Can You Pass the Common Sense Test? Interview Questions to Reveal True Brilliance

Common sense – that seemingly simple yet remarkably rare commodity that allows people to think rationally, make sensible decisions, and demonstrate sound judgment. While technical skills and academic achievements are crucial, an employee’s common sense (or lack thereof) can make or break their success in a role.

That’s why more companies are putting extra emphasis on evaluating candidates’ common sense during job interviews. The questions designed to measure this elusive trait go beyond the usual behavioral and situational queries. They test a candidate’s ability to think critically, creatively problem-solve, and respond appropriately to unexpected scenarios.

So, do you have what it takes to ace the common sense evaluation? Let’s explore some prime examples of interview questions that put this key capacity to the test.

When Obvious Solutions Are Not So Obvious

Some common sense interview questions present straightforward problems with glaringly obvious solutions – if you employ a bit of rational thinking:

  • “You’re stuck in a bathroom with only two ways out: through a tiny toilet window or a solid wooden door. Which do you choose?”
  • “You’re attending a meeting and don’t have a pen to take notes. What would you do?”
  • “How many trees would you have to cut down to build a wooden house?”

While these scenarios seem simple on the surface, not everyone provides the most sensible response. How would you fare if asked to solve these brain teasers on the spot?

The most common-sense answers: Choose the wooden door exit, borrow a pen from someone else at the meeting, and calculate the lumber needs based on the house’s square footage. Simple logic, right?

Navigating Oddball Hypotheticals

Some of the trickiest common sense interview questions involve bizarre, hypothetical situations that put creative problem-solving skills to the ultimate test:

  • “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?”
  • “How would you sell an incredibly overpriced $10,000 pen to someone?”
  • “How many different ways could you rearrange the letters in the word ‘CHRONOLOGICAL’?”

With these head-scratchers, there are no definitively correct answers. Interviewers want to see if you maintain your composure when faced with an odd predicament, think through all possible options, provide a logical rationale for your approach, and articulate your thought process clearly.

For instance, getting out of that shrunken blender scenario may involve climbing onto a blade when it stops spinning and waiting to be removed. Or enlisting the help of a friendly insect to serve as an escape rope. The key is offering a plausible, well-explained solution that demonstrates resourcefulness and level-headedness.

Interpreting Ambiguous Instructions

Another common way to evaluate common sense is through seemingly straightforward instructions that are actually unclear or incomplete:

  • “Take a piece of paper and follow these steps carefully…” (followed by ambiguous, open-ended directions)
  • “Rate your common sense ability on a scale of 1 to 10.”
  • “Estimate how many sheets of paper are on my desk right now.”

These vague prompts aim to see if candidates have the good judgment and presence of mind to ask clarifying questions instead of making flawed assumptions. Top-scoring candidates don’t jump to conclusions; they pause, reconfirm any uncertainties, and provide a reasoned explanation for their approach.

For instance, the model response to being asked to rate your common sense might go: “I’d like to clarify what criteria you’re using for that rating scale before providing a number. Could you define what would represent a 1 versus a 10 in common sense ability?” Browse through some real examples of common sense interview questions on sites like Glassdoor.

Uncovering Critical Thinking Through Brainteasers

Brainteasers like logic puzzles and riddles are another common way interviewers test for critical thinking and common sense:

  • “A farmer has 15 cows, all but 8 died. How many are left?”
  • “If there are 3 apples and you take 2 away, how many do you have?”
  • “What occurs once in a minute, twice in a moment, and never in one thousand years?”

These deceptively simple stumpers are designed to see if candidates recognize and question flawed assumptions before explaining their logical reasoning. For the apple subtraction problem, the keen common-sense thinker would clarify: “Do you mean there were initially 3 apples that I’m taking 2 away from? Or are you giving me 2 additional apples to add to 3?”

The best-scoring candidates avoid impulsive answers, break down each part of the brainteaser systematically, and explain their step-by-step reasoning out loud.

Displaying Emotional Intelligence and Maturity

Some common sense interview questions evaluate a candidate’s emotional intelligence – their ability to read between the lines, demonstrate empathy and self-awareness, and respond professionally to personal or ambiguous scenarios:

  • “How would you explain the job responsibilities to a child?”
  • “What’s one piece of constructive criticism you’d give to your former manager?”
  • “If the person interviewing you had something stuck in their teeth, how would you handle it?”

These queries assess candidates’ emotional maturity, social graces, and ability to navigate awkward situations with poise and sensitivity. Top candidates can rephrase complex information simply but accurately, provide feedback diplomatically, and discretely resolve embarrassing scenarios without causing undue discomfort.

There’s no single right way to respond, but emotionally unintelligent reactions like harsh criticism, immature humor, or complete obliviousness are surefire ways to raise red flags.

Putting It All Together

Evaluating a candidate’s common sense is a nuanced, multifaceted process. But by combining creative questioning techniques like hypotheticals, brainteasers, and ambiguous instructions, interviewers can gain powerful insights into a candidate’s critical thinking abilities, problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, and judgment under pressure.

The candidates who ace these evaluations are the ones who:

  • Actively listen and ask clarifying questions
  • Think through scenarios systematically and out loud
  • Maintain a professional, level-headed demeanor
  • Provide well-reasoned explanations for their approach
  • Demonstrate resourcefulness and creativity
  • Exhibit strong social awareness and emotional maturity

While common sense can’t be easily taught or measured, these interview tactics can help identify the candidates with the raw thinking abilities and decision-making aptitude to thrive in a role. So study up and get ready to demonstrate your brilliant common sense!

6 Logical reasoning questions to trick your brain


How do you test common sense in an interview?

Ask real-world questions from actual situations that have occurred. Prompt the candidate to provide greater detail regarding how they came up with their answer. Ask for explanations, especially if you do not agree with where they are going. Good questions are honest.

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