Impossible interview questions (some answers)

Blogged about a collection of impossible interview questions by CBS recently (here) and, unfazed by their awkwardness, Giles Turnbull on The Morning News had a crack at answering them:

Procter & Gamble: Sell me an invisible pen.
Imagine that pen you loved. Remember? It was a great pen. Then that jerk in the office asked “Can I borrow that for a second?” and it was gone, never to be returned. You still see that jerk every day, but have you seen your pen? That need never happen again with the invisible pen. It’s a pen only you can use, because you’re the only one who knows it’s there.

Facebook: Twenty-five racehorses, no stopwatch, five tracks. Figure out the top three fastest horses in the fewest number of races.
The fewest number of races is one. Just keep those suckers running round and round and round until they collapse from exhaustion. The final three make it through, the rest end up as dog food. Actually, I thought that’s how they make dog food.

Citigroup: What is your strategy at table tennis?
The way to win at table tennis is to not think about playing table tennis. It’s too fast. No-one can concentrate on a ball moving at that kind of speed, so the only way to win—in fact, the only way to hit the thing at all—is to think about something totally different, and just let your hands go all floppy, and it kind of happens automatically. It’s like we’re born with a table-tennis sixth sense that takes over for us. Usually, I think about laundry, and whether or not I have enough clean underwear to last me the rest of the week.

Google: You are climbing a staircase. Each time you can either take one step or two. The staircase has n steps. In how many distinct ways can you climb the staircase?
There’s a typo in your question, there, dude. You said “n,” but I think you were supposed to put a number.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Would you be okay hearing “no” from seven out of 10 customers?
HA HA HA HA HA! I wish it was only seven out of 10! HA HA HA HA HA. No thanks, I have a handkerchief right here. Seven out of 10. You’re killing me.

Goldman Sachs: Suppose you had eight identical balls. One of them is slightly heavier and you are given a balance scale. What’s the fewest number of times you have to use the scale to find the heavier ball?
You don’t need the scales at all, you just juggle those cuties. The heaviest one will be revealed in seconds. I did a juggling course at college, I totally know what I’m doing here. You’ve seen that trick where people juggle a chainsaw, a dead rodent, and a lemon? Turns out you can tell which one is the chainsaw even if you’re juggling with your eyes closed. You can just tell what’s heavy as it passes through your hands. And that’s science.

Towers Watson: Estimate how many planes there are in the sky.
What, the sky just here? Or the whole sky, everywhere? And do you just mean big planes like 747s, or are you including itty-bitty one-seaters, and training flights for learner pilots? What about remote-control planes? Those drones the Army uses to spy on people? They could have thousands of those and none of us would know. That’s a very wide question. I’m going to say six. No, 14.

Lubin Lawrence: If you could describe Hershey, Godiva, and Dove chocolate as people, how would you describe them?
I went to school with Hershey. He thought he was so special, and people were all like “Ooooh Hershey,” but then I went to college and forgot all about him. Last I heard, he was cleaning windows for a living. Godiva inherited the house after her aunt died, and tried making a career as an artist. No-one liked her work—too much violence, not enough humanity. We’re still in touch, but our Facebook conversations are about trivia and crap on TV. I don’t think I have much to say to her anymore. Dove does telephone sales calls. I think she got married to some guy from Denver. They don’t have kids.

Pottery Barn: If I was a genie and could give you your dream job, what and where would it be?
Shit, anything? Oh man. Well, I’d get out of Pottery Barn faster than you could say “Breakages must be paid for,” and I’d become an executive in the music industry. No wait, it gets better: I’d be a music executive who also understands the internet. I’d be like, Hey, you, release your album as DRM-free MP3s from some random blog, but keep your band name secret, and we’ll rely on word-of-mouth, it’ll be huge. And there’d be drugs and free music everywhere and pornography and shit. And yellow stretch limos, the ones with drinks cabinets and tables in them. And swimming pools, and free phones, and trips around the world, and it would all be mine, every last lazy minute of it. Either that, or I’d like to be a chocolate taster.

VWR International: How would you market a telescope in 1750 when no one knows about orbits, moons, etc.?
“Hey you! Wanna discover orbits and moons, etc.? Then you need this, baby!” Either that, or just sell to peeping toms. Peeping toms have a long, proud history.

Diageo North America: If you walk into a liquor store to count the unsold bottles, but the clerk is screaming at you to leave, what do you do?
What in the name of God would I be doing counting unsold bottles in a liquor store? Are you trying to fuck with my mind? I mean, what is that supposed to even mean? If, for some insane reason, I was in such a store to do such a thing, and the clerk screamed anything at me, I’d probably do exactly what he said. I mean why wouldn’t I? I did get screamed at in a liquor store once. And now I stop to think about it, it was the clerk screaming. But I’m pretty damned certain I wasn’t counting anything at the time. I think I was texting my aunt.

Brown & Brown Insurance: How would you rate your life on a scale of 1 to 10?
On bad days, I’d say it was a 1. Perhaps a 2. I mean, there are people who have it much worse than me, yeah? On good days, I’d say 3. You’re the first people I’ve spoken to since last Friday, did you know that?

Jane Street Capital: What is the smallest number divisible by 225 that consists of all 1’s and 0’s?
Um… 10. Tens into 225 is 2.25. No, 2250. No—ah, what is it? I know you have to move the decimal point somewhere; I can never remember where. Not a biggie, though. I hate math. That’s why spreadsheets were invented. I can remember being asked questions like this in math classes at school and I wasn’t much good at answering them back then, either.

UBS: If we were playing Russian roulette and had one bullet, I randomly spun the chamber and fired but nothing was fired. Would you rather fire the gun again or respin the chamber and then fire on your turn?
I’d rather get the fuck out of your office and run away very fast. What the hell are you people on? Haven’t you heard of email? Or official dispute procedures? Jesus.

Merrill Lynch: Tell me about your life from kindergarten onwards.
Well I sort of went to school, then I went to college, then I had a dozen crappy dead-end jobs to make ends meet. I wasted my money on alcohol, drugs, gadgets, and pointless leisure activities. I tried settling down a couple of times but we couldn’t make it work, then afterward I usually spent six months in a haze of self-doubt and did lots of crying to myself on the couch in the evenings. There was a spell when I moved back in with my parents, partly because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else and partly because the judge said I had to. When that was over, I drifted a bit. I have nothing meaningful to show for my time on this Earth so far, but I do own a pretty nice phone and a pair of incredibly expensive running shoes.

Susquehanna International Group: Five guys, all of different ages, enter a bar and take a seat at a round table. What is the probability that they are seated in ascending order of age?
I’ve heard this one! I think. Wait, I’ll remember in a moment. Is it “Because the chicken told them to?” No? I could have sworn I’d heard this one. I love jokes. I tell lots of jokes; that’s one of the great things about me. You can’t say that on a resumé can you? But it’s true. That’s why you need me on your international group team. I’ll have you laughing so much, you’ll never get any work done. Ha! That was one right there.

(full article is here)

3 responses to “Impossible interview questions (some answers)

  1. This is absolutely hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Katy! Hey – if you’re into writing, I collated some quotes and tips from writers on my blog…I think you can just get to them by tag search (if you’re interested).

  2. Thanks, I’ll check it out!

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