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(io9)   Google bans brainteaser questions from interview process because "instead of determining how someone will perform on relevant tasks, the interviewer measures how the candidate will handle a brainteaser during an interview, and not much more"   (io9.com ) divider line
    More: Obvious, Google, expectations  
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2287 clicks; posted to Geek » on 26 Jun 2013 at 7:09 PM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-06-26 05:33:21 PM  
INTERVIEWER: Answer quickly: how many piano tuners are there in the city of Chicago?
ME: Only one, but he has thousands of assistants.  He's known as 'The Godfather of Tuning' and he'll make you an offer on an old Bosendorfer that you can't refuse.  Next question?
INTERVIEWER: Why are manhole covers round?
ME: I lost a bet with an iron worker and as a result, have been filing them down with my teeth for years.  They were originally hexagonal.  Next question?
INTERVIEWER: (sweating nervously) How many golf balls can you fit on a plane?
ME: None, since I'm a nondenominational Unitarian and I refuse to accept that golf balls exist except as figments of my imagination.  When do I start?
INTERVIEWER: We'll be in touch.
 
2013-06-26 05:36:55 PM  
they finally figured that out?
 
2013-06-26 05:38:13 PM  

toraque: INTERVIEWER: Answer quickly: how many piano tuners are there in the city of Chicago?
ME: Only one, but he has thousands of assistants.  He's known as 'The Godfather of Tuning' and he'll make you an offer on an old Bosendorfer that you can't refuse.  Next question?
INTERVIEWER: Why are manhole covers round?
ME: I lost a bet with an iron worker and as a result, have been filing them down with my teeth for years.  They were originally hexagonal.  Next question?
INTERVIEWER: (sweating nervously) How many golf balls can you fit on a plane?
ME: None, since I'm a nondenominational Unitarian and I refuse to accept that golf balls exist except as figments of my imagination.  When do I start?
INTERVIEWER: We'll be in touch.


Usually for me it goes...
PHONE INTERVIEWER: How many bags of cheetohs can you fit on a 747
ME: [hangs up phone]

or

INTERVIEWER: What's the average wind-speed of an unladen swallow?
ME: [Walks out of interview]
 
2013-06-26 05:39:06 PM  
I didn't get a job because I knew the manhole one off the top of my head. I could just see the disappointment of the interviewer when answered quickly.
 
2013-06-26 05:52:07 PM  
I like to open with "Star Wars or Star Trek?".

Last girl I hired answered "Firefly"
 
2013-06-26 06:04:03 PM  
For a couple of years I've been answering these kinds of questions with a "that's really what you want to ask me?" response. I'm still in my same job, so it obviously hasn't gotten me anywhere, but at least some corporations are seeing the light.
 
2013-06-26 06:13:10 PM  

The Stealth Hippopotamus: I like to open with "Star Wars or Star Trek?".

Last girl I hired answered "Firefly"


I end a successful interview with "what kind of beer do you drink?", but I'd never open with something that wasn't relevant to the job.
 
2013-06-26 06:31:00 PM  

serial_crusher: I end a successful interview with "what kind of beer do you drink?", but I'd never open with something that wasn't relevant to the job.


I wasn't hiring for a technical job or a job you have a lot of training in. I own a shipping company, this isn't rocket surgery! Corporate culture is much more important then starting knowledge. If someone is positive, outgoing and has some attention to detail I can teach them the rest. There isn't a right or wrong answer to my question I just need them to smile and relax. If they get all up tight or if the stress of a non conventional question throws them then they need to look else where.

90% of what I ask for is show up and dont watch the clock. I'm sure if I was doing computer programing or I ran a design firm it would be different.
 
2013-06-26 06:31:34 PM  
I'm guessing 30.  Am I close?
 
2013-06-26 07:20:24 PM  
Q:  How many piano tuners are there in the city of Chicago?

A:  Enough
 
2013-06-26 07:22:44 PM  
Best weird puzzle question I ever got in an interview was "A person brings you an item and claims it's a historical artifact. You realize quickly that it is nothing of the kind and is worth, at most, two dollars. How do you manage their expectations and leave them with a positive experience of the museum?"

To be fair, though, that happens a lot at small, regional museums that don't have the narrowest focus. The day I suggested to an older lady with, I kid you not, a Beanie Baby collection that the most valuable historical toys were played with by children and have some minor wear, and that if she were able to document how children enjoyed the toys and preserve that information for future generations, well, right now they're only worth a little, but if she could do that, oh, how rare and special they'd become in time...yeah, that was the day I almost decided to find a new line of work. Lady pranced happily off to buy a digital camera and visit her grandkids and I told my boss 'dude, this is getting ridiculous, put up a Pre-1950 Only sign or something.'

Next day a guy came in with a box full of Super 8 that turned out to be nothing but vintage porn and, God help me, I went online and found him somebody who would be interested, because we were just that nice and understanding there. My boss valued the experience we could give people at the museum and the kindness of human beings over anything else, and if customers wanted to just hang around and chat after-hours, he'd pay you overtime to chat with them.

I miss that guy.
 
2013-06-26 07:23:33 PM  
..I dunno.. what CAN you say about chocolate covered manhole covers??
 
2013-06-26 07:23:37 PM  
Pretty much all of this. This is a sign of a company that doesn't prepare its interviewers well, and doesn't have a well designed hiring process. Google has been able to get away with it because it's been able to attract massively smart people despite the hiring process. Other companies... not so much.
 
2013-06-26 07:27:48 PM  
My very first interview coming out of college the guy opened up with 'What's your favorite song by The Who?'

I'd researched and prepared for all of the common interview questions, and that one just threw me for such a loop I was bumbling through the rest of the interview.
 
2013-06-26 07:34:00 PM  
I've never really had a ridiculous interview question, just appropriate ones. It would sure make me wonder about the company, however. I don't think it'd scare me away from Google, though.
 
2013-06-26 07:40:01 PM  
When I interviewed people I always told them I'd reviewed their CV, and that was their ticket in the door, but it was completely irrelevant to me at that point.  I had three questions:
Why are you interested in us?
Why should we be interested in you?
What do you want to know?
I don't think I ever had an interview that didn't tell me everything I needed to know.
 
2013-06-26 07:41:15 PM  
"Describe how you would design an object oriented baseball team."  -- From an interview for an entry level programming position.
"Describe your home network."  "What is the difference between RAID 1 and RAID 10?"  -- From an interview for a system administration position.

Being asked real questions that pertain to my ability to succeed in a position makes me respect the interviewer and the organization that he or she represents.  Asking me to extrapolate the average amount of time that passes between Dexter Morgan's murders, while interesting, is a waste of my time.  So I will waste yours for my own amusement.
 
2013-06-26 07:43:56 PM  
I took an Amtrak to Detroit to one of the very first SIGGRAPH shows at Cobo Hall on a lark because I had some background and knew this girl who had a job and was going to be there with the company she worked for.
Managed to find Cobo Hall, talk my way in, find the company, find employees, dropped my friend's name, she was with her boyfriend someplace, guilted a couple of guys into letting me sleep on the floor of their hotel room.

Next day a bunch of us crammed into a rental car and headed to Cobo Hall, I was the last to take a shower and was sticking my head out the window to dry my hair.  The guy driving was basically the boss, he looked at me in the mirror and asked "do you have a job?"

that was MY first job interview question.
 
2013-06-26 07:47:41 PM  

The Stealth Hippopotamus: I like to open with "Star Wars or Star Trek?".

Last girl I hired answered "Firefly"


When I worked in visual effects I had an interview at the now defunct Foundation Imaging - they did all the vfx for Star Trek Voyager and a number of other episodic TV shows.  They were looking for someone to do the "anomaly of the week"...you know, the nebula or rift that makes everyone's clothes disappear or causes time travel or whatever silly plot device they had for that particular episode if it didn't involve the holodeck.

The last interview question was "What is your favorite star wars movie?"

Fortunately a while back before that I had a friend who is a star wars nut describe why Empire is the best one, and I agree with him.    Empire Strikes Back is generally the 'right' answer to that question if you're an old school fan.

In any case I did get a job offer but turned it down for another in the end.

-H
 
2013-06-26 07:48:19 PM  

Johnson: I took an Amtrak to Detroit to one of the very first SIGGRAPH shows at Cobo Hall on a lark because I had some background and knew this girl who had a job and was going to be there with the company she worked for.
Managed to find Cobo Hall, talk my way in, find the company, find employees, dropped my friend's name, she was with her boyfriend someplace, guilted a couple of guys into letting me sleep on the floor of their hotel room.

Next day a bunch of us crammed into a rental car and headed to Cobo Hall, I was the last to take a shower and was sticking my head out the window to dry my hair.  The guy driving was basically the boss, he looked at me in the mirror and asked "do you have a job?"

that was MY first job interview question.


WAT?
 
2013-06-26 07:48:40 PM  
I'm glad I can be a drooling moron in interviews and still be hired. My talent lies in the non-verbal part of ... thing.
 
2013-06-26 07:50:18 PM  
My first real job post college I was asked by the director of the department "Have you arrived?" during the interview. I had worked part time as a student at this site so I had been warned about this question. The fact that I had been working there really made the whole interview process even more asinine but they still made everyone go through a full day interview.

How the hell could someone fresh out of college have "arrived" at anything? You are just beginning to gain meaningful experience and that still applied to me since my responsibilities were limited as a student working part time.

Crap like that only makes me loose respect for management.
 
2013-06-26 07:53:38 PM  

The Stealth Hippopotamus: I like to open with "Star Wars or Star Trek?".

Last girl I hired answered "Firefly"


The last time I was asked that question I answered Battlestar Galactica.  The interviewer looked somewhat startled with my answer.

I was offered the job, but I turned it down.  That was at VMWare.
 
2013-06-26 07:58:42 PM  
There's only one question I ever ask: "Are those breasts real?"
 
2013-06-26 07:59:49 PM  
I did a year at Google as a Linux system admin.  One of the questions I was asked was about writing a sort routine.  My basic answer was this:

"I'm a system administrator.  I'll either use the command line sort program, or I'll use Perl's built in sort.  I won't write my own sort routine because doing so would be a waste of my time and resources."

Why do people always ask about writing a farking sort?

Also, I have promised myself I will punch the first person who asks me what kind of tree I would be.
 
2013-06-26 08:03:08 PM  
Q:   How many piano tuners are there in the city of Chicago?
A: 26.

26 firms in Chicago Illinois have an SIC of 769913 (Pianos, tuning repair refinishing). This does not include businesses with multiple tuners or amateurs, but it's a negligible difference. This does include private individuals who claim income from this SIC.

It's not a creative answer but it's usable. I could give you their phone numbers and most of their addresses.
 
2013-06-26 08:06:15 PM  

OgreMagi: I did a year at Google as a Linux system admin.  One of the questions I was asked was about writing a sort routine.  My basic answer was this:

"I'm a system administrator.  I'll either use the command line sort program, or I'll use Perl's built in sort.  I won't write my own sort routine because doing so would be a waste of my time and resources."

Why do people always ask about writing a farking sort?

Also, I have promised myself I will punch the first person who asks me what kind of tree I would be.


The answer is either "zero" or "one".  Sometimes a combination.
 
2013-06-26 08:08:40 PM  

OgreMagi: I did a year at Google as a Linux system admin.  One of the questions I was asked was about writing a sort routine.  My basic answer was this:

"I'm a system administrator.  I'll either use the command line sort program, or I'll use Perl's built in sort.  I won't write my own sort routine because doing so would be a waste of my time and resources."

Why do people always ask about writing a farking sort?

Also, I have promised myself I will punch the first person who asks me what kind of tree I would be.


The correct answer, of course... is.. The Larch

media.tumblr.com

The. Larch.
 
2013-06-26 08:16:55 PM  
They tried the same thing at EA back in 2005. What an utter waste of an hour.
 
2013-06-26 08:26:24 PM  
thank goodness, also happy to hear that Google is dropping college GPAs. There are firms out there that still ask for SAT scores, not really sure what the point is.

one startup in NY called Yext wants a minimum score of  750 on the math section of the SAT.

For a basic financial analyst job (budgeting and reporting)

farking stupid.

as for strange interview questions, I think I have a winner:

"If the Koolaid guy were to fall down and all his juice spilled out, would he die, assuming that he could die?

the securities and exchange commission threw me that one. Explains quite a lot about the agency, methinks.
 
2013-06-26 08:28:37 PM  

SpiderQueenDemon: Best weird puzzle question I ever got in an interview was "A person brings you an item and claims it's a historical artifact. You realize quickly that it is nothing of the kind and is worth, at most, two dollars. How do you manage their expectations and leave them with a positive experience of the museum?"

To be fair, though, that happens a lot at small, regional museums that don't have the narrowest focus. The day I suggested to an older lady with, I kid you not, a Beanie Baby collection that the most valuable historical toys were played with by children and have some minor wear, and that if she were able to document how children enjoyed the toys and preserve that information for future generations, well, right now they're only worth a little, but if she could do that, oh, how rare and special they'd become in time...yeah, that was the day I almost decided to find a new line of work. Lady pranced happily off to buy a digital camera and visit her grandkids and I told my boss 'dude, this is getting ridiculous, put up a Pre-1950 Only sign or something.'

Next day a guy came in with a box full of Super 8 that turned out to be nothing but vintage porn and, God help me, I went online and found him somebody who would be interested, because we were just that nice and understanding there. My boss valued the experience we could give people at the museum and the kindness of human beings over anything else, and if customers wanted to just hang around and chat after-hours, he'd pay you overtime to chat with them.

I miss that guy.


Vintage porn? IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!
 
2013-06-26 08:38:01 PM  
I interviewed at google.

They make you sign an NDR.

Ah fark it, if you're interested I'll answer questions.
 
2013-06-26 08:42:41 PM  
So I guess this book is now redundant

ecx.images-amazon.com

It's an interesting read, and I can understand wanting to see someone's thought process, but a lot of the time the interviewer comes off like they want to be the smartest person in the room and if you don't come up with the answer they were looking for in the manner they wanted, no job for you
 
2013-06-26 08:43:45 PM  

cato113: So I guess this book is now redundant

[ecx.images-amazon.com image 366x550]

But a lot of the time the interviewer comes off like they want to be the smartest person in the room and if you don't come up with the answer they were looking for in the manner they wanted, no job for you



What he said.
 
2013-06-26 08:47:03 PM  

SpiderQueenDemon: Best weird puzzle question I ever got in an interview was "A person brings you an item and claims it's a historical artifact. You realize quickly that it is nothing of the kind and is worth, at most, two dollars. How do you manage their expectations and leave them with a positive experience of the museum?"

To be fair, though, that happens a lot at small, regional museums that don't have the narrowest focus. The day I suggested to an older lady with, I kid you not, a Beanie Baby collection that the most valuable historical toys were played with by children and have some minor wear, and that if she were able to document how children enjoyed the toys and preserve that information for future generations, well, right now they're only worth a little, but if she could do that, oh, how rare and special they'd become in time...yeah, that was the day I almost decided to find a new line of work. Lady pranced happily off to buy a digital camera and visit her grandkids and I told my boss 'dude, this is getting ridiculous, put up a Pre-1950 Only sign or something.'

Next day a guy came in with a box full of Super 8 that turned out to be nothing but vintage porn and, God help me, I went online and found him somebody who would be interested, because we were just that nice and understanding there. My boss valued the experience we could give people at the museum and the kindness of human beings over anything else, and if customers wanted to just hang around and chat after-hours, he'd pay you overtime to chat with them.

I miss that guy.


Hey! You aren't supposed to log into your Ebay account while at work!
 
2013-06-26 08:54:53 PM  
I interviewed at Google a couple years ago, and all their questions were typical interview programming questions. No brainteasers whatsoever, just a lot of ICPC/TopCoder-ish problems.

On a related topic, The Daily WTF covered the stupidity of "riddle" interviews back in 2007:

Thankfully, Microsoft realized that the type of people who enjoy these riddles aren't always good programmers, and good programmers aren't always the type who enjoy these riddles. In fact, some of the folks who can solve these riddles are precisely the type of people you don't want as programmers.
 
2013-06-26 09:03:48 PM  

EvilEgg: I didn't get a job because I knew the manhole one off the top of my head. I could just see the disappointment of the interviewer when answered quickly.


I've gotten that one more than once. Every time it made me feel like punching the interviewer in the neck.
 
2013-06-26 09:08:56 PM  

OgreMagi: Also, I have promised myself I will punch the first person who asks me what kind of tree I would be.


I'd probably go with Yggdrasil.
 
2013-06-26 09:12:56 PM  

fusillade762: EvilEgg: I didn't get a job because I knew the manhole one off the top of my head. I could just see the disappointment of the interviewer when answered quickly.

I've gotten that one more than once. Every time it made me feel like punching the interviewer in the neck.


The manhole question goes back to the 90s with Microsoft.  Its hardly an original question and I'm frankly shocked it is still being asked.

The last time Google called me to ask for an interview I asked I would only consider it if I can speak to the hiring manager before flying out.  The 19 year old responded something along the lines of "we are google and have our process" and expressed confusion why I wasn't jumping at a chance to work for them.  In which I basically told him to fark off.

At least the kid knew I was in Information Security - Amazon.com keeps inviting me to "invite-only" recruiting events for software engineers.

/years ago one company was at the offer stage when they discovered I didn't have a college degree and the HR rep told me I couldn't be offerred the job
//three years later they called me up out of the blue and offered me the gig - in which I told them to go fark off - literally
 
2013-06-26 09:13:02 PM  

I have been asked the plane/golf balls one before.

Me: 17 million

Them: that's an awful lot of golf balls

Me: it's a really big plane.


I've also been asked why the yellow brick road was yellow - because it was the most cost-effective colour choice on offer, no-one else liked it so it was on sale.


My favourite was who is the most influential person in history - whoever wrote it.

 
2013-06-26 09:13:58 PM  

MrEricSir: I interviewed at Google a couple years ago, and all their questions were typical interview programming questions. No brainteasers whatsoever, just a lot of ICPC/TopCoder-ish problems.

On a related topic, The Daily WTF covered the stupidity of "riddle" interviews back in 2007:

Thankfully, Microsoft realized that the type of people who enjoy these riddles aren't always good programmers, and good programmers aren't always the type who enjoy these riddles. In fact, some of the folks who can solve these riddles are precisely the type of people you don't want as programmers.


I found some of their questions to be considerably more off-the-wall than other tech interviews, but they were always questions that were to be answered with software engineering.  It was nice; brought some levity to what is otherwise a pretty gruelling day.  I don't know if the people who try to tie Google to brainteaser interviews have never encountered a Google interview, or were such bad fits that they couldn't tell they were getting an interesting presentation of a software engineering question rather than a pointless brainteaser.
 
2013-06-26 09:14:04 PM  
Damn. I've been trying like hell to get a Google interview. Despite a Physics PhD from Stanford and 2 years of work experience, I got turned down for their quantitative analyst position.

It probably hurts that my thesis/work is in Materials Science work, but not even a phone interview? Damn... I'd love the chance to fail one of their brainteasers spectacularly.
 
2013-06-26 09:16:36 PM  

fusillade762: EvilEgg: I didn't get a job because I knew the manhole one off the top of my head. I could just see the disappointment of the interviewer when answered quickly.

I've gotten that one more than once. Every time it made me feel like punching the interviewer in the neck.


I learned the answer to it over 25 years ago on Mr. Wizard.
 
2013-06-26 09:19:35 PM  
As an interviewee, I've never been asked any other than the usual work-related questions.

As an interviewer, I've used the  self-referential aptitude test for positions that didn't depend on deep skill with any particular technology, but flexibility and the ability to troubleshoot.
 
2013-06-26 09:21:34 PM  

EvilEgg: I didn't get a job because I knew the manhole one off the top of my head. I could just see the disappointment of the interviewer when answered quickly.


...I think so, Brain, but if they were V-shaped they'd be called a woman hole.
 
2013-06-26 09:25:03 PM  
Honestly I think a good test would be for business analysts.  Basically find some process in your business that is horribly broken, present it as a hypothetical to all your interviewees and say "You have two days to figure out why this is broken, have fun!"

And then hire whomever comes back and says "It's broken because these people over here are idiots"
 
2013-06-26 09:34:12 PM  

Fonaibung: Damn. I've been trying like hell to get a Google interview. Despite a Physics PhD from Stanford and 2 years of work experience, I got turned down for their quantitative analyst position.

It probably hurts that my thesis/work is in Materials Science work, but not even a phone interview? Damn... I'd love the chance to fail one of their brainteasers spectacularly.


maybe they don't like all your try harding - NERD!

/snicker
 
2013-06-26 09:54:19 PM  

Fonaibung: Damn. I've been trying like hell to get a Google interview. Despite a Physics PhD from Stanford and 2 years of work experience, I got turned down for their quantitative analyst position.


Make friends with someone who works there. Unless you were recommended by an employee, there's virtually no chance anyone will look at your resume.
 
2013-06-26 10:08:59 PM  

MrEricSir: Fonaibung: Damn. I've been trying like hell to get a Google interview. Despite a Physics PhD from Stanford and 2 years of work experience, I got turned down for their quantitative analyst position.

Make friends with someone who works there. Unless you were recommended by an employee, there's virtually no chance anyone will look at your resume.


Yep, I realized that after sending my resume into their website dead zone. That's actually how I got a "no" response fairly quickly. I submitted one for a position closer to my skills and haven't heard back at all -- I'm assuming no news is good news on that one.
 
2013-06-26 10:44:49 PM  
Getting a degree measures how well the candidate can get a degree.
 
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