Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 20 Most Difficult Interviews

Despite the fact that none of the twenty companies mentioned in THIS ARTICLE is looking for a 67-year-old woman with new hips, I decided to accept the challenge and answer each one of the sample interview questions with the careful and thoughtful response it deserves. [NOTE: Any typos in the questions are THEIRS, not mine. I left them in so you can truly appreciate what quality companies they are.]

1. McKinsey & Co. [Consulting]
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Sample Interview Question: Mom and pop music shop wants to grow with stiff competition. How should they go about it? Calculate customer lifetime value.

          Really? Is this question leftover from a 1973 interview? Unless Mom and Pop want to handle the "stiff" competition by opening an adult video store, they are pretty much out of business by now. Earth to McKinsey, it's 2011. Do you have computer? One word: iTunes. You might want to alert the music industry. Lifetime value of a Mom and Pop music shop to its customers at this point: Less than zero. 

2. Jane Street Capital [Investment Banking]
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Sample Interview Question: You have 2 decks of cards (each deck contains both red and black cards). One deck has twice the number of cards in the other deck with the same color ration (so one deck has 52 cards and the other has 104, both half red and half black). I offer you to play a game. First you get to chose which deck of cards you want to play with. Second, you draw 2 cards at random from your deck of choice. If both are red, then I will give you a ferarri. Which deck of cards would you chose?"
          Dear Jane: It's clear you're not working with a full deck or spellcheck. First, the "f" in Ferrari is capitalized. Secondly, while you are correct in assuming there are three r's in Ferrari, you have managed to put them in the wrong order. Fourth, this question goes a long way to explaining what's f**king wrong with Wall Street's priorities. 

3. Cree [Display Components]
HQ: Durham, N.C.
Sample Interview Question: How many barbers do you need in a city of 1 million people? 
          None. Unlike food and water, no one actually needs a haircut.

4. Bain & Co. [Consulting]
HQ: Boston, Mass.
Sample Interview Question: Help me estimate how many car dealerships there are in the United States? 
          Seriously. I could do a brand by brand breakout based on number of cars sold, profits per car, margin of profit, operating costs, shiny suits, how dealers lie to customers, and figure this out. But I'm busy, so could you please just fire up your computer and Google the estimate instead of wasting my time? It's right there. Or are you people still using No. 2 pencils and IBM Selectrics?

5. Boston Consulting [Consulting, duh]
HQ: Boston, Mass.
Sample Interview Question: How many golf balls can fit in a 747?

          Who the fu*k cares?

6. Palantir Technologies [Some kind of gobbledegook software]
HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.
Sample Interview Question: How would you test an elevator to see if it is safe to ride?

          Very carefully. Ha, I crack myself up. Doesn't it already say the elevator's been tested right there on the lawfully required inspection sheet that's posted above the emergency phone? So why test it again? Is this for a Department of Redundancy job or something? I'd just get on the thing and push the button. If the elevator doesn't move, consider that not safe. Time to get off. On the other hand you could write to Mythbusters and have them drop it from 95 stories a few times. With you in it. [Just a thought.] That way there'd be an entertaining video, if nothing else. 

7. Teach for America [Education]
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Sample Interview Question: You want to take the third graders on a field trip to the zoo, but there is no extra funding to do so. You must ask the principal to reconsider and allow your students to go on the field trip. Explain how you would persuade the principal.

          First I would need to know the parameters of this "persuasion." Do I have to worry about losing my job? If not, locking up the principal and taking the petty cash becomes pretty persuasive. Option two: Liberate his porn stash. However, good taste and character require another solution. Ooops, fresh out. So, let's do some marketing instead. Have the class dress up as homeless kids and beg for money by the off ramps of major highways. That should do it. Oh, and alert the media. 

8. A.T. Kearney [Consulting]
 HQ: Chicago, Ill.
Sample Interview Question: Can you tell me how many airplanes fly out of O'Hare in a given day?

          All of them. In the past, a couple haven't landed so well. But that wasn't the question, was it?

9. Red Ventures [DIrect Marketing Services]
 HQ: Indian Land, S.C.
 Sample Interview Question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
            And th
e reason this question is relevant to anything but Charades is...?

10. BP [OIL and other egregious crimes]
HQ: London, United Kingdom
Sample Interview Question: If you had to change a tire, how would you do it?

           Easy. I would change into the thong bikini I keep in the trunk for just such emergencies. 

11. ZS Associates [Consulting]
HQ: Evanston, Ill.
Sample Interview Question: It is your first day, you have no clue about the work and you have been asked to solve a tough problem. How will you go about it ?

         No problemo. I would simply find my boss and tell him he can take this job and shove it. Giving somebody a difficult problem to solve on their first day is bullsh*t. First days are for welcome lunches and checking out the hot employees. Giving somebody a tough problem without proper training the very day they walk in the door is a red flag announcing that abusing you is gonna get worse. Get out while you can.

12. Procter & Gamble [Personal Care Products]
HQ: Cincinnati, Ohio
Sample Interview Question: Tell me a time when you had to demonstrate your leadership skills? 

          The day I kicked an OB resident out of the labor room after he started cranking my bed down and making me very uncomfortable. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said, "Because I can't examine you in that position." Whereupon I said, "Then get the fu*k out of here and get someone who can." He left. And sent someone else. Hey, you try bossing docs around when you're having a baby and see how you do.

13. [Software and a bunch of other stuff]
 HQ: San Francisco, Calif.
Sample Interview Question: How do you look for SQL injections?

          Okay, I give.

14. Altria [Tobacco products]
HQ: Richmond, Va.
Sample Interview Question: Describe a very hectic week and what you did to prioritize.

          I'm sure whoever came up with this question never had a child who wouldn't go to school without her orange socks, never had to miss the train to drop off a lunch that got left behind, never had to produce 26 cupcakes in half an hour, never had to ask a neighbor to forge your signature on a field trip permission slip, and never had to take a call from an emergency room doctor in the middle of a meeting. Hectic weeks have a way of prioritizing themselves. With or without kids.

15. Oliver Wyman [Consulting]
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Sample Interview Question: Estimate the percentage of the US which is covered by man-made structures. 

          Man-made? I take it anything designed or built by women is not included in this little exercise. Maya Lin might take exception. Try human-engineered structures. I know, you hate it. I don't care. WARNING to WOMEN: Beware of companies that say "MANNED" instead of "STAFFED." They're only superficially PC. 

16. Bridgewater Associates [Consulting]
HQ: Westport, Conn.
Sample Interview Question: How would you explain your job to an aunt or uncle who is not familiar with that industry?

          You mean like consulting, for example? Well, Auntie Em, every Monday I get on a plane and go to another city. Why? Because one of the benefits of my job is frequent flier mileage. I know! How great is that? While I'm there I live in a hotel. During the day I work at a company that pays my company to give them advice. Kind of like you do for me when I call and you tell me how to keep the cheese sauce from getting lumpy. Exactly the same. I help the company get the lumps out of their cheese sauce. And while we're at it, I also help them find new ways to use their cheese sauce. Like the time you suggested I pour it over broccoli and cauliflower together. Same deal. After I give them advice for four days, I fly back home and do my laundry so I can fly back again on Monday and pile up more frequent flier mileage. Then I get to help them with something else, like how to keep their avocados from turning brown. No, they don't really have brown avocados, that was just a way to explain things. Really? You're nice to offer, but I'm sure they don't need your recipe for guacamole. Seriously, they don't need it. Maybe another time.
17. Stryker [Medical Supplies]
HQ: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Sample Interview Question: Would you say you learn a lot about a little, or a little about a lot? 

          I learned I wouldn't want to work for Stryker just reading this question. Somebody at headquarters probably has a framed copy of PT Barnum's "You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time." 
18. [Retail Sales of music, video, books, entertainment]
HQ: Seattle, Wash.
Sample Interview Question: Come up with a formula to calculate the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand in a clock.

          I'd rather poke myself in the eye. Join me?

19. eBay [Internet Auctions] 

HQ: San Jose, Calif.
Sample Interview Question: It's known that an egg broke when dropped from the 100th floor. Given two eggs, how do you figure out the highest floor an egg can be dropped from without breaking?

          Is this one of David Letterman's stupid people tricks? It should be.
20. Gallup [Consulting]
HQ: Washington, D.C.
Sample Interview Question: How did you prepare for our interview?

          I showered, brushed my teeth, shaved my legs, styled my hair, put on my favorite outfit and even found some clean underwear. What did you do?  


Anonymous said...

As a consulting practitioner, I'm reminded of the crusty CEO who opined, "A consultant is like a guy who knows 200 ways to make love (or words to that effect), but doesn't have a girlfriend."

Cheers, Mike Scott

Mrs. L said...

As a consultant, you must have a million icebreaker jokes. I never did hear the one about reunions.