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Below are the answers to the sample brainteaser or abstract questions that I talk about in Chapter Nine of “Someone’s Gonna Get Hired...”.

Brainteaser questions, sometimes called Microsoft-style questions because of that organization’s fondness for them, differ from other types of questions because often there is no correct answer. These are riddles or puzzles that require you to think creatively. You may need to come up with an answer that isn’t practical but highlights just how far out of the proverbial box you are willing and able to think.

Here are three of the different types of brainteaser questions used in interviews and potential answers. Enjoy, but if you have not yet read Chapter Nine on the different types of questions used in interviews, you may wish to hold on and see if you can come up with better answers yourself!

Why are manhole covers round?
Short answer: So they don’t fall into the hole they are covering. There are countless other theories, some going back to the Roman Empire, but the simplest is that if a round manhole cover is dislodged, it can more easily fall back into place than a cover of any other shape. Another common answer is that when on end, a round (and heavy) cover can be rolled along most easily. Ever try to roll a rectangle? Finally, alignment is not a problem. A circle is a circle and requires no orientation.

You are standing in an airplane hangar with a Boeing 747 that has to take off in about two hours. There is not a scale in the world large enough to fit a 747. How much does it weigh?
Saying that you will take the aircraft apart and weigh each component won’t work because the plane has to take off in two hours. Saying that you will look up the weight in the manual in the cockpit or on the Internet is not the answer they are looking for either. However if you suggest tying a rope around the plane’s midsection, throwing that rope over a rafter at the top of the hangar and then attaching the other end of the rope to a large platform onto which you will quickly load bricks of a known and pre-defined weight until the plane lifts off the ground and then all you need to do is count the bricks, well, now you’re onto something!

A king has twin sons and can’t decide which one to leave his throne to. He sends them off on a race, telling them that the prince whose horse comes in second will be next in line to the throne. The sons ride around for a few hours trying very carefully to stay behind the other. Finally, they come across a wise man who asks why the two princes are meandering around in the forest. The princes dismount and explain the puzzle to the the wise man. He says something to them and they both remount and ride as fast as they can back to the palace. What did the wise man tell the princes?
Switch horses.

I happen to love brainteasers, especially when used properly and appropriately in an interview. If you’ve heard others that you’d like to share, please do by sending them to me at: