Don't Feel Bad, Eric Schmidt Can't Answer Google's Crazy Interview Questions Either

A riddle stumped the Alphabet executive chairman at a recent conference.

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By Nina Zipkin

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Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc.

Job interviews are stressful for everyone involved. Candidates aim to put their best foot forward, and hiring managers strive to ensure they don't waste time and resources on the wrong person.

Tech giant Google (now owned by parent company Alphabet) used to devise something of a philosophical obstacle course with its odd interview questions -- asking people everything from "How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack?" to "If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?"

In recent years, Google has retired these brainteasers, though it's been tough for some interviewers to drop the habit entirely.

During a talk at the Summit at Sea conference earlier this month, someone posed one of the infamous interview questions to Alphabet executive chairman and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "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?"

The question reportedly caught Schmidt off guard. He asked for it to be repeated and whether he could be permitted a few follow-ups, noting, "This is, like, a really bad question." Ultimately, he provided a humorous solution, allotting the gold to 51 percent of the pirates and giving stock options to the other 49 percent.

It seems that Google was wise to phase out its confusing riddles, given that one of the company's longtime leaders couldn't decipher this question or what it was meant to elicit. Always keep in mind that, if there's a practice within your company that has an unclear purpose, you're well within your rights to change it.

We want to hear from you: What is the weirdest question you were ever asked in a job interview? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.
Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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