Why Brain-Teasers are a Lame Interview Tool

I read a great article on Cameron Moll’s blog today about all-day tech interviews.  One of the things he mentioned in the article that struck a chord with me was the use of brain-teasers as an interview tool.  According to Cameron, the brain teaser counts for a full 25% of the candidate’s total impression.  Yikes!

I have used brain-teasers as an interview tool in the past, but no longer do so because I can’t say that brain-teasers really pull their weight as an interview tool.  It seems to me that brain-teasers are good for two things:  a) letting an interviewer feel smug because “I know the answer and you do not, silly candidate” (and I’m not saying this is why Cameron like them, so please save the drama), and b) determining if the candidate is good at brain-teasers.

Seriously, that’s it.  I can’t think of one thing that having a candidate do a brain-teaser will tell me that is more relevant than what I can learn from showing the candidate a page of incorrect (or is it?) code and ask them to find the problem and suggest solutions.  It just doesn’t get any more in-context than that.

I know that there is a great love of brain-teasers in the geek community, so perhaps I’m all alone on this.  But I’ve never really felt like brain-teasers told me anything that a more in-context demonstration couldn’t do.

That said, if they seem to work for you then by all means use them.  🙂