The Hardest Interview Puzzle Question Ever

I would lie and say my favorite soda is Moxie and assuming the state is California I would bullshit some really small number because Moxie isn’t availible on the west coast as far as I know.

Hmmm… searches what puzzle questions are

Having spent some time working in a hospital I remember being told (many times) the importance of communication and talking to patients (even though I actually interacted with patients only rarely), it’s not just the software world, communication is important in almost any career.

I program because I enjoy sitting in front of a computer for 8-16 hours a day relating to abstract problems. Many interviews apparently wanted me to be extremely personable. Did you forget what you’re hiring me to do?

It’s no wonder that the interview process at many jobs has often given me coworker techies that were good snake oil sales men with little coding skill and coworker salesmen that were good only at selling themselves.

Make the interviewee show you that they can really do the job you’re hiring for. More importantly though, use a competent group of interviewers. This would solve most bad hires. You need a small team who can ask the right things and evaluate the responses correctly. People who think they know how to interview just because they’re good at a job is the same as people who think they can manage just because they’re good at a job.

The silver bullet is not communication. The silver bullet is not puzzle-solving. The silver bullet is not X, Y or Z. Communication is important, but there is no requirement to be a master communicator. Middle-of-the-road will suffice perfectly well. Ditto problem solving. Ditto your particular flavour of language/environment. Ditto everything you want your employees to do. If there’s one thing I take from myriad tales of X was a great at Y, but he was so bad at Z that he was a nightmare to work with, it’s that it’s breadth of skill that makes a good team member, and that team skills are more important than programming skills*.

Someone with 5s across the board will achieve more than someone a mix of 1s and 10s in a team environment. Sure, you might surge ahead in one area with the unbalanced guy, but your team leader will spend too much time leading the people and too little leading the project, which will inevitably suffer.

*barring, of course, all the ridiculous extremes that the bad team-members are just about to throw out in knee-jerk self-defence :slight_smile:

I know, of course, the answer to your hardest question, Mr Interviewer, but I shall give it to you in the form of a riddle:

My first is in stupid, and also in interview…

There is no silver bullet, a good combo of some of the above will get you on the right track. The best way to hire someone is not to know everything about how to hire a person, but what to AVOID in hiring a person. By eliminating the most mistakes, you’ll guarantee a better quality fill rate of personnel.

although I’m pretty sure that you can’t B.S. your way through a technical presentation to a handful of your peers if you truly have no idea what you’re talking about. (And if you can, you should be CEO of a startup by now.)

Please don’t encourage those with no technical skills to start his/her own startup. I don’t like being able to relate to every single Dilbert cartoon…

Good post though!

I ask similar ‘impossible’ questions to interviewee’s because I want to know what are you going to do now that you dont know the answer?

Are you going to look more closely at the question?
or give up?
or lean on google for an answer?
what if you google cant find one for you?

I agree that communication ability is a key component,
but so is being able to work your way around problems for which you have no answers.

Is there an answer to the hat question where there’s four people and one door on some steps and they can’t see their own or each others hats or turn around? I got asked that by some jerk who didn’t want to give me a hard question.

the correct response to the ‘hardest interview puzzle question ever’ is, of course, to strangle the sadist who asked it.

One of my favorite questions to ask is Did you notice anything in particular about our facility when you came in? (not applicable for phone interviews of course). Its not a pass/fail question, but it gives a little insight into how they think. Out of the 20 or so interviewees for the last opening here, the ones that didn’t notice anything also didn’t have any programming skills; the ones that said something vague (that parking was a problem) had basic skills; but the ones that pointed out specific things (like the ashtray 50 feet after the no smoking sign) had some l33t skilz. Maybe it’s the attention to detail.
The guy who got the job mentioned the ashtray, a car with a flat tire in the parking lot, and the ninja behind the bush.

Regarding the pirate puzzle, the answer is, of course, 42 :wink:

How much of your favorite brand of soda is consumed in this state?

It’s 7, obviously. I can’t believe anyone needs to ask. Sheesh.

Also, I’m not sure the communication issue is the major reason for the difference in nursing quality (it is likely to be a symptom though). Interestingly, the Dreyfus model was developed to explain exactly that skill disparity ie why some nurses are better than others:

Look at the novice level and see if it fits those nurses who ended up feeling like rigid, inflexible proceduralists who didn’t care or constantly had to appeal to authority… Your comment is almost a quote :slight_smile:

A better discussion of this is in Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, which I would recommend to anyone, if only for the chapter on skills aquisition.

Despite the fact that core competency of programmer is ability to stare at monitor for 8-12 hours and produce great code communication is extremely important. Unless you are a lone star in ivory tower, of course.

Programmer does not have to be an uberpresenter, but he has to be able to express his ideas and concerns in consumable form. No matter how great a developer he is if his ideas will buried in his mind forever.

Besides communication is not only about talking. It is also about listening. Ability to talk effectively does not come without ability to listen effectively. And most successful programmers can communicate good enough to present what they have to say and learn from others.

The answers to the pirate thing is easy:

100 prisoners and 3 pirates locked in a room… Anyone else see a numbers problem? Revolt.

The hardest interview problems often have the easiest solution:

Thank you for your time. Goodbye.

I like your interviewing technique. Talking for 10 minutes about something I have worked on, no problem. SONET network from New Orleans to Houston, via oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico…

Back-in-the-day we used the acronym BONSOP, back of napkin, seat of pants.

I think the answer to the puzzle is that you did not ask a question.

Is that what they are looking for, or did you just come up with something ludicrous?

Jeff I think you’re missing a fundamental element of the response to such puzzle questions. The way in which the interviewee processes and solves the question is important, but the way in which they convey their thinking is the revealing factor!

I’ve given technical question to interviewees before, and whether they know the answer or not is second to how they go about describing their thought processes, or how they interact with the questioner (me). That’s communication, and it’s going to come out just as well (and in a more relevant manner) with boilerplate interview questions as with puzzle questions.