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“During Interview, Brainteasers are a complete waste of time” Google Admits. And You?

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.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewee just make stuff up.” [Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, via NYT].

Well, asking tough questions has been a part of ‘great tech’ culture. In India, very often I have seen that people do get snobbish (read : ask puzzles/brainteasers) when they see the interviewee from a college they aspired for and never got in.

In fact, this reminds me of an interview in which I was asked a brainteaser question, and I failed to answer. In return, I challenged the interviewer to help me solve another puzzle, which he also failed to solve! The lesson was very simple – brainteasers work only when there is a solution (which is known to the person asking the puzzle!). But what one could instead focus on is the way the other person is approaching the problem (and not, whether one managed to solve the puzzle or not).

In fact, problem solving is not about finding solution – it’s a lot about the approach and attitude.

Laszlo Bock talks about an important aspect of behavioral interviewing, which I believe is much more cultural than solving puzzles:

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.

What about you? Are you throwing puzzles to interviewees? Does that boost your ego? Does it go beyond that?

And while you decide your next interview questions, watch this brainteaser.


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