Over the holiday break I decided to tackle some of the books that I have stacking up next to my bedside. One of them was How Would You Move Mount Fuji by William Poundstone. This was a book that I know some of my colleagues had read already, and they recommended it highly, so I decided it was my turn.
The book was a quick read. The author kept my interest with not only the topic, but also with his concise explanations and his witty comments.
Poundstone describes the history of the intelligence tests, and how it was developed. They were used by our military to determine qualification for different job roles. This led to the popular use of intelligence tests in the corporate world, particularly in the use of Silicon Valley. During the civil rights movement, intelligence tests were determined to have a racial bias in the questions, so were banned as a hiring practice by the federal government.
The ban of intelligence tests did not deter those types of questions from remaining in interviews, however. Looking for more people with minds like Bill Gates, puzzles made their way into the interviews at Microsoft. They have popularized the use of logic puzzles and impossible questions. Poundstone also describes the grueling day-long series of interviews at Microsoft and how you are rated throughout the process.
My most important takeaways from the book was these nuggets of golden advice –
- When the technology you use is changing rapidly, you must hire for problem-solving stills, not just for the technology.
- A bad hiring decision is likely to hurt the company more than a good hiring decision will help it.
- If you ask puzzle questions in your interview, make sure they are worth the effort by asking yourself these two questions:
- Are you willing to hire someone because of a good answer to this question?
- Are you willing to reject someone because of a bad answer?
I highly recommend this book to any hiring manager who plans on asking any puzzle type questions. I also think the book adds insight into the overall interview process, even if you don’t plan on asking them that type of question.
Have you read the book? Do you have an opinion on puzzle questions in interviews? Leave me your feedback and let me know what you think.