Banned Google interview questions… how difficult were they really? If you don’t remember the story, a few years ago Google had to take action to overhaul it’s interview process. They had acquired a reputation for harassing prospective employees with a gruelling line of ridiculous questions. The type of questions no one can be prepared for, with the aim to catch interviewees off guard and see how they react under pressure. These ‘brain teasers’ upset more than a few people, and as the news spread Google decided to call it a day on the rogue technique.
This week, I decided to put these questions to the test. They may be too much for an Ivy League graduate, but my six year old has a reading age of nine, so she’s totally got this. Before we started I told her the story of the banned google interview questions and she was totally on board to give it a go. I see the advantage of being six already, because she’s not even phased by the idea of unanswerable questions. In fact she’s pretty pumped that this will be her first ever interview.
So here we go…
Banned Google Interview Questions: Interview with a Six Year Old
It’s only fair to start with an easy one…
Q1: How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
She’s so fast and confident in her answer I’m almost convinced… Afterall, 100 golf balls can fit in a school bus. She looks at me eagerly for the next question.
Q2: How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
I realise at this point I may need to encourage the interviewee to elaborate on her answers. “Can you give some explanation?”
After a couple of warm up questions, I decide to delve more deeply into the inner workings of the interviewee’s mind…
Q3: Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
“The Golden Gate Bridge?”
Good answer but I figure I should check she knows what the word evacuation means… which she doesn’t. Once brought up to speed on the vocabulary, we continue:
“So how are you going to get everybody out of San Francisco as quickly as you can?”
“Umm… take a short cut?”
Q4: How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
“10,000. I think there’s going to be 10 in Washington DC. I think the other 9000 are all in Russia and England. Because Russia is a big one and you could fit 8000 in there.”
Q5: A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
“So… I know what’s in a fortune cookie so I might know this one. So a fortune is something that tells you something in the future, right?”
I explain to the interviewee the alternative use of the word fortune.
“Like… it can cost a fortune?”
“So what type of fortune is this?”
“It’s up to you, that’s the question.”
“Umm… so I think he lost his fortune in the future to get gas but there was no gas station, so he had to push his car, and so he lost his fortune when he was pushing his car.”
“And what kind of fortune is he losing?”
“The type you get in a fortune cookie.”
Q6: “You need to check that your friend, Bob, has your correct phone number,”
“I don’t have a friend called Bob!”
“You have to pretend you do have a friend called Bob.”
“You have to check that Bob has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write the question on a card and give it to Eve, who will take the card to Bob and return the answer to you. What must you write on the card, besides the question, to ensure Bob can encode the message so that Eve cannot read your phone number?”
“But Eve’s not allowed to see the answer and you’ve got to give her the note first.”
“Oh… You cover it up with glitter? Eve’s a girl so she must really like the glitter so she won’t take it off. And Bob won’t like the Glitter so he’ll just rip it off.”
My husband and I spent A LOT of time discussing the answer to this question and neither of us could work it out. We ended up googling it to find the clever answer is to write ‘call me’. I however much prefer the glitter plan… it’s genius.
Q7: You’re the captain of a pirate ship, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?
“You just use a pickaxe to cut in into 4 or 3, or as many pirates as you have. So you can share it like a tangerine, one part of it for each pirate… to share. So you survive!”
Kids, eh… trained to share.
Q8: You are given 2 eggs. You have access to a 100-story building. Eggs can be very hard or very fragile, meaning it may break if dropped from the first floor, or may not even break if dropped from 100th floor. Both eggs are identical. You need to figure out the highest floor of a 100-story building an egg can be dropped without breaking. The question is how many drops do you need to make. You are allowed to break 2 eggs in the process.
“I think the fragile one is going to break at the first floor and the hard one is going to break at the 100th floor.”
“But you’ve got to work out the highest floor you can go to without an egg breaking, so you don’t want to go straight to the 100th floor do you?”
“So… the 58th floor will be the fragile egg and the 67th floor will be the hard one. Because the hard one is a little less fragile than the fragile one.”
Despite having identical twin brothers, we may need to work on the meaning of the word identical.
Q9: Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew.
“I don’t have a nephew.”
“No you don’t, but we’re pretending.”
“So, what do you think a database is?”
“Something that you write dates on?”
“And what does it look like?”
“It’s a piece of paper you write the date on and then you write stuff on it?”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Like, stuff for grown ups?”
Q10: 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?
“You try and hop out as high as you can.”
“But you’re the size of a nickel, do you think you’ll be able to jump out?”
“So I just like flip myself like a penny, and then I just land on the floor with two feet. There. Because I don’t have that much mass so that will help me.”
And there we have it. Interview complete. No trauma or tears over the ridicule of the interview… She’s ready when you are Google. Although she did have one thing to add…
“Those questions were so silly. Because I’m not a pirate and I don’t have a friend called Bob OR Eve.” You’ve been told google.
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