Killer Interview Question: How Do You Deal With A Bomb With 90 Seconds On The Timer?

Killer Interview Question: How Do You Deal With A Bomb With 90 Seconds On The Timer?
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Another entry in the list of killer interview questions: You work on the 60th floor of 100 story building. You walk into your office and find a bomb sitting on your desk. It reads 90 seconds and is counting down. What do you do?

Image: Alexandre Dulaunoy

Screaming “I’m A Teapot!” and hiding underneath the desk is almost certainly the worst possible answer. The question itself is a favourite of Dropbox, because clearly the movers and shakers there like dropping bombs of interview questions.

It’s a tricky one to answer, as well, because the more obvious answers — throw it out the window and such — are easily seen as you deflecting stressful issues, not to mention endangering public safety generally.

There’s only one genuinely good answer here — defuse the bomb — but it’s only really applicable if you’re going for an interview as a bomb defusing technician. So what you’ve got to show in your answer is that you’re somehow taking charge in what is a particularly impossible situation.

How would you answer the question?

How to answer 11 fiendishly hard interview questions posed by Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox [Business Insider]


  • I would say that I would keep calm because it is obviously a fake bomb. Bombs with big countdown displays only happen in the movies.

  • I would respond by standing up and walking out. Why would anybody ask such ridiculous questions

    • This has the added bonus of giving everyone a step up in their job positions as the bosses are usually sitting on the top floor 😛

      I’d just wait until the bomb said 3 seconds and throw it as hard as I can out (and slightly up) from a window (then it should explode mid air, chances are it wouldn’t have shrapnel as that would be less damaging in an office environment compared to the extra charge size. Then I would tell them I don’t want to work for them as their security sucks and people really don’t like their opinions as they are sending bombs to random employees.

      • Most high buildings like that are in a city with other high buildings around. The shockwave would take out all the windows spraying shards of glass over tens of floors of any nearby buildings.

      • Exactly what I would do. Explosions are more dangerous when contained, so having it out in the open air greatly minimises the potential damage.

    • maybe pull the fire alarm AFTER you put the bomb in the lift.
      Some fire alarms disable lifts

  • Put it in the fridge and wedge the fridge door closed with something.

    If its good enough to save Indy from a nuclear blast. Its good enough to hold in a tiny little explosive device.

  • Here are some suggestions:

    1. Pour a jar of water on the electronics and let it go fizz.. If the counter keeps ticking, then you have about 85 seconds to try the rest of the suggestions

    2. Stow it away in the kitchen refrigerator… Indiana Jones 101… and wait for the blast?

    3. Cut the blue wire… it’s always the blue

    4. If you are saying that I walk into my office and find a bomb sitting on my desk. It reads 90 seconds and is counting down. It means that you saw the bomb before I did, why didn’t you make use of the original 120 seconds.. you moron!!

    Well, if you want me to be serious, if there is a bomb at my desk then I also have a drone in my drawer. 90 seconds is more than enough for me to take the drone up in the air and let it explode…

    Da Vinci Code – Angels and Demons anyone?

    ** Killer answer to the killer question:

    I would ask if the interviewer asked the previous guy the same question. If yes, then you know it’s a fake, these interviewers are just resetting the clock!!! Find the guy and give him the bomb 🙂

    Cheers and have a nice day

    • Watching a movie where there was a debate about which colour wire my daughter turned to me, and open eyed asked ‘Which colour is it dad?” To which I replied, ‘It’s all made up, so whatever colour the script writer chose; or didn’t.”

  • I’d hit the fire alarm, put the bomb in the lift and send it to the top floor, then leg it down the stairs.

  • I would take a bomb out of my briefcase and say this is a real one. “What are you going to do”.

    If it was the bomb as shown in the photo I would disconnect the plug from the connector and short out the three wires on the voltage regulator.
    If that didn’t work you still have about 30 seconds to put the core of the building, that is stairs and lift shafts between you and the blast, get down low hands over ears and close to a core wall.

    • If you take a bomb to every interview hoping this question comes up, you may have trouble finding work.

  • If the bomb is small enough for me to carry – ie like the one pictured, then I’m less concerned about the damage impact to the building, so simply walk over to the emergency exit stairwell, place it on a landing between the two floors, and walk back in (remember to prop the door, or you’re stuck in the stairwell).
    Unless you’ve already pulled the fire alarm, the stairwell should be empty – the only people in stairwells are people having a quick smoke or a shag. Possibly both.
    Initially I might be tempted to drop it down the centre, so it falls to the ground, but there’s a higher risk of it rupturing vital utilities, including gas lines, and the increased chance of civilian casualties at street level or in the car park.
    It would also complicate entry for first responders, and exit for building occupants.

    If there is no access to the stairwell, reel out the firehose, tie bomb to it, smash a window at the corner of the building and lower the device to between the levels 60 – 59, so it rests against the brickwork, not the glass. Secure the firehose and retire to a safe distance behind something solid, crouch down, place fingers in ears, open mouth and hope whatever deity you’re on first name basis with is paying close attention.
    You may even want to warn others, at this point.

    Evil version
    If you do not like the people in your company or just having a bad day, then you have just been handed a gift and an opportunity. However, time is of the essence, so you will have to work quickly.
    Walk the bomb to the stairwell and place on the floor.
    Pull fire alarm.
    Block stairwell with a large object.
    For best results, place the device a level or two above yours, as the condensed pile up of people will yield maximum results.
    Highly unlikely you will get everyone, but even if they are not in the immediate area of detonation, blast damage and debilitating visual/hearing injuries will incapacitate a significant amount of people.
    Whistle happily to yourself.
    When (and there will be a long line of people asking) why you did that, simply tell them you were maximising the opportunity, as per the company culture.
    Toss in something flippant about lemons and lemonade.
    Pro tip: Don’t mention this version at interviews.

  • Turn the bomb off, then spend the next 8hrs of my working life trying to figure out who activated the bomb I’ve been making.

  • In general I would *prefer* to wait until the countdown was under 5 seconds and toss it out the window, but very few buildings have a facility for opening windows on the 60th floor. Otherwise the answer depends on the size and type of the bomb.

    Firstly, in all cases, yell out for somebody to hit the fire alarm and clear the floor ASAP.

    If it’s a binary type, I would try to find a way to prevent one of the components from being used. For example, smash one side then take the remainder elsewhere. If the workings are exposed, I might try to short out the battery or remove the electrical contacts from the battery.

    If it’s smallish, I would put it either in the stairwell or in a suitable metal enclosure. If possible I would surround it with copy paper to buffer some of the force of the explosion.

    Another option is to dump it in a sink with as much salt as I could find and start filling the sink with water. Salt water is conductive; hopefully it will get into the bomb interiors quickly and short it out. Even if it doesn’t, the water will buffer the explosion a bit.

    Given no other option, I would put it on a desk or stool, surrounded by the copy paper, in an otherwise open area so that the shockwave dissipates as much as possible before hitting something. Probably near a window; the shockwave is going to shatter the glass anyway, so we might as well make use of the glass wall as a path for letting the pressure escape.

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