Beyond Ridiculous: Job Searchers Reveal the Worst Interview Questions They’ve Faced

No one is actually thrilled about the prospect of interviewing candidates. No one. However, interviewing candidates is meant to provide valuable insight, making the hiring process more productive – that is, if you use strategic interviewing techniques and avoid getting caught up in the fad of using ridiculous interview questions to throw people off their game. 

Companies like Amazon, Google, and Trader Joe’s are known for using weird and ridiculous interview questions. The purpose is double-fold: to get past well-researched answers and get to the core of each candidate’s personality AND to require candidates to think on their toes. How candidates answer the questions is more important than getting any answer “correct”. We’ll explain more about this later. 

Why is it important to ask the right interview questions? 

Interviewing candidates just for the sake of crossing another hiring activity off your list is a time waster. Instead, interviewing should be utilized to get to know candidates and their unique qualities. While resumes and cover letters help introduce the candidate’s skills and experience, it is not the same as having a dialogue. People are often very different than how they appear on paper. 

In hiring, it is difficult to compare candidates to each other when asking random interview questions. This practice can lead to unconscious bias, which influences the recruiter to hire a person based on non-job-related characteristics. It’s like trying to compare apples to oranges! One candidate may be more appealing than others, but this doesn’t mean they are right for the job. 

For these reasons, it’s important to ask the right interview questions. Interviews should be limited to job-related inquiries. All candidates should be asked the same interview questions to create fairness in the process. 

Why ridiculous interview questions are…well…ridiculous

When it comes to interview questions, there is the good, and then there are the bad. Someone got bored one day and decided to shake things up by challenging candidates to answer an interview question that was borderline insanity. Maybe they heard about other companies doing this to make candidates “think on their feet”. Or it could’ve been an industry fad that, unfortunately, was adopted by too many companies. In the end, these questions often offer little insight into the candidate’s potential to be successful at the role they are interviewing for.

Whatever reason they justified this with, here is a rundown of the worst interview questions in the history of recruitment. 

Would you rather fight 100 mouse-sized horses or one horse-sized mouse? 

This ridiculous interview question is often used as an icebreaker. Its purpose is to see if the candidate has good reasoning skills and can explain things in detail. In reality, unless you are interviewing for a job at the local zoo, this is an irrelevant question to ask during an interview.

If you won $1 million in the lottery, how would you spend the money? 

We’ve all thought about the possibility of being rich from winning the lottery, but in reality, this only reflects how the candidate values his or her own money. Ultimately, this is a highly personal question, and an employer has no right to decide if spending all that cash on a new sports car or investing in charities is the correct answer. 

Red or black? 

This is another one of those weird interview questions that force candidates to get too personal. What does this mean, exactly? Is it someone’s favorite color, a reflection of their mood, or something else on the subconscious level? This question should not be asked during job interviews. 

How many balloons would fit in this room, from ceiling to floor?

Ah, the famous brain teaser question. These are supposed to demonstrate creativity and mathematical abilities, but they often do more harm than good. According to San Francisco State University associate professor of psychology Chris Wright, “What these questions seem to do is annoy good job candidates, possibly discouraging them from pursuing the job further or recommending the company as a good workplace to others.”

A penguin walks through the door wearing a sombrero. What does he say?

This oddball interview question, shared by Glassdoor contributor Heather Huhman, is definitely ridiculous. Interviewers are looking for the most creative (and funny) answer that candidates can come up with. Here’s the thing, though –  there is no right or wrong answer, which can be maddening for some. 

Can you sing the song that best describes you?

Before the candidate starts belting out a passionate rendition of their favorite show tune, consider what this oddball interview question has to do with selecting the right candidate. Is it meant to show creativity or the ability to switch gears? How much of this question is related to the job requirements? If it involves these aspects, it can be ok to ask, but otherwise, it’s ridiculous. 

Research shows how oddball interview questions have proven less effective for hiring than sticking to traditional interview questions. They can create resentment and fear in some candidates who are unprepared. They may seem fun, but they are merely for the entertainment of hiring managers and do not reflect the reality of the job. In fact, they may scare otherwise great talent away. 

Effective interview questions 

In terms of interview questions, there are some good ones that can be used as standard in recruitment. Remember that effective and fair interview questions are related to the job and not to any personal attributes of the candidate. Here are some suggestions from Alison Green at Ask a Manager, who shares, “Probe into the candidate’s ability to do the job, avoid the goofy questions, and you’ll make better hires.” 

  • What have your biggest achievements been? 
  • This role requires a lot of _____. Explain when you’ve used this skill.
  • That sounds difficult. How did you approach that?
  • If I were to ask your former supervisors about you, how would they describe your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult customer. What did you do? What was the outcome? 

This is just a sampling, but note how they relate to work aspects and the candidate’s abilities. A hiring manager can gain more knowledge about an individual by using behavioral and situational interview questions. It allows candidates to share the things they do well and the things they are improving on. 

Make the most of your interviewing process by avoiding silly and oddball interview questions.

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