8 Interview Questions Elon Musk, Sara Blakely and Other Top Executives Ask Candidates (And You Should Too)


The best business leaders ask the best questions, especially when hiring new employees. After all, these are the people who will propel the growth and success of their business.

But savvy business leaders and executives aren’t always looking for the “right” answer. Instead, they are more interested in how potential employees handle the questions posed.

First, it is essential to understand what interview questions to ask. It’s equally important to know the intentions behind the most difficult questions you choose to ask.

Here is an overview interview questions from successful business leaders. They’ve been put together by online resume builder resume.io, with some helpful tips on how to answer each question effectively.

Elon Musk

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk gets his candidates thinking with this brain teaser:

“You stand on the surface of the earth. You walk a mile south, a mile west, and a mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”

The question tests scientific knowledge, logical thinking and the ability to quickly process new information. This is the perfect starting question for interviewing aspiring rocket scientists.

But it’s also useful in other ways, even if the candidate doesn’t know the answer. Someone who says “I don’t know. Please explain” displays several positive traits, including honesty, integrity, and a willingness to learn.

Sara Blakely

Spanx CEO Sara Blakely asks a common (and deceptively simple) question interview question“Can you describe yourself in three words?”

It’s a way for Blakely to get a good idea of ​​a candidate’s self-awareness and values, and whether they would be a good fit for their company.

Candidates should choose words that highlight their talents and qualities.

But don’t just listen to the words.

Candidates who do well in interviews should take some time to explain why they chose their words and why they are relevant. For example, “I am competitive. I love a challenge and I get rewarded for all my hard work. It’s one of the reasons I do so well in high-pressure, goal-oriented businesses like yours. »

Chad Dickerson

Chad Dickerson, the former CEO of Etsy, wants potential employees to reflect on their failures. He request:

“Tell me about a time you really messed something up. How did you handle that and how did you fix the error?”

This is a tricky question designed to get candidates to assess their past performance. It tests their ability to take responsibility for their professional and personal development.

Mistakes are natural. But what separates the best from the rest is how they react. They don’t look for excuses. Instead, they assess what went wrong and use the information to find ways to improve.

Luis von Ahn

Luis von Ahn is another successful business leader who challenges candidates with difficult and uncomfortable challenges. questions.

“What would someone who doesn’t like you tell us about you?” asks the boss of Duolingo.

First, the question asks candidates to admit their personal and professional shortcomings. It tests self-awareness and humility. Would you hire or work with someone who thinks they’re perfect?

The second point of the question is to see what the candidate does to work on their weaknesses. The ideal response describes a personal fault, then reframes it as a positive by demonstrating what action was taken.

Someone who was previously angry might explain how meditation or mindfulness helped them become less reactive and more empathetic.

Roli Saxena

Roli Saxena, president of Adroll, takes a different approach. She wants people to shine in interviews.

“How are you better than most? » request Adroll’s boss. “What is your superpower and how will you use it to make an impact in this business?”

Interviews are about showing the best version of yourself. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with bragging a little. But it has to be done the right way.

The trick is for candidates to focus on their strengths that match the job description. Hear real-world examples and metrics to back up any claims.

Tim Chen

Tim Chen, co-founder and CEO of NerdWallet, likes to turn the tables in his interviews. He request“If you were me, what qualities would you look for when hiring for this position?”

This is an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate that she understands her own skills and how they apply to the position. Well-prepared candidates will do as much research as possible and focus on the job description and company values.

Braswell Carrier

Porter Braswell is the co-founder and CEO of Jopwell, a diverse hiring startup that connects companies with Black, Latina, and Native American candidates.

He uses this thinking question to help candidates open up about what’s really important to them: “What does success mean to you?

This starts a fluent conversation about the candidate’s values ​​and goals. As an interviewer, look for honesty and authenticity here, even if it means they want to make big money or win monthly sales contests. And listen for clues about their desire to help others succeed at work.

The clearer candidates are about their goals, the better the chances of finding a good candidate who will make both the new employee and the employer truly happy.

Laura Behrens Wu

Shippo CEO Laura Behrens Wu kicks off interviews with a question that doesn’t seem related to finding the right person for the job.

She request“What are the things outside of work that you are irrationally passionate about?”

The question puts candidates at ease. But it also reveals what motivates them and whether their interests align with company goals.

Listen to the passion in their voices, but not the out of place and exaggerated passion. You want your (potential) future employee to convince you that work will always be their number one priority.

Preparation precedes success. So keep an ear out for how you would like the candidate to answer these questions. Because if they handle them masterfully, they could be your next hire.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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