Tips To Have A Good Job Interview in High-Tech

Most of us are familiar with the typical job interview question and answer routine. You're asked about your experience, skills and responsiblities in prior positions. But for those interested in working in a high tech job at Microsoft or Google, don't expect the typical interview questions, but rather some odd brainteasers, according to's tips to have a good job interview in high tech.

Let's say you want to be a coder, well, you may be asked non-computer questions such as, "How many golf balls could you place inside a school bus?"  "How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?" Or, "why are manhole covers round, instead of square?"  High tech companies like Google aren't so interested in the correct answer, but rather how you might try to solve it.

Here's a brainteaser, are you being paid what you're worth?  Find out with the PayScale Salary Calculator (don't worry, we do the math for you)

Prepare for Interview for New Job at Microsoft

As it has led the way in tech, Microsoft is also seen as a leader in these HR "logic problem questions," which it started using in the late '80s. In those days, Microsoft reportedly asked questions such as "How much does a 747 weigh?" Warren Ashton, recruiting manager at Microsoft, told, "We want to gauge people's creativity." Ashton points to the manhole cover problem as his favorite.

So why are manhole covers round instead of square? Ashton reasons that a square manhole cover could fall into the hole, if tipped at an angle. He told, "But some people recognize that you can roll a round manhole cover from site to site. Others figure that you save money by making it round because of tooling requirements. You want to see people taking their conclusions as far as possible."

Job Interview and Answer Assignment at Google

Let's say you want to work at, you may be asked, "How many gas stations are there in America?"  Want to apply at eBay?  Try this one: "Five pirates are ranked from 5 to 1. The top pirate is going to propose how 100 gold coins should be divided. However, the other pirates get to vote on his plan; if fewer than half agree, he will be killed. How does he divide the gold to get as much as he can, but still live to enjoy his booty?"

If that sounds tough, noodle this: Three years ago, Google posted difficult math problems on a highway billboard in Silicon Valley. Drivers were invited to send their answers to an undisclosed web site, which, true to Google form, was hidden in the question. Those who found the secret site were then asked a more difficult question. Get that one right and you were invited into an interview.

Sample Of Job Interview Questions and Answers

At the interview, you were asked a question like, "You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?"  Here are the answers to that one and the others from Mark Jen on

  • How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
  • About 500,000, assuming the bus is 50 balls high, 50 balls wide, and 200 balls long

  • You're shrunk and trapped in a blender that will turn on in 60 seconds. What do you do?
  • Use the measurement marks to climb out
    Try to unscrew the glass
    Risk riding out the air current

  • How much do you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
  • Assuming 10,000 city blocks, 600 windows per block, five minutes per window, and a rate of $20 per hour, about $10 million (then wait until a rainy day to do the "work," no one will be the wiser)

Here's an easy one. Are you being paid what you're worth? Answer: The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.


Dr. Al Lee


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