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The world’s jobs market is hyper-competitive. In Britain alone, with 2.67million unemployed, there are six people for every vacancy.
So it’s no surprise that the most sought-after firms are going to extraordinary lengths to find the right staff – by posing fiendishly ­challenging conundrums to sort the creative thinking wheat from the ­unimaginative chaff.
The big firms don’t just want the best qualified and most intelligent, they want the most innovative too.
The Bank of America has asked candidates: “If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be and why?” And healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson questioned: “What colour best represents your personality?”
Google founder Larry Page revealed: “We do go out of our way to recruit people who are a little different.”
Now writer William Goldstone has compiled many of the mind-bending questions – and the often surprising answers – in new book, Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google?
Q How do you put a giraffe in a fridge?
A Open the fridge, put in the giraffe and close the door.
Q How do you put an elephant in a fridge?
A Open the fridge, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.
Q The Lion King is holding an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which one?
A The elephant. You put him in the fridge.
Q You have to cross a river in crocodile country and don’t have a boat. How do you get across?
A You swim. All the crocodiles are attending the animal conference.
Q How many bottles of shampoo are produced in the world each year?
A People in affluent countries run through several bottles of shampoo a year. Many in developing nations can’t afford such a luxury. You might as well guess that it averages out to one bottle per person. The answer is there are about as many bottles produced per year as there are people in the world – seven billion.
Q What comes next in the following series? SSS, SCC, C, SC…
A The series is the letters of the alphabet in a silly code. A, as a capital letter, is made of three straight lines. So that becomes SSS (where S stands for a straight line). Capital B is one straight line and two curved ones, or SCC. C is one curved line, and so coincidentally remains C. D is one straight and one curved line, so SC. That brings us up to the next symbol, which must represent the letter E, which is made up of four straight lines, so SSSS.
Q You and your neighbour go to a car boot sale on the same day. Both of you plan to sell exactly the same item. You have priced your item at £100. The neighbour has informed you that he’s going to put his on sale for £40. The items are in identical condition. What do you do, assuming you’re not on especially friendly terms with this neighbour?
A Buy the neighbour’s item. First of all he’ll be pleased to sell immediately. You can haggle and may get it for less than £40. Then the best plan is to hide one item until the first one sells. Then put the second item on sale at a reduced price, according to how late in the day it is. Anything you get from selling the second item is pure gravy.
Q A MAN pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
A He was playing Monopoly. 
Q You are in a car with a helium balloon tied to the floor. The windows are closed. When you step on the accelerator, what happens to the balloon – does it move forwards, backwards or stay put?
A The near-universal intuition is that the balloon leans backwards as you accelerate. Well, intuition is wrong. When the car accelerates, the air is pushed backward, just as your body is. This sends a lighter-than-air balloon forward. When the car brakes suddenly, the air piles up in front of the windscreen. This sends the balloon backwards. Of course, the same applies when the balloon is tied to something – it’s just less free to move. So the short answer to this question is that the balloon nods in the direction of any acceleration.
Q You want to make sure that Bob has your phone number. You can’t ask him directly. Instead you have to write a message to him on a card and hand it to Eve, who will act as a go-between. Eve will give the card to Bob, and he will hand his message to Eve, who will hand it to you. You don’t want Eve to learn your phone number. What do you ask Bob?
A The simple answer Google are after is to tell Bob to call you (ideally, at a specific time). If your phone rings, bingo. If not, that tells you he doesn’t have the right number. That’s all the question asks for.
Q If you had a stack of pennies as tall as the Empire State Building, could you fit them all in one room?
A The Empire State Building is about 100 storeys tall (it’s 102 exactly). That’s at least 100 times taller than an ordinary room, measured from the inside. I’d have to break the skyscraper-high column of pennies into about 100 floor-to-ceiling high columns. The question then becomes, can I fit about 100 floor-to-ceiling penny columns in a room? Easily. That’s only a 10-by-10 array of penny columns. As long as there’s space to set 100 pennies flat on the floor, there’s room. Even an old-style phone box has room.
Q You get on a ski lift at the bottom of the mountain and take it all the way up to the top. What fraction of the lift’s chairs do you pass?
A You pass ALL the ski lift’s chairs (except, of course, your own). The lift is like a loop of string on a pulley. The chairs are suspended from all parts of the loop. You might wonder how you can pass the chair just in front of you. Moments before you reach the top of the mountain, the chair in front transfers to the return half of the loop. It’s then going downward, and it passes your chair, going upward, just before you get off.



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