Are brainteasers beneficial in the recruitment process?

job-interviewAt BlueSky, we’re recruiting and are looking for account executives to join our growing team. But it wasn’t so long ago that I myself was applying for the role, in April last year. Our current hiring process got me thinking back to my first impressions of the company, colleagues, and the interview procedure in particular.


And interestingly, the structure of interviews has hit the headlines recently with Google making changes to its assessment. The corporation famously incorporated complicated brainteasers as part of its interview process, asking questions such as: ‘You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?’ But Google has now recognised that there’s little value in this approach, even going so far as to claim that the brainteasers are a complete waste of time, don’t predict anything, and only make the interviewer feel clever.


Now, I’m not sure I’d go so far to say that they’re a complete waste of time, as clearly many businesses have been using such techniques over the years and have found top talent. However, I do agree that they shouldn’t be used in isolation and there are more effective methods when it comes to sourcing the best people to join your team.


When I applied for my role at BlueSky, for instance, the first round of interviews involved competency-based interview questions and a writing test. I was then invited back to carry out a group exercise with other applicants and to meet our two directors. During one of these interviews, I was asked particularly difficult – and rather obscure – questions in order to gauge how well I responded under pressure and went about working out the answer. This wasn’t to the same extent as Google’s brainteasers, but perhaps did serve a similar purpose.


Google is now focusing its efforts on structured, behavioural interviews, and there’s proven value in this method. But I’m still not 100% convinced that brainteasers are worthless. So what do you think? Is there any value in brainteasers or was Google right to scrap them completely?


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