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Pay in Oil Fields, Not College, Is Luring Montana Youth


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Rebirth of the North American work ethic?  Let's hope so.  I am not that familiar with how the great white north has coped, but from my front porch most are looking for hand-outs and 6-7 years of college.  More roughnecks and entrepreneurs is a welcomed change.  I would hire a 2-year roughneck over a 7 year college degree any day of the week.

 

Cheers

JEast

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I would hire a 2-year roughneck over a 7 year college degree any day of the week.

 

Wow, you and I should do job interviews together.  You can take all the people who work their butts off and I'll take all the brilliant people, and we'll both be delighted with the deal.

 

In my experience, someone who's really smart and works 8 hours a day will be ten times more productive than someone of average intelligence who works 12 hours a day.  It's good thing for the world that we think differently, providing work for both types of people.

 

Now we just need to find someone who likes to hire lazy, average or low intelligence people, and we'll be set...  :)

 

 

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Richard,

 

I'm going with JEast on this one.

 

My father-in-law who is a very wise man (and worked for a company which is now part of Markel) said it best: "Experience and intellegence are additive...drive is a multiplier." My experience compels me to agree with this.

 

Listen, we will all agree that an intellegent, experienced person with drive/energy is the holy grail when hiring. But, I've worked with really smart people who have mediocre energy, and high-energy folks whose IQ is no better than the average Joe, and I'd take the latter over the former in a heartbeat (assuming equal amounts of inegrity/character/attitude, etc). While not a hard and fast rule, those who are intellectually gifted tend to expect more from their employers, tend to be prima donnas and tend to be hired away. The nose-to-the-grindstone folks give more than they ask for and stick around. The work ethic they posess is infectious thereby making the whole team/department better. Those who are not afraid to "get dirty" get things done. Those who work hard figure out ways to do things better. Give me a group of well-managed ass-kickers, and I'll give you results...

 

JMHO

 

-Crip

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I can't say that I blame them. I went to college - briefly - but didn't stick around, largely because my accounting professor was a fool who said that the cash flow statement is irrelevant. I wondered what other nonsense I may have been being taught in fields I didn't understand.

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The nice thing about the patch is the no BS. Leadership, smarts, & chutzpa rise very quickly - provided that you can give just as cheerfully as you get! If you have it, you're going to be apprenticed in the best schools on the company's dime, & your 'friends' aren't going to be shy about kicking your ass.

 

It's not just the money.

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I can see why you might prefer the hard worker.  There could well be something to the industry as well.  I'm in tech.  Some of the factors that impact my 10 times multiplier estimate are:

  • A smart person will come up with a good design rather than a bad one.  As a result, all subsequent work will be an order of magnitude faster. e.g. imagine if youtube, in its early days, didn't have an architecture that easily allowed the identification of bottlenecks impacting scalability.  If that had been the case, you would not have heard of youtube today.
  • There are types of problems that only smart people can perceive before they happen.  Avoiding these problems is incredibly important because of the leverage you get in solving the problem early
  • The cost of an error can be huge, potentially in the millions of dollars.  Smart people make far fewer errors.  It's another leverage thing.
  • A smart person will come up with new ideas that can grow into billion dollar businesses.  Hard workers don't.
  • Smart people tend to think more probabilisticly, perceive risk better, and understand things like sunk costs.  This tends to lead them to make better business decisions and gives you a fighting chance in recognizing and responding to new competitors.
  • When smart people need to figure something out, they'll generally come up with the right solution far more often than average people.
  • Generally, with smart people, black swans are to the upside, while with average people, they're more likely to be evenly distributed or perhaps more to the downside.
  • Smart people drive others to be their best.  Average people, even if they're hard workers, slow everything down.
  • I don't believe your point that hard workers figure out ways to do things better.  Smart people are bored easily, which leads them to look for optimizations to make work more entertaining, whereas average intelligence people are much more willing to do repetitive jobs because they believe that nose-to-the-grindstone is the path to success.

It's not totally on topic, but it feels like one of my favorite Bill Gates quotes applies,  "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it."

 

All that said, when it comes to managing and retaining someone, it's much easier to have a hard worker.

 

The discussion makes me wonder whether there's any tech companies who believe that hard workers are better than smart workers.  Hmm, maybe Electronic Arts (putting the same sports video game out year after year.)

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Yes, I can see why you might prefer the hard worker.  There could well be something to the industry as well.  I'm in tech.  Some of the factors that impact my 10 times multiplier estimate are:

  • A smart person will come up with a good design rather than a bad one.  As a result, all subsequent work will be an order of magnitude faster. e.g. imagine if youtube, in its early days, didn't have an architecture that easily allowed the identification of bottlenecks impacting scalability.  If that had been the case, you would not have heard of youtube today.
  • There are types of problems that only smart people can perceive before they happen.  Avoiding these problems is incredibly important because of the leverage you get in solving the problem early
  • The cost of an error can be huge, potentially in the millions of dollars.  Smart people make far fewer errors.  It's another leverage thing.
  • A smart person will come up with new ideas that can grow into billion dollar businesses.  Hard workers don't.
  • Smart people tend to think more probabilisticly, perceive risk better, and understand things like sunk costs.  This tends to lead them to make better business decisions and gives you a fighting chance in recognizing and responding to new competitors.
  • When smart people need to figure something out, they'll generally come up with the right solution far more often than average people.
  • Generally, with smart people, black swans are to the upside, while with average people, they're more likely to be evenly distributed or perhaps more to the downside.
  • Smart people drive others to be their best.  Average people, even if they're hard workers, slow everything down.
  • I don't believe your point that hard workers figure out ways to do things better.  Smart people are bored easily, which leads them to look for optimizations to make work more entertaining, whereas average intelligence people are much more willing to do repetitive jobs because they believe that nose-to-the-grindstone is the path to success.

It's not totally on topic, but it feels like one of my favorite Bill Gates quotes applies,  "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it."

 

All that said, when it comes to managing and retaining someone, it's much easier to have a hard worker.

 

The discussion makes me wonder whether there's any tech companies who believe that hard workers are better than smart workers.  Hmm, maybe Electronic Arts (putting the same sports video game out year after year.)

Richard,

 

I think what you said are all true and very well put; except that it is not clear to me why being smart and being hard working are mutually exclusive. 

 

I am also in Tech, specifically in semiconductor devices. When I was in graduate school, I worked for a guy who led a team to build the semiconductor process for the CPU of the original Mac in the 1980s. The guy was extremely smart; yet, at the same time, extremely hard working. He was my first boss and at the time, I thought he was just an aberration.

 

After I joined the industry, though, I noticed that, in general, it is the "smart and hard working" types that accomplish big things.  For example, I met this old gentleman, who had won the highest honor from IEEE for semiconductor devices, but he would come in on weekends to do his work for "fun." Oh, he got his PhD from Rice, was an All-American college football player before going to graduate school and was drafted by NFL in the first round back in 1950s. A very interesting combination to say the least.

 

Now I myself manage about 20 PhDs, including a few from Ivy League schools. In general, they are all pretty smart compared to the average. And I wouldn't bring in average Joes for their jobs as average Joes probably can not even learn the trade in the first place.

 

However, what I found is that the top performers in my group tend to be the "smart and hard working" types. The "smart but lazy" types really can't compete with the "smart and hard working" types in the high pressure environment.

 

So, in my humble opinion, there is really no need to think that being smart and being hard working are mutually exclusive.

 

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How do you define intelligence? I think that's a pretty important consideration. Is it based on the level of education the person has completed? If so, you'd be excluding many of the greatest business leaders of all time, as many of them didn't bother completing their formal education because they thought they could get by without it.

 

I've seen an argument made that having a degree from a prestigious institution is more of a way to signal potential employers that a candidate is both bright enough and dedicated enough to complete the program, but that those same people probably would succeed anyway exactly because of how driven and intelligent they are. It makes intuitive sense to me, but I am biased.

 

I suppose it could be useful as a filter. Acknowledging that there are probably worthwhile people without extensive formal education and then not searching for them anyway as a way to cut out time wasted on evaluating average people makes sense from a resource management perspective. Why bother searching for the absolute best when there's a high probability those people will make it through your filter anyway and, even if not, you're reasonably certain to find plenty of desirable candidates anyway?

 

Just random thoughts. I'm in no way questioning your judgment when it comes to evaluating people - I'm just curious.

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How do you define intelligence? I think that's a pretty important consideration. Is it based on the level of education the person has completed? If so, you'd be excluding many of the greatest business leaders of all time, as many of them didn't bother completing their formal education because they thought they could get by without it.

 

I've seen an argument made that having a degree from a prestigious institution is more of a way to signal potential employers that a candidate is both bright enough and dedicated enough to complete the program, but that those same people probably would succeed anyway exactly because of how driven and intelligent they are. It makes intuitive sense to me, but I am biased.

 

I suppose it could be useful as a filter. Acknowledging that there are probably worthwhile people without extensive formal education and then not searching for them anyway as a way to cut out time wasted on evaluating average people makes sense from a resource management perspective. Why bother searching for the absolute best when there's a high probability those people will make it through your filter anyway and, even if not, you're reasonably certain to find plenty of desirable candidates anyway?

 

Just random thoughts. I'm in no way questioning your judgment when it comes to evaluating people - I'm just curious.

 

Scott,

 

      I am not sure whether the above is addressed to me or not.  Assuming it is, I actually don't filter out people "automatically."  What I want is to have "evidence" that my potential hires are self-motivated and have basic skills to be trained in reasonable time to contribute in their jobs.

 

      I have also found that "top-ranked" graduates from second-tier schools often are every bit as smart but "harder working" than average graduates from the first tier school.  Many chose the so called "second-tier" schools for family or financial reasons. Many of my fellow managers would go for the top-tier school graduates.  The way I do it, I actually get to choose people without so much competition.

 

      I think that, for most people, the advantage of working for a "master" is that it orients you towards going after important problems and also let you see in real life how a "master" operate.  For this reason, it does increase one's chance for successes.  An example is that so many people worked for Ben Graham ended up being successful investors. Some of them are very smart and formally educated as Buffett and Tom Knapp but others being of reasonable intelligence are also quite successful such as Schloss.

 

      Having a degree from a prestigious institution, like you said, does open certain doors for you.  However, once you get into the "door" you still have to deliver.  I have seen my shares of Ivy League PhDs fell flat on their faces after they "got into the door," so to speak.

 

      I also agree with you that for truly great people, with their determination to be successful, they will be successful anyway in whatever they choose to do.

 

      A good example is Ted Williams, the baseball player. Everyone knows that he is a baseball all-time great. I read his book about hitting. Judging by the way he approaches hitting, I am quite sure if he wants to be an engineer, he would be a truly great one.

 

      Oh, he was also a fighter pilot during Korean war and was the wing man of John Glenn, the astronaut. 

 

        Just my 2 cents....   

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My comment about that I would hire a 2-year roughneck over a 7 year college degree implied that I did not want a college grad that took 7 years to complete a 4 year program :)

 

Cheers

JEast

 

Ha! Ha!  True.  Although sometimes there are other reasons. 

 

I have a friend whose father was a small town pastor in Georgia. My friend was going to get a job after high school. My friend was told by his father that he is "going to college."

 

My friend then asked his father, the pastor, how they could pay for the college. The answer was that "You are going to earn it."

 

I think my friend spent 6 years and worked part time to get his college degree.  He then worked for Chrysler for a couple years and saved enough money to get through graduate school.

 

A truely self-motivated and talented person. 

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How do you define intelligence? I think that's a pretty important consideration. Is it based on the level of education the person has completed? If so, you'd be excluding many of the greatest business leaders of all time, as many of them didn't bother completing their formal education because they thought they could get by without it.

 

I've seen an argument made that having a degree from a prestigious institution is more of a way to signal potential employers that a candidate is both bright enough and dedicated enough to complete the program, but that those same people probably would succeed anyway exactly because of how driven and intelligent they are. It makes intuitive sense to me, but I am biased.

 

I suppose it could be useful as a filter. Acknowledging that there are probably worthwhile people without extensive formal education and then not searching for them anyway as a way to cut out time wasted on evaluating average people makes sense from a resource management perspective. Why bother searching for the absolute best when there's a high probability those people will make it through your filter anyway and, even if not, you're reasonably certain to find plenty of desirable candidates anyway?

 

Just random thoughts. I'm in no way questioning your judgment when it comes to evaluating people - I'm just curious.

 

Scott,

 

      I am not sure whether the above is addressed to me or not.  Assuming it is, I actually don't filter out people "automatically."  What I want is to have "evidence" that my potential hires are self-motivated and have basic skills to be trained in reasonable time to contribute in their jobs.

 

      I have also found that "top-ranked" graduates from second-tier schools often are every bit as smart but "harder working" than average graduates from the first tier school.  Many chose the so called "second-tier" schools for family or financial reasons. Many of my fellow managers would go for the top-tier school graduates.  The way I do it, I actually get to choose people without so much competition.

 

      I think that, for most people, the advantage of working for a "master" is that it orients you towards going after important problems and also let you see in real life how a "master" operate.  For this reason, it does increase one's chance for successes.  An example is that so many people worked for Ben Graham ended up being successful investors. Some of them are very smart and formally educated as Buffett and Tom Knapp but others being of reasonable intelligence are also quite successful such as Schloss.

 

      Having a degree from a prestigious institution, like you said, does open certain doors for you.  However, once you get into the "door" you still have to deliver.  I have seen my shares of Ivy League PhDs fell flat on their faces after they "got into the door," so to speak.

 

      I also agree with you that for truly great people, with their determination to be successful, they will be successful anyway in whatever they choose to do.

 

      A good example is Ted Williams, the baseball player. Everyone knows that he is a baseball all-time great. I read his book about hitting. Judging by the way he approaches hitting, I am quite sure if he wants to be an engineer, he would be a truly great one.

 

      Oh, he was also a fighter pilot during Korean war and was the wing man of John Glenn, the astronaut. 

 

        Just my 2 cents.... 

 

Hi Zippy,

 

Great thoughts. I'm not in a position to hire anyone right now, but I suspect I would filter out a ton of people based largely on attributes such as formal education. That is somewhat hypocritical of me, considering the same thing happened to me twice - I only managed to get a job where I work now after three applications, with the benefit of knowing a guy who worked at the company the third time. The first two times I didn't even get interviewed.

 

I wouldn't filter people out because of a lack of intelligence, necessarily. It'd mostly be because of time constraints. I know that, many times, several hundred people apply for a few positions at the company I'm at now. Considering there are only a few hundred people who work at the entire company, there needs to be some sort of screen because it's probably not practical to end up interviewing thousands of people a year. I guess you could consider that placer mining, if you want to use the terminology of Charlie Munger.

 

Evaluating people is something that interests me a great deal, but I am not interested in most people. I like to associate with people who love what they do and are not afraid of sharing their knowledge with others. People who work for the sake of getting a paycheck are not people I'm generally interested in, because I think that passion for what you do is very important as it related to continual self-improvement.

 

Generally, if people are unwilling to stay up past the middle of the night to learn new things without being asked to do so - whether they're fields of study of new techniques in things they already know a lot about - it is difficult for me to stay interested in them for long. I spend most of my time researching more about business and investing, personally, but I have little doubt you could do the same thing with a variety of subjects.

 

I also enjoy forums like this one, where knowledgeable people get together to share ideas and concepts. I've learned a lot from this site, and I wish I was aware of more like it regarding other fields. The nice thing about specialized sites like this is that it only attracts people who are very interested in the subject matter. This site has done a great job at not turning into the Yahoo! message boards, and hopefully that will continue to be the case going forward.

 

Best wishes,

 

Scott

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My comment about that I would hire a 2-year roughneck over a 7 year college degree implied that I did not want a college grad that took 7 years to complete a 4 year program :)

 

LOL, I assumed you were talking about someone with a graduate degree.

 

For me, the degree isn't what matters, it's just a filter, as ScottHall says.  I have limited time to interview and the frequency of intelligent people is higher in those with graduate degrees than those with no degrees.  I will hire people without degrees who are smart, but it's harder for them to pass through my filter to get the opportunity to sit in front of me and have a conversation.

 

The "defining intelligence" question is an interesting one.  For me in an interview process, it's a matter of how they answer questions that are slanted towards synthesis rather than than recall.  I weight creativity and analysis very highly relative to skills.  As such, I often disagree with other interviewers who focus much more on skills.  My attitude is that if someone's smart, they can quickly pick up most skills, whereas the opposite isn't true.  Of course, my approach has the problem that it excludes people who think well, but slowly, or who can't focus under the pressure of a job interview.

 

Zippy, I'd agree that being smart and hard-working aren't mutually exclusive.  Crip's comment, that the ideal is both, seems self-evident, so, beyond him correctly pointing that out, it didn't seem a very interesting thing to talk about. 

 

I'd also agree with your point of view, that smart, hard workers come up with more ideas than smart, lazy people.  I think there's some sort of compounding thing going on there, too.  Maybe an internal networking effect, where the more things you know, the better the chance that something apparently unrelated to a problem can be re-imagined to create a solution.  If you work longer hours, you have more chances to put new nodes and connections into your mental network which increases the overall capability of that network.

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Maybe an internal networking effect, where the more things you know, the better the chance that something apparently unrelated to a problem can be re-imagined to create a solution. 

 

Richard, 

 

Thank you for the thoughtful comments. The above is very well said. It would seem that some of the people do exhibit the above.

 

Another aspect of this is actually how one "defines a problem."  Sometimes, it is the root cause of a problem itself that offers a wonderful solution for some other problems.  A good example is the invention of non-volatile memories. 

 

So my typical interview quetions are like:

"What problem were you trying to solve?"

"What was the nature of the problem?"

"How did you go about to solve it?"

"If you were to do it again, would you do it any differently? If you would, how and why?"

"Why do you think this problem is an important one to solve?"

 

I found that many graduate students are not ready to answer such questions.  I even had a few telling me that they need to check their dissertation.  ::)

 

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That's pretty funny.  I wonder if for the last question, someone's ever said, "Because my adviser said that if I solved it, it would get me Ph.D."  :)

 

One question I've been experimenting with over the last few years is the ant problem:

 


Imagine a triangle with ants at each corner.  Simultaneously, each ant will randomly choose one of the two edges, and walk along that edge to another corner.  What's the probability that no two ants collide?


 

Of course, the interesting thing is the approach to solving the problem.  It tells you a lot about whether they are the type of person who sees an unusual problem and gives up, or approaches it methodically etc.  Getting the right answer is mostly irrelevant to me, but the process of arriving at the answer is interesting.  Of course, it's not that useful for people who majored in statistics, since it's a trivial problem if you're well versed in probability.  But in that case, you can just make it a tetrahedron rather than a triangle. :)

 

I think some of the other Google/Microsoft questions are interesting too.  Things like "How many windows are there in Seattle?" and "How many tennis balls can you fit inside a city bus?".

 

Beyond that, I also test the ability to create algorithms to solve simple problems where there's a multitude of solutions ranging from trivial "correct but bad" solutions to "complex but good" solutions.  For instance, creating an algorithm for factoring a number.  Again, it's interesting hearing people's thoughts about why any algorithm is good or bad and ways of improving it.

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Smart by itself is not particularly useful – our smart guy/gal has to be able to talk to people, show some humbleness, & think laterally.

 

Our smart guy/gal has to be able to cover the earthy through to the highbrow, & talk in terms their audience can understand.  He/she also has to be mature enough to handle ‘smartness’. And depending on industry ... our guy/gal also needs a natural every-day ability to automatically link the cost curves of economics, to cost accounting principles - inclusive of futures markets & the forward volume pricing typical of the high-tech industry. Attributes that are much more common than one might expect.

 

You do not get fired if you hire from ‘name’ brand schools – but you might well get fired if you take the rough diamond. Diamonds are inherently high risk/high return, hence they collect in industry where the practical side of risk/return is well understood. (oil/gas, mining, forestry, etc.). For every 5 hired, 3 might well fail, but Lenny .... for the 2 that work out!

 

Most college/university entrants should not be there. They are not mature enough, & the experience was essentially used as a baby sitting exercise between graduating high school & early adulthood. In most parts of the world our guy/gal would get drafted at 18 for upwards of 2 yrs, & released back into college/university at around 20.The resultant ‘enforced’ maturity provides a grub stake on de-mob, &  often results in far better decisions.

 

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Smart by itself is not particularly useful – our smart guy/gal has to be able to talk to people, show some humbleness, & think laterally.

 

 

How do you do those two ? I been having great problems with the two. :(

I've been thinking about the how to talk to people problem for a long time so far there is no great direction to improve my skills and solve this problem.

 

Humbleness has been improving. But i think its mostly because of my age want to proof that i know stuff but sometimes hurting others because my bluntness and lack of attention to others. For that I've taken some real life pain. Some are wrong and some i think are worth it to find out what the other knows and see if i am wrong. But most of the time i ask question other can not answer but the other doesn't have the character to say i don't know. Maybe even counter with why don't you find out for me.  ;D

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Always speak your mind - but be able to back it with fact, tact, & know how to be polite. No BS has value, & the higher up the chain the more value it has. At the shop floor level, keep the conversation clear & simple; drawing in the more advanced topics as the conversation builds. Everyone appreciates a good joke, wherever possible include women & minorities, & it doesn't hurt if you can have the conversation over a beer or two. Beer is good, but you better have a thick skin!

 

CA's/CFA's right after graduation are notorious pr***s. My sheepskin says I'm good, I know it, I've spent my time in the salt mine, I'm king - & now you lowlifes will do what I tell you, because I told you to; unfortunately, most of the time the gaming works for them. It either passes slowly with maturity, or they meet a evil bastard & get 'matured' in 5 minutes or less. Game enough, & you will meet a Black Swan! 

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Imagine a triangle with ants at each corner.  Simultaneously, each ant will randomly choose one of the two edges, and walk along that edge to another corner.  What's the probability that no two ants collide?


 

 

This interview actually sounds like fun.  Would it be 25%? 

 

Only way they don't run into each other is if they all go cw or they all go ccw.  If you assume ant 1 goes cw, then you have 4 possibilities

 

ant 1 cw

ant 2 ccw

ant 3 ccw

 

ant 1 cw

ant 2 ccw

ant 3 cw

 

ant 1 cw

ant 2 cw

ant 3 ccw

 

ant 1 cw

ant 2 cw

ant 3 cw

 

That's one out of four.  You'd get the same thing if you assume the 1st ant goes ccw.

 

When do I start?

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Depends on the number of ants in each corner. And on the definition of a collusion (do we have to include the endpoint? The starting point? Is it a collusion if three or more ants collide at once?) Do the ants walk to an adjacent corner or to a random one? In the latter case, do they all have the same speed? Is it an equilateral triangle? Will the ants start walking all at once? The requirements are unclear.

 

(Probably not the best answer in a job interview :) )

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Depends on the number of ants in each corner. And on the definition of a collusion (do we have to include the endpoint? The starting point? Is it a collusion if three or more ants collide at once?) Do the ants walk to an adjacent corner or to a random one? In the latter case, do they all have the same speed? Is it an equilateral triangle? Will the ants start walking all at once? The requirements are unclear.

 

(Probably not the best answer in a job interview :) )

 

The answer might be good or bad, depending on how the questions are asked.  If it's with the intent of actually defining the problem, then that's good.  If it's with the intent of being a smartass, that bad, and usually the difference is obvious when you're speaking with someone.  I think some of these questions fall into the latter category, other than the the fact that each ant is walking along exactly one edge and ending up in a corner, which is definitely unclear.  If that's clear, most of your other questions are irrelevant of course (and asking them would be pretty revealing.)

 

The other thing that such questions reveal about you is that you maybe incapable of working independently, using Occam's Razor and knowledge that the problem most likely has a solution to find the most likely problem that I was asking.  I tend to not like defining unimportant requirements for people but prefer to work with people who can figure out stuff their own.  So, if you really asked all these questions, I'd probably think that you were totally incompatible to work with me. 

 

In most cases, the requirements are clear from the way it's expressed in the actual interview (though I admit that they weren't as clear here).  For instance, in the real interview, there are pictures with cute little ants. :)

 

Also, if you did ask how many ants were on each vertex (which you probably wouldn't since it would be obvious from the picture and how I phrased it while drawing it), I might say something like, "assume N ants on each vertex", since you asking the question clearly means that you think there's a good solution to the N problem, and that it's something that's reasonable for me to ask in an interview.  :)

 

(Particularly the ones about the definition of collision (unless you're ESL), since that term's relatively unambiguous in real life.  Is it a collision if you have 3 cars smash together simultaneously?  Is it a collision if you have a car smash into a stationary car?)

 

Yes, matjone, the easiest solution is that that there are 2 paths where they don't collide (all clockwise or all counterclockwise), and there are 23 different paths, so 2/23 is 1/4.

 

That said, the first time I saw it, I solved it this way:

1. It doesn't matter which way the first ant goes, because it's a mirror image, so suppose it walks towards the second ant.

2. For the second ant, it can either collide with the first, or go the other way, so 50% chance of collision.

3. For the third ant, it can either collide with the second, or go the other way, so 50% chance of collision.

4. Then 50% * 50% = 25%.

 

Your fun comment is kind of telling too.  People typically find it fun or torture, and if the candidate finds it fun, I'm more likely to hire them.

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That's pretty funny.  I wonder if for the last question, someone's ever said, "Because my adviser said that if I solved it, it would get me Ph.D."  :)

 

One question I've been experimenting with over the last few years is the ant problem:

 


Imagine a triangle with ants at each corner.  Simultaneously, each ant will randomly choose one of the two edges, and walk along that edge to another corner.  What's the probability that no two ants collide?


 

Of course, the interesting thing is the approach to solving the problem.  It tells you a lot about whether they are the type of person who sees an unusual problem and gives up, or approaches it methodically etc.  Getting the right answer is mostly irrelevant to me, but the process of arriving at the answer is interesting.  Of course, it's not that useful for people who majored in statistics, since it's a trivial problem if you're well versed in probability.  But in that case, you can just make it a tetrahedron rather than a triangle. :)

 

I think some of the other Google/Microsoft questions are interesting too.  Things like "How many windows are there in Seattle?" and "How many tennis balls can you fit inside a city bus?".

 

Beyond that, I also test the ability to create algorithms to solve simple problems where there's a multitude of solutions ranging from trivial "correct but bad" solutions to "complex but good" solutions.  For instance, creating an algorithm for factoring a number.  Again, it's interesting hearing people's thoughts about why any algorithm is good or bad and ways of improving it.

 

Um not saying anything wouldn't it be easier to just give the candidate a company that you know well and ask some question about it ? Ask some though question or just some of the key points. Than ask for how they come up to the conclusion. (facts or models that are used.) Than try to make him/her think you think they are wrong and see how they react. See if a debate sparks. Ask for portfolio allocation to see the subject's understanding of risk.

 

First Part Basic analysis

Second Part Processing of information

Third Balls test

Fourth Risk management and too see if the candidate can control and understands his/her balls.

 

(But for those to be all right the person will be very rare or working for someone or self employed.) Think about which of the few are rarer and make a basket bet on them and over time you'll be right. Depends on your risk profile.

 

Personally i think the question above might be partially impaired by domain dependence. Also the person answering the question might have too much crap in their head and not concentration enough. I personally i would answer i don't want to waste my time on something that have a real life answer. I rater world on something i want to do or more uncertain. (Which will depending on my response will save a lot of time for both of us. )

 

On a unrelated note

I've been thinking about the problems of finding good people who didn't jump through the hoops of University. They mostly fall out of most of the fillers of HR people since they are not considered. Making those people as a group extremely undervalued, while due to the nature of University(Useless for the most part with learning being the by product. Not the normal result of it)

 

will allow the population have extreme deviation in abilities making it a great place to find asymmetric bets.

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Smart by itself is not particularly useful – our smart guy/gal has to be able to talk to people, show some humbleness, & think laterally.

 

 

How do you do those two ? I been having great problems with the two. :(

I've been thinking about the how to talk to people problem for a long time so far there is no great direction to improve my skills and solve this problem.

 

Humbleness has been improving. But i think its mostly because of my age want to proof that i know stuff but sometimes hurting others because my bluntness and lack of attention to others. For that I've taken some real life pain. Some are wrong and some i think are worth it to find out what the other knows and see if i am wrong. But most of the time i ask question other can not answer but the other doesn't have the character to say i don't know. Maybe even counter with why don't you find out for me.  ;D

 

In my experience, being humble will make it easier to talk to people. It's easier for people if you listen to them and find a connection in that way. I don't know if this is related, but I usually get along better with women than I do with men. I am a man. Being a good listener also gets you the women :) It gives you a good start at least!

 

About SD's comment regarding CA/CFA, I guess that maybe true (I'm a new charterholder). Bay street has a bunch of assholes. I'd like to think I buck the trend though.

 

I'm a manager and I'd like to be the dumbest person of the group. The people I want are smart and gets things done. My actual situation is different, but I'm working on improving it. I think I read a quote from a magazine a long time ago which went something like "the guys who got the B's and C's have the ones who got the A's working for them." I guess the average students had better people skills. In engineering school, I remember having no clue how to solve some problem sets. I would resort to copying sometimes. A lot of the smart people I went to school with are either professors or doing research. Many of them seemed to be condescending if you weren't smart.

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