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Career Advice

27 Jobs With Unbelievably Tough Interview Questions

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated February 23, 2017

It’s almost time. You have just days until your dream job interview, and you are doing everything possible to get this right. You’ve read interview reviews and questions shared by other job candidates on Glassdoor and spoken to everyone under the sun, from your second cousin once removed to your old high school classmate who now works at the company. But even with all this research ahead of the big interview, there are some interview questions that could catch you by surprise. During today’s tough interview process, almost any can be thrown your way, so you need to be prepared for anything.

To help, we’ve identified 27 jobs with tough interview questions to give you a better sense of the tough, strange and unexpected questions that can be asked in any job interview in any industry. How would you answer these?

1. "How do you explain a vending machine to someone who hasn't seen or used one before?"—Global Data Analyst, Bloomberg L.P.

2. “How many fire hydrants are there in Los Angeles County?”—Software Engineer, Disney Interactive Studios


3. “If your current employer had an anniversary party for you, what five words would be written on the cake to describe you?”—District Manager, Express

4. “Who in history would you want to go to dinner with and why?”—Flight Attendant, PSA Airlines

5. “Prove that hoop stress is twice the longitudinal stress in a cylindrical pressure vessel.”—Test Operations Engineer, SpaceX

6. “What’s the capital of Canada?”—Team Leader, OpticsPlanet

7. “Name a brand that represents you as a person.”—Brand Strategist, Twitter

8. “Estimate how many employees in the next building”—Data Scientist, Risk Management Solutions

9. “How many happy birthday posts do you think Facebook gets in one day?”—Sales Operations, Facebook

10. “If you could take anyone on a road trip with you, who would you take and why?”—Educator, lululemon

11. “What is the first thing you'd print with a 3D printer if you had one?”—Linux Systems Administrator I, Rackspace

12. “If you had to take only one item to a deserted island, what would that be?”—Customer Service Specialist, Squarespace

13. “Please describe an instance where you had to make a decision without all of the necessary information.”—Analytics, athenahealth

14. “How do you reverse a text string on the Unix command line?”—Developer, Capital One

15. “If you are in a boat with a boulder and you drop that boulder into the lake, how does the water level before and after you drop the boulder in the lake compare?”—Mechanical Design Engineer, Apple

16. “You have been asked to lead a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant that will be supported across several companies and universities. How do you start?”—Research Scientist, Ford Motor Company

17. “Sell me on one idea, and then sell me on the opposite of that idea.”—Solarwinds Administrator, Blizzard Entertainment

18. “How would you go about to find the top five Java Developers in a certain area.”—Technical Recruiter, Google

19. “What is the probability of an integer from 1 to 60,000 not having the digit 6?”—Quantitative Developer, AKUNA CAPITAL

20. “If you were a Muppet, which character would you be?”—Donor Family Advocate, LifeNet Health

21. “Give me 48 cents using six coins. Tell me quantity and value of the six coins.”—Human Resource Manager, Wintec

22. “Write an equation to optimize the marketing spend between Facebook and Twitter campaigns.”—Analyst (Data Science), Uber

23. “What is the angle at 3:15?”—Implementation Consultant, Fast Enterprises

24. “What part of the newspaper do you read first? What does this say about you?”—Audit, BDO USA

25. “If a coworker had an annoying habit, and it hindered your quality of work, how would you resolve it?”—Production Technician, Procter & Gamble

26. “Throw your resume aside and tell me what makes you you.” —Sales Executive, Zillow

27. “How would you find the square root of 1.2?” —Hardware Engineer, Jump Trading

How To Prepare for Tough Interview Questions

One of the best ways to prepare for a tough interview is to do your research to find out what to expect. By using sites like Glassdoor, you can educate yourself about the interview process, what types of questions might be asked as well as learn more about what it’s like to work at the company. On top of doing online research, reach out to anyone you know — from personal friends, to family members, even acquaintances — who works at the company or has a similar job title. You’ll get even more insider advice on what the company is actually like under the hood or what your interviewer is really looking for.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind. (1) Always practice your answers to questions out loud with a friend or in front of the mirror — trust us, everything sounds different when you run responses in your mind. Plus, if you have planned answers in advance, it’s unlikely you’ll blank when they ask that tough or wacky question. (2) Make a mental list of questions you would like to ask during the interview, and ensure you are prepared to counter with a response when the interviewer inevitably asks if you have any questions for them. Remember this is your chance to interview the company as much as they are there to get to know you. (3) Finally, don’t forget to dress the part, get enough zzz’s and eat healthy foods to energize yourself. You’ll do great!

What Makes an Interview Tough?

According to new Glassdoor economic research, the following are factors that drive interview difficulty: Number of interview screens, company size, type of employer (public vs. private), education and age. While most of these don’t come as a surprise, we found that hospitals have the toughest job interview process with a 9.7 percent higher difficulty rating compared to the average. Non-profits followed with 9.6 percent. The report also found that gender does not have any affect on interview difficulty — it appears most employers apply the same rigor to interview processes to male and female candidates.

Why Do Tough Interviews Matter?

Our chief economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, found that the tougher the job interview, the more satisfied an employee will be down the line. Specifically, according to his Glassdoor Economic Research, a 10 percent more difficult job interview process is associated with 2.6 percent higher employee satisfaction later on. Why is that? Hiring is a “matching process” that connects workers and companies, and helps to evaluate “fit.” Good matches lead to higher productivity and satisfaction, while poor matches lead to the opposite.

So remember this: By preparing for and acing that tough interview, you are more likely to love your job in the long run.

TELL US! Were you asked tougher interview questions than these? Share the interview question with others.


Glassdoor evaluates all approved interview questions shared during the past 12 months (1/16/2016-1/15/2017) by U.S. job candidates on Glassdoor. To develop the list, we take into account community feedback (e.g., questions tagged “very difficult” and “difficult”) and compile a selection of questions, in no particular order, that gives job seekers more insight into what could be asked during a tough interview.