Do you really need puzzles for job interviews?

    Despite the fact that the blog is called “Learn to work,” I will not teach anyone here, but simply share my thoughts about the interviews and puzzles.

    I recently ran a survey , "How do you feel about the use of puzzles on job interviews?" . Given the fact that polls are not welcomed on the hub (although from my point of view this is not correct, since the hub is a good resource for any kind of research and polls are not always created on the principle of "but I am interested"), but less, he did not go into deep minuses, which indicates a relative interest in the topic. Thanks to those who voted and supported the survey.

    Let's walk quickly through the voting options (we will go from a negative attitude to a positive one).

    Я отношусь к использованию головоломок на собеседованиях негативно, так как считаю, что умение решать головоломки никак не коррелирует с умением решать реальные задачи

    It would be foolish to expect everyone to like to solve puzzles, and it would be naive to believe that everyone loves just that style of interviewing. About 30% of voters think that using puzzles does not correlate with the ability to solve real problems.

    This question is very strongly correlated with other questions such as “Do I need a higher education”, “Do I need knowledge of mathematics”, etc. Despite the fact that very many, before losing their pulse, prove that you do not need to study and practically do not need to know anything, the majority nevertheless agrees that the presence of these qualities is an undoubted plus . So here we can assume that the ability to solve puzzles is a plus, but not a necessary skill.

    Let's answer the question: does the ability to solve puzzles correlate with mental abilities? I think the answer is yes. But here I risk being immediately abandoned by rotten tomatoes shouting “who are you to decide for everyone?” And they will be right. But let's look at it from another perspective, more global. The approach to testing mental abilities was born not today, but about a hundred years ago. And the first to adopt it were large innovative companies and the defense industry. Thus, large companies function - from Microsoft to Google. If we assume that there is no connection, then it turns out that Google and Microsoft are full of profane people who are unable to distinguish a normal candidate from a bad candidate without psychological distortions. Accordingly, such an approach would have to bring large financial losses (or the bankruptcy of these companies) in the future, which we are not observing. Thus, despite the fact that it is theoretically very difficult (even almost impossible at this stage of development) to prove unambiguous relations, in practice we get quite adequate results. This I led to the fact that further we will assume that some kind of connection is still present.

    I have a neutral attitude to using puzzles in interviews, as I believe that during interviews the interviewer has the right to ask any questions

    This is a good position, which 25% of respondents adhere to. In fact, a neutral approach is very often the most effective, as a person abstracts from tasks and sees only one goal - to successfully pass an interview and get a good offer from the employer. But this option does not apply much to this article, so we won’t stop here for a long time.

    I have a positive attitude to using puzzles in interviews, since I believe that the ability to solve puzzles indicates a high level of intelligence

    So consider Microsoft, Google, big banks and another 18% of readers This may indicate that those who voted for this option are able to solve puzzles or are impressed by this style of interviewing . With the first option it’s clear - it turns out to solve problems, why be positive? But the second option is related to personal preferences, so the percentage turned out to be slightly less. Probably, dull interviews are already fed up, so I want something new and interesting.

    I love solving puzzles, but I think this is a bad way to test candidates

    I admit that I voted for this option and the purpose of the survey was to check how many people share my opinion. As expected - a lot, namely a little less than 29%. Despite the fact that I really like to solve all sorts of problems and have previously devoted much time to this issue, at real interviews I began to notice some problems in this approach to testing knowledge. We will talk about this later.

    The difficulties of this approach

    There are actually more disadvantages than advantages. Let's consider them in more detail:
    • you need to have in stock a large number of tasks and puzzles;
    • you need to understand (at least remotely) which of the types of tasks you need to ask a particular candidate;
    • criteria for evaluating responses should be clear to the candidate;
    • the candidate should not know questions and answers (this is a problem, since you can “prepare” for the main questions)
    • the interviewer may not know the answers to the questions and their meaning ;
    • the candidate’s response may differ from the intended one, which again raises the question of evaluation criteria.
    And most importantly, the logical process of pondering the answer is very complex and it is not always possible to get a response from a candidate in an acceptable time even from really good candidates.

    In addition, the person conducting the interview must answer a few questions:
    • Will I hire a person if he answers n questions correctly?
    • Will I take a man if he answers this question and does not answer this ?
    • how much time will I give a person to think it over?
    • Will I consider anything else besides the ability to solve puzzles?
    As a rule, the answers to these questions are very subjective and are not discussed previously, which leads to problems.

    Another ethical point is the fact that many (mostly strong) candidates may regard puzzle questions as an insult. This can spoil the interview at the very beginning.

    Why are puzzles bad at an interview?

    There are different types of puzzles - logical problems, weighing problems, unanswered problems, etc. In fact, often it’s not the ability to solve puzzles that is tested, but it is checked whether a particular puzzle belongs to which class of problems . Otherwise: what do they want to hear from you? As soon as you understand what exactly, you have solved the problem by 85%.

    I will give a simple example, on which I will try to explain why this does not always work.

    Once at school olympiads they were given tasks of this type: prove that the sum of the cubes of three consecutive natural numbers is divisible by 9. Many in this place thought that it was elementary, others sharply thought about how to calculate this, especially without computing devices. But in fact, the solution is very simple, if you know that this is a mathematical induction problem, the solution of which is to prove that the expression is valid for n = 1, n = k and n = k + 1, i.e. the task ultimately boils down (mainly) to simple arithmetic operations. Thus, a person who knows the type of problem will solve it quickly (and almost any task), while another person who does not know the approach is unlikely to solve it for an acceptabletime (I very much doubt that the candidate will offer exactly this answer in a minute or two). There is a problem when testing is not what was supposed.

    Why does this not work for real tasks? Probably because when solving real problems, as a rule, there is already at least some initial data - the scope, ready-made solutions, code examples, Google, etc. At that time when you do not have the source data for solving problems.

    Therefore, if the company still wants to use puzzles, then it needs (IMHO):
    • warn the candidate that puzzles will be used
    • explain the evaluation criteria and the time that the candidate will have to think about
    • to say whether only the correct answer is important, whether the line of reasoning is important and in what proportions it will all be evaluated
    In this case, there is hope that the results will be adequate for both sides.

    Although, I believe that if the company has firmly decided to use puzzles, then the best solution is to give the candidate 2-3 hours when he can be left alone and think about the solution to the problems. This will help him gain strength, gather his thoughts and show himself from the best side.

    I did not like the interviews using the puzzles that I went through, despite the fact that, as a rule, I coped with them. They were completely unprofessional and divorced from life. One gets the impression that Western colleagues shared their methods, but forgot to teach how to use them. Which leads to funny and sometimes bad results for candidates and companies.

    Finally, I recommend the book "How to move Mount Fuji", which actually caused all these thoughts to be born. As for me, reading a book is definitely worth it, but you don’t need to take everything as a common truth.

    Thanks for attention!

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