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Posts Tagged ‘logic’

Types of Interview Questions – Logic Questions

Posted by James M on November 23, 2008

Microsoft made logic questions famous in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and many other companies have since adopted them, although their use has declined slightly in recent years.  This brand of question is generally reserved for engineers, although it is not unheard of for it to be included in interviews of applicants for other types of positions.

Two of the most famous logic questions are:

  • Why is a manhole cover round?
  • How would you build an alarm clock for deaf people?

There are many variations of logic questions and entire books and websites have been dedicated to tackling them.  In this post I’ll give you two examples of how you might answer this sort of question.

One of the best sites I’ve found for lots of examples of this question type, as well forums discussing the answer, can be found here.

After reading this post you may want to consider reading the “sister” post about guesstimation interview questions.  This branch includes such famous stumpers as “How much does Mount Kilimanjaro weight?”  To read this post now click here.

Please note that these are not trivia questions—that is you are not expected to actually know how much Mount Kilimanjaro weighs for example.  The important skill to demonstrate while answering is your train of thought and the logical steps you mentally go through.  Unlike behavioral questions where you can take a minute to compose yourself before you answer, it is essential that you begin sharing your thoughts out loud immediately after you hear the question even if you are just in the process of wrapping your head around the problem.

I think this is best shown by example, so allow me to do my best.  I’ll write this in a free flowing casual style with minimal attempt to use exact grammar.  The goal is to replicate a process similar to what you would probably end up saying if you were in an interview:

How would you build an alarm clock for deaf people?

“Hmmm, let’s see.  If you have to wake a deaf person up obviously a sound would do no good.  So what are some ways I normally get woken up that aren’t sound?  Um…I guess you could have an alarm clock that pokes a person, but that is difficult to implement.  One time I got woken up by having water dumped on me so you could spray some sort of liquid on them, but that gets messy.  But on the other hand it might work, let me write it down and maybe come back to it later.

I remember when I was a kid I had a bed pad that gave me a small shock if I wet the bed so maybe something like that would work.  Like a pad of some kind, but shocking someone might suck.  But I’ll write it down anyway as an option.  What else could a bed pad do?  Let’s see…oh it could like vibrate maybe.  Actually, I have seen beds that vibrate in movies.  Yea, it might be good to have some sort of bed that shakes, but now that I think about it that is expensive and limits the type of bed one could have.  Ok, so back to the bed pad idea, only instead of shocking, it would vibrate.  It would lay on top of the bed but underneath the sheets.  It could vibrate when the alarm goes off and this would wake up the deaf person.  But I guess it would still be useful to have a bedside type clock that they can look at during normal circumstances to view the time, or if they have guests over.  So the vibrating bed pad and bedside clock could be one unit and be attached by a chord.  But that might be annoying and dangerous if there is a chord that you could trip over.  Um…maybe the bed pad and clock unit could actually be separate but communicate wirelessly.  So the bed pad would have a small receiver in it, and when the clock unit alarm goes off, it can send a signal to the bed pad and tell it to vibrate.

So I think that would be the final design.  A bedside clock that functions very similar to a traditional bedside clock, with the added feature that it can send a wireless signal to a bed pad that would then vibrate to wake the subject up.”

Analysis:
So as you can see the answer is a very free flowing thought process type response.  First, I went through an initial description of the problem in my head—alarm clocks use noise as a wake-up mechanism, but if you are deaf this wouldn’t help you wake up.  Second, I started brain storming ways you might wake someone up based on my own experience of getting woken up.  It is key to use some reference points for the assumptions, estimations, and solutions you create.  If you have a eureka moment in an interview and come up with an answer it will do you no good since the interviewer won’t be able to evaluate the thought process you used to create the solution.  That’s why it is so important to talk out loud and use your own experience to formulate a solution as you work through the problem.  Third, I talked my final bed pad solution out, thinking about what would and wouldn’t work and why that was the case.

Again, there really is no “right” answer to this type of question.  Maybe you want to have the deaf person wear an electronic bracelet that emits a small electrical shock to wake them up, maybe you want them to wear a watch that vibrates, maybe you want to spray them with a small mist of water, maybe shine a very bright light on their face—there are a million different answers.  The important thing is to find something that makes sense to you, after all it is you and your ideas that are being interviewed.

If you have any questions about this post or need any other guidance in your job search, feel free to e-mail me at: collegegraduatejobs@gmail.com.

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Common Types of Interview Questions – Overview

Posted by James M on November 4, 2008

In the Common Types of Interview Questions series we will be examining the common types of interview questions, their formats, and the proper way to respond.  There is a lot of information regarding this subject so first, in this Overview post, I’ll outline the 5 types of common interview questions, and then in future posts we’ll go over them one-by-one in more depth.  But rest assured there are specific strategies and formats to help frame your response to all 5 types questions.

1.  Behavioral Questions

This is the most common type of interview question and regardless of your major, career choice, or position you are applying for, you will invariably face many of these questions in your interviews.  Behavioral Questions include such famous examples as “Please tell me about your biggest weakness”, and “Tell me about a time you led a team to complete a task.”  Luckily, there is a sure fire structured response to this question type which we will discuss later in this series.

2.  Situational Questions

These questions are relatively uncommon, but include theoretical questions regarding ethical situations or circumstances where you are juggling many activities at once against a fast approaching deadline.

3.  Logic Questions

This format was made famous by Microsoft and is mainly, but not always, used during engineering interviews, especially in the computer science or creative design fields.  These questions have been waning in prevalence in recent years, but you’ll still want to read this post if you are applying for an engineering position or at a company that has branded itself as “innovative”.

4.  Case Study Questions

This type of question is usually restrained to consulting jobs especially strategic and management consulting, and involves analyzing a theoretical or real-world business situation or problem faced by an organization and coming up with a solution or set of actions to resolve the situation.

5.  Field of Study Questions

This is the term I have given to questions regarding questions which “test” your knowledge of a given target subject, and is most prevalent during engineering interviews.  For example, someone applying for a mechanical engineering position may be given a problem where they have to calculate mechanical or static forces acting on an object.  The point, therefore, of this family of questions is to “test” your knowledge of the field you studied in college to insure you have the background and quantitative skills to learn a new and complex trade and begin contributing to a company soon after hire.

Note that these 5 types of questions could appear in a variety of settings.  For example, there could be one or more interviewers or interviewees involved in the interview at one time.  The interview duration could range from 30 minutes to several hours.  The interview may be over the phone, on-campus, or at a local or regional company office.  Despite these variable the types of interview questions being asked will not change nor will the strategies used to answer them.

Ok, well there you have it, the 5 common types of questions you will see as a new college hire.  There are other more advanced types of questions used for experienced professionals and a few types of “exotic” questions that you are unlikely to ever see, but if you can understand how to answer these 5 types (especially the Behavioral Question family as it is by far the most common)  you will be well on your way to having a great interview and wowing your target company.

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