Allegedly, Elon Musk, asks people a brain-teaser during the hiring process at SpaceX. I’ve been asked a few myself in my day. Failed them all. “How do you determine if a figure is convex or concave?”, “You have 2 buckets..”, “Three fishermen return from the sea”.
What I now understand is that there are some basic principles involved in these; the earth is a sphere, and – the most difficult one to grasp – the fact that someone doesn’t know, also has some informational value. So, I am not really impressed by someone posing these questions, as if they had come up with them right then and there. In fact, my old boss (John Blem) posed a very similar question to me when I was hired. I suspect he got the question from Mensa (where he is a member), and now, 10 years later, Elon Musk is trying to weed out the posers with a variation of that same old riddle. The man must be a genius.
The real question to ask during an interview is this : “Do you make a new pot of coffee, when you take the last cup?”. If the applicant answers “yes”, the interview ends right there. You do not want to hire an immoral liar. I never make a new pot if I take the last cup. I proudly pour the last cup, and turn the damn coffee machine off. And I stand by my choice; the truth is that 99% of people walk in, see that there is just around 1 cup left (if there is 1.51 cup left, they are OK). And so they decide that the hassle of brewing a new pot is not worth it. Not only that. If the walk out and wait 30 minutes, then some other poor fool must have drunk the last cup of stale coffee, and therefore, new fresh coffee is available. Alas, it’s better to just walk back to your desk and wait.
So, what happens is that the schmuck who takes the last coffee, which by now is thick as molasses, will be punished. He has to make new, fresh coffee for all the assholes who walked in, saw the trap, and backed out. So while he is trying to down a cup of revolting goo, everyone else gets to party with delicious, freshly brewed Joe. Right until there is just one cup left. That gets to sit in the pot, until it too is strong enough to awaken the dead.
This is a tremendous waste of resources. The coffee sits on the burner for hours on end, wasting precious energy like there’s no tomorrow. I could probably charge a few Teslas per day with the amount of energy being wasted on that damn coffee machine.
Yet, in every office I’ve been to, someone took the time to write “If you take the last cup of coffee, make a new pot”, print that shit out, and hang it by the coffee maker. It’s as common as the “wash your own dishes” or “clean up after yourself” printouts. I’d like to know if that ever worked, for anyone, anywhere. I very much doubt that the sign (usually written in Comic Sans – to make it look hand-written, yet I-am-using-a-computer-and-printer-because-I-am-a-professional-and-I-expect-to-be-taken-seriously), will make people go “oh, I wasn’t aware of that rule, but now that I see the words written down, I will change my ways”.
Companies must get one of those machines that brew one cup at a time. For the environment. Both of them.
If you are a job seeker, a company that has one of those old machines, and one or more of those “your mom doesn’t work here” signs, it’s a clear sign that you should run for the hills. Run, and don’t look back.