How To Answer Brain Teaser Interview Questions
Imagine that you’re walking on a bridge and there’s a boat full of people across. But there isn’t a single…
March 29, 2021 | 6 mins read
Imagine that you’re walking on a bridge and there’s a boat full of people across. But there isn’t a single person on board. How is that possible?
This tricky question is a classic example of a brain teaser. We’ve all encountered such questions in various aspects of our lives. Mind games and puzzles are an effective way to keep the brain active and alert. Not only do they improve critical thinking abilities, they also teach you how to look at problems from a fresh perspective.
Brain teasers also help employers assess someone’s workplace skills. Some of the leading organizations in the world use brain teasers during interviews. Read on to explore the different kinds of brain teaser interview questions and how to prepare answers strategically.
A brain teaser is a question, problem or puzzle that needs solving. It requires you to think in unconventional ways, often encouraging you to be intuitive. You engage in lateral thinking—using a creative approach to solve the puzzle. Instead of a step-by-step approach, you use a method that isn’t immediately obvious.
Brain teaser questions can improve cognitive functions. Many people are under the impression that mental capabilities diminish over time. While there is some truth to that assumption, one can always train the brain to learn and adapt better. It’s because of neuroplasticity—neural networks grow and reorganize over time—that we have the ability to train our brain.
Of late, brain teaser interview questions have fallen out of favor. Nonetheless, leading organizations such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are known for their challenging interview brain teasers. The primary reason behind asking such questions isn’t because employers want the right answers, they want to understand how a candidate thinks.
Brain teasers are another way of gaining a deeper understanding into how someone may solve a problem. It helps interviewers assess how attentive a potential employee is, how well they deal with stress and how eloquently can they present their solutions. In other words, a brain teaser interview reveals your thinking process and critical abilities, including
How quickly can you analyze a problem and devise a solution
How well can you see the big picture, think clearly and evaluate options
How effectively can you analyze data, calculate and determine the probability of possible outcomes
How creatively or innovatively do you engage with problems
How effectively can you manage high-pressure situations
How well can you think on your feet and provide answers on the spot
There are various kinds of brain teasers, many of which test your intelligence and problem-solving abilities. Some require attentive listening; some rely on innovative thinking and boldness and some test your math skills. There is no one correct answer for a brain teaser, as a majority of the questions are open-ended. Let’s explore the various types of brain teaser questions in detail:
This type of brain teaser includes tough riddle questions that are often bizarre and ridiculous. With such questions, interviewers aren’t always looking for the right answer, but your ability to think on your feet and outside the box. Here’s an example of a riddle brain teaser question
“You shrink and your height is now coin-size. Your mass reduces and it’s the same as your density. You’re thrown inside a blender and the blades will start rotating in another one minute. What do you do?”
Riddles such as these have the power to catch you off-guard. The best way to approach this problem is to think about the situation out loud. Remember that these questions are tricky, so the most obvious answer is likely to be wrong. Think differently!
It’s a popular brain teaser interview question where the interviewer asks you about the number of things present in a particular location. For example, “how many petrol pumps are there in Navi Mumbai?” Your potential employers aren’t necessarily looking for the correct answer (statistics or number); rather, they’re trying to gauge how you devise your solution. The best way to arrive at the answer is by estimating some of the facts. You can answer the petrol pumps question by using the population count of Navi Mumbai and estimating how many people are likely to own a car. Take your interviewers through the process if needed—it’ll show them how you analyze a situation.
Several finance organizations are keen on math-based brain teaser interview questions. The math problems often use the long-story format—presenting a series of numbers and asking what comes next. If you’re looking to build a career in finance or technology, it’s best to be prepared with math brain teaser questions. Practice questions that test your math skills.
Although brain teaser interviews are no longer popular, it’s advisable to go prepared. You never know when you may be put on the spot. Displaying grace under pressure will give you a competitive edge over other candidates. Here are a few effective strategies that’ll help you prepare for brain teaser interview questions.
Questions that put you on the spot can be anxiety-inducing and stressful. It’s common to feel flustered and not be able to think quickly. The best way to approach such questions is to go prepared. Brain teasers are readily available on the internet—all you need to do is find the right questions and answers. If you don’t want to be caught off-guard, ask a friend to help you prepare. It’ll help you find the right tone and body language for communicating your answers.
To respond smartly and accurately, you need to pay attention to the question. Otherwise, you may miss out on important cues or crucial pieces of information, leading you to provide an incorrect answer. To avoid misinterpreting, make mental notes of the keywords. If it helps, use a pen and paper to write the information down. Ask clarifying questions and understand what the interviewer is exactly looking for.
The primary purpose of brain teaser questions is to understand your thought process. Don’t be afraid to think out loud as you find your way to your conclusion. Have a methodical approach to your answer and take your interviewer through every step in a logical manner. If you have any estimations or assumptions, be vocal about those as well. Don’t forget to mention the things that you haven’t accounted for or considered.
Here are a few examples of brain teaser interview questions with answers that’ll show you how ridiculously simple yet tricky they can be.
You’re in a dark room and you have a candle, an oil lamp and a wood stove with you. But you have only one match. What do you light first?
Answer: The match.
You decide to travel to Pune and you want to know if it’s raining there. You phone 3 of your friends (who live there) to ask if it’s raining. Each friend has a 2/3 chance of telling you the truth and a 1/3 chance of lying. All 3 friends tell you that “Yes” it’s raining. What’s the probability that it’s actually raining in Pune?
Answer: Each friend has a 1/3 chance of lying. Calculate the probability by multiplying the odds together 1/3*1/3*1/3, which is 1/27. Therefore, the probability of your 3 friends lying at the same time is 1/27 while the probability of at least one friend telling you the truth is 26/27. You need only one of your friends to be telling you the truth.
You may be well-prepared for your next job interview but you never know when the interviewers will throw a curveball question. Questions that don’t have clear answers can be intimidating and can even affect your confidence.
Harappa’s Ace the Interview course will teach you how to build answers on the spot and confidently tackle curveball questions. You’ll learn how to develop engaging responses and think of out-of-the-box solutions. Showcase your reasoning ability to interviewers by thinking out loud and project confidence as you face interviews.
Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as What are the Common Questions to Ask an Interviewer, Top Team Leader Interview Questions, Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself“, “How Would You Describe Yourself” and The 50 Most Common Interview Questions to ace your next interview.