In this interview with Business Insider, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, reveals the interview question he uses when hiring job candidates to see if someone really understands their work. Simply put, someone who was responsible for the work they described should know every facet of the job and every step they took to solve a problem. Conversely, individuals who merely participated in the work will only understand the parts they were responsible for. It doesn’t take very long to figure out who was key to solving the problem.
On the other hand, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in hiring for jobs such as call centers or data entry, an algorithm was a much better predictor of success than a hire by a manager.
Though it may not be the answer you want to hear, it truly depends; however, the key to understanding the success of both methods is rooted in consistency.
Elon Musk came to develop his interview question through conducting hundreds of interviews and working with thousands of engineers. For him, it’s a simple question that gets to the root of his goal: hiring job candidates who are truly problem solvers.
In his BI interview, Elon says: “If someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to solve it at multiple levels. They’ll be able to get down to the brass tacks… Anyone who struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”
The algorithm is best used in situations where tenure, not problem solving, is the best indicator for hiring success. The answers given to various questions correlate specifically to how long an employee stays on the job. It takes the responses and performances of thousands of people to develop the correlation, so having the answer overnight isn’t a feasible expectation. Put these efforts in place now, however, and the process could improve and strengthen over time.
Agency recruiters often have the advantage of consistency. They understand that there are better hiring methodologies depending on the specific client and role (then again, we have the advantage of speaking with hundreds of candidates a day). When you are working with your own recruiters, make sure you have an understanding of how they identify strong contenders and what type of consistency they bring into their hiring methodologies. Work with them to develop a system that works for you: the result can be some of the strongest hires you’ve seen in a long while.