Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Interview: Can you put this deck of cards in order?

Can you put this deck of cards in order?

I wish I had this question in an interview before I read the article because I am not sure how I would have reacted to this question. I have a slight feeling that I may have just sorted the deck right there because it was something I used to enjoy doing when I was bored at some random place that had a deck of cards way back in the day.

On the other hand, I should have had enough experience to know there is something else that the interviewer is looking for. What order? Why do you want me to do that? Are you crazy? Ok, maybe not the last question but still probably better than just start sorting in silence.

Unfortunately, I read the description and it spoiled what I should not have known. What I like about this question is that this is actually very common type of request from "clients" in any industry. There are three main questions that needs to be asked: time, quality, and cost.

1. How much time do I have to sort the deck?
2. How well do you want the deck sorted?
3. How much are you willing to pay to have the deck sorted?

Most people's questions will probably revolve around quality. How do you want it sorted? So I would figure if you asked questions that answer the other two, you'd be ahead of the competition.

On revisiting this question, I think it would also be good to also demo certain sorts even if it is very simple to explain. For example while asking the interviewer (treated as a client) how they want it sorted, I would suggest some alternatives. "Perhaps you would like it sorted by suits" and separate the cards into 4 piles of the different suits. "Perhaps you prefer it sorted by odds and events" and separate the cards into 2 piles of evens and odds. When reaching a face card and ask "how do you want to treat face cards?" Maybe at the end show a card trick.

11 Interview Questions You Wouldn't Think to Ask--But Should