In the last few years there has been a movement away from asking “brainteaser” questions in job interviews.
Six or seven years ago companies like Google were famous for stumping candidates with questions like, “Why are manhole covers round?” and “How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?”
Google has since banned the practice. In a 2013 interview with the New York Times, Google senior vice president for people operations Laslzo Bock called them “a waste of time.”
“How many golf balls can you fit into an aeroplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart,” he said.
Apparently, one unnamed NBA team did not get the memo that brainteasers are no longer regarded as a useful interview tactic. Ex-Duke guard Justise Winslow told Nina Mandell of USA Today’s ForTheWin that during his pre-Draft interviews, a team asked him the golf ball question.
“[One team asked] how many golf balls could fit in this [small conference] room,” he said. “But mostly the questions are a lot more sports related or about me and my family or something like that. They don’t really try to throw you off too much with the questions. I just did get the one question about the golf ball.”
His answer? “I just said ‘a million.'”
Since questions of this nature don’t mean anything, “a million” is a perfectly fine answer. But if you’re curious about the actual answer, check out the formula that reader Matt Beuchamp gave BI in 2009.
If we assume a small conference room is 6 feet by 6 feet with 8-foot ceilings, the volume of the room is 288 cubic feet. The volume of one golf ball is 2.5 cubic inches. There are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot, so the volume of the room is 497,664 cubic inches. When you divide the volume of the room (497,664) by the volume of a golf ball (2.5), you get ~199,000 golf balls.
For Winslow’s “a million” guess to be right, he would have needed to be in a 13-by-13 conference room with 8-foot ceilings. That’s possible, but I don’t know if it’d call that a small conference room. More of a medium one.
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