Sunday, January 17, 2010

Using Puzzles in Job Interviews

Puzzles are the latest fad in the job interview process that the corporate world has taken on recently. A candidate for JP Morgan or Microsoft is subjected to a humiliating process of being asked to solve a really weird puzzle that has absolutely nothing to do with their area of expertise. Many people who have been through this type of interview compare it to hazing.

There are many examples of such puzzles. There is an entire book and website industry dedicated to preparing you for this type of job interview. The one you see on the left is particularly popular, although there are many others (How to Ace the Brainteaser Interview, The return of the brainteaser interview: puzzles that challenge your logical thinking are back. , Brain Teasers, Book of Puzzles & Brain Teasers, etc.). This is an example of such a puzzle:

Three men and one woman find themselves on a deserted island. They only have two condoms between them. How can these 3 men have safe sex with the woman?

Believe me, people, I am not making this up. This is an actual question people are asked during actual job interviews. I am not even going to address the entire set of nasty, hateful assumptions that inform this so-called puzzle. Like, who said these men are necessarily interested in having sex with this woman, as opposed to with each other. Or, why would the woman want to have sex with all of them.

The main question here is what is the purpose of making this type of idiotic puzzle the central part of the job interview process. Contrary to what Microsoft and Wall Street companies claim, the goal of introducing puzzles into the job interview process is not to find the most creative thinker among your candidates. The real purpose is to find the most obedient, robot-like one. No self-respecting person with a degree from a respectable university will tolerate being asked stupid, irrelevant, and often offensive questions like "How many piano-tuners are there in New York?" or "How to design a spice-rack for a blind person?" The goal of such companies is precisely to weed out self-respecting, intelligent candidates. All they need is employees who would obey any humiliating task they are given without questioning their bosses on the legitimacy of the assignment.


Greenconsciousness said...

When you have an overpopulation desperate for work, you can ask them to lick your feet for a job. This is the end result wherever churches control health policy. Haiti is 88% catholic without reproduction health care freedom much like Mexico.
The answer to the inevitable density and scarcity as proffered by both the left and the catholics and those corporate interviewers is unrestrained immigration to countries not yet populated from coast to coast. Let's have a world without borders instead of demanding that population become sustainable with BC and abortion in every nation.

It is tiresome to read other blogs especially those who presume that we must MUST support democrat women because they will be different, when none of these connections are made. I know that democracy and freedom is in serious jeopardy in the remaining western civilizations and what you have written is a signal of this. Everywhere these signals exist without comment by organizers who are paid to ignore them. Where can the people look to restore their dignity now that our organizations and institutions are bought and sold by those too big to fail.

Greenconsciousness said...

OK, "are" in serious jeopardy - I am laughing but do respect your standards and sensibilities.

Clarissa said...

I don't even think this is the case of desperate people who would do anything for a job. These are interviews for very high paying positions. So these people are humiliating themselves not because they fight for survival. They are ready to debase themselves to make $100,000 instead of $50,000. That's why it's so hard to be sorry for them.

Kiibaati said...

On a purely academic level, how do the three men in the safe sex gangbang use the two condoms? :)

Clarissa said...

The answers are as stupid as the puzzle. They include: washing the condom in the sea before using it again, using 2 condoms at once, and turning the condom inside out for the second use. All methods, of course, destroy the usefulness of the condom. The last method can end up destroying the penis.

But these puzzles are asked by people for whom the concept of sex is completely alien. They haven't seen a real condom for ages, I'm sure.

Greenconsciousness said...

And the purpose is to humiliate and enjoy dominance not to find an answer. Just like rape is not about sex. I wonder if this really happens because aren't they just asking for a sexual harassment lawsuit? Of course the applicants are vulnerable and the bosses know it - who would ever hire you if you sue? Also, the law might not cover job interviews.

Anonymous said...

For all interested in interviewing, here's an interesting link. It claims to be the next development in the field:

NancyP said...

On the other hand, perhaps one way to respond to this is to start interviewing the interviewer, in a very unemotional manner. "Does this position involve dealing with individuals who pride themselves on their ability to be inappropriate? If so, are these individuals the bosses, workers at the same level, subordinates, or customers?"

Or: "Well, now I know which puzzle book isn't worth buying. I recommend the old classics by Gardner, the late mathematics columnist at Scientific American".