Oh, occasionally you’ll be asked to go detective and solve a mystery:
“A windowless room has three light bulbs. You are outside the room with three switches, each controlling one of the light bulbs. If you can only enter the room one time, how can you determine which switch controls which light bulb?” (source)
Too easy? Here’s another:
“Four investment bankers need to cross a bridge at night to get to a meeting. They have only one flashlight and 17 minutes to get there. The bridge must be crossed with the flashlight and can only support two bankers at a time. The Analyst can cross in one minute, the Associate can cross in two minutes, the VP can cross in five minutes, and the MD takes 10 minutes to cross. How can they all make it to the meeting in time?” (source)
7. The “How Would You Do Something Ridiculous” Question
And this last category is all about putting your creativity (and I guess, sometimes violence?) to the test:
Facebook Brain Teaser Interview Questions and Answers:
A Russian gangster kidnaps you. He puts two bullets in consecutive order in an empty six-round revolver, spins it, points it at your head and shoots. *click* You’re still alive. He then asks you, “do you want me to spin it again and fire or pull the trigger again right away?” For each option, what is the probability that you’ll be shot?
The key hint here is that the bullets were loaded adjacent to each other.
There are 4 ways to arrange the revolver with consecutive bullets so that the first shot is blank. These are the possible scenarios:
The other two scenarios would have meant you got shot on the first attempt. (BBxxxx) or (BxxxxB)
Now look at the second slot in those 4 possible scenarios above. Your odds of getting shot are 1/4 or 25%. (Only #1 would get you shot)
But if you respin… there are 2 bullets remaining and 6 total slots. 2/6 or 33%.
You’re about to get on a plane to Seattle. You want to know if it’s raining. You call 3 random friends who live there and ask each if it’s raining. Each friend has a 2/3 chance of telling you the truth and a 1/3 chance of messing with you by lying. All 3 friends tell you that “Yes” it is raining. What is the probability that it’s actually raining in Seattle?
You only need 1 of your friends to be telling the truth for it to be raining in Seattle.
It’s fastest just to calculate the odds that all 3 are lying, and it’s not raining.
Each friend has a 1/3 chance of lying. Multiply the odds together… you get 1/27 (1/3 * 1/3 * 1/3).
We’re not done yet though… 1/27 is the probability that all 3 friends lied at the same time.
The probability that at least 1 told you the truth? 26/27 or around a 96% that it’s raining in Seattle.
Google Brain Teaser Interview Questions and Answers:
You have a 3 gallon jug and 5 gallon jug, how do you measure out exactly 4 gallons?
We know we can’t get the final result in the 3 gallon jug. It’ll overflow. We need to end up with 4 gallons in the 5 gallon jug.
First fill the 3 gallon jug.
Then pour the 3 gallons into the 5 gallon jug.
Now the 3 gallon jug is empty, and the 5 gallon jug has 3 gallons in it.
Fill the 3 gallon jug again. Slowly pour into the 5 gallon jug. Only 2 gallons will fit because it already has 3. Now it’s full.
Exactly 1 gallon is left in the 3 gallon jug.
Dump out the 5 gallon jug.
Pour your 1 gallon into the 5 gallon jug.
Fill up the 3 gallon jug one more time and pour it into the 5 gallon jug! You have exactly 4 gallons (and possibly a job at Google)
Why are manhole covers round?
Good news: If you’re tired of math questions this one will give you a break.
Manhole covers are round because it’s the only shape that cannot fall through itself. The cover can never accidentally fall down the hole.
Microsoft has been known to ask this question and according to Glassdoor.com, Google is asking this too now.
Apple Brain Teaser Interview Questions and Answers:
There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of its box. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?
So, you know all 3 boxes are incorrectly labeled.
Go to the box labeled “Apples + Oranges.” Since the label is wrong, it must have one or the other.
This is the box to take one piece of fruit from. Whichever comes out is what that box contains. If you took out an apple, the box has only apples. If you took out an orange, vice versa.
Here’s where it gets tricky a bit tricky. But we’re almost done…
Let’s say you grabbed an apple. Move the “Apples” label over to that box. Now it’s correctly labeled.
You know the “Oranges” box is still labeled wrong (because all 3 were labeled wrong to start and you haven’t touched it). And you know it’s not “Apples”.
So it has to be “Apples + Oranges”.
The last box is “Oranges”.
The same process above would work if you had pulled out an orange at the start.
You have a 100 coins laying flat on a table, each with a head side and a tail side. 10 of them are heads up, 90 are tails up. You can’t feel, see or in any other way find out which 10 are heads up. Your goal: split the coins into two piles so there are the same number of heads-up coins in each pile.
By pure coincidence… this is a trick my friend Mike showed me last summer. It blew my mind back then but hopefully it’ll make sense as I write it out.
You want equal number of heads in each pile. There are currently 10 of them. You don’t know which but it doesn’t matter. All you have to do… take any 10 coins out of the 100, put them into a separate pile, and flip those 10 over.
That’s pile #1.
Pile #2 is the remaining 90 coins, unflipped. Just leave them.
You’re done. Seriously.
You can do this with any number of coins. If you had 20 coins, and 18 were heads, you’d need to take 18 of them (it doesn’t matter which) into a separate pile and flip those 18. That’s pile #1.
If you had 10 coins and 3 were heads, you’d take 3 random coins into a new pile and flip those 3 for your first pile, and the rest are your second pile.
If you don’t believe me just grab some pennies and try it.
There are no exceptions and it doesn’t need to be an even amount of “heads” to begin with either. It can also be zero. Or all.
LinkedIn Brain Teaser Interview Questions and Answers:
You’re in a room with three light switches, each of which controls one of three light bulbs in the next room. You need to determine which switch controls which bulb. All lights are off to begin, and you can’t see into one room from the other. You can inspect the other room only once. How can you find out which switches are connected to which bulbs?
Let’s call the switches 1, 2, and 3.
Leave switch 1 off.
Turn switch 2 on for ten minutes.
Now turn it off and quickly turn on switch 3.
Go into the room and inspect…
The bulb that is still warm but not lit up is controlled by switch 2. The one that’s currently lit up is switch 3. The last one is switch 1.
How many golf balls would fit into a Boeing 747?
This last one is tough, but they don’t expect you to get an accurate answer. If you get a question like this (and there are a ton of variations- basketballs in a room, cellphones in Manhattan, etc.) they want to see your thought process.
The hiring manager is going to look at how you work your way through it and attempt to figure it out.
If you can break a problem down into smaller pieces, stay calm, and get an answer that’s not perfect but reasonably close, you’ve done great.
They might not even know the answer. They just want to see how you approach something that’s very difficult.
Question 8 above highlights a pretty good point to remember in your interviews…
There are a lot of questions in an interview where the hiring manager values your thought process. Sometimes more than a correct answer.
If you’re stumped, talk out loud a bit and explain what you’re thinking. Ask a question if you need to. Try to break it down into smaller pieces.
Specific knowledge can be taught but they can’t teach you problem-solving. Show them this and you have a great shot at getting hired!
The hiring manager liked my approach to breaking down a problem that I didn’t immediately know how to solve. That’s why being transparent and showing your thought process is one of the tips for interviews that you’ll see me say over and over.
You can learn to do the same and get far more job offers.
The big takeaway: Don’t panic when you get a question you don’t know… use it as an opportunity to show exactly how you work through things. Be confident with it, relax, smile. Remember… you’re giving the hiring manager what they want!
LIFECYCLE OF AN INTERVIEW: FROM A BUSINESS ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVE
An interview is not simply random set of questions thrown at an interviewee but in fact has its own lifecycle. A good designed interview goes through a set of structured phases with each phase focusing on different aspects such as knowledge on the topic, personality, behavioral traits, project, people skills, technical skills etc. It’s important for an interviewee to recognize these phases and understand the type of questions he/she must expect in each of these phases. This lifecycle is more relevant to a ‘Consulting-Based’ interviews, which are heavily ‘Project-Driven’. Though I have written this article from a business analyst interview perspective, these phases are very well applicable for any other role who works in a ‘Projectized’ environment. Figure 1 shows the different phases on a ‘Project-Driven’ job interview:
FIGURE 1: DIFFERENT PHASES OF AN INTERVIEW
(A) OPENING QUESTIONS: Opening questions will be asked toward the beginning of an interview. These questions set the stage for more detailed discussions and have most profound impact in the decision making process. Generally, are subtle in nature but carry most weightage. Things like “Please tell me about yourself or please introduce yourself”. The goal of this phase is to acclimatize the interviewer as well as interviewee with each other, provides an opportunity to introduce each other, and is the suitable time for an interviewee to give a snapshot of his/her career, what is commonly known as ‘Elevator Talk’.
(B) PROJECT-BASED QUESTIONS: As a consultant most of the work we do is project-driven i.e. we are assigned a project with a definite start date and end date, we complete it and then move on to another project or another phase of the same project. So it becomes very obvious for anyone to ask “What was your most recent project all about?” or “Can you please tell me about your XYZ project?” I recommend to prepare a cheat sheet with the following things and use it to prepare of an interview. Oftentimes, despite working on a project, we may not be able to recollect the key information during the interview, especially for the projects we completed 2-3 years back. Preparing a cheat sheet will go a long way.
(1) About the client, business domain, products/services sold by the client
(2) The business context that would help your interviewer understand the project
(3) Issues, painpoints faced by your client
(4) Business need behind the project (Key drivers to initiate the project)
(5) Scope of the project in terms of solution as well as key project milestones in terms of artifacts, deliverables, processes etc
(6) Business benefits realized from the project
(7) Your role and responsibilities on that project
(C) TECHNICAL: This phase of an interview is where an interviewee’s core knowledge on the subject, tools, technologies, artifacts, documentation etc is tested. The objective of an interviewer is to validate your knowledge on the subject. Since I am writing this article from the ‘Business Analysis’ perspective, you may expect questions such as below.
(1) What is BPMN 2.o?
(2) What is ‘Gap Analysis’?
(3) How do you write a ‘User Story’?
(4) What are the different ways to split an EPIC into small user stories?
(5) What is a pre-condition in a use case specification?
(D) BEHAVIOURAL: I personally believe that this is the most important phase since this is where your true character comes out. Since this phase focuses on your overall personality, behavioural traits, aptitude, sense of humor etc, there is no way you can truly prepare from any textbook or sample set of questions. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s how we have been groomed over the years. For example, in my very first interview of my career, I was asked “How would you have reacted if after reaching here (I had travelled 200 miles for that interview) you were notified that the interview is cancelled?”. At another instance, one of my candidate was asked “Why do you like your job?”. These are very subjective in nature and hence can’t be termed as right or wrong answers.
(E) CLOSING: As part of the closing phase, you may reinforce all your selling points and make closing remarks. Also, you may ask questions to your interviewer on the project, team structure, tools used, requirements processes, tentative project initiation date (if not yet initiated) or , if selected, what is the expected starting date etc. It will leave a good impression on the interviewer since you are already showing interest and eager to work with the project team.
Recognizing each of these phases and what type of questions to expect in each phase will alleviate lot of stress and anxiety. More importantly, it will give you great amount of confidence in answering your questions since you were already expecting them. This has really helped all my trainees and hopefully will help many others.
#1 – You get to make the world a better place. If you can solve even just a few problems and help a few people understand each other better, you’ll have done your good work for the day.
#2 – You get to help smart people communicate. There’s no doubt that you work with some awesome people. Yet, without your help, they still seem to talk past each other. As a business analyst, you get to jump right in and facilitate some amazing, collaborative working sessions.
#3 – You get to ask the tough questions. Seriously, you get paid to ask the difficult, challenging questions that no one else wants to ask to make sure that the project goes more smoothly and truly solves the underlying business problem.
#4 – You don’t have to be super techy. Sure, you like to understand how the latest and greatest systems work, but you don’t have to code them or even understand them in a super-detailed way.
#5 – You get to learn. Business analysts never stop learning. New domains. New stakeholders. New techniques. New approaches. There is always something new and interesting to do around the next project corner.
#6 – There is no shelf-life on your skills. But at the same time, the business analyst skills you build like facilitating, problem solving, and leadership will serve you in your life-long career. The facilitation technique you learned as a junior BA can be just as applicable on your 100th project as it was on your 1st.
#7 – The salaries are rising. Consistently. We are seeing salaries upwards of $90K in the US for mid-to-senior level business analysts.
#8 – The role is on a rising tide. Every day, the business analyst job role is becoming more widely recognized, the opportunities are growing, and the role is expanding. Yet, as a profession, business analysis is still new enough that you’ll be starting when things are fresh.
There are two types of people: successful people and unsuccessful people. There are distinct actions people who are successful take that probably keep their counterparts from achieving.
Successful people often do not hold grudges and they do not allow themselves to get distracted by short term enjoyment. An unsuccessful person will spend a lot of time doing things that are extremely unproductive like going out more than they should or binge watching a TV show. Successful people keep their minds stimulated through engaging in new topics and ideas.
Successful people realize that they are only successful because of the network, big or small, that they have created a long the way. Some unsuccessful people rarely pay respect to those who helped them during their life. Successful people often know how to persevere and strive for more while unsuccessful people do not set goals and they do not keep organized like they claim to.
Successful people build up the world around them. They compliment and encourage others. Those that don’t seldom have much to show; they can often criticize and portray themselves in negatives away.
While these two types of people lead their lives in two greatly different ways, they do have something in common; they try. Being successful or unsuccessful does not define you. As long as you keep going in whatever you do, you’ll achieve more than you could have the day before.