Google interview question stumps parent company Alphabet's chairman Eric Schmidt

Mr Eric Schmidt may be the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, but even he struggled to answer a brainteaser question once asked at Google job interviews.
Mr Eric Schmidt may be the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, but even he struggled to answer a brainteaser question once asked at Google job interviews.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - Mr Eric Schmidt may be the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, but even he struggled to answer a brainteaser question once asked at Google job interviews, reported news website Quartz.

He was asked the question when he gave a talk in November at Summit at Sea, a floating tech conference.

This was the teaser: "You're the captain of a pirate ship and you find a chest of gold. Your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty but still survive."

Mr Schmidt seemed to bide his time after the question was posed, requesting that it be repeated and if he could clarify it.

"Let's do the math... if half die. No, if I die... No, if they don't like me, I die. This is, like, a really bad question," Quartz quoted him as saying.

In the end, he settled on the following answer.

"It seems to me that if more than half are happy, I survive. I propose, that we give 49 per cent of the pirates stock in Internet companies, and 51 per cent get the gold," he said.

Google actually stopped asking such questions a few years ago. The company's senior vice-president of people operations Laszlo Bock told Quartz last year that it took effort to change the habit as employees had spent many years asking such questions at interviews.

It might be a good change, or the company might just reject the next Eric Schmidt.