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Oddball Interview Questions


Oddball Interview Questions

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Andy Warren
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Oddball Interview Questions

Andy
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I have had interviewers ask me these questions.

I have also asked these types of questions. I ask it to try and get the candidate to divulge a little bit of character.

When I am asked these types of questions, I don't bother with trying to decipher the undertone. I just answer with my personality. If they don't like the answer - then fine. I won't sweat them not liking my answers to the oddball questions. In the end it probably means I wouldn't be a good fit.



Jason AKA CirqueDeSQLeil
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Stephen E. Cook
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Not exactly an "oddball interview question", but...

I firmly believe that I blew an interview several years ago because I was not ready to be the first to worship our new robot overlords.

Between my meeting with HR (which went well) and the guy who was to be my immediate supervisor (who seemed impressed), I had a short talk with the President's Son (whose position I don't remember, although I suspect it was something along the lines of "President's Son"). Just small talk to waste time until the next guy was ready (I thought), the conversation turned to the technological singularity. While I had read a bit about it here and there, and think of it as a distinct possibility some day, apparently this guy was ready and waiting. He asked me how soon I thought it would happen, and I kind of scoffed and said I wasn't going to hold my breath or anything. I think the correct answer was supposed to be "next Tuesday".

-- Stephen Cook
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I never had any such oddball questions but known to have two in my repertoire myself:

"Starwars or Star Trek?" If the person is passionate about either it opens often a good feel conversation. If neither then it might open a conversation outside of technical competency that can show a lot about character on both sides of the table (if you sit across a table that is).

"How would you fill a coffee cup in T-SQL?" There is no straight right answer, more of a way of showing how the interviewee thinks and tackles a problem that is not as straightforward as an Inner Join.
Kind of expected answer in case you wonder yourself:
SELECT [Top 1] coffee INTO coffee.Cup FROM coffee.Machine
I heard endless variations on this and it seems to be a question that makes nearly all T-SQL developers think hard.
Gary Varga
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I haven't been asked any questions like these, or at least not that I can remember. I am in the school of thought that I would not look for the hidden agenda but try and answer it at face value.

I much prefer the intractable problem style of questions i.e. how would you deal with an unresolvable situation. These are great because you are asking people how they would deal with a problem with no correct answer so you are really asking how, why and in what manner they would find and apply a compromise. Something that I feel we have to deal with every day.

I am not so keen on the fake mix of the technological with the abstract, the T-SQL coffee filling being a great example, as I feel there is a danger that it neither truly tests the technological skill nor the person's personality. (So if the next person who interviews me reads this I guess I'll have to answer one after all ;-))

Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
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I'm with Gary. We all get faced with unexpected situations from time to time and the interesting bit here is NOT the answer, but how the candidate (or me) thinks in trying to get to a solution...

How many hair stylists are there in Munich?

Hmm lets say the population of Munich is 1million (I'm sure it isn't)
Lets say on average people get their hair done every four weeks. (I mean who really cares?)
So that's 250,000 cuts/month
Lets say each cut takes half an hour (you can tell it's a guy doing this...)
And so on...

It is also JUST as revealing if the candidate sits there and say's "I have no idea."
call.copse
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I can kind of see a place for the estimation problems e.g. how many square feet of pizza are sold in the US each year. We are always coming up with project estimations and despite reading all the advice and so forth, long term project estimations can still be about as reliable as the answers to such questions. At least that is a think on your feet sort of thing.

Pretty much all my experiences asking and answering questions has been on the straightforward side though - I'd consider asking how honest someone is to be on the stupid side. Would many reveal themselves to be fundamentally unsound, or play anything except a straight bat to such a question if they wanted a job? The SQL coffee filling one would also not be for me, though I could of course have a stab at a jokey answer as described.

Cultural preferences (e.g. Star Wars vs. Star Trek) could provide some hints though personally I'd be looking for adult rather than children's tastes. I think I have slightly jokingly asked whether candidates prefer Apple or Android devices - without a preference really on my part, but it does indicate whether they value aesthetics over tinkerability.
Gary Varga
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call.copse (2/7/2014)
...I think I have slightly jokingly asked whether candidates prefer Apple or Android devices - without a preference really on my part, but it does indicate whether they value aesthetics over tinkerability.


And perhaps a good way of finding out if someone takes technology with religious zest i.e. there are are fans and there are fanboys (and girls). Fans are enthusiasts whereas fanboys and fangirls are often disparaging of differing opinions.

Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
Abu Dina
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Had an interview on Monday morning which I thought went quite well until the last two questions:

1) Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
2) Your salary expectations for the role?

The second question in particular really bothered me. I mumbled a few words but in the end I just told them to speak to the recruitment agency about it! w00t

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call.copse
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Abu Dina (2/7/2014)
...
The second question in particular really bothered me...


That is definitely one to have mapped out in advance. I'm British and so really awkward about that sort of thing and mumbled in the past. Having been on the other side of the table what is really called is the candidate to forthrightly state what they want e.g. I might work for as little as X in the right role, but am really looking for X + Y. Practise stating such, so that you don't feel quite so out of place if and when the time comes.

This avoids lots of unpleasantness further down the line IMO. Being coy is just storing up mismatched expectations.
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