Elon Musk’s Unique Interview Question to Uncover Honesty and Problem-Solving Skills

Elon Musk’s Unique Interview Question to Uncover Honesty and Problem-Solving Skills. Elon Musk employs a unique strategy during job interviews to gauge the honesty of applicants. Rather than emphasizing academic achievements or qualifications, Musk, the CEO of Tesla, concentrates on a singular, pivotal question to evaluate a candidate’s integrity. During a 2017 interview with, he disclosed that his method involves probing into the candidate’s professional narrative, specifically asking them to recount instances where they encountered significant challenges and their approach to resolving these issues. This inquiry, Musk explains, is not just about understanding their problem-solving capabilities but also about identifying their direct involvement and the impact of their contributions on overcoming those challenges.


Musk’s rationale behind this focused questioning is to uncover evidence of the applicant’s exceptional abilities by examining how they navigated through complex problems and their decision-making process during critical moments. He believes that this approach allows him to get a “very good gut feeling” about the candidate’s authenticity, as individuals who have genuinely grappled with difficult situations possess a deep understanding of the problem and retain detailed knowledge about it. Conversely, those who falsely claim achievements will likely falter when pressed for specifics.


This technique of delving into a candidate’s problem-solving experiences is recognized not only by Musk but also by career platforms like Indeed, which lists it among the top eight problem-solving queries likely to be posed in interviews. These questions aim to assess an applicant’s analytical and problem-solving skills, relevant across various industries and positions. Indeed recommends utilizing the STAR method—detailing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result—to articulate how one successfully managed unexpected challenges, emphasizing the importance of honesty and the value of learning from such experiences.

Elon Musk’s Unique Interview Question to Uncover Honesty and Problem-Solving Skills


Preparing for an interview, especially when it involves innovative thinkers like Elon Musk or companies that prioritize problem-solving and integrity, requires a strategic approach. Here are some tips that can help potential employees excel in these interviews, as well as other styles:


Understand the Company Culture


  • Research the Company: Understand its mission, values, and the type of individuals it seeks. This knowledge will help you tailor your responses to align with the company’s ethos.
  • Know the Innovators: If interviewing with a company known for its pioneering work (like Tesla), familiarize yourself with its leaders’ philosophies and achievements.


Prepare for Behavioral Questions


  • Reflect on Challenges: Think of specific instances where you faced significant challenges, the steps you took to overcome them, and the results of your actions. Be ready to discuss these in detail.
  • Use the STAR Method: Structure your responses using the Situation, Task, Action, Result format to provide clear, concise answers.
  • Honesty is Key: Authenticity in your answers will help interviewers gauge your integrity and problem-solving skills. Avoid exaggerating or taking undue credit.


Show Your Problem-Solving Skills


  • Be Analytical: Demonstrate your ability to analyze situations, consider alternatives, and make decisions based on logic and information.
  • Think Aloud: When faced with a problem-solving question, think aloud to show your thought process, even if you are unsure of the answer.


Highlight Your Unique Contributions


  • Personal Achievements: Be ready to discuss what you specifically contributed to team projects or difficult situations, highlighting your unique skills and abilities.
  • Evidence of Exceptional Ability: Prepare to share examples of your work or situations that showcase your exceptional talent or creativity.


Prepare Questions


  • Ask Insightful Questions: Prepare thoughtful questions about the company, its culture, and the role you’re applying for. This shows your interest and engagement.


Practice Your Delivery


  • Mock Interviews: Practice answering questions with a friend or mentor. This can help you refine your delivery and reduce interview anxiety.
  • Be Concise and Focused: While it’s important to provide detail, ensure your answers are focused and to the point to maintain the interviewer’s interest.


Be Yourself


  • Personality Matters: Companies not only look for skills but also individuals who fit their culture. Let your personality shine through.
  • Adaptability: Show that you are adaptable and open to learning new things, as this is crucial in innovative and fast-paced environments.


Follow Up


  • Send a Thank-You Note: A brief email thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your interest in the position can leave a positive impression.


By preparing thoroughly and approaching the interview with confidence and authenticity, you can significantly increase your chances of success, regardless of the interview style.


Elon Musk’s Unique Interview Question to Uncover Honesty and Problem-Solving Skills


The STAR method:

The STAR method is a structured approach to answering behavioral interview questions by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action, and Result related to the experience you are describing.


Describe the specific situation or task you were involved in. It should be a particular event or situation, not a generalized description of past activities. Provide sufficient detail to ensure the interviewer understands the context. This can be from work, volunteer experiences, or any relevant event.


Identify the goal you were working towards.


Explain the steps you personally took to address the situation. Focus on your actions, detailing what you did specifically. Use “I” instead of “we” to emphasize your contributions. Avoid detailing team actions unless highlighting your own role within the team.


Share the outcome of your actions, highlighting your achievements and learning experiences. Mention multiple positive outcomes and be candid about your contributions. While focusing on positive results, remember that explaining situations with negative outcomes can also showcase your strengths in overcoming challenges.

Ensure your response is concise, specific, and structured according to the STAR method without including unnecessary details. Include results without needing prompting and select examples that showcase you positively.

Sample STAR Response

Situation (S): The college newspaper, The Review, was experiencing a decline in advertising revenue, with many long-term advertisers not renewing contracts.

Task (T): Aimed to generate new ideas, materials, and incentives to increase advertisers by at least 15% compared to the previous year.

Action (A): Designed a new promotional packet alongside the rate sheet, highlighting the advantages of The Review’s circulation compared to other ad media in the area. Organized a special training session for account executives with a Business School professor on competitive selling strategies.

Result (R): Successfully re-engaged 15 former advertisers for daily ads and secured five for special supplements, increasing new advertisers by 20% over the previous year.

Preparing for a Behavioral Interview

Recall situations showcasing favorable behaviors or actions, from various aspects of your life including work, education, leadership, teamwork, and customer service. Prepare concise descriptions of each situation, ensuring they have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Focus on outcomes that reflect positively on you, ensuring honesty and specificity in your examples. Diversify your examples across different areas of your life.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Practice the STAR Method with these questions to prepare for a behavioral interview, covering topics such as persuasion, coping with stress, problem-solving, goal achievement, presentation skills, policy adherence, conflict resolution, leadership, motivation, delegation, fact-finding, and handling failure or unpopular decisions.


Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Practice using the STAR Method on these common behavioral interviewing questions:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).


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About the Author: Bernard Aybout

In the land of bytes and bits, a father of three sits, With a heart for tech and coding kits, in IT he never quits. At Magna's door, he took his stance, in Canada's wide expanse, At Karmax Heavy Stamping - Cosma's dance, he gave his career a chance. With a passion deep for teaching code, to the young minds he showed, The path where digital seeds are sowed, in critical thinking mode. But alas, not all was bright and fair, at Magna's lair, oh despair, Harassment, intimidation, a chilling air, made the workplace hard to bear. Management's maze and morale's dip, made our hero's spirit flip, In a demoralizing grip, his well-being began to slip. So he bid adieu to Magna's scene, from the division not so serene, Yet in tech, his interest keen, continues to inspire and convene.