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Discussion Starter #1
Some days ago, I was checking an IT forum that is in my country language, and some guys were talking about some weird interview questions that they were asked to answer. These weird questions are something like the following examples:

"How many degrees does the angle formed between the clock hands have when the time is 15:15?"
"How many people can fit in a X street?" (X street being a popular street where I live)
"How many gas stations are in the X zone?"

While some said that these questions were stupid, some would say that they can be useful to see how a person would answer and if the interviewee is prepared for the unexpected.

Personally, I think that it's a good way to see if the candidate has some sense of humor and if he/she is not too easily stressed, but taking these questions too seriously instead of evaluating a candidate's actual skills would seem counterproductive.

What do you guys think? Ever been asked of weird questions during interviews? What do you think of this kind of questions?
 

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Questions like that are OK for second interviews, once you have selected your candidates for the position. I wouldn't do that the first time I met someone and needed to find out the basics.


-ZDD
 

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I think people have Google Syndrome when it comes to that. They think they're being all innovative by asking really stupid off topic questions. It's really just a waste of time. How does fitting X people in the street have anything to do with a tech job? I could see maybe as an event coordinator where you'd coordinate street festivals, but as far as tech jobs, it's stupid. I mean it's good to get good questions that will catch people off guard (like how these weird questions do) but something completely irrelevant, is just stupid and wasting time.

If I was an interviewer, the non-traditional questions I'd ask would be like, "How do you view technology?" (I'd ask this because it's very open ended. I would want to see if they view technology as just a bunch of shiny gadgets or if they see it as a tool that adds value). There might be some questions if you're looking to see people's logic like ask them to take a side and argue it for some weird obscure issue nobody really thinks about. This would test how they can think on the spot and take a stance in a limited amount of time and under pressure.
 

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Eh, sometimes they just want to see your thought process, how you work out problems you weren't expecting to encounter. The answer isn't as important as your problem solving skills.
 

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The first time l got a weird question, l was not aware that this was an emerging trend. l actually assumed the interviewer wasn't interested and was just trolling until the end of the interview, so l didn't try to come up with anything brilliant.

lt was ''lf you were a box of cereal, what kind would you be?'' BTW.
 

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Job Interview 2.0: Now With Riddles! - The Daily WTF may be useful for an article from one of my IT humor sites that discusses some of these kinds of riddles.

What do you guys think?
My personal opinion is that these can be useful question if one has sufficient training in psychology or other subjects to understand how to analyze an answer. A key point is that these are often intended to see what someone will think on their own though it is worth understanding that someone may counter on these issues.

Ever been asked of weird questions during interviews?
Yes, sometimes I have. Part of the idea is to see what kinds of assumptions one may make as for some of these questions there is something to be said for finding an approximate answer quickly that works better than trying to get the specific answer.

Travelling salesman problem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia would be a well-known problem that doesn't have trivial solutions and thus is considered quite hard to solve exactly but does have various approximation ideas that could be used.

What do you think of this kind of questions?
If the interviewer is up for having an honest discussion around the answer and getting enough background to make sense of my answer, then fine let's rock on with it. However, if you aren't going to do that leg work then these tend to be horrible questions.

Another article that may be useful here:
How to Answer Brainteaser Interview Questions
 

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"How many degrees does the angle formed between the clock hands have when the time is 15:15?"
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Seven. And a half. In theory. (In practice, most clocks' hands are a little bit off.)

It's not zero, because as the minutes progress, a clock with hands will also move the hour hand. Since 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour, it'll be a quarter off the 3:00 mark. Each hour accounts for 30 degrees of the clock face. 30 / 2 = 15, 15 / 2 = 7.5.

Would that score me points with interviewers, that my reaction to reading that question was to work it out in my head?

Maybe at a tech company.
 
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Speaking as a former recruiter: those questions aren't uncommon. Especially for consultancy jobs, project management or anything else relating to solving complex problems. It is a good way to find out about the thought process a candidate applies to random situations. It's generally not about having the actual answer, rather > how do you get to your answer.
 

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"How many degrees does the angle formed between the clock hands have when the time is 15:15?"
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Seven. And a half. In theory. (In practice, most clocks' hands are a little bit off.)

It's not zero, because as the minutes progress, a clock with hands will also move the hour hand. Since 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour, it'll be a quarter off the 3:00 mark. Each hour accounts for 30 degrees of the clock face. 30 / 2 = 15, 15 / 2 = 7.5.

Would that score me points with interviewers, that my reaction to reading that question was to work it out in my head?
Some might think you have memorized the answer and thus want to give you another question. Others would be pleasantly surprised.
 

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I have had a few.
I was told once to interview a candidate. Cold. I was was an enginereing job in my department. I sort of knew what they wanted. I am sure that poor fellow has a horrible opinion of the company (I sure do. But they folded) Most of my questions were probably stupid and fruitless.Turns out they "liked" a candidate, was taking him out to dinner, and did not have the simply courtesy of thanking the interviewee for applying and sending him home.
 

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I sat in on some interviews where my manager asked logic questions. Train A goes to Santa Fe at 55 MPH while train B goes to Dallas at 70 MPH, shit like that. Such terrible interview questions. My style is to learn what they can do, not stress how they process things.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
"How many degrees does the angle formed between the clock hands have when the time is 15:15?"
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Seven. And a half. In theory. (In practice, most clocks' hands are a little bit off.)

It's not zero, because as the minutes progress, a clock with hands will also move the hour hand. Since 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour, it'll be a quarter off the 3:00 mark. Each hour accounts for 30 degrees of the clock face. 30 / 2 = 15, 15 / 2 = 7.5.

Would that score me points with interviewers, that my reaction to reading that question was to work it out in my head?

Maybe at a tech company.
That is the correct answer, at least the answer some guys said in that forum. :) Personally I would have answered 0º degrees as I wouldn't have remembered that small detail (well I'm used to digital watches lol), but then I would have wondered if there was a catch as the answer can't be as obvious as 0º degrees lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Just found this movie while digging some trailers from IMDB: Exam (2009) - IMDb

:p

Before starting my career, I remember that there was an event in my college that was for helping students to success in their first interviews and learn how to write a CV. There were some group activities hosted by some HR people, that helped evaluate our profiles and pointing out our strengths and weaknesses. It might be interesting to actually have group interviews (although not as extreme as this movie lol).
 

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They are open-ended questions that test to see if you can fill in/surmise/imagine the unknowns. Large companies like google, microsoft tend to ask these to see your thought process. Scientific research also treads the same pathways as so called "open-ended" problems tend to lack formalism or constraints in the beginning.

e.g. fitting people to street question -> estimate how many lanes -> cars that fit per lane -> peoples that can sit side-by-side in a car -> how long does street run.

gas station problem -> population of city -> size of city -> fraction of commuters -> avg milage of car -> avg milage of commute -> avg density.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
They are open-ended questions that test to see if you can fill in/surmise/imagine the unknowns. Large companies like google, microsoft tend to ask these to see your thought process. Scientific research also treads the same pathways as so called "open-ended" problems tend to lack formalism or constraints in the beginning.

e.g. fitting people to street question -> estimate how many lanes -> cars that fit per lane -> peoples that can sit side-by-side in a car -> how long does street run.

gas station problem -> population of city -> size of city -> fraction of commuters -> avg milage of car -> avg milage of commute -> avg density.
Google Finally Admits That Its Infamous Brainteasers Were Completely Useless for Hiring - Atlantic Mobile
 

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One of my colleagues (we're both biologists) reports that she was once asked, "If you were a cell, what type of cell would you be?"
 
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