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Brainteaser Questions: Unlocking The Mysteries Of The Interview Puzzle

When it comes to preparing for job interviews, you’ve done your homework and brushed up on your interview answers. You feel like you’re extremely prepared for whatever the employer is going to throw at you. That is, until you are hit with an oddball question that seems to have no relation to whether or not you’d be good at a particular job.

Welcome to the wacky world of the brainteaser question. Brainteaser or puzzle questions are used in a small percentage of interviews and tend to be used for more technical jobs in general. However, you never know when an employer is going to throw one into the mix for kicks and giggles.

No matter how you feel personally about these types of questions, if you want to be considered for the job, you’ll need to answer it. Some brainteasers seem simple while others appear more complex. Think of those mathematical word questions you used to get in grade school.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

I hope so.

What does a brainteaser question look like? Here’s some examples:

How many golf balls does it take to fill up a school bus?

How do you get a manhole cover to go inside the hole?

You wake up one morning and there’s been a power outage. You know you have 12 black socks and 8 blue ones. How many socks do you need to pull out before you get a match?

An islands chameleons are divided into three groups: 13 red chameleons, 15 green chameleons and 17 blue chameleons. Each time two chameleons meet, they change their color to the third one. Is it possible for all the chameleons to become the same color? Why or why not?

The purpose of brainteaser questions

Even though it may seem like it, employers aren’t trying to make a candidate look dumb or are being malicious when they ask you this type of question. Their purpose is to see how each candidate processes a challenging situation.

Sure, these types of questions won’t be a part of your daily job if hired, but you will be faced with challenging issues that pop up. The employer is curious about how you’ll handle things when that happens.

How to react to a brainteaser question

You may be unprepared for the question, but once it’s out there you have to handle it. You shouldn’t just scratch your head and stare blankly at the employer. You also shouldn’t wrinkle your brow and refuse to answer the question on grounds that it’s irrelevant.

To buy yourself some time, one thing you can do is ask the interviewer to repeat the question. You can repeat it out loud to make sure you’ve heard it right. You can also take a moment to write the question down and think on it a bit. Let the interviewer know that you need a little time to ponder.

Be interactive

Believe it or not, employers don’t mind if you include them in your problem solving. Instead of silently going over each possibility, think your answer out loud. The interviewer wants to hear how your brain works.

If you need help, ask them for a hint. Once they give you a hint, continue to work it through to the best of your abilities. Once you’ve committed to an answer you think is right, be decisive and stay with it to the end. Some of these questions have multiple answers, so it’s more important that you appear confident.

If you’re totally stumped, admit it to the interviewer and ask for the answer. As long as you’ve showed the employer that you’ve got a healthy sense of curiosity, you’re still in the mix for the job.

Keep it simple but ignore the obvious

If the answer is too obvious then it’s not correct. Brainteasers are supposed to make you think for a while, so that glaringly simple solution is most likely wrong. However, all of these puzzles have some logic to them and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to solve.

Most puzzles can be solved with simple math. If you’re reaching for your calculus equations, you’re making it too hard.

Start from the end

Working your way backwards to get to an answer can be a quicker way to come up with a solution.

Be unique

If you feel you can’t come up with a right answer, then come up with something totally unique. At the very least, you’ll stand out from the crowd.