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We are hiring for a junior trainee role. The specification for the job is a higher school leaver (18) with a background in IT/Programming and some experience in making web pages.

The candidate will be trained.

I would however like to test the candiated problem solving skills. Id like to be able to ascertain 2 things

1) How good their base level logic solving skills are.
2) How they come to a near solution or how they seem to go about solving the problem.

I wanted to ask them a question that would let me evaluate this.

I was asked a question about sorting a load of unidentified weights with only a comparative weighing scales when I was a trainee applicant. It was a good question because there was more than one answer (some better and some worse) and required the candidate (me) to explain the solution. However I can't remember what the exact question was.

Can anybody provide me with such a question?

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By "higher school leaver" do you mean "high school graduate"? –  M. Dudley Jul 28 '11 at 12:24
I'm not a fan of logic questions in interviews. First of all, interviewers may have heard the question before, and will pretend to solve it in front of you. Secondly, an interview can be incredibly stressful to a candidate, and throw off their ability to solve logic problems while you are staring at them awaiting a response. Unless the job actually involves solving logic problems in time-sensitive environments, I wouldn't bother with this. –  Graham Jul 28 '11 at 13:08
If 'high school leaver' means drop out. Then the first question is why did you drop out? Logic aside, that doesn't say alot about their ability to finish what is required. –  MVCylon Jul 28 '11 at 13:17
Even Microsoft, the originator of logic puzzles like this, has abandoned them. Google doesn't use them. Try using real problems that have been solved at your workplace? –  Patrick Hughes Jul 28 '11 at 16:27
I believe the old question that Pete2k had in mind was a variant of the Balance Puzzle: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_puzzle . For the reasons given by Graham and Patrick above, I wouldn't recommend using it in an interview. –  Mark Bannister Aug 19 '11 at 17:50

4 Answers 4

You could have a look at the latest weekly Mensa Brainteaser: http://www.mensa.org.uk/brainteasers/, there may be useful offerings there.

It will also be relatively fresh, rather than a question as oft used as e.g. piano tuners in Chicago or something else a candidate may have been asked.

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I would suggest you should start off with some basic question on HTML tags since he has played around with web pages(many fall short in these areas) like div, span , colspan, rowspan.

you can then ask some language specific question maybe for datatypes. Then have a small program and tell them to identify the output

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Okay yeah I guess we should ask them some simple html/css questions this was on the spec but would still like a logic solving question... –  Pete2k Jul 28 '11 at 12:14

Just give them a programming problem. It can be psuedo code or give them a little explanation about the syntax of the language of your choice. Having an interest in coding will go a long way to see who is going to put in the time and effort to improve their skills. You want a future programmer or someone who likes playing Soduku all day?

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yeah fair comment but its not about playing sudoku its about judging how they find a solution. Since we didnt specify a programming language or say they need to have programmed we cant now really shove a programming test in front of them. although I guess pseudo code would be a good idea... –  Pete2k Jul 28 '11 at 12:16
@Pete2k - I just don't think you need to rely on generalized problem solving tests when you have the opportunity to be more specific. This kind of evaluation is tough enough. –  JeffO Jul 28 '11 at 13:42


There has already been a hefty discussion on Programmers.SE. Jeff Atwood writes interesting thoughts on using FizzBuzz as an initial interviewing tool. This problem won't be able to tell you how good the trainee is, but it may (quickly) show how bad he or she is.

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