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Critical Thinking Interview Questions

What does a hot dog sound like? Why are manhole covers round? How would you figure out an accurate estimate of the number of people who watched ‘Get Him to the Greek’ in New York City during January 2013? These are all tough questions that you may be faced with someday during an interview, but it seems pretty pointless, right? Why would the interviewer want to see if you know why manhole covers are round? It’s a stupid question, right?


The interviewers couldn’t care less why manhole covers are round. In fact, there’s no right answer there. Manhole covers are square in other parts of the world, and some of those parts of the world have better healthcare systems than we do so who is to say they’re wrong? The manhole cover question was made famous by Microsoft as an interview test question to evaluate the thought process of job seekers, or their critical thinking process. Employers don’t expect your brain to be loaded with useless information, but they do want to see how you get from A to B when attempting an answer. That’s why this is a very important question and others like it should not be taken for granted. In fact, you should start practicing right now with some of the tips and practice questions listed below.


Critical thinking is the process of analysis. Can you get from step to step with a logical and sane progression? That’s what employers are asking you when they ask you a critical thinking question like the famous manhole cover question. If you want to prepare for these questions you have to have a basic understanding of logic. A good way to practice this is by creating your own syllogisms in your free time. Here’s an example of a syllogism:

All Americans eat beef burgers,

All beef burgers are made of beef,

All beef comes from cows,

All cows are four legged animals.


All Americans have eaten a four legged animal.

It’s known as ‘all As are Bs’ logic, and if you weren’t able to notice on your own each line links to the line before and after it, like parts of a bridge. That is the natural thought process of critical thinking even though we don’t think about it too much, but syllogisms are the foundation of critical thinking. Once you get the hang of it, try out the practice questions below and see what sort of answers you come up with (you won’t be able to solve all of them with syllogisms; some will have concise answers and some won’t).

Practice Questions:

Why are manhole covers round?

How would you measure out 4 gallons of water with a 3 gallon and 5 gallon bucket?

Two U.S. coins add up to thirty cents and one is not a nickel. What are the two coins?

Have you ever faced a tough critical thinking question? Were you successful with your answer? Share in the comments!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Wrote

Bane Srdjevic

Bane is a Purdue graduate and has been through a lot of the trials and tribulations every job seeker goes through. He is looking to spread his knowledge so that other job seekers don't make the same mistakes. Learning by doing is fine, but knowledge is king.

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