Free Ebook.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

« Details on Chase Freedom Credit Card (Plus $50 Bonus) | Main | How to Have a Great Trip to Disney World While Saving Tons of Money and Time »

October 03, 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A couple of years ago, I was asked, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" Fortunately, I could tell the interviewers were joking. Given that I was interviewing for a job at Indiana State University, I answered sycamore, their mascot, and declined to expound upon that.

Just one. I was asked, "If we were to walk out to your car right now, how clean would it be?"

Luckily, I had just cleaned it out that weekend and could honestly answer there were only a couple things in there I had brought with me that morning. He didn't test his theory. Didn't get the offer though... but that was about a week after 9/11... don't think they hired anyone.

Preface: I missed my friends wedding for this interview :(

It was on campus interview time and there was a group with which I sought an interview but all the slots were filled up. I contacted the interviewer directly to request some face time and he readily agreed. He said to meet in the student u at 4pm.

I arrive and there is another candidate. He said in order to save time, he was going to interview us together. Throughout the interview, every question was asked to me first then the other. First question, what 3 books would you have on desert island? I say, and tried to think of a legitimate answer...after the second book he says 'too long' points to the other interviewee and says 'you' and they rattle off 3 books. The interview continues its downhill slide from there. On the way out I asked the other how they thought of 3 books so fast and they said that based upon the interviewers reaction to my thought, they simply listed the first 3 books they could think of on their book shelf. Nice.

Did not get the job, we lost in football that weekend and I missed one of my good friends weddings. Problem is, he used to work at my wife's current company so I have the pleasure of seeing him at least once a year and have to feign pleasantries b/c he still wields a lot of influence.


I think the "last book you read" question is pretty legit. It really shouldn't be that hard/tricky to answer that one.

I got asked "What is the sum of the numbers between 500 and 1000?" No scratch paper or calculator. They were surprised that I even gave them a number! (In case you were wondering I was off by a factor of two.)

Jeff --

Just did it for fun and missed by 750. Here's how I thought it through:

1. The mid-point between 500 and 1000 is 750.

2. So the sum of all the numbers between 500 and 1000 must be very close to 750 * 500 (I got 500 from 1000 - 500).

3. 750 * 100 = 75,000.

4. 75,000 * 5 = 375,000.

I then went to an excel spreadsheet to check my work and had it add up all the numbers from 500 to 1000 (including both 500 and 1000) and got 375,750.


I used to conduct the interviews for the intern positions at my previous job. A friend of mine taught me this question:

"Which way should the toilet paper be put on the roll. From the top or the bottom?"

The point? There's no right or wrong answer... just that the interviewee should have a definite opinion of which way is right. Answers like "it doesn't matter" usually indicates someone who is wishy washy and won't take the lead on projects.

It always got a good laugh though.

500+501+...+1000 is arithmetic progression. Formula for the sum of the elements would be (a1+an)*n/2. So you get (500+1000)*501/2 or 1500*501/2 or 750*501 or 750*500 +750=375750.

Was this the interview for a technical job that pre-reqd college algebra?

Kitty --

I know -- but can you do your formula in your head? That 501/2 would be hard to multiply.

Even if you don't remember the formula, if you remember about how young Gauss did his 1-100 summation, it's pretty easy.

To start with, let's subtract 500 from each number in the series so it's more like Gauss' problem: the sum of 1 through 500.

If you recall, Gauss realized that if you fold the series in half and add up the pairs (e.g. 100+1, 99+2, 98+3 etc) you get 50*101 = 5050. In our case, it's 250 pairs of 501. To do it easily with pencil and paper, I'd break it down into 501*5*100/2 = 125250

Now we need to add back in the 500 we subtracted from each number earlier. But remember, there are 501 numbers in the series, because it's 500 to 1000 inclusive. When we subtracted 500 earlier, we got to ignore the 500-500 = 0. So we need to find 500*501. Notice, though, that it's twice the earlier number. So just find 125250*3 and you have your final answer!

FMF, your method would have worked too if you'd remembered there are 501 numbers. It's easy enough to forget that with my method too!

If I were the interviewer, full credit for anyone who came within 750, half credit for someone who says they know there's a formula but forget what it is, no credit for someone who says it can't be done or tries the brute force method, and extra credit for someone who gets the exact answer.

This is a fair question for any position that might require abstract reasoning.

I feel Todd's pain. I missed a friend's wedding for this interview:

Interviewer: Tell me about your family.
Me: Well, there's my parents, and I have three sisters.
Interviewer: No brothers?
Me: No, no brothers.
Interviewer: Oh. Well then... do you feel comfortable around boys?

I thought the family question was a little personal to begin with, but that last one came completely out of left field. I had no idea what to say, so I just explained that I have male friends and cousins and that, yes, I felt comfortable around boys. The interviewer was male, so I'm not sure if he thought I was comfortable around him or not. He later told me I was too old for the position because I was a Junior in college and this job was for Freshmen and Sophomores (it was a summer job at Baskin Robbins). The whole thing was just bizzare.

I was once asked 'who is your favorite superhero and why?'. What a question. But it was a Whole Foods interview, so, go figure.

Lu --

What's strange about that? You said Batman, right? ;-)

375,750 (sum of numbers between 500 and 1000. Took me about 20 seconds.

There are 501 such numbers - 250 number pairs plus 1 more number. Each pair sums to 1500 (500 + 1000, 501 + 999, etc. The remaining unpaired number is 750.

So take 250 (pairs), multiply by 1500 (pair sum), add 750.

I haven't checked my math yet, but I think I'm in the ballpark.

Now I see Matt (and Gauss) did it a different way; I think my way was easier and faster.

I prefer to roll toilet paper from the top.

I got the books one for a college interview. But he was the head of the library there and so I figured it was relevant. I don't remember what I said but I got into the Honors Program.

The one that scares me is "your biggest challenge" or "your biggest fault." *shudder*

I got asked a summation question during an interview to do phone sales for a Chinese cruise line. I asked the interviewer, "I beg your pardon, but what does demonstrating my ability to answer such a question have to do with selling cruise packages?" He hired me right then and there because he admired my "moxie". I made the TONS of money and they call me at least once a year begging me to return to work.

My wife once got asked in an interview how she was going to "break through the glass ceiling" being in a male dominated profession (she was interviewing with an accounting firm). Needless to say, she had no desire to work there.

I understand the books read is a legit question but a desert island question? What was next...would you rather? :)

Odd question at an interview: "Give me a metaphor to describe how you do your job." I guess being interviewed as an English teacher means I should be able to think metaphorically, but I was stumped for a while. Got the job, though.

As for the question, "Which way should the toilet paper be put on the roll. From the top or the bottom?" Doesn't toilet paper already come on the roll? I don't put it on the roll; I put the roll on the holder. And I always slide it on from the side, not from the top or the bottom.

I was asked the following: "Two trains are headed towards each other; one is going 32 mph and the other is going 76 mph. There is a fly flying back and forth between these two trains. Assuming the trains are 5 miles apart, how many times can the fly complete a lap before they collide?"

I was interviewing for a short term internship with a small investment bank. A professor had set me up with them, and it was supposed to be a relaxed sort of interview. When I sat down they told me I was welcome to jot down a few equations "from physics classes" to make myself a cheat sheet before the interview started. I considered leaving right then and saving us all some time.

I was asked do you have apurple cape with polka dots.

Interviewer: Do you have any pets?
Me: No, just two plants
Interviewer: Do you share any personality traits with them?


I stumbled upon this site and I must say I really enjoyed reading all this... I love job interviews, I know it sounds nuts but who does not like to talk about themselves, lets be honest... anywho great stuff here very funny!!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Start a Blog


  • Any information shared on Free Money Finance does not constitute financial advice. The Website is intended to provide general information only and does not attempt to give you advice that relates to your specific circumstances. You are advised to discuss your specific requirements with an independent financial adviser. Per FTC guidelines, this website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. All posts are © 2005-2012, Free Money Finance.