Can You Solve This “Hanging Cable Problem” That’s Popular in Interviews?

As if I need more reasons to stick with being my own boss, it has become increasingly popular in job interviews to ask applicants to solve certain problems or riddles.

The way people respond tells potential employers about their thought processes, the way they respond to stress, and sure, a little bit about what they might bring to the table, brains-wise.

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It’s been rumored that Amazon, among other tech companies, favors this “hanging cable problem,” so we thought maybe you’d like to give it a shot.

It goes like this:

Image Credit: YouTube

A cable of 80 meters is hanging from the top of two poles that are both 50 meters off the ground. What is the distance between the two poles—to one decimal point—if the center cable is: 20 meters off the ground and 10 meters off the ground.

I guess maybe it’s simple, if the idea of having to solve a math problem at all, nevermind on the spot. Just the thought of having this flung at me in an interview is enough to give me hives!

The problem comes from a 2010 paper in the Atlantic Electronic Journal of Mathematics, but if you don’t want to dig through a dusty academic journal for your answers, you can check out the video below.

The people at MindYourDecisions do a great job not only giving you the correct answer, but breaking down how they got there, too.

There’s a reason they ask these sorts of questions in tech interviews, I suppose, because someone like me wouldn’t be a good fit (and I definitely can’t solve it on the fly).

Could you? Share with us how you did!