The strangest question you’ve ever been asked (5×8 – 1/4/12)

The blender mystery, Jabby’s fight, post Iowa, swing ’til you puke in a nuke plant, and the art of rejection.


You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

The Timberwolves’ Kevin Love noted on Twitter yesterday that working for Google as a fallback to his NBA career probably isn’t such a good idea, because that question is one of the questions Google asks of potential employees, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

What is Google looking for here, according to the paper? Any answer that starts with “it depends.”

This, we’re told, is the new way of hiring — questions that help strain the ever-growing pool of job seekers.

When I was much younger and embarking on a career, I once heard that IBM tried something like this, although I don’t know if it was true. But the story went that an IBM executive would take you to lunch or dinner and if you put salt on your food without first tasting it, you didn’t get the job.

Here’s another Google question:

A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?

Go ahead! Take a stab at that one.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?


Jack Jablonski, the high school hockey player who was hit from behind in a game this week and is paralyzed, undergoes surgery this morning. His parents provide this update on his Caring Bridge site.

Here’s a belated update on Jack’s status: an MRI confirmed the severity of his injury. A procedure was done this afternoon to prevent clotting in a vessel. It went very well and was followed by a CT scan to show the alignment of his vertebrae, which was very good.

Jack will undergo surgery early Wednesday morning to fuse the damaged vertebrae. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Because of the surgery, we’re asking visitors to wait until further notice to stop by the hospital. “Jabby” needs some time to recover so we’ll be sure to let you know when he’s ready to see your wonderful faces again.

It’s an awful story, of course, but the reaction from the world is something to behold. Seventy-eight thousand people have already visited the Caring Bridge site, and more than 3,000 have left messages on the guestbook. They include people from all over the world, including NHL players, a testament that the tragedies suffered by a good kid can still get people to stop and care. It’s also a display of the value of social media in helping us cope and process…


Never has so much been spent on so few that means so little. Mitt Romney won Iowa by 8 caucus votes (“winning ugly, but still winning,” says Nate Silver), a story that makes great headlines but is also, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi writes, meaningless.

Instead, the only number that counts in the March to the Final Two is how much money is spent on behalf a candidate because that — not the votes of small towns –is what determines who will be the next president.

The 1% donors are remarkably tolerant. They’ll give to just about anyone who polls well, provided they fall within certain parameters. What they won’t do is give to anyone who is even a remote threat to make significant structural changes, i.e. a Dennis Kucinich, an Elizabeth Warren, or a Ron Paul (hell will freeze over before Wall Street gives heavily to a candidate in favor of abolishing their piggy bank, the Fed). So basically what that means is that voters are free to choose anyone they want, provided it isn’t Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul, or some other such unacceptable personage.

And what ends up happening there is that the candidate with the big stack of donor money always somehow manages to survive the inevitable scandals and tawdry revelations, while the one who’s depending on checks from grandma and $25 internet donations from college students always winds up mysteriously wiped out.

Meanwhile, NBC News is reporting that Michele Bachmann has canceled her trip to South Carolina and will hold a news conference this morning. That’s usually a sign that a candidate has decided to drop out. No matter, Politico writes, she’s a shoe-in for re-election to her Minnesota congressional seat. At the same time, though, CBS News says staying in the race won’t cost her much.


What to do with old nuclear power plants’ cooling towers? Germany has turned one into an amusement park, Wired Magazine says. “The park already features more than 40 outdoor attractions, including a swing ride in the cooling tower, and it welcomes roughly 600,000 visitors each year,” the mag says.


If men are going to continue to make public spectacles out of their proposals to women, they’re going to have to get acquainted with occasional public embarrassment.

Bonus I: Is there anything better than a kid smiling?

Bonus II: Around the world in five minutes:

Time is Nothing // Around The World Time Lapse from Kien Lam on Vimeo.


An Intelligence Squared debate airing on Midday today focuses on whether benefits paid to current retirees are saddling young people with too much future debt. Today’s Question: Do entitlement programs unfairly favor the old over the young?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: On the day following the Iowa caucus, we’ll examine the results and look at the campaign strategy for what will happen in New Hampshire and beyond.

Second hour: The year in science.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson on the 2012 presidential campaign.

Second hour: Intelligence Squared debate “Do grandma’s benefits imperil junior’s future?”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie discusses the New Hampshire primary.

Second hour: An Iraqi who interpreted for U.S. troops faces death threats at home,

  • BenCh

    I haven’t been answered any odd/weird questions yet while interviewing. However, I do know the answer to the hotel/money question.

    Some others I have heard of-

    Someone (for a business job) asking you to try to sell them their pencil.

    I also heard of someone saying that they were interviewing for a construction supervisor (I think) and during the interview they were walking around a job site. The entire time the interviewer was tossing a ball up and catching it. Some time in the middle of the interview he would toss it to the interviewee. If he caught it, it meant he was paying attention even while all the hustle and bustle was going on around him.

  • Mitch

    Back in the early 80’s, I was asked this question during an interview with HP for a sales job. It was pretty innovative at the time…

    Q: Why are manhole covers round?

    A: It’s the only shape that can’t fall through it’s own hole.

    That’s a nice property for manhole covers to have, particularly if you happen to be the man down in the hole.

  • Kevin
  • Kevin Watterson

    I think these questions fall a little too far into the ridiculous realm. So-called off beat questions can be useful if they expose skills or traits you want a prospective hire to have. Throwing a ball at someone is silly. Any person’s natural reflex would be to get out of the way.

  • Procopius

    “Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot President Kennedy?” This from some nutcase at the Tunheim PR concern. I would have refused a job there had it been offered.

  • Kevin

    If I were asked “Why are manhole covers round” I would have been tempted to say “because the holes are round”.

    Another advantage of round manhole covers is that you can roll ’em.

  • This is NOT lucy

    I have been asked the same standard questions. What has been strange is some of the behavior of the interviewer while interviewing.

    For example, I was at an interview at US Bank and this younger man who was interviewing me asked my history in which I began to tell him the story about me. ( His story was that he had a degree in psychology and secured a position working in a bank.) While I was speaking he began to yawn the largest yawn I believe that I have ever witnessed in my many years on this planet. A yawn much like a bear coming out from .

    In another interview, The interviewer- who was a very large balded man -obsessively cracked his knuckles throughout the entire interview with a sprinkling of hand smacks in between. I asked him at one point of the interview as to who I would be training with were he sternly responded-“Me”

  • kennedy

    Re: Interview question

    You are in a stationary car and have a helium balloon in the car with all the windows closed. When you accelerate, does the balloon move forward inside the car, move backward inside the car, or stay still inside the car?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Kevin – “Throwing a ball at someone is silly. Any person’s natural reflex would be to get out of the way.”

    Is that a joke? OK, here’s another one: “Right. Any person that doesn’t happen to be a male, or a female that has any experience with having had a ball thrown to them.”

    What ball-aversive planet are you from? 🙂

    Procopious – not real clear on the “nutcase” part. Because the interviewer asked an out of the box question to determine whether you were comfortable and articulate in stating an opinion on a controversial topic? Nutcase because of course he acted alone? Nutcase because of course he didn’t act alone? Or nutcase because you didn’t get the job? 🙂

  • BenCh


    I have had many times I have thrown something at someone not paying attention and they didn’t catch it. It is a reflex to catch it when you see it coming. Paying attention to other things won’t generate a reflex to something else.

  • Kim E

    In spring 08, I interviewed for an environment-focused organization in town. Our group icebreaker question was “If you could elect anyone for president today, who would that be?” To be funny, I said Steven Colbert, because he was still joking about running in the SC primary. Things slowly went downhill from there.

  • Kim E

    In spring 08, I interviewed for an environment-focused organization in town. Our group icebreaker question was “If you could elect anyone for president today, who would that be?” To be funny, I said Steven Colbert, because he was still joking about running in the SC primary. Things slowly went downhill from there.

  • Jamie

    This is off-topic, but I don’t know where else to put it.

    Bob, I wonder if Mrs. NewsCut would be interested in this job:

    Job Classification: AGENCY POLICY SPECIALIST Job Class Option: Cont Care Persons/Disabilities Working Title: Home Care Services Lead (Administrative, not direct care)Salary Range: $ 23.74-$ 35.22 hourly, $ 49,569-$ 73,539 annually

    Location: St. Paul

    Hiring Agency: MN Dept. of Human Services

    Who May Apply: Open to all qualified job seekers Employment Conditions: Permanent, Full-time Posting Number: 11DHS001753 Closing Date: 01/10/2012 Go to:

    to see the full listing about this job.

    “The incumbent in this position will provide leadership, direction and coordination for reform initiatives in policy developments for Medical Assistance Home Care services…

    Responsibilities Include:

    -In collaboration with the division management, identify and analyze opportunities for transformational initiatives for Home Care business activities and processes… ensure desired outcomes… -Provide lead work, both as a facilitator and work group participant interacting with stakeholders creating partnerships and collaborations… ” etc…

  • Jim Shapiro

    Jamie – off topic be damned. You’ve done your good deed for the day. ( I somehow sense that you feel no obligation to stop at 1.)

    Re strange interview questions: while I’ve been blessed to not have to interview for a job much, the one I remember was at once strange and highly relevant.

    Applying for a job as a clinician on the psychiatric unit of a local hospital, the head nurse asked, “What would you do if you came across two patients having sex?”

    The possible responses of course are numerous, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime ( legalistic to compassionate? ), and many positions in between. ( No pun intended, but I’ll take it. )

    The correct answer ( in that I was hired) turned out to be “Whoa! That’s a good question! I guess it depends on the situation!”

  • tboom

    “This is NOT lucy” and I must have been interviewed by the same person. In the mid-80’s I had an interview at a small computer consulting company located in Edina (to the best of my knowledge, now defunct). I don’t recall being interviewed by a company employee, nor ever being asked a technology related question. My interview was conducted by a consulting psychologist who stared out a window overlooking a golf course. He never once made eye contact, heck he didn’t even look in my direction, and he never gave any signal he was hearing my responses to his questions. As I’d completed each response, before asking the next question, he’d make a comment like: “Sure is a beautiful day”, “Wish I was golfing”, “Wish I was outside”, or just give me a big yawn (twice). He NEVER looked directly at me!

    I must not have handled myself properly, I didn’t get a job offer … however he didn’t handle himself so well either, I knew the minute I walked out the door I’d reject an offer.

    Then there was the UPS “Saturday Delivery Driver” job. The HR guy took a very brief look at the front page of my multi-page application, said “Wow, you have more skills and education than this job requires. Why are you here? Do you really want to do an interview?” Since he didn’t actually throw me out, and since I really needed a job, I asked for the interview. He spent the entire time reading papers on his desk, loudly shaking his box of altoids and smacking his lips on a mouth full of (cinnamon) altoids. Now that I’m in a job where I place orders, if feasible, I specify FedEx.

  • THis is NOT lucy


    This is off topic but you can always shoot Bob Collins an email,

    I do it all the time. : )

  • This is NOT lucy

    This is past strange and leaning illegal and it took place at the Stillwater Government Center in with the HUman Resources Dept. I had applied for a position in Support where I was asked to take a typing test. The tests were 3 minutes long, you were allowed a warm-up and then two tries for 55 wpm. While I was taking the test, the words on the screen changed after I had typed them and the next line would pop up which would cause a person to lose their place or if they are paying attention they would go back and retype the proper word which would only cause the problem to repeat itself. This was at the Government Center People!!!!! This is where Fairness and Justice supposedly takes place?! The test was rigged. Interestingly enough the topics were on the Egyptians and their use of steam for energy and another topic was about the Greeks. Oh, and then for the practice test; the topic for the writing to be typed was about the lame excuse for having people come in and take a typing test. Apparently companies cannot afford to train in personnel…but I am not quite sure how this fits in with typing speed and a government position. Do government support employees sit at their keyboard all day banging away at neck breaking speed? I can imagine the carpel tunnel problems.

    Give me a break! Fraud, waste and abuse.