Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

The 10 Weirdest Interview Tasks, Set by Cruel Interviewers (Would You Do Them?)

By Mark Wilkinson | Jul 30, 2015 | Friday Funnies

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever been asked to do…during an interview?

Unfortunately, there are interviewers out there who refuse to stick to the rules of interview etiquette. 

(Are you one of them?)

These interviewers prefer to confuse and cajole, tease and trick their interviewees with ridiculously difficult brainteasers and frankly unanswerable questions.

And then there are those who take it one step further; these interviewers treat their candidates like performing monkeys, subjecting them to stressful and sometimes even humiliating interview tasks.

It’s our job, as recruiters, to name and shame these terrible habits…

1. Surprise Surprise…

Interview Task One: “Surprise Me…”

This cheeky (and actually quite common) little interview task, may not seem that outrageous, but can you imagine the repercussions?

With no guidance, clues or even little hints about what the interviewer is really looking for, candidates have been known to take it a little bit too far…

Here are some of our favourite stories… 

  • The candidate who picked up a paperweight and chucked it straight through the window (smashing it).
  • The candidate who did an impression of a turkey. (I hope it was a good one!)
  • The candidate who simply walked out of the room. (Where do they even go from there..? Home?)

What would you do, when faced with this ambush of a question?

2. Create a Creature…

Interview Task Two: Create an animal for us, using drinking straws…

Chester Zoo are allegedly to blame for this interesting interview task.

But what exactly were they looking for?

“It’s the enthusiasm that we want and that is what comes out of a very, very simple process”Jane Hubbard: Head of HR

On the spur of the moment, with all eyes on you, what would you create?

I think I could manage a snake, a worm…possibly even a (legless) caterpillar if I was having a particularly creative day!

3. Would You Fit in With the Caribbean Culture?

Interview Task Three: Show us your limbo skills…

man limboing on the street and the people holding the pole run awayCaribbean food chain Turtle Bay recently opened a new restaurant in Derby, (according to HR Grapevine.)

But before you can work for them, you’re required to show off your rhythm and perform the limbo for your interviewers.

Imagine attempting to limbo in your interview gear?

I’m guessing it’s more about revealing your personality than your actual ability to limbo…but who knows, sometimes employers just want it all.

PS. If you haven’t visited and tried the fantastic food or cocktails at Turtle Bay – you should – they’re delicious.

4. A Tongue-Twisting Task.

Interview Task Four: Can you say ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?’

This, frankly horrific, interview task has been attributed to MasterCard and, lets be honest, most people would agree that the sensible answer is ‘no – I cannot and will not attempt to do this ridiculous task.’

Paul took an entirely different approach with this nonsensical answer…

Aye: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper. Pickled Pepper plucked from Peter’s pocket by picky pickpocket punkster. Stir stirred punkster stained his short sleeved sweaty shirt. Whiz washing machine winds up this nonsense wryly’ 

Jennifer Lawrence saying 'OK I don't get it' gifWell, he did at least manage to get washing machines into the conversation.

That’s got to be worth some (pointless, unnecessary, meaningless) brownie points?

I personally don’t think I could even say the tongue-twisting phrase more than once without getting confused.


5. The Dinosaur Impression.

Interview Task Five: Show me your impression of a “Reverse Pterodactyl.” 

If you’re a fan of BBC show The Apprentice, then you should recognise this cringe-worthy, humiliating video of contestant Lee McQueen (possibly the funniest Apprentice moment EVER).

The trickster interviewer was left less than impressed and viewers were left cringing at the performance.

Every time I watch this video, I cry a little bit inside.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

If an interviewer asks you to do something really silly – like a dinosaur impression – don’t.

Not only will you look unprofessional; it’ll also leave you (and any unlucky onlookers) cringing, probably for life.

6. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane…

Interview Task Six: ‘instruct someone on how to make an origami “cootie catcher” with just words?’

game show host looking at a guest with shock and confusionThis question will certainly assess your critical thinking skills…

Firstly, you’ll have to assess what the hell a “cootie catcher” is… (psst…it’s an paper fortune teller!)

Secondly, you’ll have to come up with a method of explaining how to create one, without using a piece of paper…

Thirdly, you’ll have to assess whether the company is really right for you (LivingSocial in this case) when they feel the need to resort to such weird questions…

Did anyone else immediately think of a fictional playground disease, when they heard the word “cooties”?

7. Oh, How The Tables Have Turned…

Interview Task Seven:  You’ve got 10 minutes to write up a formal assessment of my interviewing technique, highlighting a variety of skills and including marks out of ten.

This is just an incredibly awkward task – especially when you know that your interviewer is going to read whatever you do write.

So what can you do?

  • Be too harsh and you’ll piss off your interviewer.
  • Be too kind and you’ll look like a wimp.

You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

One thing’s for sure – your interviewer definitely deserves a ‘0’ for the ‘sensible interview questions’ category of your assessment.

8. A Brief Look Into Your Future…

Interview Task Eight: Go and make me a cup of tea. 

If you’re asked to make your interviewer a brew then (despite the fact that it’s completely and utterly rude) there can be only two explanations:

1. They’re testing how well (and happily) you take instruction.

2. They’re testing to see whether you have a backbone.

tea making interview tasksYou’re going to have about 10 seconds to decide which one of the above applies to your interviewer…good luck.

(Oh – clever clogs – if you’re interviewing for a job in a coffee shop etc. obviously this doesn’t apply to you!)

9. Asking For Trouble…

Interview Task Nine: Please bring a toy with you and explain how it reflects you as a person or a part of your personality.

pug playing with a toyOK, don’t pretend that you don’t have a couple of much-loved toys nestled away…

  • No Mr. Snuggles from your earlier years?
  • Your first ever Action Man isn’t stored away in the attic?
  • What about the multiple boxes of TY toys that you were so sure would sell for millions one day?

…but admitting it is another thing entirely.

I recommend you turn up with a Supersoaker; you might not get the job, but it would be so worth it.

10. Caught Out.

Interview Task Ten: It says on your CV that you love to {Insert Hobby}…prove it.

LivingSocial (they’re at it again) used a variation of this old classic… ‘What’s your favourite song. Perform it for us now’.

Cruel interviewers will sometimes pick on a hobby that you’ve emphasised on your CV and ask you to demonstrate it.

All I can say is you’d better hope to goodness that you haven’t fibbed or exaggerated!

Can you actually... hula hoop, juggle, do impressions, tell jokes, whistle,  recite poems, films, books from memory, dance, speak fluently in Klingon, pro yo-yo and so on…

hula hooping man






And One More for Good Luck!

Interview Task Bonus: List the Ten Commandments in any order.

child face-palming

Did you really just say that?

This task is wrong on so many levels.

Firstly, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone due to their faith.

Secondly, this task assesses nothing, except perhaps someone’s ability to research and memorise the 10 commandments – they could be terrible at the job!

Thirdly, you just look silly.

Would YOU agree to complete these interview tasks?

A lot of people wouldn’t – and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’d be a wrong fit for the business.

If I’m honest, I would lose a great deal of respect for a company who asked me to perform like a dinosaur or recite a tongue-twisting, nonsensical phrase.

Each to their own though (if you’d like to discover more ridiculous interview questions, check out our recent blog: The 10 Most Difficult Interview Brainteasers Ever Asked.)

Recruiter Pro Tip.

A plea to fellow recruiters and hiring managers.

STOP trying to catch your candidates off guard – you’re not in an episode of Monty Python.

Confident candidates might excel at such ridiculous tasks, but it will probably give you no inclination as to whether they could genuinely do the job well.

Be considerate of your more shy (yet equally as capable) candidates; you want to put them at ease so that you can get a true reflection of them.

Happy Friday and have a lovely weekend!

- Mark Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business.  Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies.  He understands recruitment inside-out.

> More blog posts by Mark Wilkinson

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