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Elon Musk asks the same question in every job interview to try and spot a liar

Elon Musk asks the same question in every job interview to try and spot a liar

It might seem like a simple query - but according to the Tesla billionaire, it's particularly revealing.

Billionaire CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, is renowned for his, er, somewhat unconventional approach.

Controversy seems to follow him around - from public disagreements with regulators to making bold statements that have affected stock prices - and his often unpredictable behavior only adds to his reputation.

However, he once said something that might actually be quite useful to know.

WPA Pool / Getty Images
WPA Pool / Getty Images

Musk revealed a unique tactic he uses in job interviews to spot if a candidate is lying.

The method, which is actually backed by science, is so effective that it's worth knowing - whether you interview people regularly, or you're heading into the job market yourself.

Musk revealed the job interview hack at the World Government Summit in 2017, saying how he always asks each candidate the same question: "Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them."

The reason? According to Musk, it can help you separate the truth-tellers from the fibbers.

“The people who really solved the problem know exactly how they solved it,” he said. “They know and can describe the little details.”

This approach isn’t just a billionaire’s whim; the theory is actually backed by science. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition examined several job-interviewing techniques and found that Musk's trick is especially effective at determining who's a liar and who isn't.

Drazen Zigic/Getty
Drazen Zigic/Getty

This technique, known as "Asymmetric Information Management" (AIM), asks interviewees to provide detailed accounts, with the understanding that more information helps the interviewer tell truth from lies.

The research suggested that this method can boost an interviewer's ability to detect liars by a massive 70%.

However, not everyone is quite so astounded by Musk's interview strategy. On Reddit, some users said that asking candidates to talk about complex problems they've solved is actually pretty normal for an interview.

One commenter described it as a “very standard question”, while another said: “I asked (a variant of) this at all my interviews as well. Didn’t even realize this is newsworthy." Ouch.

Featured Image Credit: Maja Hitij / miodrag ignjatovic / Getty Images