Tough Interview Questions: If You Had to Eliminate 1 State, Which Would It Be?

EP 1622 This is a question that Microsoft is purported to ask.

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This 1 I learned from John Kador who has written a book called, "Acing The Brainteaser Interview." Apparently, this is one that is asked of Microsoft. The question goes, "If you have to eliminate 1 of the 50 states, which one would you select?" Then, they ask you to get specific reasons why you chose the specific state that you did.

I want to start by saying that there is no right answer. There are lots of different ways that you can approach this. The idea is to come up with a logical explanation that doesn't make you sound like you want to be an assassin or mass murderer. For those of you in the South who hate Northerners or are insulting to people from a particular state for whatever the reason is, don't start talking about how you would REALLY ENJOY watching (I'll pick New York as an example). New York just disappear from the map. Or California in watching all those people die in an earthquake. Not real smart.

Think in terms of the style of how you answer will give you 3 ways that you can. Again, credits to the book here.

John suggests building up suspense by providing some logic 1st. Obviously, this is Microsoft to skip the state of Washington. If you are interviewing for a job in New Jersey, don't answer, "New Jersey isn't really valuable." Don't start over the state that you are in and eliminate that. You will annoy some people.

Instead, he suggests discussing the logic behind the choice and think out loud. Don't start with the name of the state but build some suspense by walking the interviewer through the logic and see where you end up. Humor, some tongue-in-cheek remarks, all work well.

He suggests, "I don't want to be responsible for eliminating actual people. I would eliminate the political entity of the state by ceding it to Canada. Maybe a state that shares a border with them like North Dakota or Vermont. What I still be able to visit?" That becomes answer number 1 , which involves ceding the state to Canada. You can do the same thing with Mexico. "Would anyone miss New Mexico? With the Mexicans be happy to have New Mexico as a part of Mexico?" See where that one works.

Another approach is calling for the elimination of estate by combining it with 1 of its neighbors. Maybe Connecticut could annex Rhode Island. North and South Dakota could be combined to form the state of Dakota.

Lastly, "I would eliminate the state of Wyoming." You talk about how Wyoming is the least populous state in the country and all this people to be relocated to a theme park on the Las Vegas strip. That takes the tongue-in-cheek approach.

Obviously, the 1st 2 are little bit easier to work with and you may not be comfortable doing "The Wyoming Dance." Understand again that there is no wrong answer. You may sit opposite someone who presents is completely humorless and the idea is to just walk them through the logical choice. That will help you win the answer to that question.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1600 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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