How to weigh an elephant without using scales... and other crazy questions employers ask

Off-the-wall questions test creativity of person being interviewed, claim multi-nationals

“Job interviews are no longer limited to what you are expected to do in the company you are being interviewed for and I learnt that after being rejected as I was not able to answer what I would call a very silly question,”  says Paul McGreor. “I’m a banker and I was asked how would I get out of a syrup bottle if I was 5 mm in size? I guess, the answer I gave them was not impressive as I did not get the job,” he adds.

Within the last decade or more, employers globally have started asking some strange and different interview questions, which may be totally unrelated to the work that a person may be required to do. Some of these questions may sound similar to those asked during a psychiatric examination, some may be like riddles and some that require an immediate yet smart answer.

This is a part of “performance management metrics,” as Robert Half International experts call it. “Companies that are moving into more performance management metrics are looking for individuals who can provide measurable return on investment. They are, therefore, asking questions about how candidates helped improve efficiencies, manage expenditure and deliver growth. While generally standard, it is important for candidates to be prepared with specific examples from previous employers. Often, you’ll see a few of the larger multinationals with some quirky questions that they ask,” James Sayer, Director, Robert Half Middle East told Emirates 24|7.

Mark Timms, Director at the Gulf Recruitment Group shares his picks. “So what’s up?” is a strange question that was asked by an employer “but serves a purpose. [It] gives the interviewer an opportunity to see your thought process and also, people will say the stupidest things if given the opportunity so would you fit into the culture of the business – simple yet effective,” he says .

The second interesting one that Timms focus upon is less of a question but a tactic to assess the reaction of a candidate in a given situation. “Not so much a question but one interviewer would start reading the paper halfway through the interview to access interviewees on their reaction. One successful interviewee actually removed a lighter from his pocket and set the paper alight – he was hired,” he told this website.

During the interview you could be compared with a child, eager of pick jelly beans. It’s an unexpected questions that can be fired at a techie but this was a questions asked at Microsoft. “You have a bucket of jelly beans. Some are red, some are blue, and some green. With your eyes closed, pick out two of a like colour. How many do you have to grab to be sure you have two of the same?” was one crazy questions that the IT firm has asked during its interview process, says Sayer.

“You are stranded on a desert island. You have 60 seconds to choose people of ten professions to come with you. Who do you choose?” was asked at Google.

Sayers lists more of such weird questions being thrown at potential employees by big multi-nationals. “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” was asked at Goldman Sachs, whereas Proctor & Gamble wanted to know how a potential employee would sell an invisible pen. One of the weird ones was at IBM when the interview panel asked how could one weigh an elephant without using a scale?

These off-the-wall or as some say crazy questions are asked to test the creatively of the person being interviewed and the ability to be smart and prompt at the same time.

Such questions do not have any logical or correct answer but are designed to know an individuals inner resources and personality components, as experts put it.

“While there is no right or wrong answer here, employers want to see that you are able to quickly think on your feet, analyse situations effectively and provide well-thought out and concise answers while displaying strong communication and presentation skills. They aim to take you out of your comfort zone and as you can’t prepare for these, employers anticipate that they will get more natural responses that better reflect your true personality,” explains Sayer.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)


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