How to Approach Guesstimation Questions

Approaching Guesstimation Questions

In one of the first job interviews I ever appeared for, my interviewer asked me to guess or estimate the number of donuts sold by  ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ in Delhi the week before.  

As much as I love having donuts, all those images of caramel-filled, sugar-topped, melt-in-the-mouth donuts floating through my head at that moment could not tempt me, because all I could think of was, ‘How on earth am I supposed to know this?!!’

Does this situation sound familiar to you? If your answer is 'Yes', you're in luck! Here we come to help you out ...
And we've got good news for you! More often than not, even your interviewer has no idea about the answer to this kind of question. So the next question is, why does he expect *you* to somehow know this? 

Again, good news! He doesn’t!

Why, then, is he asking you this question?

I’m sure by now you’re thinking, “Well, he’s definitely not asking me the question just to get a good laugh by looking at my perplexed expression! Surely he wants to know *something* related to donuts!” This time, you’re right! 

After giving that first interview (and facing the embarrassment of not having a clue about how to answer the donut question!), I realized that there must be some strategy to solving these kind of questions. 

Having gone through numerous articles and having practiced many guesstimation questions since then, what I’ve understood is, that all that the interviewer wants to know is whether you can give him a logical approach to solving the question—whether you can identify the variables that would impact (in the case of the donut example) the number of donuts sold in the previous week, and connect these factors to the sales of donuts. 

Why this person is asking you such a question is because if he does decide to hire you, you would have to apply similar logical thinking to the projects that would be assigned to you. So all he’s trying to do is, check whether or not you’re good at thinking in that manner. The task at hand, then, is to walk your interviewer through your approach in a clear and crisp manner, and convince him that it is, in fact, a very rational way of going about solving the question.

As a matter of fact, guesstimation questions are one of the standard kinds of questions that you will encounter in interviews, and while they may seem difficult to solve if you have no prior practice in solving them, practicing will definitely make you perfect! As you keep practicing, you will realize that solving them can actually be a lot fun!

In this post, I’ll describe for you guys the approach that I usually follow when solving guesstimation questions, and hopefully, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll also be in a position to approach all kinds of guesstimation questions.

Click here to learn the approach


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