Interviewers Now Handing Out Puzzles


Are we still asking interviewees to solve puzzles on the spot? Apparently this practice isn’t just for Google anymore.

Patty Azzarello of talent services organization Azzarello Group says that there are a few advantages to asking job candidates how many golf balls would fit in a school bus. “Some people will get annoyed and refuse to engage, some will give up very quickly, and others will visibly start thinking and working it out. They will tell you how they are thinking about approaching the problem. They will ask you more questions about it….the person who is doing something with the problem” is the one who will get hired.

Azzarello also suggests that interview candidates who can explain how they changed the role of their last job, or ones who can answer actual business problems on the spot.

But back to the puzzles question. Azzarello mentions the highly apocryphal “Barometer problem,” in which students told to measure the height of a building using only a barometer came up with all sorts of creative methods—anything but using the barometer to measure air pressure. One student said he’d time the barometer’s fall from the top. The other, who was failed (at least in the legend), said, “I would find the general manager of the building and say to him. ‘If you tell me how tall this building is, I will give you this barometer.'”

“I would have marked these correct and given these two students a job,” wrote Azzarello.

Moral of the story: bring a barometer to your next interview. Maybe you can make a trade.

photo: Rob Gallop