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When I finished university a few years ago and began looking for my first job a friend of mine recommended 'How would you move Mount Fuji?' as a way of preparing for interviews. Many of the jobs I was applying for were with niche software companies or scientific roles. With so many well-qualified people applying for one role it often proves difficult to select the right candidate based on grades and experience alone. For this reason many companies, particularly those that specialise in more technical roles have started to include logic puzzles as part of their interview process.
How would you move Mount Fuji is written by William Poundstone and is primarily based on puzzles that recruiters at Microsoft use as part of their interviewing process. The book is a small paper back and looks rather like a novel. I like the fact that it is quite compact as it means that it can be easily carried about with you. The first few chapters of the book give some background to the use of puzzles as tools in an interview process, when they were first used and how recruiters use them to judge a candidate's ability. This was quite interesting reading though I found this quite scary too as the thought of being subjected to complex puzzles in an already stressful interview process did not seem too appealing!
The fourth chapter was the most interesting the one people buy the book for. It features 35 puzzles set by Microsoft recruiters. These are in the form of a list that takes up a couple of pages. Examples of some questions are 'How many gas stations are there in the United States? How do you weigh a jet plane without using scales? And of course the title of the book - How would you move Mount Fuji? I must admit that when I first read through the questions I was quite daunted and thought that there would be no way I'd be able to answer such questions.
The following chapters discuss how to tackle such questions and takes you through step by step on how to solve puzzles, what traps to look for and how to outsmart the puzzle interview. Once I'd read these chapters and realised that there was a method to solving puzzles I felt a bit more reassured that this was something that I would be able to master and I was ready to tackle some of the questions.
About half of the book then looks at each of the Microsoft puzzles in turn. It dissects each one in great detail, showing how it should be solved. I did try solving a few puzzles myself before reading this chapter and admit that I failed miserably. I found the questions too open-ended and didn't really know where to start. After working my way through a few of the answers I got the hang of how to approach the puzzles and was able to work through quite a few unaided. As you can imagine this gave me a massive confidence boost.
This isn't a book that you'd read in one sitting - rather it is something to delve into from time to time or use regularly to build up your problem solving skills. I read this through cover to cover the first time I read this I didn't read this again for a couple of years. On subsequent readings I have only found myself heading straight for the puzzle chapter and the answers.
I really enjoyed reading this book and think it would be useful reading whether you are looking for a job or not. It certainly gave my brain a good workout. I have to say that I didn't encounter any puzzle interviews when looking for a job, which I was glad about as even though I knew how to tackle them I think interviews are stressful enough without this additional angle! The book did give me the logic puzzle bug though and I know regularly give my brain a workout, usually with games on my DS such as the Professor Layton series, which follow a similar style of puzzles. This book retails at £9.99, which is a little expensive, but comes with a high recommendation from me.