Questions so hard Google stopped asking (supposedly)

Interviewing in a funky office location[/caption] We have all been there, either sat in an interview or heard one of our candidates talk about a crazy tough interview question that threw them off. Indeed, I once asked if I was a cat what colour would I be. I suggested this was a nonsense question that had nothing to do with the job in Insurance. For some reason, this job was not offered to me. Google are one of the most sought-after places to work on the planet, and some of their interview questions are tough, tough, tough. Read on, and see if you can answer these tough questions yourself!

The Bloody Difficult Questions

The Manhole Cover Question The question: Why are manhole covers round? The answer: Because a square manhole cover could fall through the hole if it were placed at the incorrect angle. Why is it hard? Most people have never thought about the size or design of manhole covers – and would naturally assume that they’re around because that’s the most natural shape for people to fit through. Unless you think genuinely about circular shapes, you won’t come up with the right answer.

The Clock Question The question: If a clock reads 3:15, what is the angle between the hour and minute hands? The answer: 7.5 degrees. The hour hand will be on the 3, and the minute hand will be ¼ of the way between the 3 and 4. Each hour on the clock represents 30 degrees (12 hours x 30 = 360), so multiply 30 x .25 = 7.5 degrees. Why is it hard? Because most people don’t think about the mechanical complexities of clocks – let alone the angular measurements of a clock. This question forces you to quickly think about an abstract concept, and render it into a precise measurement – making it very difficult indeed.

The Window Washing Question The question: How much should you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle? The answer: There is no specific correct answer – instead, interviewers looked for a fixed price for each window, such as $15 for each window washed – rather than a vague guess or a ballpark estimate. Why is it hard? Because the question doesn’t ask how much you would charge to clean each window – it asks how much you would cost to wash all of them. It’s difficult to go from such a general question to a more granular answer, so most people are unable to answer this question satisfactorily.

The Pirate Question The question: You’re a pirate captain, and you’re dividing up the treasure from your latest raid. The crew will vote on the distribution of the loot. If less than ½ of the team agrees with your method of dividing the loot, they’ll kill you. How can you divide up the money so that you can get a fair share – and still survive? The answer: You must divide the treasure evenly between 51% of the crew. Why is it hard? Most people will be thinking about how to maximise their own share of the profit. However, this increases the likelihood that the crew will be unsatisfied with the decision. By choosing to divide 100% of the loot evenly between the top 51% of the team, you maximise your chance of survival – and your share of the take.

The Clock Overlap Question The question: How many times a day do the hands of a clock overlap? The answer: 22 Why is it hard? Most people would only assume it’s 24 – but because the minute hand is always “ahead” of the hour hand, the sides only overlap 22 times. Again, this question forces you to consider the abstraction of a clock, and use complicated math to solve a problem that seems simple.

The Database Question The question: Can you explain a database to your 8-year-old nephew – in less than 3 sentences? The answer: There is no single “correct” answer. However, it’s best to keep things simple. A good answer would be something like “Databases are special machines that help remember information about a lot of things at once. People and computers can use these machines to store that information, and use it whenever they need it.” Why is it hard? This question is open-ended and forces you to think critically about the simplification of a complicated concept. You have to preserve the meaning of the term “database”, while still simplifying it enough for an 8-year old to understand it.

The Man, Hotel, Car Question The question: A man was forced to push his car to a hotel, and then he lost all of his money. What happened to this man? The answer: He was playing Monopoly – and he landed on Boardwalk. Why is it hard? Okay, this one is mostly hard because it’s a trick question. However, if you take the time to honestly think about the problem, it is possible to arrive at the correct conclusion

The Common Theme Of These Questions? Critical Thinking

Though these questions are varied and diverse, they all have one thing in common, despite their difficulty. They require the interviewee to take some time and honestly think critically about the question, its context, and the answer that’s expected by the interviewer. In a way, this is true about every single interview question. Whether you’re in PR, tech, or any other field, interviews are a simple method for potential employers to understand your overall level of competence, thoughtfulness, and capability.

So should recruiters be asking these questions?

Simply, yes. Although they are hard a couple of them offer the chance to see into the thought process of the candidate. For recruiters, the Window and the pirate question are both a fascinating look into their commercial acumen.

However, asking more than one of these questions is likely to entirely at odds with what is needed when recruiting internally.


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Working from home for the nervous, anxious and highly strung recruiter

Working from home is one of the most brilliant and challenging things to do as a recruiter. Recruitment is almost a perfect industry for working from home. For me, it is now coming up to four years working from home.

This time has really been both a blessing and a curse. Blessed that I could have so much and cursed because there are so many ways that working from home can be tough. As someone who is busy can be a be anxious and somewhat crazy at times working at home really does offer to throw up some challenges.

Before working from home permanently, I had worked from home on occasions before. So the idea of working it would be a breeze, easy and enlightening. So after ‘jacking in’ at my old company and starting my own company. When I got started in those first few months, the business consumed my attention with work and building my business to even really notice. It was a blast, I could come and go as I please, I did not have to deal with office politics, silly “management meetings”, putting money into birthday cards for people I did not know, care or like and all the other things that drove me mad about offices. Then one day something strange happened.

I realised something. I was sat at my desk and understood that I felt that something, that something nagged me and it was loneliness. The buzz, the conversations, the general office banter. These I missed because they  This was a revelation that actually left me feeling very down and disheartened.

Over the next couple of years I would go through periods feeling lonely and depressed, and other times I would be infused with energy and excitement. This happened in waves while working from home. It leads to times of real business growth and other times that affected the business. However after a while and some trial and error I found ways to deal and cope with my own mental state that came from working from home.

Understand why you liked the office

Working in an office environment presents a wide range of problems, but on the other hand, working in a social office environment that we all love. Knowing what this is vitally important for learning how to cope with working from home. For me, it is the social side of being able to have some banter, conversations and noise and hum of activity. Once I knew this a plan was formulated.    

Find public places to work

This was one of the first things I did was to start to work in public areas that allowed me to work. This can seem hard to for recruiters compared to other industries and jobs. You will be amazed how much you can get done in a couple of hours in a coffee shop or a pub. Even as a recruiter.

My biggest deal since running my business was put together while working from the bar of a local hotel with lovely big sofas and brilliant chips. The way that I found this worked was once or maybe twice a week for afternoon going and working in this or other locations I have scouted out using trial and error.

The reason I have found that these works are because it allows having a change of scenery. Which creates a shift in mindset. This change of pace, place and background noise really does change my thinking and mental state.  

See friends and family more often than normal

One of the things that I certainly did not do enough when I first got going in the working from home, recruit gig was seeing enough of family and friends and doing social things. In many ways, I got really caught up in the business, and this was one of the biggest and most sad mistakes of my journey.

Not seeing friends and family enough was a mistake. Why is this so important? Without the office and without the daily interaction you could go days, weeks, even with just talking to candidate, clients and your other half. My other half is wonderfully, but it not conducive to a happy relationship, so make sure to make time for meaningful relationships.  

Take a walk – often

This is something that I have found really useful. Getting out of the house at some point in the day. Taking a step gets you up from your desk, giving you the chance to unwind and also get perspective.

Perspective is something I am not very good at when I am stuck on my own without someone to bounce off. However, taking a quick walk allows me to stride out the problem, talk to myself about the issues and also get the blood pumping and fresh air in my lungs.  

Find a hot-desking space

This is very similar to working in public areas but with a twist, it is more work focused (read more comfortable to make BD calls). I  have spent a lot of time looking and working in a wide range of hot desking and drop in zones.

Some of these spaces are really funky others were really very dull. Some cost an arm and leg, other were cheap and chips. However, I have found that I have worked best in the spaces that allowed and encouraged human reaction and interaction and feel more like a startup space rather than a corporate office.  

Have someone to bounce ideas off

Have someone to bounce ideas with and off. It is better if they do not work in recruitment. Indeed talking with another recruiter is likely to make you much more anxious and crazy because we all know what recruiters are like.

Why do you need someone to bounce ideas off? Perspective. You need perspective to know that the candidate not showing up for an interview is not the end of the world (it is never is). For me without a coworker to blow off, I would get really sidetracked and upset at what was happening.  

Decide a start and home time…. Then Stick to it

This is something that I was awful within the initial start phase of my business and indeed for the first three years. I would spend an hour, after hour working. Generally, these hours would not be very productive.

They would actually be very unproductive. However, in time I started to develop the mental strength to stick to certain working time. For me, I would 10 am to 6.30pm.

This gives me the chance to lay in a little longer than usual. Some people would be horrified with a recruiter not working early. However, I found that most of my candidates are commuters and getting ahold of them in the customarily produced less satisfactory output. So if you are a crazy, anxious and busy home recruiter or planning to start out on the beautiful journey of going alone, I hope that this quick tour de force of ideas from working from home helps.

If you have come up with other ideas on how to develop and keep your sanity while working from home, please email me at


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What learning about Japan’s Jeff Bezos taught me about recruitment

Hiroshi Mikitani is one of the biggest success stories you have never heard off. He is the founder of Rakuten and is the third richest person in Japan. Rakuten is a behemoth of Japanese business. It is so big that is it estimated that 90% of Japanese business users have an account with Rakuten.

To think about the Rakuten is to think about a combination of a Japanese Amazon and eBay in one place that also sells services on top of products. When you think about it from that perspective, it does make a lot more sense about how he has gone from start-up founder to third richest man in Japan.

Makitani also went against strong cultural and societal norms when he founded his own company. He did this after leaving a high-paying and well-respected job with Industrial Bank of Japan as what is known in Japan as a salary-man. Within Japanese society generally, once you become a salaryman with a company like Toyota or Mitsubishi,  Sony or Tepco you usually never leave.

So at the age of 31 going off and starting a business is really unheard of. So from the 1990’s to the present day, Rakuten has grown from a one-person operation to a 10,000 person operation with market penetration and dominance that even Amazon would be jealous of.

So learning about Makitani, there is a lot that can be learned about business from this somewhat obscure (on western standards) entrepreneur who has been so very successful. The primary and most important area that I am going to focus on is his ideas around business growth, 3, 10 and business systems.

Rules 3 and 10: Business and growth and systems

The provisions of 3 and 10 are focused on how the business is growing, milestones for growth, the impact that this growth has on operations within the industry. As a company produces, it will need a wide range of change in the way that it is run, the systems that are implemented and the operations that are used.

The milestone for the change are every time the business triples in size (based on the number of employees) and every time business his a 10, e.g. 10, 100, 1000 etc. So to put this into an example as a company starts with one person the systems for the business are kept in the head of one person when it grows to three people a new range of systems will have to start being put into place.

After this when the business hit 10 employees a new look at the systems that govern the company will need to be put into place. After this point, the industry would then have to triple in size before it then needs to relook at systems (30 employees). After this, the step is 100 employees and so on.

The 3 & 10 pattern: 1,3,10,20,100,300, 1,000, 3,000, 10,000 etc.

The aim of all entrepreneurs then is to build into the business the systems for growth that allow the company to reach the next milestone on the growth pattern before reviewing and changing the way the business systems are governed.

This is actually a straightforward and unique way of thinking because many firms, once they cross a certain size, can start to get captured by process of constant managerial and leadership tinkering that distracts from the core day job. This leads to employees wasting effort and time on systems that are already fully functioning.

What does this mean for my business

When I learned about Mikitani, I realised that actually, I had been engaged in change for change’s sake and that I was playing with many of process to either whittle away time or to make me feel like I was president business.

Whether it has been changing CRM systems or engaging in changes to the way I run social media, there was definitely busy work being made. When realising this, I made a few critical decisions. Firstly, I am going to stick with my website’s provider, my CRM, accounts system, and other systems.

They all work, they all do their job, and they all are staying until I reach my next milestone.

Secondly, the way that I am running my social media was not conducive to growth. The time that is invested in social media each week is not conducive to the growth of the business. This did lead to a change in the supplier to a system that focuses on social media automation rather than me managing the posting schedule.

Although this has meant a small price increase in the cost of the way I do social media, it has meant that I am at least 2 hours a week freer which will although me to focus on other more critical tasks.

Thirdly, it has made me realise that I need to build far more systems into my business at the process level of my company that supports growth.

How can you use this idea in your business?

The most important way is to use the rule to save time and effort. Build and test systems for growth, once they work do not review them until a milestone has been hit. The below examples are ideas that other recruiters can use when

  • Review your CRM and ATS only when you hit the milestones. Most of the systems produce marginal change when you move between systems, so it is best to change rarely.
  • Only ever change the commission and equity structure so that it supports the growth from each milestone. For example, during the early phases, more significant focus on individual billings but as the business grows to develop it in
  • Use each sign as a chance to review all your suppliers and renegotiate contracts based on the new size and growth path.

I am sure after reading this article you will have come up with many ideas of your own to improve the way that your business work or how you run your own desk on a daily basis.   

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Battle of the Voip: Skype v Cloudcall

SKYPE: Strengths

  • No signing up fee.
  • Quick and easy sign-up. Free sign up.
  • From Microsoft, a tech company you can trust.
  • Purchasing a Skype number is very cheap, especially compared to traditional London virtual number providers.
  • You can and send text messages.
  • Skype can forward to your mobile so that you are always reachable.

Cloud call: Strengths

  • Integrates with Bullhorn, so you can make calls straight from the browser.
  • Has the option to record all calls. Great for assessing new starters calls (and your own).
  • Has the option to drop pre-recorded voicemails saving you time while doing Business Development and Candidate calls.
  • Is a fully focused
  • It can be set to auto-forward for times of day and week.
  • Great reporting features. The dashboard is amazing.
  • It can call pop so that you reduce dialling time.
  • A Bullhorn partner.

SKYPE: Weaknesses

  • Its quality depends on the broadband speed and Wifi signal.
  • You feel slightly cheap using it after testing Cloudcall.
  • Does not integrate with Bullhorn.

Cloud call: Weaknesses

  • A rather large set-up fee.
  • Expensive for what you get.
  • Extra cost to integrate with Bullhorn.
  • Skype unlimited with a central London number cost the same as two months of cloud call.
  • Hefty set-up fee. I a, very much against set up fees.
  • Too many features for a solo-recruiter like me.

After reviewing both packages in the end, I choose Skype. Why did I come to such a decision? Skype offered all that I needed for the moment. Cloud call really is an excellent service. It has bells. It has whistles.

However, I, at this juncture do not need bells and whistles. Skype suited my needs and was well within my budget. If you are going to use VoIP my suggestion, start with Skype as a test and move onto services like Cloudcall should you find VoIP an excellent service for your agency?

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How to use Amazon’s Alexa for Recruitment and Business


What is Amazon’s Alexa/echo Alexa/echo is Amazon’s answer to Siri and Cortana but packaged in a beautiful format (especially in the dot form)? It is voice-operated and will respond to a wide range of commands.

My first interactions covered the realm of music. It allows the communication with apps (called skills) and can be hooked up to Amazon prime, Wikipedia, Audible and other services.

My first few minutes was set up and then engaging with the musical part of Alexas skills-set. Asking Alexa to play instrumental jazz or 50 Cent In Da Club and Alexa will deliver.

It is quite a revelation to say ” Alexa, play kings of Leon”, and the blue rings flash and she confirms that she will shuffle songs by Kings of Leon and Use Somebody starts to play. Most of my first day with Alexa was spent engaging and playing music and ask basic questions. Only after a while, I realised just how good Alexa is and how this is a window into the future.

Hiring Alexa for business On the second day of owning Alexa on Boxing Day, I start over a couple of mince pies researching and looking into how I can use this in my day-to-day business.

This was something that I had wanted for a very, very long time. As someone who struggles with dyslexia speech software is something I am used too and having a computer that responds to my commands. So should you hire Alexa for your business? Yes. But what tasks should be on Alexa’s Job description? So far for a recruitment business, I would say she can cover the following:

  • Managing Calendars
  • Adding items to your to-do list
  • Adding items to your shopping list
  • Ordering pizza
  • Getting an uber
  • Checking to spell
  • Setting timers
  • Setting alarms
  • Playing music
  • Reading audiobooks
  • Reading your calendar
  • Hooking up with IFTTT to do more stuff than I can dream about
  • Read your unread emails

As you can see this is a long list already that offers up a wide range of options for someone who is thinking about using Alexa for the development of their business. Over the coming weeks, I am going to update you in more in-depth articles about how I have used Alexa for my business.  


 The Naked Recruit is funded through our affiliate link program with Acuity Scheduling. It is a tool that has saved me dozens of hours.

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