Tuesday, January 10, 2012

interview questions

So over here  you can find the "top 25 oddball interview questions of 2011". Supposedly these questions were really asked in job interviews.

So I figure, what the hell, I'm currently interviewing...so here's MY take on THEIR take on these wacky questions. I'll split them up into a few entries.

1. “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30pm on a Friday?” Asked at Google

This is one of those questions that there's not going to be a simple, correct answer for. Given that, it seems to me obvious that the object of the question is to ascertain your problem-solving skills. In other words, how would you find out the answer?

It may or may not help to know that the population of The City is roughly 800,000. However, you have to consider that anywhere from a quarter to a third of these people do not use Facebook at all (at a guess). However, people who do not actually live in San Francisco proper are commuting into it to work, and most of these people probably do use Facebook. Ergo, it's not out of the question to just assume that there are around 800K people in town on a weekday who could be using Facebook.

Further, you have to consider the time, i.e. "siesta time" on a Friday. 2:30 is a little too early to skip out for the weekend (unless Monday's a holiday, in which case, why did you even come in?), but it's a great time to check in with your friends. Therefore, I'd say that for any given non-long-weekend Friday, there could be a whole 800K people using Facebook within the San Francisco City Limits.

However, that's just a very rough guess, so I would suggest that if the interviewer really needed to know the answer, searching his network logs (or using a SIEM to search) would tell him how many people on his network, out of the total number of employees, were using Facebook at that time. From that one could extrapolate what percentage of the rest of all white-collar workers were using it, which could further lead to extrapolation for the rest of the population. Don't forget to include pretty much any student with a smartphone.

2. “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk.” Asked at Acosta.

My consulting rate is $250 an hour, with an hour minimum billed. If you want entertainment, you're going to have to pay for it, and I would prefer that up front, please. Next question.

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

Prove what? Oh, that they are the tallest people in the world? First of all, measure the height of about 100 German people. Next, measure 100 people (or, if 100 people aren't available, as many as possible) from every other country and culture in the world. Tabulate the results. By the way, Germans aren't the tallest people in the world.

4. “What do you think of garden gnomes?” Asked at Trader Joe’s

I prefer flower fairies. Gnomes don't really do anything for me.

5. “Is your college GPA reflective of your potential?” Asked at the Advisory Board. 

God no. I wasn't really ready for college, mostly because I went to a public high school and it was way too easy for me. I got away with murder. In college, I actually had to work, and my GPA ended up not being very good. I learned from that experience, though -- and I've never stopped learning since.

6. “Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” Asked at Deloitte. 

Gandhi was a lawyer, and a good one, before he decided to effect India's liberation. He was intelligent, innovative, and daring, all of which are good traits for an engineer. He didn't live simply because he was some kind of Luddite; he was doing it to show solidarity with the poor. This shows that he was adaptable and disciplined. Yeah, I'd hire

7. “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. 

This isn't high school. If I am the #1 employee, and I got there because of my talent, hard work, and willingness to be a team player, then my co-workers will respect me, and that's what is important. Are you really asking me this?

8. “How would you cure world hunger?” Asked at Amazon.com.

First I would find every single corrupt person in the world and shoot him. Then...oops.

Seriously, there is no way to end world hunger. It's not that we -- as a species -- don't have the resources to do so. If it were as simple as just growing enough food to feed every single person on this planet, we could do that. But you can't just grow food. You have to distribute that food. You have to pay the people who are growing it, and the people who are distributing it. That's where the problem lies: the food isn't being paid for or distributed, and the reason is that people in power are keeping that from happening so as to control the people who need the food.

I guess if I wanted to end world hunger, I would force everyone into a cooperative hive mind. But while we're all individuals, there really isn't any way, in my opinion, because the more individuals you have, the less cooperation you can achieve.

9. “Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?” Asked at Pinkberry.

Whichever one needs it the most, balanced by how much I need that thing to be clean. If I'm not using my car for a given period of time, I'm not going to care if it's clean, for instance.

More in another blog post...this is kind of fun!


  1. I was asked how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at PatientKeeper. I imagine that is a fairly standard question for potential programmers, though.

  2. My recipe involves cutting it on the diagonal.