How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?
What will you say?
Will you get asked a brainteaser question in your interview? Maybe, maybe not.
Yes, they can seem ridiculous. The method behind the madness is to evaluate how you think and how you approach a problem. The key is to be ready for anything, and don’t get flustered.
If they ask you any kind of brainteaser question:
- How many tennis balls in a limousine?
- How would you move Mount Fuji?
- How many gas stations are there in the US?
Just remember that you don’t have to get the exact right answer. What you need to do is demonstrate that:
- You don’t get flustered, confused, or thrown off your game by the unexpected.
- You can come up with a reasoned, logical approach to problem solving.
So just take a deep breath and start thinking through the question out loud. If you need a pen and paper to help you think (I would), then use the ones you brought with you to take notes.
For tennis balls in a limousine, maybe I would say, “I would first have to look up the average cubic feet of the inside of a limo, and then I would do a simple calculation based on that number divided by the size of a tennis ball. Or, I could get a 1 foot cube, fill it with tennis balls, count those, and multiply that by the average cubic square feet of the inside of a limo.” So now, I’ve shown them that I can come up with multiple ways to approach and solve a problem on the fly.
If I were asked to move Mount Fuji, I might say, “How far? I need some parameters.” (It’s OK to ask questions to clarify or get more information.) Or I might use humor: “A bulldozer load at a time.” Or, if I wanted to be creative, I might say, “I’d have a contest for anyone who could move the biggest bucketful of Mount Fuji 1 mile, and the winner would get a prize.”
If I were asked “How many gas stations are there in the U.S?” I’d probably estimate how many gas stations there might be in a small town of say, 10,000 people and start multiplying until I got to the approximately 300 million people there are in the U.S.
In these kinds of questions, the answer is not the point as much as is the process of getting there.
This question and answer is just one of the 101 job interview questions and answers in my ebook How to Answer Interview Questions II, available on Amazon. (Along with the Keys to a Great Interview!)
If you know there's a job interview in your future, I encourage you to get this book (How to Answer Interview Questions II) as well as the first book, How to Answer Interview Questions. Both books have 101 job interview questions and answers that will have you ready to stand out in any job interview and get the offer.