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The Most Outlandish Tech Interview Questions and What They Mean

By Kaushik Pal | Reviewed by Kuntal ChakrabortyCheckmark
Published: December 14, 2022
Key Takeaways

Oddball interview questions provide insight for interviewers and can help to filter out the exceptional applicants from the mundane.

Source: Unsplash

Tech interviews are always challenging. In the world of ever changing technologies, it is a complicated task to ace tech interviews. Getting in with the big-name companies, like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc., is an even more monumental task. Tech giants, especially mainstream product companies, tend to monopolize the best talent in the industry.

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Interview questions can be classified into three categories. The first one is the normal questions; most of the interviews, even outside of tech, start with these. These are often questions about previous work experience, education, skills, etc.

The second category is technical questions. These ones are industry specific and are meant to test a candidate's knowledge and experience. They require in-depth knowledge of the field.

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The last category is the outlandish, oddball, and downright unpredictable questions. These wacky questions are meant to expose the candidate in a different light and force them to act on their toes. The best tech organizations calculate their own measurement criteria for these odd questions.

In this article, we will explore this third category and learn a little more about all the odd questions you may face and the reasoning behind them. Here are the most outlandish tech interview questions and what they mean.

Why Ask Bizarre Questions?

In this competitive job world, most tech companies have an interview section where the outlandish questions lie.

These questions often come across as funny and unrelated to the job role. However, these oddball questions have a specific purpose -- to uncover the other side of the candidate. It reveals how you respond in unexpected situations, your logical thinking capabilities, handling of stressful situations, team working practices, patience, leadership qualities and much more. (Also read: A Women in Tech Study: Motivation, Recruitment and Retainment)

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Simple copy/paste questions don't allow interviewers enough insight into the personalities of job seekers, so they often employ seemingly inane questions to learn about the candidate on a more personal level.

What Do Interviewers Evaluate?

Interview questions are designed to target different categories. Strange questions fall under problem-solving. Their purpose is to help the interviewer check the candidate's response in unexpected situations.

These questions do not have a correct answer as they are not made to test knowledge, but rather thinking. They test the thought process and the logical decision making of the candidate. The candidate should take a logical approach and apply their problem-solving capabilities to reach an answer.

While most interview questions pertain directly to the role, strange, off-side questions can be completely unrelated. While the questions seem completely out of left field at times, they are specially designed to cover some aspect of the job responsibilities.

Every question is part of the interview process, no matter how friendly, casual or silly they seem. Dismissing these questions as merely idle chatter will not bode well for your chances. Interviewers know what to ask and why. They know what to look for and how certain responses showcase a candidate's personality.

Silly questions also serve a double purpose as they often help to put candidates at ease and make them feel calm and welcome.

Sample Questions

Interviewers use bizarre yet specific questions to learn about different aspects of candidates. These seemingly random questions are often tailored to cover a wide range of topics and categories. (Also read: Your Next Computer Science Career Awaits: Top 5 Mock Interview Sites)

Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice questions offer the candidate two or more options for how to respond. These questions may sound like they have a right and wrong answer, but often what the interviewer is looking for is the candidate's explanation of why they chose what they did.

For example, the question can be a selection of colors like: "Choose between black and red." It can be animal based: "What would you rather be -- a tiger or lion?" Or, it may be a selection of multiple options like: "Where would you rather go -- the sea, a jungle or mountains?".

Based on the choice, interviews gain insight into the candidate's personality.

Imagination-Based Questions

For this type of question, the interviewer lays out an imaginary scenario before the candidate and the candidate has to explain what they would do to handle the situation.

The scenario can be something stressful, funny, political, etc. These scenarios often deal with completely unexpected situations. For example, it may be something like: "What would you do if you were the sole survivor of a plane crash?" This question comes straight from an Airbnb interview.

These types of questions force the applicant to assess the situation, make a decision and act accordingly. It highlights imagination, empathy, logical thinking and problem solving.

Logic-Based Questions

Logic-based questions check the logical thinking process of a candidate. These questions are excellent for the interviewer as they allow them to see if the candidate is a logical person or not, as well as, if they can apply logic to industry issues.

For example: "How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?" was a question asked by Google interviewers. No interviewer expects someone to do all the research and math involved to answer such a question on the spot, rather, they are looking for the steps a candidate would take in order to solve the problem.

These questions are about the thought process behind the answer. The final answer may not make sense, but if you can explain your reasoning behind said answer, the interviewer will be satisfied.

Ethical Questions

Ethical questions are basically the moral interview questions to judge your ethics. The questions could be something like: "What would you do if your boss told you to lie to the client?" or "Would you go behind your coworker's back to get a promotion?"

These questions check your ethics in life and the work place. Be honest and explain your thoughts and reasoning about the question.

There are lots of other areas that oddball questions touch on. Be prepared by going over some more obscure questions like the ones you can find on Glassdoor and Monster.

How to Tackle Outlandish Questions?

Imagine this: you've made it to the interview stage and everything seems to be going well. You've made a good impression and confidently answered all the technical questions, when suddenly the interviewer springs a nonsensical, wildly out-of-the-blue question on you. You start to panic.

Interviewers are watching out for negative reactions like irritation, annoyance or nerves, so take a breath and calm it down. Now, how will you handle this outlandish line of questioning?

Start by trying to understand. What does the question mean, what answer is the interviewer looking for and how could this question pertain to the job?

Always approach these types of questions with logic and reason. Even if you can't figure out the purpose of the question, treat it with the same importance as all other questions.

Here are some of tips for handling these situations:

  • Be calm and confident. You should not react immediately. Try to appear calm and collected. Don't let anger or irritation take hold and remember to breathe.
  • Ask clarifying questions. Candidates should think about the question logically and ask questions to clarify it. This will help you give a reasonable answer and demonstrate your thinking capabilities. Interviewers won't penalize you for trying to understand or clarify. It also buys you time to think of an answer.
  • Take some time to think. To avoid pausing for too long or sitting in silence, ask the interviewer follow-up questions or make an initial comment to buy time. If you need to, you can ask the interviewer for a moment to think it over, but only do this if you're really trapped.
  • Tie it back to the job role. When you are given a question that seems out of place, try to tie it back to the job. it shows the interviewer that you see how the question could relate and the implicit meaning behind it.
  • Accept if you are wrong. While most interviewers will never tell you outright if you're wrong, you can always ask at the end of the interview to see how you did. This shows the interviewer you are interested in self-improvement and gives you practice for the next interview.

Conclusion

The tech industry is extremely competitive, so filtering out the best candidates is vital.

Tech companies pull out all the stops when it comes to interviews and often subject applicants to multiple strenuous interview sessions. While interviews are a way to test your skills, experience and work practices, it also allows interviews a peek into your personality, ethics, thinking process and reactionary style.

While some of the questions they employ may seem strange, odd, or outright outlandish, the best way to handle these types of questions is always to remain calm, use logical thinking and explain your thought process. (Also read: Survey: How Has the Pandemic Impacted Your Tech Career?)

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Written by Kaushik Pal | Contributor

Profile Picture of Kaushik Pal

Kaushik is a technical architect and software consultant, having over 20 years of experience in software analysis, development, architecture, design, testing and training industry. He has an interest in new technology and innovation areas. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open source, WebRTC, big data and semantic technologies. Kaushik is also the founder of TechAlpine, a technology blog/consultancy firm based in Kolkata. The team at TechAlpine works for different clients in India and abroad. The team has expertise in Java/J2EE/open source/web/WebRTC/Hadoop/big data technologies and technical writing.

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