Brainteaser Job Interview Questions

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If you get hit with some brainteaser questions at your next job interview, will you know how to answer them? Brainteaser questions sometimes come up and they’re not at all like the interview questions you’d expect.

Interviewers ask these questions to test your thinking and check your problem-solving skills. They want to find out if you can think logically and think under pressure and they want to see how well you’ll go compared with the other applicants. It’s all about how creative and resourceful you can be.

There are four types of brainteasers:

  • Questions that have correct answers
  • Questions that don’t have one correct answer
  • Questions that you have to break down
  • Questions that test your performance

How to handle them

Here are some tips to help you answer brainteaser questions:

  • The obvious answer is often the wrong answer
  • You’ve been given everything you need to answer the question
  • Ask questions if you need to clarify anything
  • Speak your thoughts out loud so the interviewers can hear the process you use to get your answer

Sample questions

So how do you think you’d do? Here are some questions and their answers so you can practice.

1. Questions That Have a Correct Answer

Question: You’re in a room with three light switches, each of which controls one of three light bulbs in the next room. Your task is to determine which switch controls which bulb. All lights are initially off, and you can't see into one room from the other. You may inspect the room only once. How can you determine which switch is connected to which light bulb?

Answer: Call the switches 1, 2 and 3. Leave Switch 1 off. Turn Switch 2 on for five minutes and then turn it off. Turn Switch 3 on and leave it on. Enter the room. The bulb that is on is controlled by Switch 3 (the one you left on). Feel the light bulbs that are off for heat. The bulb that is off and warm is controlled by Switch 2 (the one you turned on, then off). The bulb that is off and cold is controlled by Switch 1 (the one that you didn't turn on).

2. Questions That Don’t Have one Correct Answer

Question: How would you weigh a Boeing 747 without using scales?

Answer: There are many solutions, but one possible response is: you put the jet on a large boat and paint a mark on the hull where the water line is. Now remove the jet and the boat rises. Then, load the ship with items of known weight until it sinks to the line you painted. The total weight of the items will equal the weight of the jet.

3. Questions That You Have to Break Down

Question: Here's a mobile phone. Deconstruct it for me.

Answer: This question might not be about mobile phones at all. They might ask you to explain something else entirely. All you have to do here is explain what the thing they're asking about does. So describe what it is as simply as you can, e.g., "this is a device you use to communicate with people in your business and personal life".

Then, just go through and talk about what it does, e.g., "this can be used to store contact details, make phone calls, send emails, take photos or videos, etc." You could also relate it to the job or the workplace and talk about how the mobile phone would be used.

4. Questions That Test Your Performance

Question: Please take this pen and sell it to me. Tell me about its design, features, benefits and values.

Answer: Again, it might not be a pen, but whatever the object is, you have to think about what you can say that will convince the interviewer to buy it. You can be creative and make up some different uses for the pen, e.g., you could use it as a hair pin, you could use it to pick a lock, you could use it to scratch your back, etc. The way you deliver this answer is important too - you need to get excited about the pen as a product you really believe in.

Don't Freak Out

The above are just some examples of the kind of brainteaser questions that you might encounter in an interview. The point is that there ARE ways to answer them - you just have to recognise the kind of question they are, and think things through before you respond.

Brainteaser questions are just another way that employers try to pick the best suited person for the job. But just because the questions are hard  doesn't mean they're impossible.

Remember - if you've prepared yourself to answer a few curly questions, then you've already given yourself a good a head start!