Alphabet CEO is bamboozled by a genuine Google interview question

Working at Google is something that most people would be pretty keen on, but with demand massively outstripping supply, they really make you work for it. Not only do your qualifications have to be impeccable, for a time, you had to endure obscure, weird brainteasers on the whims of the interview panel. Questions such as “Why are manhole covers round?” and “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” used to come up all the time, until the process was banned for being pretty useless at telling whether someone would make a good Googler.

Anyway, one of the more obscure questions was put to Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt on Summit at Sea – an entrepreneurial conference held on a boat. The question was suitably nautically themed, but probably felt a little threatening considering the surroundings. This is what he was asked:

“You’re the captain of a pirate ship and you find a chest of gold. Your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty but still survive?”

“Let’s do the math… if half die,” Schmidt began. “No, if I die… No, if they don’t like me, I die.”[gallery:0]

“This is, like, a really bad question,” he continued, as the pirates sharpened their swords.

Ultimately, though, his answer was pretty good. “It seems to me that if more than half are happy, I survive. I propose that we give 49% of the pirates stock in internet companies, and 51% get the gold.” Depending on the internet companies in question, the pirates might be happy enough with that arrangement.

READ NEXT: This is what it’s like to be headhunted by Apple.

If you find yourself at a Google interview in the near future, it’s unlikely you’ll get anything so self-consciously weird. The firm has been weaning itself off these questions in recent years, and Google’s head of HR, Laszlo Bock, told QZ that he tells those who carry on to knock it off in no uncertain terms. “We send a note back to that person that says ‘please stop doing that because you’re wasting your time, our time, and the candidate’s time’. And then usually they stop.”

Still, if you’re curious as to the kind of question you might once have been asked, click on the gallery below. Please ensure you’re wearing a suit before you begin.[gallery:1]

Questions via Impact Interview.

Image: LeWeb 11 used under Creative Commons

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