10 Weird Questions You'll Be Asked at Your Tech Interview
Want to work for a high-powered tech company? Of course you do. Fortune named Google the number one company in the world to work 7 times in the past decade and companies like Twitter and Facebook rank highly in the top 25. But how are you going to ace that interview? Notorious for the week-long onslaughts potential employees are put through, some of the largest and most important tech companies in the world are also known for asking some really weird and out there questions to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Here's some of the wackiest ones, and a few answers.
"If you could be any kind of sandwich, which would you be?"
A long-famous Google question, some sort of sandwich-based query has been adopted by a surprising number of large companies, with one major consulting firm asking applicants how they would go about making a tuna sandwich. So preparing some sort of malleable sandwich-based answer wouldn't be that bad of an idea. Personally, I like a good falafel wrap: modern, vegetarian and it's something somebody interviewing you probably had for lunch. And it reflects the diverse background your skills will bring to the company!
"Have you ever been on a boat?"
Asked by Applied Systems, a company right at the forefront of insurance technology, this question, on the surface, seems to be asking about worldliness and alternative technological prowess. Do you have the capacity to direct a nautical vessel, an image rich with mythic portent that stretches from Moby Dick to Chris Hemsworth? But it's also about something deeper than that, about your connection to systems larger and greater than yourself, charted and uncharted terrain that bristles at the thought of being known. Maybe you haven't been to sea, or even been inside a frigate. But you're inside this small boat that some call Earth and we're just dangling in a sea called the Milky Way.
I would talk about fishing with my proverbial old man, though.
"A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?"
Another deep dive from the Google crew, this time secretly testing your on-hand knowledge of beloved American board games. He's playing Monopoly, of course!
While it's likely that Google won't be keeping this one on their clipboards for very long now, it's useful to keep a Jeopardy!-like bank of pop-trivia on hand and keep your mind out floating for strange answers.
"What's your favorite '90s jam?"
More on the pop culture beat, this retro-ask was put by the web design people at Squarespace and is also a good chance to show your attitude and brag about how popular you were in middle school. While "Smells Like Teen Spirit" might be the first number that comes to your head, "here we are now/entertain us" might send the wrong message. "I Want It That Way" would certainly say something about your decision-making prowess. Anything by Smash Mouth works also.
It's also worth having a happy-go-lucky list of '90s cartoons, movies and Disney princesses.
"Have you ever stolen a pen from work?"
Asked by Jiffy Software, another website and app development company on the cutting edge, this question is a gut test of your honesty, are you the kind of person who steals pens? Or are you the kind of person who lies about it? Go for the truth with this one, which is a yes. Even if you've never so much as stolen a staple.
Want to be really cutting edge? Say you don't use pens anymore. They're so 2005.
"Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?"
Another trick one, this time asked by the photocopy kings at Xerox. While there's an easy, real answer to this one—who doesn't know that it is its fuzz that gives the ball traction and keeps it from bouncing too high?—it's probably useful to think of a few relevant tangents you can take with an oddball like this one. Maybe you're applying for a marketing position and can wire it into a wild marketing spin about how the fuzz of tennis balls give the man edge over less interesting ricochet balls. Go wild.
"Why is the Earth round?"
Another ostensibly pop-science number that Twitter has been known to ask prospective software engineers. We all know the story with Copernicus, Columbus and the diminishing horizon, but this question seems to be getting its momentum by wanting to know why. What general advantages can you think of to our roundness besides not falling off the edge?
Or you could just be the smarty who tells them that the earth isn'tactually round, you know?
"If you had a choice between two superpowers - being invisible or flying - which would you choose?"
This timeless Seinfeld-esque classic was asked by Microsoft and for a pretty high level position. Personally, I'd go with flying without a second of deliberation. Invisibility is cool and all, but how are you going to give that presentation if no one can see you?
"If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?"
This curveball was reported to be thrown by mighty behemoth Apple. Perhaps food delivery is the next world they're about to conquer or the scissors represent the kind of industry change that slashes through things. Maybe some way of doing business?
In the world of pizza delivery, I'd suggest scissors be used to divide portions readily, selling slices on the spot?
"What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?"
This rather morbid scenario was asked by the caring people over at Airbnb, the rising and somewhat controversial hospitality marketplace. While a bit wild of a scenario, it's not too hard to tie this one to the business at hand: making sure your temporary stay is the best it can be. Your answer can include: checking in at the new locale on social media, making sure to not touch any valuables that aren't yours, and drafting your feedback of the experience.
Go get 'em!
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!