Manoeuvring the Brain Teasers at Job Interviews


imagesIf you are preparing for an interview for one of the big UK graduate schemes that you have long been dreaming about, chances are you are spending sleepless nights worrying about the dreaded brainteaser questions that the panel might ask you. Although these are no longer that popular in the employment industry, some companies might still ask you one. They think that your ability and method of answering them will give them some insight into how you will do your job.

Brainteasers are often asked to see your specific skills in certain areas which include:

  • Critical and analytical skills: Can you objectively view a situation, ideate and come up with the right observations and solutions?
  • Problem solving: A very important skill much valued my employers. How fast can you come up with feasible solutions?
  • Stress management: Are you good at keeping your head when everybody else is losing theirs? Can you perform under adverse conditions?
  • How creative are you? Can you think outside the box?

More often than not, the interviewer is more interested in the way you solve the riddle as opposed to the actual answer of the riddle itself.

How should you answer a brainteaser?

As mentioned before, the answer is often not what the interviewer is looking for. So, when they ask you the question, here are the things you should follow.

  1. Think of the question first. Don’t just answer the first thing that comes to your mind. If there was an obvious answer, they wouldn’t have asked you.
  2. As for more information. This is to make sure that you have understood the question in its capacity. Asking follow up questions might get you some extra data.
  3. Now, think aloud as you walk through the problem. Remember they want to hear how you are solving it. Outline each of your steps along the way.

Kinds of brainteasers to look out for

There are many kinds of brainteasers that are particularly loved by employers of UK graduate schemes. While preparing for the interview, go through some of the classic examples to get a general idea of what they could be throwing in your direction.

  • How many?

A lot of interviewers love this one. The questions include “How many tennis balls can fit inside a Boeing 747?”Or “How many barbers are there in San Francisco?”

Remember, they don’t expect you to have answers to these questions, as it is impossible to know them offhand. What they are looking for is an estimate and how you arrived at the number. You could use approximate population numbers of the city and assume the number of people with hair, for example.

  • Riddles

You will be given an unreal situation and asked about what you would do in that. Again, in riddles, they are trying to apprise you of your creativity and analytical skills. Popular questions in the day included “How would you move Mount Fuji?”

Never panic when you hear these questions and think out aloud. Don’t come up with the most obvious answer.

  • Doing the math

Math teasers are only used for finance and accounts related interviews. You will given a series of numbers and asked about what happens next with reasons. Technical jobs will involve these so be prepared because some of them can be extremely challenging.

These are some of the common types preferred at interviews. There is also the “Why are manhole covers round?”type questions. Prepare by researching online and looking up some well known brainteasers. However, it’s best not to give it supreme importance either.

About the Author: Pamela Harris is a graduate selector for UK graduate schemes at a multinational corporation. She has interviewed many upcoming employees over the last eight years. Pamela likes cycling in her free time.

Saanvi Singh

I am Professional writer, editor and blogger, I really like to spend my full time writing new ideas. I am online marketing expert and technology enthusiast. I have been using the internet since the days of Usenet and AOL. Away from the computer, I enjoy horse riding and fly fishing.