Jobseekers Beware: It's a Buyer's Market...and the Interview Questions are Getting Interesting!

Cross posted from The Green Suits:

A recent story on supports a continuing trend: With many more candidates on the market than open job assignments, hiring managers are indeed asking some very challenging interview questions.

The current crop of questions may seem as imposing as the ones asked of Monty Python's 'King Arthur' as he crossed the 'Bridge of Death.' Remember?


"What is your quest? And what is your favourite colour?


Yet, the new amped up interview questions may yield some very useful insight into how job candidates think on their feet.

From the post:


"Why are manhole covers round? How do you measure 4 gallons of water using only a 3 and 5 gallon jug? How many gas stations/dogs/windowpanes are there in the United States?


The Green Suits need to take this new interviewing trend seriously and rise to the occasion. While we may not know the right answers, immediately, we can attempt to answer in a way that shows how we go about solving difficult problems.

And now this has got me thinking about how many dogs there are in U.S. homes:


Let's see...I guess there are about 110 million households in the U.S. and perhaps forty-five to fifty percent of them have dogs...


...Fifty million?  (Am I in the ballpark???)


Meantime, if you haven't already, please pick up a copy--or download--Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy. It will help you acquire knowledge, get training, and gather the experience you need to succeed in the New Green Economy.

Dan Smolen is Managing Director of The Green Suits, LLC--an executive recruitment firm--and author of Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy.


Photo credit: ©1975, Python (Monty) Pictures, Ltd.

Views: 674

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on August 18, 2011 at 11:12am
I recruit for advertising.  One of the most ridiculous questions I ever heard was the hiring manager who asked an  executive the following: If you were the secretary of state and there was a US arms manufacturer who received a huge order from a friendly foreign country and that order would positively affect the balance of payments, but you heard that the country was going to trans-ship the arms to a not friendly country, what would you do?  My candidate looked at him and said, why don't you ask me an advertising question?  The manager got angry. The candidate excused himself immediately and told me he thought the interviewer was an ass.  Now you can argue that issue either way.  I happened to agree with the candidate.
Comment by Dan Smolen on August 19, 2011 at 10:48am

Hey Paul - thanks for the comment-post.


Generally, I like interview questions that relate to situational dynamics...but only when the situations are real and relate to the open assignment.


Many years ago, before I started recruiting, I was a Marketing Director for a company that sold anti-tarnish materials to consumers and B2B. One of our biggest commercial markets was defense--companies that manufacturer piece-parts used by the U.S. military in weaponry.


One day, I got a big purchase order--and a check--for close to five-figures from some company I did not know with a Mail Boxes etc.-like (bill to) address in Dallas, Texas. The ship-to address was to a country that the U.S. State Department had (just) warned travelers not to visit. On one hand, who was I to turn away a $9,500 order? On the other hand, I surely did not want to do anything that would aid a country that was hostile to the U.S. So, after conferring with my boss, I called the State Department; they urged me to decline the business and return the check. And so I did.


As far as the question asked of your candidate, I would think it appropriate only if it was prefaced with a statement that supported the question's honest intent. Otherwise, what's the point in asking it? If the interviewer had no honest intent, then he or she was just being obnoxious and abusive. I believe that that was the case, thus, your candidate was right to get up and walk out. (And actually, the offending interviewer did your candidate a favor, saving him or her from a bad decision.) 


Warmest Regards,



Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on August 19, 2011 at 10:52am
Right you are, Dan.
Comment by Gene Leshinsky on August 19, 2011 at 5:26pm

Hi Dan, This isn't a new trend. Microsoft and a few other top software companies have been at it for years. This book was published in 2003 and details the questions you are describing.


These questions are only good for extremely technical groups and would be completely inadequate for say a SharePoint developer or a legal secretary. Only for those candidates that are asked to difficult algorithmic problems do they make any sense and even then questionable.


One of my favorite questions is " Tell me about your least successful work relationship and what you could have done to make it successful".


Paul: the interviewer was a total ass.




Comment by Dan Smolen on August 20, 2011 at 8:22pm
Thanks for the commentary, Gene. I like your "favorite" question. D


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