Who Asked It: Job Interviewer or Weird Guy on the Subway?

by | Sep 3, 2015 | Business

Anybody that has participated in job interviews, either as the interviewer or the interviewee, knows that they are of limited utility. From the perspective of the interviewer, job interviews can certainly raise red flags that warn you off hiring somebody, but they rarely provide too much information. Some candidates that shine in interviews end up being disappointing employees, and some lackluster interviews result in star employees.

Some interviewers try to get a bit too “creative” with their interview and ask seemingly irrelevant or arbitrary questions. Perhaps they suspect that they have a question that will reveal some hidden truth about the candidate. Maybe the interviewer believes that the question will catch the candidate off guard. Perhaps the interviewer posits that having the interviewee go through the exercise of answering an unanswerable question will provide insight into the candidate’s problem solving skills.

There is another setting in which we are asked strange and fathomless questions: Riding on public transit. Whether it’s the New York City subway, San Francisco’s Muni, or anywhere in between, you will often be asked strange questions by strange people. I submit to you that it is impossible to distinguish strange questions asked in a job interview from strange questions asked by the odd person on the subway whose gaze you do your utmost to avoid.

To test my hypothesis, you’ll find 10 questions below. Five are real interview questions from the Glassdoor list of top oddball interview questions. Five are made up. It’s up to you to distinguish the insanity of the interviewing process from the insanity of your fellow mass transit riders.

1. “Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?”

Question rationale: Interviewer is examining
your ability to visualize a scenario and
hypothesize a possible outcome.
Question rationale: Rider wants affirmation
that he would prevail over Batman.

 Answer: Real Interview Question

2. “How many people made the suit you’re wearing?”

Question Rationale: Interview is exploring
your general understanding of global
supply chains.
Question Rationale: Rider genuinely admires
the cut of your suit and is curious about
how it was made.

Answer: Subway rider

3. “If you had to move the Empire State Building from New York to Boston, how would you do it?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer is exploring
your ability to solve a complex engineering
Question Rationale: Rider has already scaled
the Empire State Building and is seeking to
expand her market.

Answer: Subway rider’s question

4. “How much do you charge to wash every window in Seattle?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer is assessing
the your ability to understand how to set
prices for a service.
Question Rationale: Rider is a would-be
entrepreneur with questionable business
sense and a love of the Pacific Northwest.

 Answer: Real Interview Question

5. “Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.”

Question Rationale: Interviewer is exploring
your ability to be helpful, even in the face of
a difficult request.
Question Rationale: Rider theorizes that
you can hear colors and wants to know if
you think yellow sounds the same as he does.

Answer: Real interview question.

6. “If a glazed donut were a person, what would he or she look like?”

Question Rationale: By testing your ability
to humanize an ordinary object, interviewer
is assessing your level of empathy.
Question Rationale: Rider’s idle curiosity
spurred by staring at his stack of 156 donuts.

 Answer: Subway rider’s question

7. “If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and who would meet?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer wants to see
if you are a fit for being an online travel agent.
Question Rationale: Rider is looking to fill
out regiment in upcoming reenactment of
Battle of Shiloh.

 Answer: Subway rider’s question

8. “If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, what would you do?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer’s unusual
way to ascertain your problem-solving ability.
Question Rationale: Rider has a 747 full of
jelly beans and is unsure how to get rid of them.

 Answer: Real interview question

9. “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer’s question is
designed to see how creative you are.
Question Rationale: Rider thinks she is most
like a Japanese maple and wants to see if you
resemble a similar species.

Answer: Real interview question

10. “If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you use to make a raft to get off of it?”

Question Rationale: Interviewer wants to
determine your  ability to troubleshoot
problems with the tools at hand.
Question Rationale: Rider is an overly
talkative enthusiast of shipwreck movies.

Answer: Subway rider’s question.

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