Google's notorious job interview riddles even stump Eric Schmidt

Pretty clear why they dropped the perspiration-inducing practice...

Google's notorious job interview riddles even stump Eric Schmidt

Picture by Charles Krupa AP/Press Association Images

Eric Schmidt is no pirate captain; he's the executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet. A good thing too, as was proved last month when he was posed a question whilst appearing at the cruise liner-set Summit at Sea conference somewhere between Miami and Bahamas.

The head-scratcher in question was, in fact, exactly the kind of thing you could be posed if you were attending a job interview in Google up until recently:

"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?"

After a great deal of hesitation and appeals for the question to be repeated and further information to be given, Schmidt's initial, befuddled response was:

"Let’s do the math…if half die. No, if I die… No, if they don’t like me, I die. This is, like, a really bad question..."

He did manage to save face a little by eventually proposing to give 49% of the pirates stock in internet companies and 51% the gold, Quartz reports, but then that's why he's paid the big bucks. 

It's as good a demonstration as any of why Google ultimately abandoned the practice several years ago.

People Operations executive Laszlo Bock confessed to Quartz last year that it had taken some time to completely stamp out, as Google employees had such a habit of posing the riddles to candidates. Unfortunately those riddles were found to not do a particularly great job of identifying which candidate would be the best for a position.

You can rest assured, however, that it's highly unlikely you'll be asked how much you should charge to wash all the windows in Seattle, why manhole covers are round or how many piano tuners there are in the entire world if you pitch up for a meeting at the tech giant's Dublin HQ these days.