Job Search Tip of the Week #13 (2018)


How to Ace Your First-Round (or Really, Just About Any) Interview

Think Like an Interviewer – Q7

How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State Building?

Knowing why interviewers ask certain questions can help you know how best to tackle them. This particular one assesses your quantitative reasoning, or your ability to apply basic mathematical skills to draw conclusions and solve problems in a real-world context.

That said, you don’t need to know the exact dimensions of a quarter or the Empire State Building to answer this question the right way. In fact, your interviewer isn’t expecting a precise number. Your interviewer wants to know how you’d think through the problem.

First, break down the question. What are the number of ways you can use quarters? When people hear the second part of the interview question (“to reach the height of the Empire State Building”), most immediately think of stacking quarters on top of one another (Scenario #1), then of lining them up end-to-end (Scenario #2), because that’s how we’ve learned to approximate and measure length. In this instance, very few think of the actual purpose of a quarter, of their 25-cent value (Scenario #3).

Now, how would you use this information to determine how many quarters you need to accomplish your task. Obviously, your answer depends on how you place and/or use the quarter – make this clear to your interviewer to demonstrate your ability to see things from different perspectives, then talk through step-by-step how you’d estimate the number of quarters you need to reach the top of the Empire State Building:

Scenario #1: Stacked On Top of One Another

One quarter is about 0.069 (or 1/15) inches thick. So, there are about 15 quarters in an inch, or 180 quarters in a foot. The Empire State Building is approximately 1,454 feet from its base to the tip of its antenna, then that means you’d need 261,720 quarters to reach the height of the Empire State Building.

Scenario #2: Lined Up End-to-End

The diameter of a quarter is 0.955 inches; let’s round that up to 1 inch for the sake of simplicity. So, it takes about 12 quarters lined up end-to-end to reach a foot. That means you’ll need 17,448 quarters (12 quarters multiplied by the height of the Empire State Building, or 1,454 feet).

Scenario #3: Used as Currency

You can buy tickets starting at $57 for adult admission to the observation deck on the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor. Since there are four quarters in $1, that means you’ll need 228 quarters.

Fun fact, there is a secret 103rd floor/balcony, but it’s only open to celebrities, dignitaries, and other VIPs. The official “top floor” accessible to the public is the 102nd floor, which is 1,250 feet up. So if you or your interviewer are one of those people who don’t include antennas as part of the building (or if you want an easier figure to use when you do mental math), you can adjust the above calculations in Scenario #1 (180 quarters in a foot x 1,250 feet = 225,000 quarters needed) and Scenario #2 (12 quarters in a foot x 1,250 feet = 15,000 quarters needed).

Remember, this type of question tests your quantitative reasoning, so your interviewer isn’t looking for you to just spit out a number. Take your interviewer step by step through your thought process, starting from the information you need to know, through the math, and ending at your answer.

Try Another Quantitative Reasoning Problem: How many pennies would you need to fill this room? How many gas stations are there in the US? How many golf balls fit in a school bus? How many piano tuners are there in the world? (Hint: No matter what the “how many” question is, they have the same intent. Use the same approach as the one we detailed for the quarters/Empire State Building question!)

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