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't actually 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!
Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.
What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.
The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.
There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!
Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.
Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”
While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.
That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying
the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.
This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.
Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.
That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?
Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”
While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."
In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.
We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.
As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.
What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.
The rising trend of pet-friendly offices is part of the effort to incentivize employees to come back to work in person. Many companies completely embraced the remote-friendly convenience of WFH. Digital nomad culture emerged and “second cities” arose when people exited New York, San Francisco, and LA, and headed to Denver, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh.
But now, employees and employers have a choice to make. The question now is: to return or not to return to the office? This is no longer about forcing employees to commute. Post The Great Resignation, employees feel more empowered to leave in-person positions and seek out remote jobs. So if offices want people to return, they’ve got to do a ton to entice their employees.
Some huge companies with giant operating budgets are not worried. With major perks like shiny facilities and full-service food bars, they feel comfortable requiring in-office work days — even if it’s for a hybrid week. But the solution might be simpler: pet-friendly workplaces.
The Allure of Pet-Friendly Offices
According to the Washington Post, pet-friendly workplaces are becoming a common solution to improve employee morale and appease the rising number of pandemic pet owners. “As offices start reopening and thousands of workers are being called back for the first time in two years, some companies are allowing employees to bring their pets. About 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many workers say they find pet-friendly environments an important perk for their new furry family members. A recent survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital, owned by Mars Inc., showed that 57 percent of the 1,500 pet owners polled said they would be happiest returning to a pet-friendly workplace. Half of the 500 top executives surveyed said they are planning to allow pets at the office. Tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Uber plan to continue to allow dogs at their offices, even with their flexible office policies.”
With so many people adopting and fostering since the pandemic, becoming a pet parent is a trend. And to welcome these new additions into people’s lives, it makes sense for some workplaces to welcome them into the office.
After spending unlimited amounts of time at home, many pets grew greatly attached to their “parents” — and pet-parents feel the same about their pets. Rather than keeping them locked in the house while their caretakers head off to work, this is a mutually beneficial solution to the current separation anxiety faced by pets.
Pets have also been shown to boost happiness in pet owners. According to heart.org, “Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise and improve your overall health. For example, people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. Just playing with a dog has been shown to raise levels of the feel-good brain chemicals oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.” Most likely, this might have a similar effect on people who bond with animals at work that don’t even belong to them, lending an overall mood boost to the office.
The controversy behind pet-friendly workplaces
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the prospect. Some would rather keep the office separate from their personal lives. Some are allergic to pets. And some people simply don’t like animals.
Offices considering pet-friendly policies are weighing the pros and cons to keep everyone happy. According to the Washington Post, clear guidelines and communication can increase the chances of success.
“Before making the jump, pet experts say that leaders should first understand whether their employees have interest in, or strong feelings against, having a pet-friendly office. Doing an anonymous survey may allow employees to freely share thoughts on the matter.”
Overall, the key to a policy like this is flexibility. “Be ready to adjust: Above all, pet-friendly offices should be ready to listen and adjust their policies as they go. What works for one office may not work for another, but experts say proper planning can lessen much of the burden.”
Ensure your office is actually suited to the pets you want to welcome. “A well-developed pet-friendly office should be both safe and welcoming to pets. That means companies should consider blocking off areas that could be dangerous to pets as well as making sure pets have access to clean water, food, and places to rest.”
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