The 5 weirdest tech interview questions—and how to answer them
Don't get stumped the next time someone asks you to explain how the Internet works.
The biggest tech companies go to incredible lengths to make themselves attractive to potential job seekers—the utopian ideals, the glass-fronted campuses, the...complimentary egg-freezing.
But jobs with tech giants like Facebook and Google wouldn’t be so coveted if they were easy to get. At such firms, interviewers are as likely to throw you a curveball like, “What's the most creative way you can break a clock?” as the standard-issue questions about strengths, weaknesses, and how you function on a team.
Sound intimidating? Fear not!
We’ve compiled some of the most beard-strokingly odd interview questions asked by tech companies from Quora and Glassdoor, and enlisted Laurence Bradford, founder of Learntocodewith.me and a tech careers expert for About.com, to help us answer them. So while we can’t definitively tell you the most creative way to break a clock, we can still make some helpful suggestions.
Question: How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
Bradford's tip: "The interviewer knows that nobody knows how many windows are in Seattle. However, the reason why these kinds of questions get asked is to see how you think on your feet. Do you become flustered? Do you try to answer in a practical way? If you get one of these questions, relax. Take a moment. And try to answer in a logical way.
It doesn’t matter if you’re way off. What matters is that you remained calm, and answered pragmatically.
For instance, estimate how many windows are in Seattle by guessing the population of Seattle. From that infer the number of households and vehicles. And then guess the price of how much it would cost for one window—maybe $10 per window. The rest is simple math. Again, it’s not your answer that matters. It’s how you come about it."
Question: What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?
Bradford's tip: "Unlike the question above which involves more problem solving, this question can reveal a good deal about your personality. Do you find water plus shelter immediately? Do you call for help? Do you look for survivors? If your reaction is to go off on your own immediately, it can show that you’re more of a lone wolf, whereas if your reaction is to look for help right away, it may suggest you’re unafraid to ask for help."
Company: Consolidated Electrical
Question: "How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?"
Bradford's tip: "One thing is certain: This is not the time to get into a political discussion. Rather, this question is probably aimed at seeing how you play ‘politics.’ (Because we all know workplaces are political.) I would recommend saying something neutral, like how everyone wants to represent their constituents as best they can."
Question: “How does the Internet work?”
Bradford's tip: "If you’re interviewing for a tech position, I really hope you do know how the internet works. If you don’t, watch this five-minute video on YouTube.
Important: you don’t want to spend 30-plus minutes explaining how the intricacies of how the internet works. In my opinion, this kind of question is trying to gauge your interest, passion, and, of course, knowledge.
Do you mostly talk about the server side? Do you focus on the client side only? How you talk about the internet can show not only your knowledge, but also your passion and where your interests lie. For instance, if you spend 30 seconds talking about servers but then four minutes describing how webpages are displayed in the browser, that probably means you are much more passionate about the client side."
Question: "Can you instruct someone how to make an origami ‘cootie catcher’ with just words?"
Bradford's tip: "The interviewer knows that nobody knows what a ‘cootie catcher’ is. (If there even is such a thing.)
Again, the reason why these kinds of questions get asked is to see how you think on your feet. Do you become confused, or upset? Do you try to answer in a logical manner?
In this instance in particular, an interviewer is also trying to measure communication skills. How well can you describe your concept? Do you break it down into clear steps? Do you stay on track, and do not jump around? It’s not your answer that matters. It’s how you come about it, and then explain it."