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Google admits those infamous brainteasers were completely useless for hiring

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Q: How many giant pillows does Larry Page need to sleep at night? A: 7
  • Adam Pasick
By Adam Pasick

Senior Editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

You can stop counting how many golfballs will fit in a schoolbus now.

Google has admitted that the headscratching questions it once used to quiz job applicants (How many piano tuners are there in the entire world? Why are manhole covers round?) were utterly useless as a predictor of who will be a good employee.

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times. “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

A list of Google questions compiled by Seattle job coach Lewis Lin, and then read by approximately everyone on the entire Internet in one form or another, included these humdingers:

  • How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
  • Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
  • How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
  • A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
  • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

Bock says Google now relies on more quotidian means of interviewing prospective employees, such as standardizing interviews so that candidates can be assessed consistently, and “behavioral interviewing,” such as asking people to describe a time they solved a difficult problem. It’s also giving much less weight to college grade point averages and SAT scores.

(PS: The answer is 500,000)

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