Top 20 Most Difficult Companies for Interviews

You might think companies that are the most popular to work for, like Google, Amazon, Apple and Disney, would put job seekers through the most rigorous interview process, but not so, according to recently released research. It's the lower-profile, highly specialized niche firms that are the most difficult to get into. Consulting firm McKinsey and Company, based in New York City, tops the list.

Glassdoor.com, a website that fills you in on what companies and positions are paying in your area, and also gives you inside information on the firms themselves, examined thousands of interview reviews shared by job candidates in the past year to find out what companies have the most difficult interview processes.

With competition so fierce for the best jobs, companies can afford to be more stringent than ever to find the best fit for their needs. Still, popular companies like Google, which has a historically rigid interview process, failed to make Glassdoor's Top 20 list, coming in at No. 21, probably because they're looking to hire 6,300 people and have reportedly relaxed their interview process.

Still, with as much bad press as a company like BP has received recently, they're not loosening up on their interview process -- they rank No. 10 on the Glassdoor list. Other high profile companies on the Top 20 most-difficult-interview list include Proctor & Gamble at No. 12, Altria at No. 14, Amazon at No. 18 and eBay at No. 19. Gallup comes in at No. 20.

So what makes the interview process so tough at companies like McKinsey, Jane Street Capital, Cree, Bain & Co., and Boston Consulting -- the top five on the list? Multiple interviews that start out with phoners and go from there, that include everything from brainteasers, extremely technical questions and case study analysis. One wrong answer can apparently eliminate you at any point in the process, no matter how well you did on numerous interviews leading up to that point.

"If you screw one interview out of 7, you will not have chance to get hired," reported an eBay software engineer candidate.

"They asked me to walk through my resume first," said a Jane Street Capital Quant candidate in New York. "At the end, you are asked a simple brainteaser. I failed the third round phone interview with a trader. I got stuck at one problem and that trader lost his patience on me."

Another tough aspect of the interview process at some of these companies is repetition -- you're asked the same questions so many times, by so many people, it can make your head spin. "For the in-house gauntlet, they stuck me in a conference room and had interviewers step in and out. Unlike at some other firms, the interviewers do not confer with each other between your interviews, so you will be starting fresh each time -- be ready to repeat yourself some," reported an Amazon marketing candidate.

Just because the interview process is challenging, however, doesn't mean it's a bad experience, according to the Glassdoor findings. "They are very thorough and put a variety of interesting and challenging scenarios forward for immediate response," said a Washington, D.C., job seeker who was interviewing at McKinsey. But he thought that was fair. "If you're not confident or comfortable with your skill sets and problem-solving abilities, this is not the place for you," he added.

"The interview was very long, but the interviewers were interesting and fun to talk to. If you have extensive technical knowledge, I highly recommend interviewing. Even if the work schedule is not for you, it will prepare you for any interview," said a Cree Process Development Engineer candidate in Durham, N.C.

What would those who have interviewed at these companies advise?

"Preparing is an absolute must," said an associate consultant at Boston Consulting in Chicago. "I know many people do not prepare, but I certainly did and I performed much better because of it. Also, remember that doing case studies at home is not the same as doing the studies in an interview. Make sure you time yourself and put yourself in stressful conditions."


Top 20 Most Difficult Companies for Interviews:


1. McKinsey & Co.

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.9

Sample Interview Question: Mom and pop music shop wants to grow with stiff competition. How should they go about it? Calculate customer lifetime value.




2. Jane Street Capital

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Investment Banking

Interview Difficulty: 3.7

Sample Interview Question: You have 2 decks of cards (each deck contains both red and black cards). One deck has twice the number of cards in the other deck with the same color ration (so one deck has 52 cards and the other has 104, both half red and half black). I offer you to play a game. First you get to chose which deck of cards you want to play with. Second, you draw 2 cards at random from your deck of choice. If both are red, then I will give you a ferarri. Which deck of cards would you chose?"\




3. Cree

HQ: Durham, N.C.

Industry: Display Components

Interview Difficulty: 3.7

Sample Interview Question: How many barbers do you need in a city of 1 million people?




4. Bain & Co.

HQ: Boston, Mass.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.6

Sample Interview Question: Help me estimate how many car dealerships there are in the United States?




5. Boston Consulting

HQ: Boston, Mass.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.6

Sample Interview Question: How many golf balls can fit in a 747?




6. Palantir Technologies

HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.

Industry: Enterprise Application Integration Software

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: How would you test an elevator to see if it is safe to ride?




7. Teach for America

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Education

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: You want to take the third graders on a field trip to the zoo, but there is no extra funding to do so. You must ask the principal to reconsider and allow your students to go on the field trip. Explain how you would persuade the principal.




8. A.T. Kearney

HQ: Chicago, Ill.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: Can you tell me how many airplanes fly out of O'hare in a given day?




9. Red Ventures

HQ: Indian Land, S.C.

Industry: Direct Marketing Services

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?




10. BP

HQ: London, United Kingdom

Industry: Oil & Gas Refining, Marketing & Distribution

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: If you had to change a tire, how would you do it?




11. ZS Associates

HQ: Evanston, Ill.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: It is your first day, you have no clue about the work and you have been asked to solve a tough problem. How will you go about it ?




12. Procter & Gamble

HQ: Cincinnati, Ohio

Industry: Personal Care Products

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Tell me a time when you had to demonstrate your leadership skills?




13. Salesforce.com

HQ: San Francisco, Calif.

Industry: Customer Relationship Management, Marketing & Sales Software

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How do you look for SQL injections?




14. Altria

HQ: Richmond, Va.

Industry: Cigarettes, Cigars, & Smokeless Tobacco Products

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Describe a very hectic week and what you did to prioritize.




15. Oliver Wyman

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Estimate the percentage of the US which is covered by man-made structures.




16. Bridgewater Associates

HQ: Westport, Conn.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How would you explain your job to an aunt or uncle who is not familiar with that industry?




17. Stryker

HQ: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Industry: Medical Equipment & Supplies

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Would you say you learn a lot about a little, or a little about a lot?




18. Amazon.com

HQ: Seattle, Wash.

Industry: Music, Video, Book & Entertainment Retail

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Come up with a formula to calculate the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand in a clock.




19. eBay

HQ: San Jose, Calif.

Industry: Internet Auctions

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: It's known that an egg broke when dropped from the 100th floor. Given two eggs, how do you figure out the highest floor an egg can be dropped from without breaking?




20. Gallup

HQ: Washington, D.C.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How did you prepare for our interview?

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107 Comments

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Annika

They don't want real answers, they want to see how you handle a question in order to figure out if you are managerial material. How would you change a tire? A CEO doesn't get his manicured hands dirty with a tire iron, he calls his secretary to send a new car to get him and to get the other one towed.
These questions remind me of the German movie "Men", in which one guy, who is a successful manager, does a mock interview with another guy and tells him to stand on a chair. When the guy does, he tells him that a manager would have never followed somebody's orders but would have stayed in his seat. The guy follows his advice and lands a mangerial job -the other guy's old job.

June 22 2011 at 4:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brentlance

As a journalist, Lisa needs to learn the difference between chose (past tense) and choose (present tense). "Chose" has been used incorrectly twice in the problem below. Ferrari is a proper noun -- the name of a brand of car -- and therefore the initial letter must be capitalized. There are three additional grammatical errors in the problem. Can you find them? Give me a break.

You have 2 decks of cards (each deck contains both red and black cards). One deck has twice the number of cards in the other deck with the same color ration (so one deck has 52 cards and the other has 104, both half red and half black). I offer you to play a game. First you get to chose which deck of cards you want to play with. Second, you draw 2 cards at random from your deck of choice. If both are red, then I will give you a ferarri. Which deck of cards would you chose?"

June 21 2011 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to brentlance's comment
cyanidevll

2 should be spelled as two.

June 21 2011 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gabriel B Nongsiej

SERIOUSLY!!!!!!

"You have two decks of cards (each deck contains both red and black cards). One deck has twice the number of cards than the other deck with the same color ration (so one deck has 52 cards and the other has 104, both half red and half black). I offer you to play a game. First you get to choose which deck of cards you want to play with. Second, you draw two cards at random from your deck of choice. If both are red, then I will give you a Ferarri. Which deck of cards would you choose?"

However, I do find it irrelevant that you would lambast a reputed writer like this. Perhaps you are yet to understand the license one is entitled to in one's own production. Because if we were to stick to rules and regulations as you suggest, Shakespeare would not have created over 10000 words.

The Bard would have lost his importance in the history and evolution of the English language.

November 05 2012 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Suzy

I read another post which I totally agree with. The question is, what ever happened to the "old fashioned" job interviews? I was in my 20's during the '80s and those were the years (before kids) when I worked the most. I had a lot of important job interviews in my lifetime, mostly by very reputable Fortune 500 corporations. The job interview, back then at least, was direct and to the point. Casual, yet professional. However, never have I ever been asked to figure out a riddle, answer mathematical equations and basically have a personality test! So glad I retired early!! lol

June 21 2011 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
amicusceo

Number 20 is a good one, I went to the house of representatives and heard Nancy Pelosi speaking.
19- less than 1, 18-done, 17-both a lot about little makes you aprofessional and a Little about a lot makes you Jack. 16- consulting is like a box of chocolates different customers like different fillings. 15- staionary structures or moving? 14-hectic week - wife having baby- let doctor handle it. 13- I let MYSQL shoulder the injections. 12- a guy in car stopped to ask for directions- my leadership skills pointed him the right direction. 11 consult a consulting firm who specialize in these typs of problems.10- i could do it myself but why get my hands dirty, call triple A for a tow truck. 9- are fly's animals? 8- SWAG it 7- your son is in my class ! 6- Have someone else ride it first. 5- previously answered. 4- statistically speaking would you like a sample which would produce a variation percentage of plus or minus of three percentage points or would you prefer a more rounded guesstimate per city designation of 50,000 or more in population? If you can't dazzle them with knowledge then baffle them with BS. 3- one, the only one i go to. 2- take the deck with 104 cards statistically the ratio is the same but most people will say they have a better shot at 52 red cards than 26 red cards. 1- customer lifetime value is "invaluable" because they've become committed to a brand or company or service. That was fun.

June 21 2011 at 10:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Wes and Chris

How many golf balls can fit in a 747? Get real. They ALL can. 747's are big, golf balls are little. How many barbers do you need in a city of 1 million? Who cares how big the city is, I'd only need one barber to cut my hair. How much of the US is covered by man-made structures? All of it. The International Space Station is above the whole thing. A customer's lifetime value ? All customers are PRICELESS. Every single one of them. Which deck of cards? The one with all the red cards on top. Where's my Ferrari? How do you test an elevator? Easy. Watch someone else ride it first. How to get the Principal to allow the field trip to the zoo? Tell him/her that the kids want him to come too and personally HOST the trip. How many airplanes fly out of O'Hare daily? Every one that leaves does. What are they gonna do? Send one out on a bus? Estimate the number of car dealerships? Why? We can look it up on the Internet in a matter of minutes. I'm already an animal. Human beings ARE animals. How would I change a tire? It depends on what you want me to change it into. Calculate the angle between the hands of a clock? First, stop the clock while you calculate. Assuming you mean from dead center to dead center of the hands, then every minute between them is equal to 6 degrees. Add up 6 degrees for each of the whole minutes between the hands Count its passed seconds if there's a partial minute and divide them by 10 and add that to the other degrees you already calculated. You're done. Restart the clock and reset it to the correct time. I don't have to calculate the highest floor to drop the egg without breaking it. I already know it'll break if its dropped from any of the floors. Here's your two eggs back. Sheesh....these guys must be used to dealing with idiots.

June 21 2011 at 10:37 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
joredux

This country's been turned into a corporate autocracy , they own all the politicians and can do whatever they want when they want , they even own the Supreme Court now . If these example interview questions seem off the wall to you - well , welcome to the new realitiy of the world your're living in , unemployment is high and will remain so for quite sometime, they know people are getting desperate and will be thankful for any job because right now no job means no credit, no loan , no borrowing power, no assets, no life .They've got it all their way now and seems like it's how they want it to be , keep people indentured and you've got corporate slaves forever.

June 21 2011 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
willy

ALL I KNOW IS THAT EVERY MINUTE = 6 DEGREES
I'D LEARN A LOT ABOUT A LITTLE
I may be wrong but I guess 15% to 20% of the US is covered by man-made structures.
How would you test an elevator to see if it is safe to ride? PUSHING A BUTTON
what animal would I be??
i'LL BE AN ELEPHANT strong, long life,intelligent and w/ a good memory
How many golf balls can fit in a 747? R U talking about an airplane??
25,465,987.33 prove me I'm wrong..

June 21 2011 at 10:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
chocolate

I used to do interviews for a very competitive position; here are a few of my favorite off-the-wall questions...
If you were a type of kitchen appliance, what would you be and why?
On a scale of 1-10, how attractive do you think our President is?
Your co-worker confides that they do not have the training to complete their task and asks for help. Do you help them (secretly or outright?) or let them fail?
Did you prepare for this interview by asking other interviewees about these questions?
The hardest part was acting serious while they answered, LOL xD

June 21 2011 at 10:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
BG

Some of the questions are thought provoking but the majority are yet new ways to play games that are bottom line asinine. In this time of high unemployment and when employers have an upper hand and pay less for more it is not right to make candidates jump through hoops. "How many planes fly out of O'Hare?" "How may golf balls fit into a 747?" Such a waste of breath and time! I can understand the Teach for America question and the one asking what kind of animal one would be. These challenge relevancy and deal with a real situation and how one might fit in based on their choice.

When I was seeking work I presented myself as being secure in what I could offer and what I could do. I possess the education and skills many employers see as making me too intimidating a candidate when they compare me to the description---so I was told several times. However, I did cross a few donkey-ends who tossed out silly questions and in those cases I shocked them when I rolled my eyes and asked them to tell me my blood type as apparently that is what they would want to ask me next. It felt good to end the interview. To close my portfolio, thank them for their time and hope that their time to face such stupidity comes soon, and walk out, felt soooo good! The true American worker must maintain his or her pride even if it means walking away. No one should have to deal with such treatment.

June 21 2011 at 10:15 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Claud

Being an old personnel man, I doubt candidates are selected on who can come up with a formula to determine the number of golf balls that would fit into a 747........(Besides they didn't give you the dimensions of the 747 in question.......There are a number of 747 models many with different lengths)...
Selection for the above "consulting" companies are most likely made on the bases of looks, your golf score, the frats/sorority you belonged to, how much business(accounts) you can bring from your current/previous company, .......oh and did I say looks......;0)

June 21 2011 at 10:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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