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Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s Favorite Interview Question Confirmed by Science as ‘Brilliant’

Musk’s favorite BS-detecting interview question proves as valid by law enforcement research.

A Yale professor went as far as calling traditional job interviews “useless”. Every hiring manager and entrepreneur goes into a series of job interviews with the intention of hiring the best candidate for the position. But research has shown that this process fails epically.

The catch is that the problem is not bad intentions, but instead the gullibility of human nature. Studies have proven time and time again that most hiring professionals can’t stop themselves from being starstruck by overconfident candidates.

The question looms if there is a way to get better at detecting the BS but a newer study suggests a research-validated technique. And this technique is exactly how Tesla and SpaceX have been conducting interviews for years.

Polygraph not required.

Cody Porter, a psychologist, recently explained in The Conversation, that the method was originally developed for law enforcement as an alternative to the lie detector method — which proves as unreliable with inconsistent and inconclusive results. The hookup and setup of a polygraph can induce stress to the party in question, and instead of this approach, Porter and her team have suggested a specific interview style that can point out the liars. This approach should come easily for hiring professionals because most offices are not equipped with a lie detector test. It all comes down to asking questions in a particular way.

The method Porter adapted is more psych based — simple observations about liars. Liars do not like to get into specifics, as specifics can lead to getting caught or trapped. Compared to a truth teller, who will happily and easily dive into the deep end with you. This method is actually referred to as asymmetric information management (AIM). You can leverage this technique to your advantage.

“Essentially, the AIM method involves informing suspects of these facts,” Porter explains. “Specifically, interviewers make it clear 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. For truth-tellers, this is good news. For liars, this is less good news.”

Research has shown that when you start with ‘the more details the better’, a truth teller will begin elaborating with ease, rapidly, while a liar may stick to the general story, and abandon the specifics. The difference between the two scenarios is easy to distinguish. When done as an experiment, the interviewers’ ability to detect a liar jumped from 48% (same as a blind chance) to 81% (using AIM technique).

And Elon Musk already knew..

While many cops will rejoice in shock knowing there is a way to increase the BS detection rate, Elon Musk may be a little less shocked. In 2017 he told the World Government Summit that he was using the same approach with his interview process, and asks each candidate, “Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”

“The people who really solved the problem, they know exactly how they solved it, they know the little details,” Musk elaborated. In short, Musk already had a firm grasp on Porter’s research and further adds that truth tellers will dive in head first, eager to share. And those who skim by with just charm won’t do the same.

Research and studies prove AIM to be effective for the police, and Musk backs that by proving the same technique can be professionally beneficial as well. If you want your next interview to be useful and not useless, cut through the BS with this ‘endorsed by Musk’ trick.

Kc Cartwright
Written By

Kc Cartwright is a freelance writer and avid outdoorsman. She is a space enthusiast with a passion for exploring life on other planets, as well as space travel.

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