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Are Interview Brainteasers More Like Time-Wasters?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Every employer has their own particular style when it comes to interviewing. But some business leaders think that "fun" interview brainteasers have no value at all in selecting new employees.

Google's Senior VP of Operations, Laszlo Bock, found that asking things like "how many golf balls can you fit into an airplane" is a "complete waste of time" and not a good predictor of anything other than how smug the interviewer is, reports The New York Times.

Here are some arguments to consider before you test your potential hires with interview brainteasers.

Smug Question, Smug Answer

Microsoft is widely attributed with being the first large company to utilize the interview brainteaser, and ostensibly these questions are an interviewer's attempt to show that the applicant can use critical or logical thinking.

But a psychology researcher found that "difficult and ambiguous" questions often didn't field successful candidates with right answers, just right-sounding ones, reports Time.

If a business employs an interview brainteaser with "no right answer," then the question is likely to pressure applicants into coming up with something clever or creative, rather than applying any job-related skills.

Risk Losing Qualified Candidates

Applicants who have applied for Google jobs within the last decade may have been asked any number of brainteasers, including "[e]xplain the significance of 'dead beef,'" which rely heavily on word play or riddle-logic, reports Business Insider.

The problem is, you may be interviewing a brilliant applicant for a mechanical engineering position, but because of her inattention to word play or possibly her limited English competency, she may not notice the "joke" in your brainteaser.'s CEO Heidi Golledge believes that if questions like this unnerve or rattle potentially superb applicants, using brainteasers as a yard stick may cause you to "lose someone amazing," reports Time.

Better Non-Puzzle Questions

Although brainteasers may seem like a fun departure from the monotony of the interview process, a good open-ended question can work just as well.

Asking a candidate about an incident in which she's had to solve an analytical problem, Google's Bock opines, gives an employer far more information about the candidate than having her grasp blindly in a brainteaser, according to the Times.

By giving an interviewee specific behavioral questions, a business owner can discover more about how that candidate might respond in their potential job duties, and not merely how quick-witted they are.

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