Killer Interview Question: How Would You Test A Toaster?

Killer Interview Question: How Would You Test A Toaster?

Another addition to the killer interview questions collection: how would you test a toaster?

For this interview question, which is apparently a favourite of the suits at Apple, it’s best to gauge it against the scope of the job you’re going for. If it’s in a creative field you’ve got more scope to be a little inventive with your answer, because they’re probably asking at least in part to see how you think on your feet.

If on the other hand, it’s a more nuts-and-bolts-detail type job, getting creative could be the wrong approach, because they’re possibly using it to assess how you break down a task (making toast) and the tool at hand (the toaster) and applying them to a situation.

It’s probably a bad idea to simply say “I’d jam a knife into it” in any situation.

How would you answer the question?

The trickiest questions Apple will ask in a job interview [Business Insider]


  • I would walk out of the interview. No time for potential employers that have arbitrary hidden challenges.

    • Arbitrary hidden challenge? This is a test of analytical skills. How will they go about the task? will they jump in, or ask questions like the scope and background.
      What precautions to they take? do they use a test environment, or jump straight in to testing where it is (production potentially)
      A toaster is something most of us has seen, and potentially easier to get your head around then a company’s processes and systems.

      • I’d test on my Dev, then Pre-Production toaster. After that, roll out the change into production, and if it fails, roll back.

        Oh wait, I remembered its a toaster, not an enterprise system..

        in all seriousness, the question is “How would I test a toaster”. What does test mean? Does it make test to see if it cooks? test to see if it turns on? And what is the base line and deviation? Its a badly worded question that leads to too many open answers.

        A better scenario would be “How do you test if a production system is doing a specific task?” and from here you can make a good, informed answer.

        I’m sure an answer to the above question probably isn’t “throw it into a bucket of water and see if it sizzles” lol

        • The reason for using a scenario like this is because it doesnt matter about the systems and processes in place – they dont need to be explained by the interviewer, nor the challenges or risks, the users, or any number of things. The approach the applicant takes is going to tell you about about how they approach the task. If they get up and walk out, awesome, they would have been a bad fit.
          it also eliminates any bias they may have to a solution, you dont have to worry about how they do things there, vs how you did things at your past company.
          If they make a joke, that’s something.

      • No because I don’t have time to waste talking about toasters and the answer to “how would you test a toaster?” has about a billion different answers. Actually ask me something relevant to the role that can be directly answered instead of making an interviewee stumble for an answer over something so asinine.

        I would probably answer indirectly or turn it into a joke. I suppose walking out would be a bit extreme, but it’s not like I can roll my eyes and groan.

        Does it mean that someone who answers with-
        * Plug in. Does it work? Y/N?
        * N? Try different powerpoint.
        * Does it work? Y/N?
        * N? Return it.
        * Y? Make toast.

        Gets less consideration than:
        * Plug in. Does it work? Y/N?
        * N? Try different powerpoint.
        * Does it work? Y/N?
        * Y? Make toast.
        * Is it burnt? Y/N?
        * N? Great!
        * Y? Turn temperature down and repeat process.

    • So…. you’d seriously walk out of an interview for the question “How do you conduct testing” because you’re utterly incapable of handling the hypothetical test subject being a toaster.

      That’s cool, I hear there are a lot of companies looking for someone who falls to pieces at the first sign of anything not being exactly their preferred way.

      • I’d walk out because they are clearly amateur recruiters…if you want to ‘test’ someone in an interview outside of a behavior based approach (what you did and why), then use a proper capability testing service…otherwise it is merely an attempt to entertain the recruiter.

  • Scope and background would be great. You always want that whenever you test.

    Because seriously, it depends. What’re you trying to test? If it just turns on? Simple. Push it down, see if it sticks, wait a sec, see if the element turns on.

    Or something more in-depth? Well what, are we grabbing labaroatory thermometers and multiple toasters and loaves with a control toaster of a competitor’s brand and the previous model of the toaster being tested?
    Or are we just jamming a piece of toast in and seeing if the number 3 setting turns it into charcoal?

    Scope! SCOOOOOOOPE! Or is the entire point for me to GUESS the scope? Well then they’re a dick and probably a bad manager.

    • Exactly, but easily part of the test.
      It is important for the business to known how a potential hire would handle a device/product testing situation where they are just told to “Test This”

      Do they jump in and run with an assumption of the test goals?
      The Testing may not be entirely relevant, requiring additional testing to get what the company needs – The “Toaster” may actually be a tool for reflowing solder, so knowing how well it cooks a crumpet won’t help those in the workshops where it will be used.

      Do they try and cover all possible bases?
      Testing then takes longer than forecast/allocated/budgeted, potentially delaying a product launch, leaving untested features in the released product, and/or incurring an avoidable cost.

      Or do they seek out clarification as to what the business needs?
      They and the business now have more realistic expectations as to the feasibility of testing, the quality of the results obtained, relevance to the product being tested, and the cost of this testing.

      We all know that not all managers, supervisors, CEOs, board members, partner companies, etc are created equal, so it is beneficial to the company to know whether this would be employee will just jump when asked, or take the time to ask: How High?

  • Stand up, say “Thank you for your time” and leave. Don’t answer bullshit questions like that, if they can’t give you straight questions, they have no respect for you, and you really don’t want to be working for scum-bags like that.

  • Unless I was applying for a job as Sunbeam’s Head of Radiated Heat Absorption and Caramelization (Dough Division) I’d not bother.

  • What am I testing it for: relaibility? Safety? performance? ease of use? You need to establish MY performance criteria for me to answer that question usefully.

  • quick answer, make toast with it. If you’re testing a toaster you’re testing that it performs its core function, testing it by doing anything else does not verify it’s functionality

  • Wowee. So many people here struggling to see that is just a hypothetical.
    Heaps of places do this to get answers that haven’t been rehearsed in front of the mirror all morning.
    You probably have your answer figured out word for word when asked how you solve problems in the workplace or what your biggest weakness is. This site even posts about the best way to answer those.
    The employers of the world know that. So how can anyone answerring those questions be trusted?
    The goal here is to put you on the spot and to see how you handle pressure. Clearly you have all failed the basic tests of the professional world.

    • Hahaha. Nope. I’m seeing a lot of people asking for scope and criteria. “What are we testing?”

      The fact that people know to define their parameters is the most useful thing in the professional world.

      You don’t want to give direction to ‘build a database’ and them them run off and talk about what they can do. The first thing someone should be doing when you give them a nebulous task with no direction is defining their scope.

      You don’t want dreamers who will get ‘a’ job done, you want goal-focused workers who will get THE job done.

  • which is apparently a favourite of the suits at Apple

    Tell them you just assume it is a part of the cynical trend of planned obsolescence so you’d just have to throw it out and buy a new one?

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