Applying for a job at Google has, in the past, been an extremely stressful process, with the company once known for asking prospective employees some outrageous interview questions. While the firm has dropped this torturous tradition, former CEO Eric Schmidt – now of Google’s parent company Alphabet – was recently asked one of these brain-scrambling questions, and had a pretty tough time coming up with an answer.
During a speech at the Summit at Sea conference aboard a cruise liner traveling from Miami to the Bahamas, Schmidt was posed the following genuine Google interview brainteaser:
“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?”
Initially, the tech firm’s former boss could only stutter and stall, before having to admit that “this is, like, a really bad question.”
This view is shared by the company’s current hierarchy, who have scrapped these mind-bendingly difficult questions from their interview process in favor of new challenges that examine candidates’ mental flexibility and capacity to learn.
After much careful deliberation, Schmidt did eventually come out with a pretty decent answer, saying “it seems to me that if more than half are happy, I survive. I propose that we give 49 percent of the pirates stock in internet companies, and 51 percent get the gold.”
Other questions famously asked during job interviews at Google include “why are manhole covers round?” and “how many golf balls could fit inside a 747 aircraft?”