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How Would You Move Mount Fuji? : Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers Paperback – Bargain Price, April 2, 2004
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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.
""It's all about thinking outside the box--just make certain you know what kind of box."
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If you are reading the book for an interview in a time crunch, read Chapter 8 first. Poundstone discusses the generic puzzle solving technique and the mental preparation process you should follow after you hear or read the question. It worked well as I applied it to several puzzles in the book. Of course, lest you forget, as Poundstone put it, `For the purposes of a job interview, the reasoning is the "answer"`.'
The author extends a helping hand to provide solid advice to companies who consider these techniques for interviews. He reminds them what to conclude and what not to conclude based on the candidate's response, the best ways to utilize this technique in an interview and ways to win the race of seeking and securing the best talent. He particularly reminds them that while the answer to the puzzle may not be as expected, it is in their best interest to place great value in the reasoning and logical approach taken by the candidate. By the same token, if the candidate has heard of the puzzle and knows only the answer, there are ways to test further their real understanding and further measure their puzzle solving skills, as well as eliminating those who have memorized a few answers to popular puzzles.
There are some cases where there is no singular solution. For instance, in the types of questions where you are asked to design xyz, you can exercise more freedom and especially creativity, as long as you are aware of boundaries for acceptable responses. Therefore, if you are testing your reasoning abilities, do not read the answers until you have exhausted all your options.
Remember, whatever you take away or learn, always stay aligned to a perfectly logical being when you want to solve a puzzle.
The puzzles themselves were somewhat disappointing, some being somewhat odd (although one cannot fault the author for this, given he didn't choose the questions to ask), with most of the explanations being disappointing. The explanations were WAY too wordy, taking up maybe five times the space necessary. However, this is a relatively minor point, taking the book as a whole.
I would definitely recommend it, especially as an ebook, which it's inexpensive and I felt well worth the investment.
I didn't find the puzzle questions or their solutions to be very interesting, except for how they make M&Ms, which I probably wouldn't have figured out.
I really liked the rest of the book more - the history behind it and all the little tidbits thrown in about Gates, Microsoft culture, and interviewing in general.
Reading this book won't get you through a Microsoft interview with flying colors. It will be obvious if you're regurgitating information or if you're thinking a problem through. Chances are they're not going to ask you anything in here since it's all common knowledge now.
If you've no experience working through word problems and logic puzzles, then by all means get the book to see the kind of stuff they might ask you, and what typical approaches to those types of problems can be. But think of this merely as a mental guide and not an answerbook.
Whether you are interviewing or being interviewed, you won't regret your money on this a bit. In fact, some one walked of with my book, so, I invested in one more copy of this book, that every now and then, I refer to it.
If you're interested in more challenging puzzles, try your hand at Puzzles for Programmers and Pros.