Faced with a Riddle or a Puzzle: Offer Problem-Solving or an Audition

I spoke at a graduate class last week, presenting my “Interview with Ease” (candidate version, not the hiring version) workshop to the class. One of the questions that arose was: What do I do when I’m faced with a puzzle?

In Down with Games and Puzzles, I suggested using an audition instead of a game or puzzle. But what do you do if you’re a candidate, and the interviewer wants you to solve a puzzle or riddle or game?

Offer to solve a problem or perform an audition. You can say something like this to the interviewer, “Oh, this looks pretty interesting. But I bet it’s nowhere near as hard or as challenging as work you do here every day. Instead of this (game/puzzle/riddle), why don’t I show you my problem solving abilities at work? If you like, I can sign a non-disclosure agreement, and you can try me out on your code” (or whatever).

There’s no guarantee this will work, but if it does, you’ll be interviewing in a way that helps the interviewer see how good you are in the context of the work instead of in an irrelevant context.

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