Brain Teaser Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Gone are the days when job interview questions consist of dull topics such as, “Tell us about a big challenge that you overcame.” These days, companies - especially those who deal in management consulting and IT - love to ask difficult interview questions in order to test the creativity, logical thinking, and spontaneity of the job candidate. These brain teaser questions can be almost impossible to prepare for ahead of time since they are so random. For instance, you could be asked something like, “If joined hand-in-hand, how many people would it take to span the entire state of Colorado?” You could also be asked something quirky like, “If you were a penguin who had to outwit a hungry seal, what strategies would you use?” The good news, of course, is that brain teaser questions have no true, right answer. Or at least the interviewer is not actually expecting you to know it. They simply want to know what stories you can tell when under stressful situations such as a job interview and in particular understand your personality and even sense of humor. 

Conventional Job Interview Questions

Let us be honest. When you are applying for a job, you have most likely done some research so that you can be ready with the right answers to difficult interview questions. This might mean, for instance, reading up on the current economic situation in your state if you are interviewing for a public policy job. But how do you come up with good interview answers to brain teaser interview questions that are hypothetical and/or super odd? 

Tips for Answering Brain Teaser Interview Questions

Come Prepared with a Notepad and a Pen

Whenever you go into any job interview, you should have a notepad and pen to jot down your interactions with the interviewers. But this is especially important if you have to solve brain teaser questions. Graph paper would also be a good idea. Just make sure to ask if you can chart out your answers or brainstorm using the paper. 

Relax and Remain Good Humored

When it comes to tough interview questions and answers that are appropriate, it is easy to panic and become flustered. However, by responding in such a way you would be demonstrating to your potential employer that you do not have what it takes to get the job done. Instead, approach the questions as if they were a fun challenge. In fact, some of the questions you could be asked are downright amusing! So just enjoy the idea that you might be providing creative, outside-the-box answers that nobody has ever thought of before!

Buy Some Time

It is okay to use some slight delay tactics. For instance, as your brain is attempting to process the answer, you could slowly repeat the question back to the interviewer. Likewise, you might say, “Hmm. Interesting question. I do not think anybody has ever asked me that before!”

Ask for Clarification

As part of the process of thinking creatively, you might turn the tables by asking them to clarify their quirky question. For instance, with the question about how you would outwit a hungry seal if you were a penguin, you might ask, “What species of penguin would I be? For instance, an Emperor Penguin?” You could tend that these important details matter in terms of the penguin’s speed and fighting skills.

Guide Them Through the Answer Process Out Loud

Remember that the accuracy of the answer is not really that important. Instead, the interviewer wants to see your approach to solving problems. If you throw out various answers based on different possible scenarios, more power to you since it shows you understand there is more than one way to find a solution. 

Discuss How You Arrived At Your Answer

Again, you are not exactly being asked to give a right or wrong answer. But once you provide answer(s), you should proceed to explain how you arrived at your logic. If you are quick with a response and provide witty analogies, it will show that you think on your feet and even that you might be fun to have around as an employee. 

What to Do When You Do not Have an Answer

If you are given an odd question that you simply do not have the answer to at the moment, it is okay to let them know. Move on to the next question and do not stress out too much that you lost focus. After all, your interview is not likely to hinge on your answer to a single question unless your response is something highly inappropriate. Of course, if an answer dawns on you, wait until the end of the interview to revisit it. Or give them an answer during a follow-up email.

Brain Teaser Question Examples

Here are a few examples of the style of brain teaser questions that you could be asked during a job interview. 

  1. How many Peeps are consumed by Americans each year?
  2. Why do prices always end in 9?
  3. If you could spend a day on Mars, what would you do there?
  4. How many jellybeans could fit in a Volkswagen Beetle?
  5. How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Toosie Pop?
  6. How could you determine the weight of an elephant without the aid of a scale?

Final Interview Tips

While this article focuses on brain teaser questions, do not forget that your interviewer is also going to ask you questions that are relevant to the job position, such as your qualifications, achievements, and motivation for applying. You should do your research and be ready for these conventional questions. 

Also keep in mind that the way you dress for the interview says a lot about you. Dress in a suit or business dress, and make sure it is clean and ironed. Finally, send a thank-you note the old fashion way to your interviewer - through regular mail. It is good manners and it keeps your name fresh in their mind as they decide who to select for the next round of interviews.

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