The Six Trick Questions


 I went for a job interview with a woman at a huge Silicon Valley company. I’m not going to say the name. Google it.

Anyhow, she asked me these six questions. I also had to sign something that said I would not disclose the questions. I guess they might be very common questions for a job interview at the company.

But I took my nondisclosure to a lawyer and he said it’s probably wouldn’t stand up in court. So who cares?

The Six Questions:

  1. What language do they speak in Latium?

2. What comes next? 1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, _______

3. Is cereal soup?

4. What color was George Washington’s white horse’s skin?

5. What disappears as soon as you say its name?

6. Does this dress make me look fat?

Yeah, so if you want a job with one of those big boys you better be good at tests like this. Give it a try. I’ll provide the answers below here, so don’t read on until you read these questions over, think about it, and write down your answer. But remember, these are job interview questions. You don’t have time to Google the answers or anything like that. Just write what comes to mind.

The Answers

1. What language do they speak in Latium?

OK, I feel really stupid about this one. She asked me that and I just thought, that’s an easy one. She must be starting me off with the easy questions.

“Latvian,” I said.

She kind of smiled at me and she moved on to the next question. I said, “Wait, did I get that wrong?”

“Yes, you did,” she said, very kindly. But don’t worry. You can miss three out of the six and still pass.

“Three out of six, that’s a cinch,” I said.

So when I got home I researched that. Wow, is that a trick question. Fuck me, it’s the trickiest trick question there is.

The answer is “Italian.”

What!

Yep, it turns out that most people (not dunces like me!) answer Latin, because they know Latium is the Latin name for Italy. But of course, Italians don’t speak Latin. They speak the vernacular! Anybody who has read Dante knows that.

Alright, moving on…

2. What number comes next? 1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, _______?

She held up a little mini whiteboard with those numbers on it.

“Just skip that question,” I said. “I have dyscalculia.”

“Dyswhat?” she said.

“Oh see, you don't know everything,” I said, with a teasing smile. “It means I’m unable to do math because of a learning disability.”

“It isn’t math,” she said. “It’s language. That’s what throws people off about this question. They think that because it’s numbers that it must be math. But it’s not necessarily arithmetic. Numbers are also words, right? Go ahead, take another look.”

I glanced at it.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s simple.”

And I told her the answer, only I said not in math terms. I said it in language terms.

“Three ones, two twos, then one.”

“Amazing!” she said, and she looked so happy for me.

That’s when I first realized she was kind of hot for me. Forty-five-year-old women are often hot for me. I don't know why, but I do know why, and it’s not wholesome. It’s because I always act child-like around them, as though a 45-year-old woman is my Mom. So there’s an incest taboo. My Mom died when she was around that age. So that’s my whole oedipal projection. And I could tell from the way she celebrated my small victory at question number 2 that this very accomplished HR professional or whatever, probably with a couple of kids, and a house over there in Lakewood or Rivermark, really wanted to go have a drink with me. I could see it clear as day. She wanted some Chardonnay with this goofy child-like female in front of her. And you know what, I wanted some Chardonnay with her. And more!

(If you don’t understand my answer to the “math” problem, go ahead and Google those numbers. It’s called the “look and say” sequence and it’s kind of famous.)

3. Is cereal soup?

I liked this question. Because I do have a bit of arrested development and cereal is like my favorite.

I got this one right away. I had a little zen training. I recognized this as a koan, and I didn’t miss a beat. I answered with another question:

“Is a hot dog a sandwich?”

She literally slapped the table.

“Good answer!!!”

Turns out, the trick to this question is that they are just trying to learn something about your character with this one. I guess it makes people pretty angry sometimes, and they reveal their anger problem. “Whadaya means, Is cereal soup? What kind of a dumb question is that!”

Yeah, the guy who answered that way didn’t get called back.

The fact that I confidently and playfully went with the flow and answered with that also-pretty-funny question about the hot dog showed to her somehow that I wasn’t a freak. Yay me! I now had two out of three right. And she looked so happy! I had a feeling that I was going to get the job. I really did.

4. What color was George Washington’s white horse’s skin?

“Oh, I have to disqualify myself,” I said. “I know absolutely every single thing there is to know about George Washington. See, when Hamilton hit, I thought, I will rip that off and write a musical about George Washington. I was going to call it Washington, pretty original, huh? Anyhow, it’s not really fair for me to answer it, since I had that advantage and I know the right answer.”

“You know the right answer, huh? Go ahead, give it to me.”

“Well, his white horse was named Blueskin, that’s the one in a lot of the paintings done of George Washington in the era. But of course, his skin wasn’t blue. That’s probably the trick part of the question. His skin was black, of course, as all grey Arabian’s skin is. They call it blue because when the light hits the blue skin it can appear bluish.”

“Wow,” she said. “I’m impressed. But that’s not the answer we’re looking for.”

I was pissed.

“Well, it’s the right answer,” I said. “What was the wrong answer you were looking for?”

“Well,” she said. “This question isn’t really about horses. It’s about diversity.”

“Oh.”

“A good answer would be, Whatever color his skin was, I’m sure he was the right horse for the job.

“What the fuck?” I said. “How the hell was I supposed to know that?”

She looked embarrassed.

“Um, you just swore in a job interview,” she said. “Twice. That’s not a great idea, Christine.”

“Oh, you’re counting ‘hell’ as a swear?” I said. “Fuck that.”

“Well, now you’re at two, then, even if I don’t count ‘hell’.”

“You just said hell.”

“Yes,” she retorted, not missing a beat. “But you just stipulated that hell is not a swear.”

“Shit,” I said. “I guess I’m fucked now.”

“That’s four swear words now,” she said. “Not professional.”

“I know,” I said. “I got frustrated by that shitty question, because like I said, I know just about every single thing there is to know about George Washington. Including that musicals one attempts to write about him usually suck.”

She smiled at that. I felt like I was winning her back.

“Give me the fifth question,” I said.

“Alright,” she said. “But honestly it’s just pro forma now. We can’t hire someone with that kind of a potty mouth in business meetings.”

“Why not?” I said. “As long as you ask me to keep a lid on it, I can keep a lid on it, really. I’ll prove it to you. Question five please.”

5. What disappears as soon as you say its name?

“I have no fucking idea,” I said. “I’m not good at that kind of paradox.”

“And you just swore again.”

“Yeah, I know. That was intentional. I was testing you. Like, are you interested in the real me, or do you want my phony fake well-behaved self?”

She smiled again.

“Oh, we’re interested in your phony, fake self,” she said.

“But what about you?” I said. “Are you interested in getting to know the real me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like going out for a drink?” I said. “Do you want to?”

She raised her eyebrows.

“Wow,” she said. “I’ve never been asked out during a job interview before. That’s a first.”

“I thought we could go get some wine and then, you know, whatever…”

I bit my lip and I tried to look cute.

“Um…let’s just finish up these questions, huh?”

I could tell she was thinking about it. She was trying to buy herself some time.

She never did give me the answer to that question, by the way. But I Googled it later. It was stupid. The right answer is silence.

6. Does this dress make me look fat?

I looked at her, confused.

“I don't know. Stand up. Turn around a few times.”

She did so. Then she sat down and repeated, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Damn. I was so stumped.

“How many right answers have I got, can you remind me?”

“Two.”

“So if I get this one right, I pass the test?”

She nodded.

“And I get the job?”

“No,” she said. “You’re not going to get the job, no matter how you answer the question.”

“What about the date?” I said. “Do I have a chance of getting that?”

“Um…not really,” she said.

“Then fuck it,” I said. “Those bright colors do make you look a little chunky.”

She reddened.

“Oh shit!”

She reddened further because she was reading my mind.

I could tell that she knew that I knew…that she was lying, and she actually had been considering going out on a date with me, and it had hurt her feelings when I said she was chunky.

“You’re more of an autumn than a summer, that’s all!” I said, backpedaling furiously. “And I’m an expert in four-season color analysis. But I like chunky! See, I’m all skinny and bony. I like a womanly woman! It was a compliment.”

That only made her face redder. I guess they call that “digging yourself deeper.”

We sat there in silence for a bit. The red color finally left her face, as she looked at me with two big brown eyes. She was pretty, I saw that. But more than that — she was a powerful femme. A big muckety muck at a big place. I wanted to experience being in bed with that. But she was regarding me like I was a strange bird that somehow flew into her office and was perched in a seat opposite her. It was a real long shot at best.

I decided to take a chance.

“So, you know a place near here?” I asked. I guess it’s what they call in football a hail mary pass.

Her eyebrows raised. But she cocked her head like she was considering it. No way! Was this hail mary pass actually going to land?

“There’s a little wine bar I like we could walk to,” she said, finally.

“Yes!!!” I raised my hands in the air in triumph. “Touchdown!!!”

She broke out laughing.

“Christine,” she said. “You are a true marvel!”

On our way to the bar she confided in me that the last question — about whether she looked fat — wasn’t real. She was just fucking with me.

“You bitch,” I said. “What’s the real question?”

“The last question is the weakness question,” she admitted. “You know, tell me your weakness. But we already know what your weakness is.”

She smiled at me.

“You mean,” I said. “I have a weakness for forty-something power women who have a wild side they want to explore before it’s too late and they become well-behaved old ladies?”

“That’s the one,” she said. She took me by the hand as we walked toward the bar.

Which was great, because this job interviewing stuff was exhausting. I needed a fucking drink!

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