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Study: Job Interview Brain Teasers Are Only Asked by the Evil

We’ve all been leveled with a brain teaser in an interview. However, a new study believes that only the most inept rely on them.


Once upon a time, back when I failed to get a job in retail (or at all), I was asked a theoretical question. I was applying for a world-renowned marriage breaking enterprise which also sells furniture on the side. Now, while this company shall remain nameless, they wanted answers. Answers to a question that held little contextual value.

While they heard out my plot to solve world hunger with a hovercraft and noted that it was “the best response they’ve ever heard,” I still didn’t get the job.

Hypothesis: Brain teasers in job interviews are bullshit.

Fortunately, a recent study plugged the holes in my resume, discovering that the job interview brain teaser is not a negative reflection on the potential employee, but rather the employer.

736 test subjects were given a list of interview questions which were either traditional (“Are you a good listener?”), behavioral (“Give me an example of when you made a mistake and how you corrected it.”), or a brain teaser. They were then asked which questions they were likely to use in an interview they were conducting.

The researchers soon discovered that a person who is likely to use brain teasers in an interview is more likely to be narcissistic, sadistic, socially inept, and callous. Everything a great potential manager should possess.

Sadly, the brain teaser is the Ebola of the interview world. Contagious, easily passed, and bloody irritating. Now, the patient zero of this problem was built on sound logic. It was explained in a Forbes interview that, “This kind of question is used to determine poise and the ability to think on one’s feet…to assess creativity and problem-solving.”

Okay, but in reality, these questions aren’t actually hitting that target. While Google no longer participates in this behavior, they were notorious for lashing the minds of applicants. Check out this actual question they actually asked:

Imagine that you are the captain of a pirate ship. You’ve captured some booty, and you need to divide it among your crew. But the rest of the crew will vote on your plan. If you have the support of fewer than half of them, you will die. How do you propose to divide the gold, so that you still have some for yourself—but live to tell the tale?

If you think about it, it’s ironic as well as stupid. It clearly has nothing to do with working at a computer company, and on a more meta level, you can’t even use the software the company is famous for to figure it out. Google it? Nah.

In fact, Laszlo Bock, the former VP of People Operations at Google, dropped this bomb in an interview:

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.

Since most interviews are largely determined by first impressions anyway, your answers to their nonsense rhetoric are mostly pointless.

But they do still hold value … to you. While the brain teaser has no use whatsoever for the company, perhaps it should work as a social trigger for you who is considering joining their ranks. As in, if they stoop to teasing you, they’re probably going to treat you poorly too.


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