The purpose of brain-teaser interview questions

“How many people are using Facebook in Los Angeles at 5:30pm on a Thursday?” Google

“How many planes are currently flying over Kentucky?” Best Buy

In many industries brain-teaser interview questions have become the norm. Mostly used by creative, innovative, or tech-savvy companies, they are believed to be used to find out whether a candidate is able to think creatively and on their feet. It may show that a candidate is able to problem solve in a logical, timely, and coherent manner, all while under the pressure of a job interview.

But do brain-teaser interview questions actually help find the more qualified candidate for the job?

Trying to answer a near-impossible question where there is no right answer is not a pleasant task for a job candidate. It can make it seem that the candidates are being set-up to fail, with the interviewers demanding impossibly high standards. Often all these questions do is pile more nerves onto an already nervous person, denying them the ability to clearly explain why they are best for the job.

But it is also an opportunity for the interviewers to see if you are able to think creatively and on your feet.  Often a candidate will go into a job interview with a pre-prepared script of what to say. Asking the same routine questions allows a candidate to stick to their prepared piece. This can make it less of a conversational interview, and more of a one-sided presentation.

If ever faced with this question, take your time and consider it carefully. In a situation where ‘Don’t know’ is not an option, interviewers are looking for creative, unique and entertaining answers.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

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