The Most Bizarre Interview Questions of 2011

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s hard enough to answer questions about your strengths and weaknesses in a job interview, but imagine what it feels like to be asked with a straight face: “How many planes are currently flying over Kansas?” Amazingly, some applicants had to do just that this year.

Glassdoor, a job search site, compiled a list of the 25 strangest interview questions asked in 2011 based on 115,000 reviews submitted on the site by applicants to more than 26,000 businesses. The result is a list of questions that range from the inane to the insane.

On one end of the spectrum, you have EMSI Engineering, which asked one candidate to spell the word “diverticulitis.” On the other end, there’s Best Buy, which asked an analyst the question about planes flying over Kansas. But neither of those compare to Google, known for its tough interview process, which asked a candidate for a vendor relations management position: “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday?”

As MainStreet has reported before, some say dot com companies deserve the credit for pioneering the use of unconventional interview questions, so it should come as little surprise that they made up much of the list. However, other industries have embraced the use of strange questions too. Trader Joe’s, for instance, asked one job applicant for their thoughts on garden gnomes, while a Pinkberry candidate was asked: “Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?”

Oddball questions come in many varieties – some are a matter of problem solving while others are just plain weird – but the goal is generally to see how well candidates think on their feet and, as with more traditional questions, to assess whether they are a good fit for the company.

Here are Glassdoor’s top 10 oddball questions for 2011:

1. “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday?” – Asked at Google, vendor relations manager candidate.

2. “Just entertain me for five minutes; I'm not going to talk.” – Asked at Acosta, leadership development program associate candidate.

3. “If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” – Asked at Hewlett-Packard, product marketing manager candidate.

4. “Given 20 ‘destructible’ light bulbs (which break at a certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height that the light bulbs break?” – Asked at QUALCOMM, engineering candidate.

5. “What do you think of garden gnomes?” – Asked at Trader Joe’s, team member candidate.

6. “Is your college GPA reflective of your potential?” – Asked at the Advisory Board, strategic marketing associate candidate.

7. “Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” – Asked at Deloitte, analyst candidate.

8. “If you could be #1 employee but have all your coworkers dislike you or you could be #15 employee and have all your coworkers like you, which would you choose?” – Asked at ADP, inside sales associate candidate.

9. “How would you cure world hunger?” – Asked at Amazon.com, software developer candidate.

10. “Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?” – Asked at Pinkberry, shift lead candidate.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at Seth.Fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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