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Candidates Say Tough Interviews Can Still Be Positive

Jun 20, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Are you one of those recruiters who asks off-the-wall questions to see how the candidate reacts?

Famously lampooned for it, Barbara Walters once asked Katherine Hepburn what kind of tree she wanted to be. (To be fair, Hepburn prompted it by declaring she wanted to be a tree.) Recruiters, however, have asked far more peculiar questions.

One job seeker reported being asked, “If you won the lottery tomorrow, how would you spend your free time?” (How would you answer? Personally, I’d first ask, “How much?” A mere million isn’t what it used to be.)

At the end of last year, Glassdoor offered a list of 25 of the weirdest interview questions of 2010 (and answers suggested by readers). Glassdoor is the website where job seekers, employees, and former employees rate companies and their management.

On the list was this one from Amazon: “If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?”

Another one, from Boston Consulting, asked the candidate to “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.”

Now, Glassdoor offers another view of the interview process, culling its thousands of company reviews for those rated by job seekers — successful or not — as the most difficult.

Both Amazon and Boston Consulting made the list of the top 25. Candidates who went through an interview with either company thought it tough, but few considered it negatively. And for those who landed a job, working there is at least an OK experience. (Glassdoor has reviewers rate a company numerically, from 1/very dissatisfied, to 5/very satisfied.)

McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm, was considered to have the toughest interview process of all of Glassdoor’s thousands of company ratings. Interviewers there typically throw candidates such curve balls as: “Tell me why the number of car accidents reported to insurance companies is declining.”

Yet, 64 percent of the candidates consider the experience positive. One candidate described it this way: “They are very thorough and put a variety of interesting and challenging scenarios forward for immediate response. If you’re not confident or comfortable with your skill sets and problem solving abilities, this is not the place for you.”

The most negative interviews, according to the reviewers, are at Cree, an LED development and manufacturing firm. It ranked third on the list for difficulty, but with 42 percent of the candidates calling it a negative experience, it topped the list for that category. Only 19 percent, the lowest of all 25 companies ranked, considered the interview experience positively.

Besides asking technical questions and others like “How many barbers do you need in a city of 1 million,” several reviewers — including some who got job offers — thought the interviewers rude, arrogant, or both.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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