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Recently I have been attending a lot of interviews and at some places I am getting few riddles/brain teasers for which I can answer in an instant even without thinking. This situation brings a great dilemma. I have got two options.

  • Tell the interviewer that I know this question already. While some people appreciate it others ask to answer even if I know the question already.

  • Pretend that you are thinking about the answer and let the answer out at the end. This might look good but always have a chance of getting a bad image from the interviewer if he thinks I am pretending to think.

How do I handle these situations? Which way is better ?

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    Maybe choose a third path: ask the interviewer if their other business practices are also (1) uncorrelated to the business of the company, and (2) a decade out of fashion. That probably won't get you the job, but do you really want to work somewhere where they think asking why manhole covers are round is predictive of programming ability? – Eric Lippert Jan 3 '14 at 0:07
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    The reason to ask you to answer it in anyway might be to make sure you aren't trying to avoid answering the question by claiming to have heard it before. And I agree that riddles are silly interview questions. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jan 9 '14 at 1:59
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Don't overthink it - I wouldn't personally mention it, just solve the question that's put in front of you - most interviewers (myself included) are interested in the discussion that surrounds a question - if you answer it instantly then we'll move onto something else.

You could casually say - "I think I've seen this before" but be very, very careful - there are few things worse than a candidate who says they've seen a question before only for them then to be unable to answer it.

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Don't fake it.

Unless you are going for an acting gig, figure that if you try to fake it, there's a real chance that it will read to the interviewer as odd. There's no harm in already knowing the answer to the question, particularly if the interviewer is asking one of the standard riddles.

Listen carefully and answer

Particularly with riddles, there is a real possibility that the question may sound the same except for a change in wording that really does change the answer. Always listen carefully to make sure you do, in fact, know the answer. A lot of interviewing is showing the behaviors that are relevant to being successful in the workplace, and one of them is almost certainly being attentive and a good listener.

But if the answer is quite honestly one that you already have memorized, say the answer. If the interviewer seems surprised - feel free to say you've been doing a lot of interviewing and this one has come up before. It's certainly not your fault you've heard it before, and the interviewer should know that this is a known problem with asking such static questions. Being able to remember the answer to a question you've already been asked before is also a good trait in almost any job!

Bonus points for creativity.

If this is one of the creative thinking type riddles, feel free to give the answer and then have something funny or creative to say about it. Keep it short and sweet, but if you have something interesting and personable you can say, go for it.

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