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Google Puts an End to “Useless” Brainteasers During Job Interviews

In addition to having a workplace so desirable that Willy Wonka-style bro-comedy movies are being made about its campus, Google also seems to have an equally wacky hiring process involving quizzing applicants with nigh-impossible brainteasers. Well—they did have a wacky hiring process, until it was discovered that these brain teasers were utterly and completely useless.

Whoops.

For examples of the kinds of questions Google has been asking its applicants, look no further than this list compiled by ImpactInterview. Want a sample? Here you go:

“You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?”

Then there’s this gem:

“A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?”

And what about this:

“You have to get from point A to point B. You don’t know if you can get there. What would you do?”

Don’t be alarmed at that noise you just heard. It was merely the sound of your brain liquefying and pouring out your ears.

The news that Google will ditch the riddles in favor of, you know, actually interviewing people, comes by way of an article on the New York Times, which features an interview with Google’s senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock. Apparently he’s done some studies to figure out the best way to find qualified employees, and—surprise!—brainteasers just don’t work:

“On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

So there you go. Google may be a unique company with an interesting way of approaching business, but at the end of the day, riddles are best saved for escaping bridge trolls and tricking Gollum into showing you how to get out of a cave.

Unless, of course, Larry Page is actually a Hobbit. If that’s the case, then all bets are off.

Anyway, this news is a net positive for job applicants across the tech industry. Google manages to inspire others by virtue of its example, and I’m relatively sure that the trend of brainteasers in job interviews caught on due to Google’s practices in the first place. To hear that the company’s found them to be completely useless in actually assessing the long-term potential of employees may signal that other companies will soon stop doing so as well.

Let’s hope so. I’ve had some rough interviews in my time. If I had to deal with trying to “design an evacuation plan for San Francisco,” I’d give up on ever trying to be employed in the first place.


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— Brian P. Rubin

Brian's been a writer-for-hire for the better part of ten years, creating content for Geek Magazine, Machinima, and even Hasbro's Trivial Pursuit. After living in New York for most of his life, he recently relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he plays drums in his band, the Lost Wheels, and roams the land for the midwest's best approximation of actual pizza.


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Comments

  1. Richard Hung says:

    OTOH, writing out quicksort over and over and over again is the most annoying think I’ve ever had to do in interviews. Turns out, you never actually have to implement quicksort for real, since there’s an API for it in every decent programming language’s standard libraries. As discussed in the article, the interviewer is just preening. The Google interview I did long ago was one long masturbatory session of stupidity, where they wasted my time with pointless useless questions. However, the massage chair was awesome.

    • David Gillies says:

      And the library routine will probably do a better job. The STL std::sort in <algorithm> is particularly good. For entry-level code monkeys it is often a good idea to set tests to see if they can spot things like off-by-one errors, fencepost errors, leaky heap allocations etc.. For people a bit higher up the totem pole, code samples are usually a good start.

  2. The guy in knickers says:

    sounds like fun- I bet they give points for creative answers.

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