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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

7 Insane Brain Teasers You Could Actually Encounter in an Interview

woman thinking

You’ve made it through the first couple rounds of interviews, nailing questions like “Tell me a bit about yourself” and “Why do you want this job?”

But, in the final rounds for some types of roles (think very analytical or technical positions), you might encounter what could only be considered brain teasers. These kinds of questions aren’t to find out more about your previous experience or see if you fit into the company culture. They are used to test a number of your specific skills, including logic, math, critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to perform under pressure. And many times, your answer is actually irrelevant—it’s how you reached that answer that matters.

So, to help you brush up on your problem-solving capabilities, we’ve compiled the seven common types you could come across, as well as real-life examples of questions. But as you’re scrolling down and starting to stress that you could never (ever) even respond to these, remember that it’s all about your thought process. Hiring managers are much more interested in your problem solving skills than they are in actually knowing in how you would personally fight a bear.

Best of luck!

1. The “How Many [Things] Are There in [Location]?” Question

On the slight chance that your brain doubles as Google:

2. The “How Many [Things] Could Fit in [Container]?” Question

File these under: “How and why would anyone ever know this?”

3. The “Do Some Quick Math” Question

In case your brain needed a really fast workout:

4. The “Why Is [Common Item] [the Way Common Item Is]” Question

These are also known as questions a four-year-old might ask that would also stump you:

5. The “Explain [Concept] to a [Difficult-to-Explain-Concept Person]?” Question

Otherwise known as, “explain your startup job to your grandmother at Thanksgiving” questions.

6. The “Solve This Mystery” Question

Oh, occasionally you’ll be asked to go detective and solve a mystery:

  • “A windowless room has three light bulbs. You are outside the room with three switches, each controlling one of the light bulbs. If you can only enter the room one time, how can you determine which switch controls which light bulb?” (source)

Too easy? Here’s another:

  • “Four investment bankers need to cross a bridge at night to get to a meeting. They have only one flashlight and 17 minutes to get there. The bridge must be crossed with the flashlight and can only support two bankers at a time. The Analyst can cross in one minute, the Associate can cross in two minutes, the VP can cross in five minutes, and the MD takes 10 minutes to cross. How can they all make it to the meeting in time?” (source)

7. The “How Would You Do Something Ridiculous” Question

And this last category is all about putting your creativity (and I guess, sometimes violence?) to the test:

Stumped on where to even begin? Fair enough. Muse writer Jeremy Schifeling has advice on actually solving these impossible brain teasers.

Oh, and do let me know on Twitter if I missed any good ones that you’ve been asked.