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Terrible Interview Questions

Michiel Hendriks on April 29, 2019

Lets have some fun, and come up with the worst job interview question you can think of. We have all heard about the job interview questions whic... [Read Full]
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Interviewer: "Did you heard about this facebook thing?"
Me: "Sure"
Interviewer: "Can you than develop something like that?"
Me: "What?"
Interviewer: "What?"

 

Me: Of course. Actually, I have developed many things like that.
Interviewer: Such as?
Me: Well,I've developed a program called Tic-Tac-Toe that's like that.
Interviewer: What does it do?
Me: It plays Tic-Tac-Toe.
Interviewer: That isn't like Facebook.
Me: Oh? I'm sorry, perhaps I didn't fully understand your requirements. Can you elaborate?

 
 

Interviewer: When you are planning to get married?

Me (Surprised): Why do you ask this question?

Interviewer: Since people may take Some time off if they got married, soo?

Me (I was like what???): I am 21. I didn't plan for the next 5 years. And basically, I am a guy. there are no chances that I go for paternity leave. Moreover, it is a very personal question.

The above was the question asked to me by some HR in the last round of interview. I declined the company offer because of it.

 

My experience.

We hire a secretary and in 3 months, maternity-leave.
So, we hire another secretary, 4 months and again, maternity-leave.

Finally, we ran an office without a secretary while we paid for 2 secretaries at the same time.

It's illegal to ask, but we ask it anyway. Let's say a candidate says "I don't want to ask", our answer is ok, we continue the interview, sometimes we allowed to pass to the next stage, and we kicked out the candidate.

 

What you are describing is absolutely, 100% illegal in the US. And FOR GOOD REASON. As someone who ran my own business, no, this is not how the world works. If your number one priority as a company is to make money, you're going to go out of business. Or you're going to make your life and everyone else's life a living hell. There are plenty of options to pay for paternity leave as a company. And the cost of hiring and firing people usually outweighs what you lose do to paternity leave.

Also, before I started coding, I worked in the HR department of my university's career center. This isn't how good HR works.

Even further, I am a type 1 diabetic. The idea that you're going to discriminate based off of health, is also definitely illegal. I've had one interview where I mentioned my insulin pump (I made a game about it kind of, and it was relevant to a question they asked). The lead software developer asked if I had type 1 diabetes (which I mean, no one just uses a insulin pump for the fun of it). The HR rep stopped the interview, pulled him out of the office, talked to him, and then he came back in and apologized immensely. Of course I understand the mistake, but the point is any decent HR rep knows there are clear limits to what you can ask, much less base a hiring decision off of.

I truly hope you either have learned from this thread, or don't have any hiring power where you're at.

The HR person overreacted. You already said that you have an Insulin Pump. As far as I know, only people with diabetes type 1 need one of those. The software developer just connected the dots

To be clear, I don't believe she forced him to apologize or anything. She likely just explained the situation to him and he realized he didn't really mean to ask me that question. You're right in that in this particular case, she totally could have left it alone, but it's better to be safe than sorry. A good HR rep is going to establish a clear boundary. The point still stands, in the US, this is illegal and more importantly, not common practice by any stretch of the imagination. At least, not for companies which want to continue to exist and remain productive.

If your number one priority as a company is to make money, you're going to go out of business.

That's the number one priority of a company, especially in the US. Individuals in it might have different priorities (and I'd hope they do!) but don't kid yourself about capitalism. If the company wants to implement equal hiring policies it is entirely because they have evaluated (risk of being fined by the government + sued + bad PR) > (risk of extra expense of paying maternity leave).

Some companies definitely do operate simply to make money, most of which struggle immensely to do so, and waste a ton of money in the process.

Profit is definitely a priority. But most companies exist for other reasons, and focusing solely on making money often leads to huge booms and bust.

As for the second part of your comment. You're missing some important pieces of information. Happy employees are much more productive. And a diverse workforce is almost always more productive. High productivity leads to higher profit margins. Think about this, would you say your code is "better" (more maintainable, cleaner, faster, flexible, whatever) when you're working 80 hours a week, or 40? For me personally the quality of my code drops off sharply after 8 hours of work. Plenty of studies confirm this notion, and most project leads I've worked with have agreed (though not all were in a position to actually improve working conditions).

Companies have a vested interest in a diverse and happy work force. If they decide not to hire a women simply because she might take time off, then the assumption is they're picking a "worse" developer who in the long run will cost them more.

So they'd trade short term profit for long term profit by hiring the better developer, even if they end up paying for maternity leave.

Happy employees are much more productive

And that's seen by the company as something that's good because it means they will make more money.

Companies have a vested interest in a diverse and happy work force.

Yes, vested as in "profitably motivated".

Yes... Lol. I didn't say it's not a priority at all. My point was it's about more than just the fines they're avoiding.

 

You kick out candidates who don't answer the question: Are you planning to have a baby soon?

Yes, and I paid for it with my own money (instead of using the money of somebody else).

But let's say we hire a woman and she asks for a maternity leave?. Who is screwed?.

The stockholders?.

Not really but the whole team, for example, they could get more workload, maybe extra hours, raises could be put on hold and so on.

By that logic, shouldn't you ask your candidates if they are practicing a sport where they might injure themselves and miss work? A man tells you he is skyiing in the weekends is as big a risk as a woman who might want a baby some day don't you think?
If he breaks his leg and has to miss a few months of work, those poor colleagues will suffer the consequences. Do your futur employees even have the right to have a life outside of work? Or must they be living for the job, and be sure to never do anything that "might" make them miss work?

You are never worked with HR or Insurance (or hiring personal), are you?.

You say about skiing and you know what, WE hunt for that information.

  • Dangerous sports (skiing is in the sh*t list)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Drugs
  • Overweight
  • And some other conditions.

Why do you think in many places they ask you that information? For fun?.

ps: I have a skiing injury.

Hunting is not really the problem (but if I'm looking for a software dev job, I can't see why I should give those infos), the problem is that you (or HR or whatever) discriminate based on that.

It opens the door for countless of discriminations, you even add: some other conditions. You first started with women that have the potential to get pregnant, now we've added dangerous sports (dangerous is such a relative term... I play soccer, I could very well break my leg, should I reconsider having that as a hobby? ๐Ÿ˜‚).

I guess I could understand certain things for insurances (only a few...). But to get a job? An office job??? Come on...

I have the same conversation a couple of years ago.

What is the difference between discrimination and selection?

Discrimination is bad if not illegal while selection it's what HR does. But and finally, they are the same, factors that we should consider.

How those factors are considered, it's up to the job. For example, I see a specific IT work that explicitly hires women (in fact, a top job, no less). Is it discrimination against male?. Sure. However and since it is illegal, then they converted the discrimination => selection by calling all candidates (male and females) to the whole the process of selection and finally they pick only the women. But, is it fair?. OF COURSE NOT, in fact, it is annoying to the male candidates but since we live in a world where hypocrisy is gifted, so it just follows the trend. It would be easy (and fair) to say "Only females!" but again, it is illegal.

Well, I suppose the law can only protect workers up to a certain point. When a company wants to discriminate against some things in their hiring process, they will most likely always find a way to succeed. Not fair, most likely illegal, but as long as HR people accept to employ such strategies, things will be difficult to modify.

Thanks for the conversation, I learned a lot.

Not gonna lie Jorge probably would be sued in the States, his way of thinking is a bit off to say the least.

By his logic he wants people to not have a family or ever plan to have one. These are laws in most countries especially because of people exactly like you.

You write these comments as if you are weeding out ex-cons from job interviews, really glad those secretaries did that and hope they're not working with you anymore.

 

I've heard guys say they'd never hire a woman before. Generally, they'll whine about how women are always getting pregnant, and fuss that even if you could ask if they planned on having children 'they'd just lie, 'cuz that's what women do'.

Oddly enough, every guy like that which I've met has also complained that women expect men to pay for things, and why can't they just get a job and pay for stuff themselves? Honestly, I think they've answered their own question by getting so upset over the practice of hiring women.

And you wonder why women (and even some men) get so upset about hiring practices like yours...

 

I donโ€™t know what country youโ€™re in, but in the USA asking questions like that is a quick way to get sued out of existence.

Exactly and it's not rare for those cases, for example, to fulfill some State laws, HR selects and discards by name. It's easy, it's clean and it's allowed by the law.

For example:

nysscpa.org/news/publications/the-...

HR works in tandem with payment (budget) and legal.

Now, is it fair? And I repeat, no but it is how the World works.

 

This has little to do with women or pregnancy. It has everything to do with

  • the candidates' character and sense of responsibility
  • your poor judgement of character

If those candidates were men, they would have done worse. I'd strongly recommend reflecting on the latter.

If those candidates were men, they would have done worse. I'd strongly recommend reflecting on the latter.

But it wasn't the case.

In sum, if you give the chance, then they take the chance. In this case, the way to earn money without working. And it is not an isolated case.

economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/...

It is for India but it is also applied globally.

blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/mate...

Significantly, EHRC surveyed only private companies. A woman taking a yearโ€™s maternity leave will have far more impact in a small business than in a large public sector corporation. If you employ just four workers and have deadlines to meet in the next twelve months then losing a quarter of your team can cause problems โ€“ and we need to be honest about this. Itโ€™s not outrageous to suggest, as 41 per cent of those polled do, that pregnancy can put โ€˜an unnecessary cost burdenโ€™ on the workplace. Having to find a suitably qualified replacement, happy to work for only a year, can be difficult. Itโ€™s surprising that only 44 per cent of employers say women who have had more than one child while in the same job can be a โ€˜burdenโ€™ to their team.

if you are running a small business, then it could bleed the whole business. Some countries avoid small businesses to pay for it, but most are oblige and instead of betting their luck, they decide to hire men.

Maternity leave was a hard won right and one that continues to be vitally important for working women. But we should be able to have an honest conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of maternity leave for both women and employers. Whether we like it or not, businesses exist to make a profit. If they fail they employ no one. The balance between making a profit and protecting employeesโ€™ rights should be open for discussion; writing off all concerns about maternity leave as a return to the โ€˜dark agesโ€™ does no one any favours.

I think you have avoided the first two points I mentioned which are more important.

What gender the candidates are is circumstantial. If only US had legal paternity leaves, then you could have had a valid claim.

Drawing connections between a gender and bad characters based on your limited experience and references you curated is generalization and biased. Drawing them to the fact that a business needs to earn money is a stretch.

 

Not cool anyway.
Doesn't your country have a social fund to reimburse maternity-leave costs?

Of course, it's not cool but to lead means to make tough decisions. Sometimes we (as leader) could pass the problem to HR.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/79/62/10/7962109a307a70e34abd7690fb0f475c.gif

 

Seems like you have very unethical way of handling things.

 

BECAUUUUSEE _____ FILL THE BLANK.

Anyways, fact > wishful thinking, no matter if you like it or not.

ps: don't be dumb, don't kill the messenger. I just say what happens.

 

I bet that company doesn't hire women at all, as they might get married and might get pregnant.
The question is so terrible it overshoots being funny and lands to being just plain horrible.

 

I have a feeling this company also likes to ask women if they're planning on having children anytime soon. NOT ok.

 
 

I do not think that this happened in USA because it is illegal to ask any sort of questions like. Do you have wife? Do you have children etc..

Yeah sure later when you are hired, you got to put Married, 15 kids and 3 cats for your insurance and taxes but at interview? Nope.

 

Interviewer (CTO): "I don't know anything about frontend. But look at this regex on this piece of paper and tell me what it does"

Me: "This is impractical, but It looks like an email validation"

Interviewer: "Tell me what is wrong with it"

Me: "I mean I would use a computer for this"

 

What's wrong with it is that you can't validate an email address using a regular expression - the syntax is too complex. But as an answer (or, indeed, a question) that's extraordinarily niche...

 

I would say it's fairly simple to validate-- just not with regex.

With regex; I'd just test ([^]+)@([^]{1,255}). Or with JS: /(.+)@(.{1,255})/su.

 

Which collection data structure to you most associate with?

  • Stack
  • Queue
  • Skip list
  • Bloom filter

Somebody who's a stack would obviously always work on the latest thing which was given to them. And a queue person would always finish the things which came in first.

A skip list person organized all their work in layers, where each layer has a bunch of tasks linked together.

The bloom filter person could reliably answer that they are not working on something. But cannot be completely sure if they are working on something.

 
 

"What's your favorite Star Trek series?"

It's really bad to expect your employees to fit into some kind of arbitrarily-defined "nerd" culture.

 
 
 

Same problem with sports. It may not come up as much in tech, but as someone working at not-a-tech-firm, people love to talk about sports. And I just don't find any appeal in it. There's no room for me in those conversations.

Also, DS9, obviously.

 

Quick way to confuse the interviewer: 'I'd say the one with ... stars in it. Yeah, that one. Go sportsball.'

You probably wouldn't get hired there, but would you really want to?

 

The one the boldly goes where no one has gone before.

 

"If our company starts with a Z does that mean it will be at the bottom of googles search list?"

 

These ones were real for me.

Interviewer: "Do you get along well with your family?"
Me: "What?"
--
Interviewer: "Why is JavaScript single threaded"
Me: "Have you heard of threadpool?"
--
Phone call.
Me: "Hello, I have an interview and I wasn't allowed in the building"
Interviewer/HR: "Oh no problem, the whole team got fired."
--
Interviewer: "Write me the code for reversing a string"
Me: writes string.reverse()
Interviewer: "I have no idea if this works"
--
Interviewer: "How important is the salary for you?"
Me: ...

And now fictional.
Would Shrek be a good weatherman?

 

rofl the team fired and string.reverse() ones gave me a chuckle

 

"If you were a car what kind of car would you be?"

This was a real question asked in a job interview (just not to me).

 
 
 

One from then often brilliant Twitter account @iamdevloper

 

Interviewer: "Explain to me how does Helicopter functions?"

This was actually asked to me at the last round by the Technical lead of the company.

P.S. I am a software developer I have nothing to do with aviation.

 

Actually that is a great question for testing analytical thinking, logic and to see tought process...
Question is not there to actually explain techical details of a machine, it is more just a reason to discous, understand, analyse and explain however more suitable question would be "explain implementation of feature x" :)

 

I do agree with you it's just that, the question caught me by surprise as I was not expecting it at that point.

 

When I worked for Surevine, "Cat or Dog?" was a normal interview question because we all worked from home, and most of us had either a cat or a dog - and occasionally both.

But as for questions I've been asked...

"Which ancestor of yours was it that had poetry written about him by William Blake?"

Someone had been doing some impressive stalking, there...

 

Generally it's not a literal question if you want/own a cat or dog, but to which animal you stereotypically compare to the most.

 
 

I was asked once to compare myself with a famous person and explained why I think we are similar.

 

Did you compare yourself with Manuel Obre, the famous job applicant?

 

I actually compared myself with a football player (can't remember why), not proud of my answer but that was the first thing that came to my mind.

 

I had a phone screening with a recruiter. I spent probably 30 minutes talking about my experience with React, Node, vanilla JavaScript. Then this:

Recruiter: do you know "the DOM language"?

Me: Uh well I am obviously pretty comfortable manipulating the DOM through JavaScript and I'm comfortable with HTML/CSS

Recruiter: "okay but do you know the DOM LANGUAGE?"

Me: yeah I have a good understanding of the DOM interface.

Recruiter: "so you don't know the DOM language specifically, just JavaScript and HTML"?

Me: "No I totally know the DOM LANGUAGE too. Total expert".

Me (to myself): "I really hope that didn't sound mean. It's not his fault".

 
 

Sounds like set-up for some really bad joke. What was their answer? "Because no one wants to shave their balls"? I'm sorry ๐Ÿ˜ซ

 
 

There's actually some science behind it, the actual reason is ยซthe felt covering helps make them softer, slow their speed in the air, and regulate their bounce. ยป

(Fur wasn't the correct term, but I didn't remember a better one to translate the original question )

 
 

[wait for the punchline at the bottom]

Interviewer: "So, what do you think about SSD."
Me: "Err, in what regard?
Interviewer: "You know, just, what would you say about it."
Me: "Well, they provide for faster disk access, so it's great for quickly loading and indexing large databases..."
Interviewer: "Well what I mean is, would you want one on a desktop computer?"
Me: "Umm... yes, they're generally nice to have..."
Interviewer: "Can you say more about why?"
Me: "Do you want, like, numbers on I/O rates...?"
Interviewer: "No I just mean like as a power user, your view of SSD drives."
Me: "..."

[this is for a data engineering job in 2019.]

 

So this was asked to one of my friends
Interviewer: "If you organize a party, Who would you call to party?"
Friend: "Ummm.. Spiderman?"
Interviewer: *Laughs*

Also, this was asked to me:
Interviewer: "If facebook offered you a job, would you leave this company and join facebook?"
Me: "Yes, for sure"

 

I once was asked to ball park how much money does the world as a collective spend on SMS messages. I guess they were trying to see the reasoning behind an answer and what kind of questions would I ask.

The same company, different interviewer, then asked me to iterate over a matrix in a spiral. Kinda' weird.

 

Iterating over a matrix in spiral is actually a brilliant question! I'm going to steal it! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

 

Pretty much stock questions like sorting an array.

 

[classic] Replace two values without an auxiliar variable.

 

I don't see anything wrong in my perspective. This must be a technical question that tests our knowledge on memory and variable usage, may be, beyond but I am fond of this question. It has definite answers though. I am just saying that this cant be a worst interview question after all (again, in my perspective)

 

Long ago, when I was interviewing for a network management software related job, all rounds were done. All the technical questions were done. Then comes the manager who I would report to. He goes on to ask - 'Can you describe what happens when you type a web site address in your browser till you get a response back in your browser?'

So I explained everything like ARP, reverse ARP, DNS lookup, TCP/IP, routing, switching, etc etc. I explained everything that was applicable from the OSI layers 1 to 7. It was a lengthy explanation and the interviewer kept nodding as I explained things on the white board.

Finally he says, "I think that the right answer would be that it goes over a network and returns via a network using TCP/IP".

I was stunned at his response! This company was into making network management software and devices. I was from a big name networking giant having spent 13 years till that point writing iOS/iOX code. I was very sure of my answer.

I decided then and there that I would never work for such a manager.

 

This isn't a question nor funny. It's an interview practice I'd wish gone. It's when a company thinks a candidate performs poorly enough on the first interview that she's not worth going further and should be escorted out.

If someone's worth being invited to an on-site, she's worth a few more hours.

 

After answering the casual questions "tell me about yourself" and "previous experience", I got the question of "what Zodiac sign are you?" ๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸŒŠ Also got to explain what months on the calendar are under Aquarius ๐Ÿ˜‚

 
 

"If you had to choose any super power, which one would you choose?"

 

There are so many that I would say no to but I had a tab with a pop-out video player and killed it (which crashed my browser). A snippet was

  • Immortality without infinite youth: infinite pain or infinite death
  • Infinite youth without immortality: "they died so young"

There was a lot more but the short of it was "infinite perceived life/memory is infinite suffering"; some stuff about military power and laziness in regards to teleportation and puppetry; some stuff about magic, how it's differentiated (eg Discworld, Harry Potter, Arifureta, Dr Strange, nanobotics a la Average Abilities); stuff about control of bodily and mental function (eg in psychokinesis, super-strength and so on) as well as loads of stuff about flight.

The short of it is "I would choose to be 'normal'. It's probably the greatest super power of all.".

 

I once was asked to do a curve discussion (complex geometric/algebraic set of multiple calculations) while applying for an ops trainee position. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

 

Interviewer: do you like tea or coffee?
Me: Water

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