What You Can Learn from the Toughest Interview Questions in the Country

2013-04-26 | BY Proven Recruiting's Editorial Team | IN Job Seekers, Recruiting

What You Can Learn from the Toughest Interview Questions in the Country

Companies know that if you ask the same questions as everyone else, you get the same level of talent as everyone else.  If you really want to separate the employees who are merely good from the ones who can truly excel at their position, you should ask questions that make candidates actually think and reveal their true selves.   The top companies in the industry have mastered how to grab the most talented individuals using unique questions.  Here’s what you can learn:


Neilson Company

How many bottles of beer are drank in the city over the week?

What You Can Learn

If you job involves working with numbers, employers are going to want to know that you can make thoughtful estimations on the fly and break a problem down easy-to-understand parts. Obviously, candidates aren’t expected to give a precise answer to this question.  Rather, they are expected to make reasonable estimates based upon the population of the city, the estimated population of beer drinkers, and the average amount per week those beer drinkers consume.  If you are a numbers person, be prepared to put on a display of your personal calculating power.


What do wood and alcohol have in common?

What You Can Learn

If you work in a creative field, employers are going want a sample of your thought process. And a big part of creativity is the ability to make connections between two unrelated things. If you are applying for a writing or artistic position, don’t be surprised if they test your creative mettle right in the interview.


“What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?”

What You Can Learn

Companies are always on the lookout for someone who has leadership and initiative skills.  The purpose of the pizzeria question is to see how you would handle having a big and difficult responsibility thrown into your lap. If you are applying for a managerial position, you should have your personal management philosophy and methodology thought out before you go in for the interview.

New York Life

“Why do you think only a small percentage of the population makes over $150K?”

What You Can Learn

Companies like big picture thinkers.  If they are trying to fill a sales position, they also want to know their candidate know how the average person thinks about money.


On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?”

What You Can Learn

Smart companies know that they need someone who is more than experienced and bright, they also need someone who meshes well into their culture. So you should be prepared to hear questions about your personality type along with questions about your skills.   Someone who would rate themselves a “1” on the weirdness scale probably wouldn’t do well in a place as forwarding thinking as Zappos. On the other hand a “10” might be too kooky to get any work done.  Most modern companies want someone in the middle: an employee who is free spirited and creative but still knows when to get down to work.


You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

What You Can Learn

This is probably the most famous question in Google’s notoriously difficult and secretive interview process.  Like a lot of questions in this list, there is no “right answer.”  Rather, Google wants to see how you think on your feet, especially given an unusual problem.

If you are given an unusual scenario or problem to solve, don’t go for the answer that seems most obvious or the first thing that pops in your head.  They have probably heard that answer before.  Instead, think of an answer that shows that you are resourceful, thoughtful, and innovative.

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