Brain Teaser Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Tips for Answering Brain Teaser Interview Questions

Woman having an interview
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Many companies, especially those involved in IT and management consulting, have begun including brain teaser questions in their job interviews.

On the surface, these questions are completely unrelated to the job for which you are applying. However, companies use these questions to assess your analytical and problem-solving abilities.

The questions are designed to determine how well you can think through a query and calculate or determine a response or solve a problem without getting confused or flustered.

How you react during the process is as important as calculating an answer.

When answering a brain teaser during an interview, the interviewer cares less about whether or not you come up with the correct answer. Rather, the hiring manager wants to assess your ability to logically think through a problem. Here are a few tips for answering brain teaser questions during a job interview.

Tips for Answering Brain Teaser Interview Questions

  • Bring Paper and a Pencil. Many interviewers will allow you to use a paper and pencil when solving a brain teaser, so keep some handy during the interview. Be sure to bring graph paper in case you want to create a graph or chart. Do ask if it's acceptable before you start figuring out an answer on paper.
  • Relax and Take a Deep Breath. Some people become flustered by these types of interview questions because they seem irrelevant or impossible to solve. The interviewer wants to see how you can handle the stress of these questions. Therefore, take a deep breath and calm yourself down before beginning to answer. Don't panic if you can't figure it out. Not all questions are easy and not all have a right or wrong answer.
  • Calculate Your Answer Out Loud. Because your answer is far less important than the steps you take to arrive at it, be sure to tell the interviewer each step in your problem-solving process. It is fine if you decide to change tactics halfway through solving the problem; after all, most of these companies are looking for people who can brainstorm multiple creative solutions to real-world business problems.
  • Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions. You should feel comfortable asking the interviewer questions about the brain teaser. An interview is a conversation between two people, not an exam, so you should not feel completely alone when answering these questions. However, do be prepared for the interviewer to say that he or she cannot give you a particular piece of information or assist you.

Brain Teaser Question Examples

Here are a few common brain teasers you might be asked during a job interview. You can practice working through these questions aloud to prepare for an interview.

  1. How many gallons of white house paint are sold in the United States each year?
  2. Why are manhole covers round?
  3. How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
  4. How many times heavier than a mouse is an elephant?
  5. If the time is 3:15, what is the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand on a clock? HINT: The answer is not zero!
  6. How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the United States each month?
  7. What are the decimal equivalents of 5/16 and 7/16?
  8. How many quarters (placed one on top of the other) would it take to reach the top of the Empire State Building?
  9. How would you determine the weight of a commercial airplane without a scale?
  1. How many trees are there in New York City's Central Park?