Interview questions

Thanks XPav. It’s nice to hear that from somebody else who can solve these dumb ass questions but still thinks they suck.

I understand what you’re saying Jason, but I actually completely disagree with the notion that these determine whether you have a “problem solving mentality.”

That’s too general.

MAYBE, just MAYBE they can determine whether you are able to quickly solve a very narrow class of problems.

But my experience in the IT field has been the exact opposite. The business situations that we contend with are so complicated and poorly defined that the very notion that you would “solve the problem” in some sixty second orgy of brain activity is so patently ridiculous it’s unbelievable.

The skills I’ve had to develop tend to focus on the ability to adapt to changes in the requirements of a given problem, to create extremely robust and fault tolerant solutions, and to work around the unknowns until you can pin them down.

The cylinder question doesn’t change half way through, it doesn’t require you to deal with problems like “what if the water is boiling while you’re measuring it” and it doesn’t include the requirement to deal with the contingency that the fluid may or may not be delivered on time.

So to take a play from Tom’s book…

Fuck the cylinder.


This is why I walked out of the interview in which the dipshit peppered me with ridiculous questions. I could tell by the fact that he was an asshole that asked dumb questions and that he probably hadn’t been home in days indicated that the chances of me wanting to work for that fucked up company were exactly zero.

Even if I had gotten the job I would have been stuck working with a smelly asshole who liked stupid interview questions.


If Microsoft is filled with geniuses that can figure out how many fucking piano tuners there are in the world in 2 minutes, how come so many people hate their products with such a passion?

Why couldn’t they figure out how to avoid being dragged into court by the government?

Why isn’t the XBox beating the PS2?

We hope you are good at solving problems with inadequate resources.

Sounds like every job on earth to me. :D

Yeah, well, there is that. ;)

My answer to that question would still be “go find a better measuring container,” though. Any manager that favors needlessly complex (if clever) solutions to simple problems is very likely not the sort of manager I’d enjoy working with.

My favorite question, which I failed because it wasn’t creative, IIRC.

My answer:

Fill the 5 liter pail, pour from the 5 liter pail into the 3 liter pail. Empty the 3 liter pail. Pour the remaining 2 liters in the 5 liter pail into the 3 liter pail.

Fill the 5 liter pail again, pour our the 1 liter to fill up the rest of the 3 liter pail, and ta-da, you have 4 liters measured off.

My method was too obvious.

My answer:

Fill the 5 liter pail, pour from the 5 liter pail into the 3 liter pail. Empty the 3 liter pail. Pour the remaining 2 liters in the 5 liter pail into the 3 liter pail.

Fill the 5 liter pail again, pour our the 1 liter to fill up the rest of the 3 liter pail, and ta-da, you have 4 liters measured off.

My method was too obvious.[/quote]

I mean, hang on…

TOO OBVIOUS? :shock:

What, did you not go next door to the other inteview, borrow the rubber band and chopsticks from their stupid question and construct a rudimentary water powered lathe?

I sit on interview panels for our firm all of the time, and we never bother with silly questions like this. If someone has made it to the interview, we assume they have the legal skills to get the job done. They passed the bar exam after four years of college & three years of law school - I’m pretty sure they are good at test already. We use the interview to determine what their presentation is like, how clients might like them, how they might fit into our practice, and how they might get along with the other lawyers. If anyone on the panel asked some logic question like this, I’d instruct the interviewee not to answer. If I was interviewing and someone asked me this, I’m gone.

uh, I really was joking dude. Clearly you are so filled with rage you could not see the winky, winky.

I have only had one of these questions once. Something about a robot who could only turn 90 degrees left, needed to traverse a maze to its end, and take a bite out of the last wall… Or something. This was for a contract writing position on the fighter ace team. I pestered the interviewer with so many questions that he eventually told me the answer just to get me to leave his office. It’s not that it was so hard, but I had never heard of puzzle questions before, and couldn’t figure out why he was asking me it for a writing job. But I quit high school to join the Navy so wtf do I know. :)

The only question like that I’ve ever gotten at a job interview was the old standard of “why are manholes and manhole covers round?”. I kinda cheating because I had heard that question was supposed to be one IBM used on potential employees back in the day, and knew the answer.

So what’s the answer Brad?

Top 10 Reasons Why Microsoft’s Manhole Covers are Square:

  1. Shortened beta test cycle.

  2. City got a special deal for bundling square manhole covers with their manholes despite the presence of superior alternatives.

  3. Microsoft Street For Windows crashes on circles. Tech support says Chicago has them working, denies copying Apple/Cupertino’s round covers.

  4. Construction company had to sign non-competition agreement barring street developers from any contact with Euclid.

  5. DR-DOS found compatible with round ones.

  6. They make $49 dollars on each upgrade:
    Manhole Cover 1.0: the original.
    Manhole Cover 1.1: turned 90 degrees.
    Manhole 1.2: turned 180 degrees.
    Manhole 2.0 New Technology: flipped upside down.

  7. Perfect game piece for acting out those wacky Human Minesweeper tournaments.

  8. Ziff-Davis publishing pushing new mag ``Square Manhole World’’.

  9. To prepare for Windows Everywhere: Windows For Manhole Covers.

  10. Every single circle reminds The Bill of “O”-S-2.

I think the trickiest question I’ve had on a job interview was when I interviewed to be a Zamboni driver at an ice rink about 15 years ago.

It was something about troubleshooting and mechanical repairs… I had nothing (well, I had rigged my car window not to fall down every time I closed the door, but that didn’t quite cut it).

Alas, my dreams of being a suave, successful Zamboni driver were dashed. :(

So what’s the answer Brad?[/quote]

A round manhole cover can’t fall through the round hole as there’s no way to turn it so that the diameter of the hole is greater than the profile of the cover. A square one could fall through if turned on it’s side a positioned diagonally. I think polygons with an odd number of equalateral sides sides would all acuatlly work as well as a round system, but the circle maximizes clearance for materials as well. Usually, “cause it won’t fall through” is sufficient to answer the question, though.

Actually, I’ve seen quite a few square manhole covers. My friend interviewing for some consulting position answered ‘they aren’t’ – and right OUTSIDE THE WINDOW were square manholes. Funny stuff.

Another good answer for points though – they roll when you want to move them.

Cool, thank you. I have an MS interview coming up soon. You never know. :)

Of course not. Duh, there was no duct tape in the original question. Jeesh.

Of course not. Duh, there was no duct tape in the original question. Jeesh.[/quote]

Careful with the jokes. Spoofy has some deep emotional scars from these type questions.

There is no right answer; square manhole covers exist. There’s complicated technical reasons for both which no one would ever be expected to derive, but that’s not what they’re looking for.

They just want to see if you have reasoning skills to come up with a good, plausible answer, and convince the interviewer of it.

{Makes mental note to apply deodorant and maintain weight under 200 pounds before entering into the presence of SpoofyChop}