Interviewers Urge Applicants to Think Creatively

By Mackenzi Butson

Earlier in my college career, I was made aware that “big name” employers are deviating away from standard interview questions, such as “What makes you a good fit for our company?” and focusing on other obscure questions to throw you off your already anxiety-filled interview game.

Jennifer Likeum, NIU communications professor and alumna, brought awareness to her class about off-the-wall interview questions that are gaining traction in the interview process. Don’t worry, she also explained the best ways to answer these seemingly irrelevant questions with each student adding their own interpretation.

  1. Q: “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?”

    1. This question is mainly asked by Google, and they just want to know your problem-solving skills because, believe it or not, Google has problems like every other corporation. Answer this question by asking bus dimensions, figuring out the size of golf balls, how many seats are in the bus, are the windows open and if there are any people in the bus taking up space.

  1. Q: “Why are manholes round?”

    1. Use reasoning skills here. Why would a manhole be round? Is it structured that way for a man to fit down there while working? Is it so the manhole cover doesn’t fall in when the plane flushing happens? Yeah, probably.

  1. Q: “You’re the captain of a pirate ship … and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?”

    1. Think like Captain Jack Sparrow! He didn’t become one of the most notorious pirates in the cinematic universe for nothing. Opt to evenly split the gold between the top 51 percent of the crew. That way you get a good portion but still motivate the rest of the crew to be as efficient as possible. I’m not quite certain pirates make good employees though; from what I hear, they can get rather greedy and bloodthirsty.


According to Likeum, the answers to obscure questions aren’t literal. A vast majority of employers asking questions like “How many golf balls fit inside a school bus?” are looking for your ability to think on your feet and consider all possible outcomes — not to give a literal answers of 5,379 golf balls.

Whether you are a graduating senior this semester or just trying to find a part-time job to suffice throughout your college years, it’s important to be aware of rising interview questions. In the ever-evolving professional world, interview questions are sure to shift as well.