Are these interview questions too hard to answer?

Interviewing in a funky office location. We have all been there, either sat in an interview or heard one of our candidates talk about a crazy tough interview question that threw them off. Indeed, I once asked if I was a cat what colour would I be. 
I suggested this was a nonsense question that had nothing to do with the job in Insurance. For some reason, this job was not offered to me. Google are one of the most sought-after places to work on the planet, and some of their interview questions are tough, tough, tough. Read on, and see if you can answer these tough questions yourself!

The Bloody Difficult Questions

The Manhole Cover Question The question: Why are manhole covers round? The answer: A square manhole cover could fall through the hole if it were placed at the incorrect angle. Why is it hard? Most people have never thought about the size or design of manhole covers – and would naturally assume that they’re around because that’s the most natural shape for people to fit through. Unless you think genuinely about circular shapes, you won’t come up with the right answer.

The Clock Question The question: If a clock reads 3:15, what is the angle between the hour and minute hands? The answer: 7.5 degrees. The hour hand will be on the 3, and the minute hand will be ¼ of the way between the 3 and 4. Each hour on the clock represents 30 degrees (12 hours x 30 = 360), so multiply 30 x .25 = 7.5 degrees. Why is it hard? Because most people don’t think about the mechanical complexities of clocks – let alone the angular measurements of a clock. This question forces you to quickly think about an abstract concept, and render it into a precise measurement – making it very difficult indeed.

The Window Washing Question The question: How much should you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle? The answer: There is no specific correct answer – instead, interviewers looked for a fixed price for each window, such as $15 for each window washed – rather than a vague guess or a ballpark estimate. Why is it hard? Because the question doesn’t ask how much you would charge to clean each window – it asks how much it would cost to wash all of them. It’s difficult to go from such a general question to a more granular answer, so most people are unable to answer this question satisfactorily.

The Pirate Question The question: You’re a pirate captain, and you’re dividing up the treasure from your latest raid. The crew will vote on the distribution of the loot. If less than ½ of the team agrees with your method of dividing the loot, they’ll kill you. How can you divide up the money so that you can get a fair share – and still survive? The answer: You must divide the treasure evenly between 51% of the crew. Why is it hard? Most people will be thinking about how to maximise their own share of the profit. However, this increases the likelihood that the crew will be unsatisfied with the decision. By choosing to divide 100% of the loot evenly between the top 51% of the team, you maximise your chance of survival – and your share of the take.

The Clock Overlap Question The question: How many times a day do the hands of a clock overlap? The answer: 22 Why is it hard? Most people would only assume it’s 24 – but because the minute hand is always “ahead” of the hour hand, the sides only overlap 22 times. Again, this question forces you to consider the abstraction of a clock and use complicated math to solve a problem that seems simple.

The Database Question The question: Can you explain a database to your 8-year-old nephew – in less than 3 sentences? The answer: There is no single “correct” answer. However, it’s best to keep things simple. A good answer would be something like “Databases are special machines that help remember information about a lot of things at once. People and computers can use these machines to store that information, and use it whenever they need it.” Why is it hard? This question is open-ended and forces you to think critically about the simplification of a complicated concept. You have to preserve the meaning of the term “database”, while still simplifying it enough for an 8-year-old to understand it.

The Man, Hotel, Car Question The question: A man was forced to push his car to a hotel, and then he lost all of his money. What happened to this man? The answer: He was playing Monopoly – and he landed on Boardwalk. Why is it hard? Okay, this one is mostly hard because it’s a trick question. However, if you take the time to honestly think about the problem, it is possible to arrive at the correct conclusion

The Common Theme Of These Questions? Critical Thinking

Though these questions are varied and diverse, they all have one thing in common, despite their difficulty. They require the interviewee to take some time and honestly think critically about the question, its context, and the answer that’s expected by the interviewer. In a way, this is true about every single interview question. Whether you’re in PR, tech, or any other field, interviews are a simple method for potential employers to understand your overall level of competence, thoughtfulness, and capability.

So should recruiters be asking these questions?

Simply, yes. Although they are hard a couple of them offer the chance to see into the thought process of the candidate. For recruiters, the Window and the Pirate question are both a fascinating look into their commercial acumen.

However, asking more than one of these questions is likely to be entirely at odds with what is needed when recruiting internally.


Thank you for reading this article.

Please note that I have written these books that you might find interesting:

Recruitment Hacks -

Political Careers -

My First eBay Sale -

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form