The best employees will be able to easily recall their struggles, says SpaceX’s CEO.
If your company frequently runs into complex-problem issues, it helps to be surrounded by a team of experienced problem solvers.
While that might sound overly obvious, the hard part is detecting this skill during the hiring process. You’ll want to make sure that your employees have cracked tough codes by themselves–not just by blindly following someone else’s instructions, says Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
That’s why, as a hiring rule, Musk asks job candidates to recall a problem they solved. Then he has them explain how they arrived at each and every step, up until the solution.
“If someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to answer multiple levels. They’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks,” Musk said in an interview at Ignition, an annual Business Insider event. “Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”
Note that when a candidate says he or she was able to arrive at a conclusion by asking someone else or consulting a book, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer. Musk said this is exactly how he’s been studying rocket science for more than a decade. The grueling process has made him more confident in his abilities.
“When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it,” he said.