How would you handle these tough job interview questions from tech companies?

Apple, Uber, Disney all among companies that will put prospective employees to the test

How would you handle these tough job interview questions from tech companies?

Sure, you might be a bit unsatisfied with your current job as a technology professional, but consider that if you head out into the wild you could get nailed with interview questions such as:

*How do you explain a vending machine to someone who hasn’t seen or used one before? (Bloomberg L.P. for global data analyst job)

*How many fire hydrants are there in Los Angeles County? (Disney Interactive Studios, for software engineer)

*Prove that hoop stress is twice the longitudinal stress in a cylindrical pressure vessel?

OK, that last one comes from , and the average person isn’t going to be qualified to work there as a test operations engineer, but plenty of other tough interview questions for more mainstream tech jobs can be found among the list put forth this week by online jobs marketplace Glassdoor.


I’ve skimmed through the list of 27 tough interview questions to pluck out those either from tech companies or for tech jobs. It’s hard to categorize the examples – they’re all over the map – so that won’t necessarily comfort a job seeker trying to prep for interviews. But sites such as Glassdoor do provide such examples to help job seekers study up, based on what current and former employees have to say.

Glassdoor does say it has no evidence that job interview questions are becoming tougher, or that employers are mixing up questions more given that prospects have more ways online to find out what questions have been asked in the past. Earlier Glassdoor research found that IT specialist ranked 8th among jobs by interview duration at nearly 7 weeks (police officer was #1).

Glassdoor doesn’t have a definitive ranking of the toughest tech companies to interview with, but businesses such as Google and Facebook have among the higher difficulty ratings on a scale of 1-5, with scores of 3.4 and 3.2, respectively. Here’s a sampling of tech job or tech company interview questions from the Glassdoor list that jumped out:

*How do you reverse a text string on the Unix command line? (developer, Capital One)

*If you are in a boat with a boulder and you drop that boulder into the lake, how does the water level before and after you drop the boulder in the lake compare? (mechanical design engineer, Apple)

*How would you go about to find the top five Java developers in a certain area? (quantitative developer, Akuna Capital

*Write an equation to optimize the marketing spend between Facebook and Twitter campaigns (data science analyst, Uber) 

And finally, not techie, but curious: If you were a Muppet, which character would you be? (donor family advocate, LifeNet Health). Well, Kermit has been a pretty darn good reporter over the years, so he would be my choice.


Separately, Glassdoor recently introduced estimates, within its job listings, of what job applicants could make. As it is, less than 1 in 10 job listings on the site include actual pay data.

Why are employers (so many of which love to boast of their transparency these days...) still so hesitant to divulge salary data? Glassdoor Community Expert Scott Dobroski says one leading reason is likely because that action is still a bit taboo, even though companies always have salary ranges budgeted for a specific job before they put the actual job advertisement online."

Dobroski says including pay data in job listings could benefit employers by bringing more attention to their openings and by resulting in more dedicated hires. "When people have clearer job expectations, including pay, before accepting a job, research shows that they tend to stay longer with a company, and be more engaged and productive," he says.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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