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How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers Hardcover – May 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who's interviewed for a job at Microsoft is intimately familiar with questions like the one in this book's title. They've probably also pondered such problems as why are manhole covers round? how do they make M&Ms? what does all the ice in a hockey rink weigh? how many piano tuners are there in the world? Questions like these, which test problem-solving abilities, not specific competencies, are de rigueur at job interviews at Microsoft, other tech firms and on Wall Street. In this hybrid book-it's at once a study of corporate hiring, an assessment of IQ testing's value, a history of interviewing and a puzzle book-science writer Poundstone (Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos) explains the thinking behind this kind of interviewing. In straightforward prose, Poundstone describes the roots of logic questions in interviews (the approach appears to have had its modern beginnings at Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1957), drawing on the history of IQ testing in hiring interviews, psychological studies and interviews with Microsoft ex-interviewers and interviewees, makes a strong case for eliminating standard questions like "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" and replacing them with logic puzzles. Almost half of the book is devoted to an "answer" section, where Poundstone gives possible solutions to the brainteasers. Although it lacks a specific focus, this is a fun, revealing take on an unusual subject.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review puzzles can - and cannot - identify the potential stars of a competitive company BOSTON Globe A fun read, useful and enjoyable, not just for those in the job market. Poundstone's engaging, easy-going writing style steers readers through USA TODAY It's all about thinking out of the box WIRED --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316919160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316919166
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Poundstone is the author of two previous Hill and Wang books: Fortune's Formula and Gaming the Vote.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

152 of 161 people found the following review helpful By K. Sampanthar on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a Lead Software Architect, I have to interview candidates to join my technical team. This book seemed interesting from many different perspectives. William Poundstone is an author I have admired for many years, from his book on Philosophy - Labyrinths of Reason, to his biography of John Von Neuman in "Prisoner's Dilemma". So when I saw that he had written a book about Microsoft and their fabled interview technique, my interest was piqued.
I actually got a lot more out of the book than I was expecting. If you are looking to read this book to get the answers to some challenging puzzle-type interview questions, than you are probably going to be a little disappointed, since the people interviewing you are going to be aware of this book and hence won't be asking you the same questions as covered in the book. But if you are looking to learn techniques that will help you perform better on puzzle type questions, then you can gain a lot from this book.

Poundstone covers a lot of ground; he tackles the history of interviewing for high tech companies, touching on the different types of high-pressure interviews that are employed in financials services as well as top notch software and consulting companies. He goes into the details of the fabled Microsoft interview as an example of some of toughest interview questions and the most high-pressure tactics. Challenging puzzles, and techniques to help you solve them are covered, but don't expect just to learn some answers to tough questions, be prepared to learn techniques to help you solve challenging puzzles. He does give people a peek behind the puzzle genre curtain, and explains the different types of puzzles and how to tackle them.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on August 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"How Would You Move Mount Fuji?" is an easy, one-sitting kind of read. That is, unless you decide to try to solve all the puzzles in the book, in which case the time you will need to finish it will depend on your ability to solve puzzles (and your determination to maintain a normal life that is not overtaken by the need to solve every question).
In essence, the book is separated into two parts. The first discusses the history of puzzles and their intellectual and academic standing. This section starts off by narrating the origin of puzzle-solving as a criterion for selecting people; then, it talks about how and why many companies use them in interviews. Mr. Poundstone talks about the general approaches to solving puzzles, and then closes on a note for employers on how to design puzzles that are useful.
The second part of the book is the strict puzzle solving. The book has plenty of puzzles scattered through it and two chapters devoted solely to listing puzzles. From page 147 onwards, Mr. Poundstone discusses the puzzles he has listed and suggests thought processes about how to solve them. This exposition is more interesting than it sounds; for one, Mr. Poundstone explains his answers thoroughly; for another, he uncovers many layers of thinking, that show the complexity (and beauty) of the art of solving puzzles.
"How Would You Move Mount Fuji?" might give you a few tips and tricks, but is hardly a handbook of how to get the job of your dreams. Rather, it is an enjoyable book that will capture you in the world of puzzles for however long you decide to take to read through it.
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83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Now comes a new book, How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers by science writer William Poundstone. Poundstone talked to various people who have been involved in Microsoft hiring, including those who were interviewed, and those who gave interviews (full disclosure: I worked at Microsoft for ten years and was one of the people he talked to). He includes a lengthy list of questions, and most interestingly for many people, he also includes answers.
In the book, Poundstone traces the origins of this type of question, providing some fascinating information on the history of intelligence testing. He then chronicles how a certain type of puzzle interview caught on in the high-tech industry. Microsoft was not the first company to ask such questions, but it certainly popularized it.
Poundstone explains that responding to a problem you can't solve could be thought of as the fundamental problem in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and then continues,
"The problems used in AI research have often been puzzles or games. These are simpler and more clearly defined than the complex problems of the real world. They too involve the elements of logic, insight, and intuition that pertain to real problems. Many of the people at Microsoft follow AI work closely, of course, and this may help to explain what must strike some readers as peculiar--their supreme confidence that silly little puzzles have a bearing on the real world."
It could be--or maybe Microsoft employees assume that since they were hired that way, it's a great way to hire (and complaints from those who were not hired are just sour grapes).
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