Elon Musk always asks the same job interview question to catch out liars

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Elon Musk has confirmed which question he always asks any interview candidate to see if they're lying or not.

The 49-year-old Tesla CEO recently became the world's richest person as his net worth crossed £136 billion, so he knows what he's doing when it comes to business.

However, Musk is not interested in which school a prospective employee attended or even their level of education.

“There’s no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school," Musk said during a 2014 interview with Auto Bild.

Instead, the father-of-seven looks for "evidence of exceptional ability" when it comes to hiring new staff.

"If there’s a track record of exceptional achievement, then it’s likely that that will continue into the future," he said.

Of course, it's easy for someone to lie on their CV or about their achievements, but Musk has a question that is designed to catch liars out.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in 2017, Musk admitted he asks each candidate he interviews the same question: "Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them."

A study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition in December 2020 uncovered several approaches to spotting liars based on a job interviewing technique that actually backs up Musk's technique.

One such method is called “Asymmetric Information Management” (AIM) and is designed to provide an interviewee with a clear means to demonstrate their innocence or guilt to the investigator by providing detailed information.

"Small details are the lifeblood of forensic investigations and can provide investigators with facts to check and witnesses to question,” Cody Porter, one of the study’s authors and a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, wrote in an article for The Conversation.

She specifically said that interviewers should give clear instructions to interviewees that "if they provide longer, more detailed statements about the event of interest, then the investigator will be better able to detect if they are telling the truth or lying".

"In contrast, liars wish to conceal their guilt,” Porter explained.

"This means they are more likely to strategically withhold information in response to the AIM method.

"Their assumption here is that providing more information will make it easier for the investigator to detect their lie, so instead, they provide less information."

The study also found that using the AIM method can increase the likelihood of detecting liars by nearly 70 per cent.

Musk added in the interview with Auto Bild that what he really wants to know is whether a candidate truly solved the problem they claimed to have solved.

He said: "And of course you want to make sure if there was some significant accomplishment, were they really responsible, or was someone else more responsible?

"Usually, someone who really had to struggle with a problem, they really understand [the details], and they don’t forget."

  • Elon Musk
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