The Hardest Interview Puzzle Question Ever

I tend to agree that random, arbitrary stuff is kind of annoying, but I have come to understand the point a little more. To an extent, exercises like that just show how creative one can be with limited resources. The interviewer may be more concerned with your approach to solving the problem than how accurate your answer is.

That is correct mr Seth, and nothing shows creativity more than unzipping an blowing a load on the problem

I think i lost a little part of my brain when the monkeys started using prime numbers. :frowning:

Agreed. A 10 minute water cooler presentation would be a great way to assess technical knowledge of an interviewee. Nice write up…

Lehman Brothers asked me a really hard puzzle question about three men in hats standing one behind the other. I didn’t get it. The asian lady interviewing me got frustrated, and ended our 30 minute interview session after 4 minutes. What a dumb cunt. I hope she sucks dick for money now.

It might be better to have the candidate give a presentation on something he’s worked on.

Matthew: These are estimation questions – they require no trick or special knowledge. They have no ‘right’ answer since they are process questions. Because of that, I think they are much better than puzzle questions. And I think one or two questions in an interview assessing the estimation skill of an engineer.

There’s a fundamental problem with this viewpoint, though: These questions do, in fact, have a clear and well-defined right answer. There is, in fact, a single number for the amount of $COLA_BRAND soda drunk in $STATE, and a single number for how many optometrists there are in Seattle for appropriate definitions of optometrists and Seattle (e.g., do you count the greater metropolitan area?) However, the interviewer hardly ever knows it, and hardly ever cares whether the answer that the interviewee gives is in fact anywhere close to it, so long as it sounds plausible.

And the thing is, in programming, that it’s not enough to have an estimation process that sounds plausible and comes up with a number. Being able to do that is in fact dangerous if the numbers are completely off-base. You’d also like to come up with a reasonably accurate number, and with a good estimate of the uncertainty in that answer.

@Swizec: Please, tell me you’re not the Swizec who authored an article called something like there’s no such thing as a stupid user?

The moment I read that question about soda I rushed into the comments with Zero! I don’t like any soda, so the exactly right answer is zero! And, naturally, there was a lot of answers like that already, and now my day is ruined…

Here’s a good answer to the Mt. Fuji question:


Actually, my favorite soda is Moxie (look it up, boys girls), so unless the interview is taking place in New England, the answer is statistically close to zero.

Come to think of it…that answer might apply in New England, too.

I remember figuring out over a coffee break how many coffee swizel sticks we’re likely consumed on a daily basis in Canada.

We figured it was about a cubic meter’s worth.

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

I don’t drink store-bought, so my favorite brand would have to be the stuff I brew in my kitchen. In the past year, I’ve made 2 5-gallon batches, so I’d have to say: 10 gallons. Pretty good margin of error on that figure, too. :slight_smile:

I once didn’t get my dream job because they had some mental maths thing that we all had to pass.

I hadn’t done the four fifths of 22 means it’s Tuesday stuff in 20 years and couldn’t do it without a lot of practice. If they’d asked me to do a presentation, or some questions about programming and project management I’d have had a fighting chance. I can do most of the programming problems without any prep - been doing it 22 years.

It was also very ageist, I don’t do those kind of puzzles. I got my degree (1987) when most of the people in the room weren’t even zygotes, if I’d had this kind of quiz then I would probably have aced it. I got a very high mark on the Java Certification exam, but that was because I studied for it. There was no way to practice for this kind of thing. In retrospect I’m glad I failed, because they must be idiots if they think it makes any difference.

Just a lazy way for the Human Resources (erm - I’m a person, hello??) to sieve people and be ageist without appearing to be. If they ask questions like that it’s because they have nothing useful to do. Plus it cost me a train ticket to London, and they ain’t cheap.

What i generally dislike about puzzle questions is the ambiguity, some element that you’re not told and that you have to assume. It’s like being asked 100 questions at the same time.

Assumptions are critical and it’s the first thing you try to work out, so being told to assume without consequence… i think it’s a little pointless.

How well can you judge someone’s thought process given that their assumptions are arbitrary? How much can you take from it?

Good Communication != Good Nurse

I get what you’re saying with your recent nursing experience. I also agree that you cannot be an exception nurse (or programmer) without good communication skills.

Having said that, I would much rather have a nurse with sound medical skills helping my when I’m going into cardiac arrest then one who is friendly but cheated through nursing school. Likewise, I would much rather have a programmer with exceptional programming skills design the airbag system in my car and tells the worst water cooler story ever.

In conclusion, the worst nurses were invariably the worst communicators! only means that they are bad communicators. Maybe you can conclude that they are not exceptional nurses…

Now, hopefully, I communicated my point well :slight_smile:

10 bottles of possibly poisoned wine? Clearly the prisoners are all ninjas.

3 PIRATES VS. 100 NINJAS! All other data is irrelevant.

You could potentially take a shit right there in the interview chair. Maybe just when you get a question you know you can’t ace you turn around and pull down your pants and spray them with shit. You know you can get a nice spray if you drink a lot of coffee.

You may think they’ll get angry but the people they set to do these things are practically dead inside so they will not react normally they’ll break a chuckle.

Try it, interviews is all about showing character and creativity. Stand out!

It’s nearly ubiquitous to force PhD level applicants for academic/science positions to do a job talk – a one hour presentation/seminar on the subject of their thesis. After all, the applicant is someone who has just spent years working on one topic, and they ought to have something interesting to say about it.

Having been to many, I can safely say that ten minutes would probably be enough to judge their abilities, but it would be unfair to them to force 5 years of work to be summarized down to such a short presentation.

I guess academics do something right, then, even if they are long-winded about it. :slight_smile:

Ok ok now I have it. The ultimate combo.

  1. Ace the interview
  2. Turn around spray shit
  3. While turned around prepare dick
  4. Turn back revealing the erect dick
  5. Spray load
  6. Watch jaws drop

If that doesn’t make you stand out nothing will.

As someone who poses interview questions a lot (and answers them rarely if ever) I must tell you, they are really important. Until we are allowed to give candidates IQ tests they are the best / only way we have to form an estimate of how smart people are, in the sense of how they think. And the interaction of working through a puzzle together gives you a chance to see how they think, how they problem solve, and how they handle stressful situations.

I like programming related puzzles (how would you model a pool table) and abstract questions (how many pathologists are there in the U.S.). They have to be solvable, by the way; questions which are too hard don’t tell you anything. And questions which involve some kind of trick don’t tell you much either.