Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, recently shared the most crucial attributes which he as a recruiter looked for in a candidate during a job interview. In a conversation with Bloomberg television, the 30th person to join the now-giant Microsoft said, “I think you want to understand the person, their motivation. I think you want to understand their academic record, as most of these are folks coming out of colleges and I think you want to understand people’s ability to problem-solve.”
Steve Ballmer, the retired billionaire, had his own litmus test designed to pick the best talent. In the same conversation he said, “I always gave this problem to kids: I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 100. You can guess, after each guess I tell you if it’s high or low.” The retired billionaire explained that if the candidates guessed the number correctly in the first instance they got five dollars; if they got it correct in the second guess they would take home four bucks and so on. After five guesses, the candidates would lose one buck incrementally for each passing guess. “The question is do you want to play or not,” Steve Ballmer said.
Explaining the rationale behind the question, the veteran says that the right candidates would not be willing to play the game as probabilistically, one would lose money by playing the game. “There are far more numbers on which you would lose, than you would win. Secondly, I can pick numbers that are specifically hard for you to get,” he pointed out.
Sharing an anecdote directly from Microsoft’s interview room, he observed, “There’s one guy who I interviewed to do (find the expected value of the problem), and he said — Well, here’s the answer, and he actually wrote down this quickly the expected value of the game.”
Summing up the discussion about the problem, Steve Ballmer said that the problem involves multi-dimensional thinking and tests the candidates on programming, classic and computer science and guessing. “It’s a pretty good problem,” he added.