Corporate powerhouses like Facebook and Google have high expectations for employees. In order to stay ahead of competition and drive innovation, these organizations sort through thousands of applications and conduct countless interviews to uncover and hire some of the most talented people in the world.
It’s not surprising that these companies ask some seriously tough interview questions when sizing up potential recruits. If you’re looking to get hired, you’ve got to be on top of your game. GOBankingRates used data from Glassdoor.com to uncover some of the most common, and most difficult, interview questions job candidates say they were asked at Facebook, Google, Apple and other companies.
1. Facebook: “List one time in your life where you made a mistake and how did you correct it?”
Many Glassdoor reviewers reported hearing this question in interviews, but it can also come in multiple formats. Be prepared to answer similar questions like “How did you respond when a project didn’t go according to plan?” or “What did you do when you encountered a roadblock?”
In these instances, the interviewer will likely want to hear you humbly identify a mistake but more importantly the lesson you learned — and how you applied that information to find success the next time. Remember: Failure isn’t a bad thing. It’s how you bounce back that matters.
2. Google: “You are tasked with cleaning all of the windows in a city. How would you estimate the number of windows you will need to clean?”
This type of question was reported by several Google applicants so keep your ears open for variations of this. Interviewers use scenarios like this to assess your critical thinking and analytical skills. Keep in mind you don’t actually have to know anything about the city or its buildings. Instead, focus on how you would approach the problem rather than giving a literal answer.
3. Chevron: “Is staying within legal boundaries good enough for corporations and their employees?”
Now this question is a little tricky. The obvious response might be an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Actually, it’s how you follow up your answer that matters. According to one Glassdoor user, here is the best way to answer this question:
“Staying within legal boundaries should be considered a minimum hurdle but there should be a higher bar set. Ethics and morals that a company values should also be embedded into corporate culture.”
With an answer like that, you’re sure to make an impression.
4. Cisco Systems: “Tell us about our products.”
This question popped up three times in August alone on Glassdoor so it’s clear that Cisco expects interviewees to know its products well. Before you go in for your interview, be prepared to describe the actual products you will be involved with. Do research, read reviews, test drive the software or tools if you can and then come up with a list of things you like as well as improvements you would make.
5. Johnson & Johnson: “One of our values is respect for the community. Please give an example of when you exhibited this in your past experience.”
According to one interviewee, candidates should be prepared to answer questions based on the “J&J credo, i.e. teamwork, respect for the community, putting the patient first, etc.” Organizations that put a major emphasis on company culture will expect interviewees to exhibit certain traits both inside and outside of the workplace. So head to the company’s corporate website and read up on its vision and values to learn what they are looking for.
6. Microsoft: “What is your favorite piece of tech?”
You might say it’s something made by Microsoft, but it might also be acceptable to name a device made by another company. Employees should be familiar with the company’s competitors and be able to apply the features they love to the products they are building. If you decide to boast about your favorite gadget made by a competitor, make sure to say how you would apply the same concept to a Microsoft product.
7. Cisco MasterCard: “What was the most challenging effort you accomplished at one of your former employers and how did you address and overcome the challenge?”
Whether you are interviewing for a position in sales, management or engineering, you’ll need to show the interviewer your people skills. One Glassdoor user who went through the interview process said, “Keep in mind, people skills are sometimes worth more than any technical knowledge. The reason being, people can be sent to training to learn a new technology.”
8. Apple: “How did you deal with a customer who was upset and what was the outcome?”
If you are going to be working directly with Apple customers, you need to prove that you have superior customer service skills. If an interviewer asks you a question like this, never complain about the customer. Instead, explain the problem the customer presented, express empathy for that situation and talk about the positive outcome. Show that you take the time to listen to customers in an effort to turn a situation around.
9. Intel: “What is meant by cache coherency?”
Multiple engineers on Glassdoor reported being asked questions about cache during their Intel interviews. If you don’t know how to answer this question, one reviewer offered up a direct response: “Draw a memory hierarchy of a system on chip and explain how data resident at an address in L1 cache can be in modified state while an IO peripheral or another CPU may try to access the same address and may get stale data, hence cache coherency protocols like MESI are used.”
If you’re scratching your head in wonder, you’re not alone.
10. Pfizer: “Tell me about a time you had to convince a group of colleagues to go along with an unpopular idea but one you believed to be right.”
If you want to work at Pfizer, you will need strong leadership skills. Many interviewees said they were asked this type of question. Be prepared to offer an example involving how you persuaded colleagues to support your idea or proposal when the original consensus was to go another way. Be sure to include the outcome. If it was negative, as one reviewer said, “Just follow it up with what you learned and how you would handle it differently next time and you’ll be fine.”
11. eBay: “If you were to be a football player in a team, which position would you have?”
Are you the future Tom Brady of eBay? Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a football fan to nail this tough interview question. Think about your leadership and work style. Are you a strong leader who wants to climb the corporate ladder? Then you’re the quarterback. Do you have a passion for strategy, product development or research? That means you like to get your hands on the ground like a defensive lineman. And if you aren’t sure where you want to play, you can always claim the middleman spot: someone who likes structure, multitasking and developing skills.