Facebook, Apple, Google Topped 2010 List of Odd Interview Questions

Tech companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google asked their job applicants some very odd and revealing questions, according to IT careers expert Glassdoor.com.

Despite an economy still struggling to lift itself from the ashes of a long-term global recession, recruiters expect a rise in technology-job hiring activity in 2011, particularly in areas such as project managers, developers and business analysts.

Accompanying with that rise is an uptick in job interviews at some of the nation's most prestigious tech companies. And with those job interviews comes the inevitable question:

"How many basketballs can you fit in this room?"

Actually, that's just a question that might pop up during a job interview at Google, according to Glassdoor.com, which will release a list of "Top 25 oddball interview questions from 2010" Dec. 30. The Website, which offers detailed reviews of companies by their employees, lists Facebook, Apple, Google and IBM among the tech companies asking their job applicants some decidedly non-standard queries.

Here's a small sample:

For a software engineer position at IBM: "How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine?"

For a systems validation engineer position at Intel: "You have 8 pennies, 7 weigh the same, one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the one that weighs less in less than 3 steps."

For a software engineer position at Facebook: "Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum numbers guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint -higher' or -lower' for each guess you make."

Or even this longer question apparently leveled by Apple at software QA engineer applicants: "There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?"

There's a method to the supposed madness, of course. Unconventional questions not only force applicants to think outside of the box, but give potential employers a sense of their logic and mathematics skills. The Facebook question certainly seems geared towards a company heavily dependent on ranking and ordering systems.

Glassdoor.com also found that many of the top tech companies boasted high interview difficulty ratings, based on employees' reviews. Amazon and Google in particular were listed as "Difficult," with respective ratings of 3.5 out of a possible 5, edging ahead of Facebook (3.1), Microsoft (3.3), eBay (3.3) and Adobe (3.1). That being said, Google employees also reported being very satisfied working for the search-engine giant, despite the more difficult interview process. On the flip side of that equation, employees at Hewlett-Packard reported an easier interview process (2.9) but also a significant lack of satisfaction (2.4) with their jobs.

A correlation between job-interview difficulty and eventual job satisfaction, perhaps, suggests that a question like, "If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?" doubles as not only a test of your logic skills, but also how much you'll like working for that company.