Tech companies are famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for tossing weird brainteasers at job candidates. Microsoft used to ask some candidates why manhole covers are round; Google once made a point of hurling complicated puzzles at anyone who wanted to work there; SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reportedly enjoys asking some engineers a geography-related brainteaser.
In recent years, however, many tech firms have turned away from odd lines of questioning. Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of “People Operations,” called such questions “useless.” Microsoft has also scaled back its reliance on brainteasers as a way to judge candidates’ thought processes.
Yet some firms still stick with the brainteasers, and for a simple reason: They show how well the candidates can think on their feet. How they answer an open-ended question can also provide vital clues to how they work out problems. So how oddball can things get?
According to Glassdoor, job interviewers at Airbnb have asked candidates: “What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?” (Anything involving the word “cannibalism” is probably the wrong answer, we think.)
“What’s your favorite 90s jam?” Squarespace reportedly asks, which is just weird, unless your job responsibilities include DJing the office holiday parties. In all seriousness, choosing a song that’s positive and uplifting will show that you’re a positive person who tries to raise the spirits of everybody around you. Or something.
Interviewers at Dropbox have asked: “If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?” (Given that Dropbox deals in data storage and efficient information management, such a question makes perfect sense.)
“Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” query the interviewers at Stanford University. Your answer might show how you assess competition. It also might reveal your total lack of knowledge about comic books.
Other oddball questions are more practical. For example, Business Insider reported a few years ago that Amazon asks candidates how they would spend a million dollars on an entrepreneurial idea. Interviewers at Apple go for the cliché with, “What kind of animal would you be and why?”
Whatever the question, remember that the answer matters less than the process; if you can show the interviewer that you’re a logical thinker who’s capable of rapid-fire ideation, you’ll survive the weirdness.