Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview: How many cows are in Canada? Alternative solutions

I had posted my answer a while back. Since then, there have been quite a few comments (thanks readers). During that time, I have also been thinking why someone should prefer a certain answer over another. As the comments suggest, there are alternatives that are simpler, wittier, and/or thought provoking. I figured I spend a little time to explain what I would think about certain alternatives.

I answered as an engineer to demonstrate my ability to troubleshoot problems. Problems oftentimes are missing a lot of critical information (typically the reason it is a problem). This is an important skill for most engineering positions because this demonstrates my ability to breakdown a problem and find a place to start. The rest of the answer is just to complete the thought and maybe to show my attention to certain details.

Perhaps for an interview in accounting, finance, or data science, I could use an answer that was based on probability and statistics. Or an interview in waste management, I could base my answer on number of garbage. Or for an acting role, I could use the number of actual windows in a set then the special effects would replicate

In conclusion, I would think about what kind of person you want to present. This could be very dependent on what you have already demonstrated so far. For example, I could have answered a bunch of questions showing my troubleshooting abilities prior to this question. I could use this opportunity to change the flow of the interview like a witty response to lighten the mood or use probability to demonstrate my math abilities or quantum physics to show some math and humor (because I am not actually good with quantum physics). Or perhaps pull out some program to have a car drive around the city and count the number of windows, describe an algorithm to recognize a window, etc.