to prioritize. Not losing the thing or having it fall in is more important than keeping the corners pretty or whatever.

  61. Mooshi, “us”? There were a group of you who got the pbjs? Do you interview in groups in your side of campus? I’ve heard of candidates bumping into each other on campus or in the hotel when one was arriving & one was leaving, but never having more than one interview at a time. For interviews in your industry, am I correct that there isn’t much homework to be done on the individuals who might interview you?

  62. No, the “us” was the faculty in that department, plus me. It is the norm in my field at least, to have a group of faculty take the candidate for lunch. In this case, the lunch consisted of the PB&Js served in a conference room. The people from the department were laughing, saying that this was the first time in a couple of years that the college had even sprung for food. CUNY was in a massive budget crisis at that time.

  63. My interview experience with Google definitely qualified for “weirdest” but then they are known for that. I hadn’t applied there, but just got a call out of the blue. My understanding is that this is common – Google prefers to find people themselves rather than wait for applications to come in. The phone interview was demanding, but pretty much what you would expect. I was invited in for an onsite interview but declined. I had never applied there and had no interest in working there. I have chatted with colleagues who had the same thing happen – the part that is weird is the mysteriousness of it all. How did they get my name?

  64. Ah, that makes sense! At my grad school, candidates had lunch with grads in the student union. Other places I’ve been, it’s usually been just the faculty member who’s ushering the candidate around.

  65. My favorite question to ask when interviewing: “Tell me something about this company that you would not find on the internet.” It helps in figuring out corporate/team culture.

  66. “Tell me something about this company that you would not find on the internet.”

    I would be stumped.

  67. “Another possible answer to the manhole question is that it’s easier to dig round manholes than rectangular ones.”

    I assumed it was because its both easier and better to build round sewer tunnels and accesses. Easier because things like augers are round, and better because circles are the strongest shape (and thus the least likely to collapse for any given amount of construction material).

  68. It’s because people who use manholes are always perfectly cylindrical.

  69. LfB, FYI, a lot of manholes are for things other than sewers, like communications and electrical cabling. But your reasoning applies to them as well.

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