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What's Elon Musk’s Favorite Interview Question and Answer?

Ruchi Gupta - Author
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Jan. 13 2022, Published 2:26 p.m. ET

The outspoken Tesla CEO Elon Musk might sound casual on social media where he talks about taxes, stocks, Web 3.0, cryptocurrencies, and other topics. Some of those casual comments have got him in trouble with regulators. However, if you’re going to seek a job at one of Musk’s companies, you will need to be serious. The billionaire has a reputation for asking a favorite interview question that leaves many people stumped.

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Musk holds the record as the first person to be worth more than $300 billion, but he has come a long way. In his teen years, Musk developed a videogame that he later sold for $500. He went on to launch Zip2, an online city guide, in 1995. After just four years, Zip2 was acquired for $300 million. Musk used the money to start other ventures that brought him even more money.

Many people only know Musk as the founder and CEO of electric vehicle company Tesla and space travel company SpaceX. He co-founded digital payments giant PayPal. Musk also runs an underground transportation infrastructure company called the Boring Company.

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Starting and running a diverse range of companies has no doubt brought Musk a huge fortune, but that isn't all. He has also learned how to identify the right people to work with him. Many people get nervous interviewing for a job with Musk because he's known for posing tricky questions and riddles.

What does Elon Musk look for in job candidates?

Between Tesla and SpaceX, Musk employs thousands of people in various roles. Some of the staff consists of engineers, supervisors, factory staff, and support personnel.

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You don’t need a degree to work at one of Musk's companies. In fact, he doesn’t care about your level of education. What matters to him is your ability to solve problems. While seeking candidates for various jobs at SpaceX, Musk outlined that he was looking for people with strong work ethics, common sense, trustworthiness, and talent for building things. You concluded that the rest you can learn on the job.

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What is Elon Musk’s favorite interview question?

In the early days of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk personally interviewed job candidates. When you appear for an interview with Musk, you can expect him to ask you to describe the most difficult problems you have ever worked on and how you solved them. Musk uses this question to catch a liar. He believes that someone who really solved a problem would know how they did it and describe it in detail. The question also helps him identify people with exceptional abilities.

Musk is fond of giving a tricky riddle to candidates interviewing for jobs. In the riddle, he asks where you would be if you standing on the surface of the Earth and moved one mile south, one mile west, and another mile north. Musk’s riddle has two possible answers: North Pole and South Pole. But he doesn’t seek a correct answer. Instead, he tries to identify critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

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Nobody knows how Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson answered Musk’s favorite interview question and riddle to get a job at Tesla. But Musk would later claim that Rawlinson didn’t contribute much to Tesla’s Model S project. Although Musk now oversees a sprawling enterprise, he might still participate in some job interviews. Therefore, you can always expect surprises when interviewing for a job at Tesla or SpaceX.

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