by Meridith Levinson

Unconventional IT Job Interview Questions

Jul 14, 20093 mins

If you could be a super-hero, which one would you be? IT professionals share ridiculous job interview questions.

Recently, I set out to report a story on unconventional job interview questions. My theory was that it’s tougher for hiring managers to decide who to hire now, when the market is flooded with so many qualified candidates, so hiring managers need to ask more wacky, personal or curveball-type questions during job interviews to help them determine who’s best.

I asked IT hiring managers, CIO job seekers and a recruiter to share the unconventional job interview questions they ask or have been asked. They cited a few, which I share below, but on the whole I found that IT hiring managers ask pretty standard questions. The hiring managers and CIO job seekers I interviewed for my story said that they didn’t think that the labor market was prompting hiring managers to ask unconventional job interview questions. They did express amazement that some of the standard interview questions still cause IT job seekers to trip up. (Consequently, I had to reposition my story as IT Job Seekers: Can You Answer an Interviewer’s 12 Gotcha Questions?)

The “unusual” interview questions that didn’t make it into my story:

1. If you could be a super hero, which one would you be?

Simon Stapleton, chief innovation officer at an insurance company based in the U.K., says he was once asked this question, and it caught him off guard. He says he had no idea why the hiring manager asked it, other than to get to know his personality. Stapleton says he told the hiring manager he’d want to be Superman so that he could be anywhere in an instant. His answer must have been satisfactory because he was offered the job.

2. If you were a cereal box on a long grocery store aisle, why would I put you in my shopping cart when there are so many other boxes?

George Tomko, a former CIO who’s now an IT consultant, says he had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes when he was asked this one. He understood the hiring manager wanted to know what made him unique; he just wished the hiring manager could have been more direct and less cutesy.  

3. If you were an IP address, what would it be?

Stapleton doesn’t remember how he answered this question—only that he said he would not be the loop back address (the IP address of one’s own computer.) He thinks he was asked this question to demonstrate that he understood how IP addresses worked.

4. If you didn’t have any financial obligations, what would you be doing with your time?

Brian Nettles, the director of enterprise systems at CB Richard Ellis, uses this question to learn about a prospective employee’s personal interests. If the candidate says he wouldn’t be working in IT, that’s a red flag for Nettles. It tells him the individual doesn’t have much passion for his job.

5. How does a computer mouse work?

Stapleton says he had to explain the mechanics of a mouse when he interviewed for an IT management position. He believes the hiring manager wanted to make sure he could explain technical concepts in laymen’s terms.  He say he answered the question simply: “The movement of the mouse creates electronic signals, which get sent to the computer, which understands which direction to move in.”

If you’re an IT hiring manager, please share your unconventional interview questions. Are you

asking more of them to help you identify the best candidate in a crowded labor market? If you’re a job seeker, please share the unusual questions you’ve fielded during job interviews.