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8 weird and oblique Google-style interview questions asked by banks

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Google has revealed that its infamous brainteaser interview questions were a bit pointless. Laszlo Boc, senior vice president of operations at the firm, told the New York Times they were, “a complete waste of time,” that they predicted nothing and that they primarily served to make the interviewer feel smart.

Someone may like to tell this to investment banks. Over the years, we’ve assembled a vast array of weird and wonderful interview questions sent to us by students who’ve attended investment banking interviews. We can’t guarantee their validity (the banks concerned didn’t confirm that these questions were definitely asked), but we can guarantee their weirdness. We’ve listed 11 of them below.

Fortunately, some banks may have reached the same conclusion as Google with regards to the worth of weird questions. Malcolm Horton, global head of recruiting at Nomura International, said Nomura stopped asking brainteaser questions some time ago. “When we train our interviewers, we make it clear that we don’t want weird questions designed to put people on edge. We’re running a competency-based interview system and we focus on competency questions that look at behaviours. We have numerical and verbal reasoning tests to assess analytical skills.

“Asking how many frogs you can fit in a taxi does nothing to assess someone’s ability to do a job,” Horton added.

Weird questions allegedly asked by banks at interviews in the past:

1. Why do bubbles not appear when sparkling water is closed? (Allegedly asked by Barclays during an interview for a technology internship).

2. Why, in this glass do the bubbles in the water sit at the bottom? (Allegedly asked during the same Barclays technology intern interview).

3. There’s a revolver, with two bullets in two chambers that are next to each other, and the rest of the four chambers are empty. The policeman spun the revolver and pulled the trigger at you, nothing happened. Suppose that you don’t want to die, would you prefer the policeman to spin the revolver again before the next shooting or shoot again directly? (Allegedly asked, again by Barclays, in a structuring and trading interview).

4. What can you do with an orange? (Allegedly asked by Berenberg during an equity research interview).

5. There is another candidate for the position. Should we interview him and decide who is better or would you prefer we make our hiring decision by flipping a coin? (Allegedly asked during the same Berenberg equity research interview).

6. I have two frogs and their population doubles in size every second. It takes 60 seconds to fill up a room with frogs. How long does it take to fill up half the room? (Allegedly asked during a Credit Suisse corporate finance interview.)

7. Imagine that as part of your contract for working here, there’s a clause saying that if you use Facebook again you will have your arms ripped off. What would be the price you’d request to sign the contract, and the opportunity cost of not using Facebook? (Allegedly asked during a prop trading interview with DRW.)

8. How many weddings are there in Germany in a year? (Allegedly asked during an investment banking interview at Macquarie).

Comments (9)

Comments
  1. Some questions are really stupid like that from DRW and Q3 from barclays, just goes on to show how stupid the interviewers are or they just too egoistic.
    Q6 from Credit Suisse is clever.

  2. Matt. Q3 is not stupid. Quite the opposite, tests you basic probability knowledge.

  3. I was once asked in an interview on a Business Analyst role “How many hairdressers do you need in Hong Kong?”. I suppose it was kind of valid as it requires analysis skills!

  4. Why is Q3 stupid? It’s quite a neat question, with a non-intuitive answer The chances of you dying if he does spin again are 1/3, but the chances of you dying if he does NOT spin again are 1/4 – hence you would prefer that he did NOT spin again.

  5. 2mz: but i thought that chances to die if he doesn’t spin would be 2/5 (40%) because the wheel where patrons are placed is moving in 1 direction, so there is an option the patron is next or there are 3 empty spots before the first patron will be used.

    And if he spin as you said the probability is 2/6 (30%).

    I would have answered to spin it again as my chances to be alive are higher…

    Will be very interested to get correct answer from some of you, guys

  6. Q3 is cute, but very straightforward (mz is right, and has a 50% chance of surviving; al is wrong, and has a 44.4% chance of surviving). Q5 is marginally interesting, I think – it could elicit an opinion of where you see yourself vis-a-vis other candidates. Q6 is ancient (normally posed with water lilies on a pond).
    I am surprised that Google thinks that the technical (“brain-teaser”) questions are useless. Goldman uses them heavily (for very technical positions), and I’d think their recruitment practices are second to none.

  7. Based on the comments here, I would have made the following hiring decisions:

    al – definitely not, 2/6 is not 30%!

    mz – probably would, although there is a surprising lack of cultural awareness. If he had watched “the deer hunter” he would know the correct answer is more nuanced, and depends on a number of things, such as how one holds the gun when spinning.

  8. Hi!

    All questions are funny but made not only for fun))

    Q2 for me it’s better to spin again)) While it’s spining a drum usually stops against the empty hole, than busy one. Haha))

    Finally, to work with people with sense of humor is always better))

  9. for Q3 my opinion is – choose policeman to shoot directly
    in case of revolving probability is – 1/3 (2 bullet, 6 chabers totaly)
    in case shooting directly – 1/4 (4 empty positions, 3 of them are not next to bullet, one is)

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