Interviews are always a daunting prospect, but with these companies it is much more than that.
Questions have emerged from previous interviews that truly reveal how hard some brands’ interviews really are.
Apple has always been a tough company to work for, especially under the late Steve Jobs, who was a meticulous perfectionist who would have it his way or no way.
One anonymous Apple Genius (those who work at the stores) applicant on Glassdoor said that they went through a phone interview, followed by two Skype interviews and then finally a person-to-person. The set structure helps get through the mountain of applicants to Apple every year, although the questions can be difficult, such as: “Can you define empathy for me?”
For Apple’s Geniuses, questions also revolve around explaining complex terminology to younger people, such as RAM to a five-year-old.
On higher levels, the questions become even more abstract and mind-boggling, such as: “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” Sheesh.
Google has a notorious reputation for giving interviewees some difficult brainteasers to handle. These are presented to see how they can act under pressure and cope with difficult questions while trying to remain concise. Questions have included things such as:
- If you wanted to bring your dog to work but one of your team members was allergic to dogs, what would you do?
- If ads were removed from YouTube, how would you monetise it?
- Which do you think has more advertising potential in Boston, a flower shop or funeral home?
These stressful questions are designed to make applicants sweat, so it’s no wonder Google consistently appears in Glassdoor’s 25 Most Difficult Companies to interview.
Even in lower tiers of the company such as floor work in one the stores, questions and interviews are very hard to get through.
Bain & Company
Bain, a global management consultant company, is seen as one of the most prestigious employers in the industry. With that record, it has to have some of the best employees too, which of course means that its interviews can be hellish.
One question asked to a business-analyst candidate was: “Try to estimate the revenue from sale of tickets at the 2012 Olympics.” There is no real right answer, it’s an estimation question where they want you to break down your thoughts in real time.
Apparently, according to Keith Bevans, head of Global Recruiting Team at Bain, a lot of these questions are actually based on possible issues that clients may have, such as investing in sponsoring a future Olympics. Blurting out an answer won’t cut it – finding an angle of approach is absolutely necessary.
Another difficult question was: “What line in your resume would your friends read and recognise you from?” Tough one to answer when you try and tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for, not the friends you already have.
British Petroleum candidates are put through two tough interviews. The first is based on competency and conducted over the phone, the next will be face-to-face and called a ‘technical’ interview but is more based on broader questions. Finally, following that applicants will be invited to a final stage at an assessment centre which can include group discussions, presentations and reflecting on the task.
The technical interview and assessment really trip people up. The broad questions asked at technical stage such as: “What goals have you set for yourself and achieved?” and “Which other companies have you applied to?” can lead candidates down the rabbit hole and result in some silly answers that aren’t properly thought out.
BP’s site also warns that there will be a thorough grilling of CVs, almost Apprentice-esque. So, candidates should brace themselves; if they got past that then they’ll still have to shine through in a group practical.
Group practical tasks can be extremely difficult, with BP saying it expects candidates to be prepared way in advance. If they over-egg themselves in the group, they can appear to be arrogant and not a team-player. On the other hand, if they’re too background then the assessors may not even notice them. Fine line and a very hard interview process.
Microsoft makes no apologies for its demanding interview process and insanely complex questions. Software Developers are really sent through the worst of it; an interview candidate from 2014 claimed he was asked: “Every node of the tree has a pointer to its left most child. Each node has a pointer to its next sibling. It’s a BST. Find the smallest value in the tree.” Trying to visualise this complex structure is headache-inducing.
Another applicant was asked to create a calculator and explain why it would be better than a conventional one. Even those aiming for non-technical jobs are asked difficult questions on IPs and even psychological questions on why they chose answers in a test that no one else chose.
Microsoft presents this complex interview structure to see how clear jobseekers’ thinking is when presented with a problem that isn’t directly in front of them. It’s a difficult thing to cope with, but then again this is a trillion-dollar company, so it expects applicants to cope with the tough and infuriating.