When I was applying for a summer job at a retailer, meant to put employees on the fast track to middle management, I attended an employment retreat. Not only did we take a test to gauge our honesty, but we also had to answer interview questions like:

  • What kind of tree would you be?
  • What’s your idea of a perfect day? (Hint: Not working at a retail store)
  • What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream, and why?

I’m going to be frank. I don’t answer those types of questions very well. In fact, whenever I had to answer such questions during an interview, I was almost certain not to get the job. I tended to get jobs that focused more on my qualifications, and past performance (it’s how I ended up working for a newspaper as an ad specialist).

Answering such interview questions one of the reasons that I now work from home as a freelance writer. I don’t have to go through such interviews. I just point to some samples, and pretty much say, “If you like it, hire me.”

Some Of the Stranger Interview Questions Asked During 2011

Fortune, on CNN Money, recently published a list of strange interview questions asked during 2011. Some of these seem a little strange, due to your career. While you might expect to be asked questions about a company’s profits, or to describe what you would do during a typical work day, I don’t see a lot of practical value in such questions as the following, which were listed in the article:

  •  “Just entertain me for five minutes. I’m not going to talk.” — Acosta (leadership development program associate)
  • “What do you think of garden gnomes?” — Trader Joe’s (team member)
  • “Name five uses of a stapler without staples.” — EvaluServe (business analyst)
  • “If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?” — Summit Racing Equipment (e-commerce manager)
  • “How would you cure world hunger?” — Amazon.com (software developer)
  • “Pepsi or Coke?” — United Health Group (associate project manager)
  • “How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” — Horizon Group Properties (office manager)

I’m sure that there are a number of justifications for such questions, ranging from testing your creative problem solving abilities to figuring out what kind of relationships you are likely to have with your coworkers. But, by and large, it’s these types of questions that you have to be prepared for — on top of those questions that are meant to actually determine your qualifications and skills.

I can almost see why Google would ask, according to the article, “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 on a Friday?” But it seems like a piece of over-specific trivia that few people would know to look up. Or, perhaps some hiring managers are just watching to see how you react when thrown such a huge curveball.

I don’t know the reasoning behind such questions. I don’t understand why this is important information that provides insight into your character. But there must be some reasons these questions are asked. If you know what those reasons are and, more importantly, if you know how to answer these types of questions, I’d love to hear about them.


Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.