Elon Musk’s Favorite Interview Question


It’s not too surprising that the Tesla CEO and father of SpaceX might pepper an interview with a brainteaser or two before settling into a more traditional discussion with a potential candidate. Here is one of his favorites:

‘"You're standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?"

OK. Are you stumped or did you already solve the problem? Take a few minutes to work it out. Invite your co-workers or friends to figure it out too. Did you all get the same answer?

These brainteasers can offer insight that some traditional interview questions may miss. Asking these puzzlers also shows that the organization cares about the mental fitness and acumen of their candidates and employees.  And studies have shown that general mental abilities are a great predictor of success as this research article illustrates: Intelligence matters more than you think for career success.  Other great predictors of success include job simulation tryouts and peer ratings, which Checkster offers our expertise in.

So let’s get back to the solution of the proposed brainteaser. I hope your brain isn’t too strained yet!

If you’re like me, you start by considering the shape of the Earth, which leads you to think about the poles. Because the Earth is spherical, by traveling south, then west and finally north, you would make a triangle and come back to the same place if you were located in the North Pole.  So hopefully for most of us, the answer was relatively easy once you weighed the options.  My peers and I drew the same conclusion and felt good that we had come to the answer quickly.

But before we could bask in too much glory, the brainteaser becomes more intriguing. After a candidate answers this riddle to Musk’s satisfaction, he may ask a follow up question: “Where else could it be?” This question can be trickier. But that is where Musk can dig a little deeper and get a better insight into how a candidate might solve more complex problems. And that is something Checkster can always help with, providing enhanced information to make better talent decisions, whether it’s checking a candidate’s employment history, verifying references, or analyzing post-interview data.  

So how did you do? Check your answer in the video here: How to answer Elon Musk’s favorite job question, and maybe you’ll be taking a ride on a SpaceX mission one of these days!