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Elon Musk’s ‘Favorite’ Brain Teaser That He Asks Candidates At SpaceX Interviews
By Mikelle Leow, 10 Oct 2018
Video screenshot via Tesla
SpaceX founder Elon Musk might have been immortalized for smoking some things up, but he takes his hiring processes seriously, as detailed in his autobiography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, that was written by American business columnist Ashlee Vance.
According to Vance, Musk spent the early years of SpaceX interviewing almost every one of his 1,000-odd employees, including janitors and technicians, and continued to personally communicate with budding engineers as the company expanded.
These workers would likely be familiar with Musk’s “favorite” riddle that he’s known to ask at interviews:
“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?”
In the video below, CNBC’s career advice segment Make It takes to the streets to ask people of various backgrounds if they can answer the question.
Evidently, the riddle ends up confusing most.
One man jokingly throws a guess, saying, “I’m up there. Up there is where Elon Musk lives. I am a Tesla owner… so I’m there with him.”
If you’re equally stumped, here’s one of the answers: it’s the North Pole. If you start from there and walk one mile south, one mile west, and then one mile north, your path will create a triangle that leads you back to the North Pole.
Musk would also follow up with the question, “Where else could it be?” The answer is the South Pole, which many engineers are less likely to answer.
Regardless, Vance pointed out that Musk isn’t so concerned about whether applicants can present the actual solutions. Rather, he’s keen on assessing how they process information, as well as their problem-solving skills.
Posing the brain teaser allows Musk to observe if an interviewee can take ownership of a project’s issues or merely work in a team.
“People [who] really solved the problem, they know exactly how they solved it,” Musk once said. “They know the little details."
[via CNBC, cover image via Tesla]
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