Several surveys in the past have suggested that a large proportion of candidates lie or embellish the reality of their CV or in interviews (78% of them, based on a 2020 survey). Elon Musk uses a simple question to detect whether he has a genius or a “show-off” in front of him. Intriguing, isn’t it? And know that his technique is far from being a “sham” because it is also used by investigators who seek to determine when a suspect tells them the truth.

In 2017, at a World Government Summit, Elon Musk was asked how he could set up an elite team to carry out his most ambitious projects.

The founder of Tesla had then answered this gem:

“When I interview somebody, my questions are always the same. Tell me the story of your life. The decisions you made along the way and why you made them. And also, tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them. That question is very important: the people that really solve the problem know exactly how they solved it. They know the little details. And the people that pretended to solve the problem, they can maybe go one level [of explications], and then they get stuck.”

In fact, the president of Tesla began his reflection in a previous interview with Auto Bild, where he said:

Of course, we want to make sure that if a person has significant accomplishments, they are truly responsible for them. Usually, people who have really worked on a problem understand the details and do not forget them.”

Therefore, the million-dollar question is asking a candidate to talk about the most difficult problem they had to solve in their life; and by listening to the details in their answer, judge the truthfulness of the explanation.

However, we must recognize that the question has something to disarm. And, to answer it successfully, the candidate must be in the right frame of mind. Elon Musk explains that he starts by asking the candidates he meets to tell the “story of their lives” – we can assume that this is to put them in the field of what will follow…

In reality, speaking openly about the “biggest problem we have solved” takes a minimum of openness and inhibition. Elon Musk himself, during the World Government Summit conference, was asked point-blank what was the biggest puzzle he solved. The president of Tesla had to think for a minute before he got into it.

A study echoes Elon Musk’s technique

Elon Musk’s question came up in the news this year because a study published at the beginning of the year provides a scientific basis. Cody Porter, a psychology researcher at the University of Portsmouth, wrote an article on The Conversation about a new interrogation technique called “Asymmetric Information Management (AIM) technique”, which involves looking at which response strategy the interviewee adopts in a survey context.

“These approaches postulate that the mental and strategic processes adopted by truth-tellers are different from those who lie”, explains the researcher.

People who tell the truth tend to give much more detail in their testimony, the study revealed.

“Truth-tellers tend to want to prove their innocence by providing a lot of detailed information (…) The study showed that by using the AIM technique, you can increase the chances of spotting a person who is lying by 70%.”

You know what you have to do!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.