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How many tennis balls can you fit in an airplane?

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How would you answer this question in an interview? Would you be overconfident and offer a WAG like 1,678,032? Would you be confused and say you have no idea as it has nothing to do with the potential job? Who would ask this question and why?

Your objective in any interview is to get a job offer, and this requires you to show the employer that you are the right person with the right skills for their organization. You need to understand what they want and why they ask each question; this will help you provide the answer they seek. Once you get the job offer, you can decide if it is the right position, company, and culture. How do you know what a company wants? You can tap into sources to develop a checklist of skills, experience, and attributes that an organization requests.

They include:

  • Interviewing someone who has recently worked for the company to find out what type of person succeeds, the values and culture of the organization and how they treat their employees, etc. You can also ask someone who does business with that organization to see how they are perceived.
  • Dissect the job ad. Requirements required, what words they emphasize or use more than once (i.e., Teamwork or a specific skill), and the experience section. List the most important attributes you think they want based on the ad and then match up stories/experience to show that your qualifications match up well.
  • Using Google, company website, recent news, visiting a location where they sell their products or services, and reviewing job ads for similar positions with other companies are all sources of additional information. Glassdoor.ca will offer reviews left by employees and can be pretty revealing.

Google asked this odd question to understand:

  • How you handle a situation while feeling under pressure during an interview
  • They know you do not know the answer (they probably do not even know it); they want to see HOW you would find the answer.
  • Two possible angles would be:
    • I would call up Penn and ask the dimensions of a tennis ball – then call Boeing and ask the metric capacity of a plane – after that, it is just a math equation.
    • Start asking questions – are the tennis balls in their packaging? or loose? Are there pilots on board? How many pilots are on board? Does the plane need to be flown somewhere? How far? Etc.
  • Both approaches show that you are not afraid to solve an unknown problem under pressure and how you would go about it?
  • You want to give the employer what they want to be the candidate selected; then, you get to decide if this position is correct for you.

Practice and preparation are the keys to interview success. The more you know about what the interviewer wants, the better prepared you will be to give them the answer they want and decide that you are the perfect candidate. No matter what the question is.

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