How to keep interviewees on their toes

by Rose Sneyd18 Jan 2013

Ever been tempted to throw a quixotic question into the interview situation? Well, you’re not alone.

Career advice site Glassdoor scoured tens of thousands of interview questions that job candidates shared with them last year to compile a list of the 25 strangest.

Beyond providing an amusing read, such questions may be genuinely useful. Given the preparedness of the modern job candidate, it’s likely that they are ready for most of the standard questions on your list. Asking them something unexpected may provide a useful insight.

“Oddball questions can be a powerful tool to glean information about a potential candidate as long as they are used correctly. If the interviewer doesn’t know what he or she is looking for, then throwing out a strange question just for the sake of doing it will be pointless,” Donna Fuscaldo wrote on Glassdoor. Interviewers should consider the role that they are filling, and what sort of person would fill it well, and what sort of question would cause the candidate to divulge the information that they were after.

With that in mind, here are ten of the best, along with who asked them:

  1. How many cows are in Canada? (Asked at Google)
  2. A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here? (Clark Construction Group)
  3. What do you think about when you are alone in your car? (Gallup)
  4. If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us? (Trader Joe’s)
  5. My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend? (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  6. What’s your favourite song? Perform it for us now. (LivingSocial)
  7. Have you ever stolen a pen from work? (Jiffy Software)
  8. What kitchen utensil would you be? (
  9. If you had turned your cellphone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me? (Kimberly-Clark)
  10. On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer. (Kraft Foods)


  • by mrd 18/01/2013 2:28:51 PM

    I wonder what would happen if the candidate being interviewd asked the interviewer how it was relevant to the job they were applying for (eg who cares how many cows there are in canada) and if one did throw out a random number what does it prove - that they can lie easily!!)

  • by WW 18/01/2013 2:50:57 PM

    Mrd, these questions are not seeking a straight forward answer.

    E.g. Google does not actually care how many cows are in Canada. They are asking that question (an obscure and unexpected question) to see how well the candidate can think on their feet and think laterally to solve problems.

    Getting it right or wrong is not the point - but the method they go through to find an answer.

  • by hrsydcent 18/01/2013 2:56:55 PM

    mrd ^^^
    The point is not just the answer, the point is to see how the candidate reacts to unexpected situations. Do they use humour, are they willing to give the unexpected a go, can they think quickly, creatively? Even someone replying with 'how is this relevant' alludes to their personality.