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Resume Help/“How many traffic lights in Manhattan?”


I encountered this job interview question on the web and found it impossible to answer.

“How many traffic lights in Manhattan?”

Could you pls advise?

Hi Tony,

This is one of those questions that is designed to see how well you react to a question that means something entirely different than what was asked.  There are four categories of interview questions; this one is in the "Creativity" category.

They have no idea how many traffic lights there are in Manhattan.  The city of New York probably doesn't know.  What they want to see is HOW you react, not WHAT you respond.  The purpose here is to see how you might deal with some unknown on the job.  Do you panic?  Do you react calmly?  Do you call a meeting?  Etc, etc.

The first response I thought of when I saw the question was "As many as it takes to control the traffic."  Who knows if they would have liked the answer.  But what they WOULD have liked is that a response was given without fear and panic in the eyes.

You said you found this on the web, so I assume you didn't get it in an actual interview.  But you'll get something like this on nearly every interview.  If you have difficulty coming up with questions to practice, let me know - I've got lots of them.  I use them in the jobs workshops that I do and with my individual clients.

Good luck with your search; let me know if I can help further.

Best wishes,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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