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Job interviews are among life's most stressful events. We can only imagine how unnerving a job interview would be with Tesla's Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, who is well known for his demanding and eccentric behavior. Actually we don't have to imagine that hard—recently, Musk said he asks one question during every interview to spot a liar. Science says it actually works. Since every potential boss you'll ever interview with in the future is reading about it, you'd be well advised to learn what it is.
Determining who's a liar
At the World Government Summit in 2017, Musk said he asks each candidate for a job interviews the same question: "Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them."
The reason? "The people who really solved the problem know exactly how they solved it," he said. "They know and can describe the little details."
Science supports Musk's theory. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition examined several job-interviewing techniques and found that Musk's is especially effective at determining who's a liar and who isn't.
The devil is in the details
In the technique known as "Asymmetric Information Management" (AIM), an interviewer clearly tells interviewees that "if they provide longer, more detailed statements about the event of interest, then the investigator will be better able to detect if they are telling the truth or lying," said Cody Porter, one of the study authors. "Small details are the lifeblood of forensic investigations and can provide investigators with facts to check and witnesses to question."
In their study, the researchers found that people who are telling the truth generally demonstrate that by providing detailed information. "In contrast, liars wish to conceal their guilt," said Porter. "This means they are more likely to strategically withhold information in response to the AIM method. Their assumption here is that providing more information will make it easier for the investigator to detect their lie, so instead, they provide less information."
Research has found that this technique can increase an interviewer's chances of spotting liars by 70%.
Some Reddit commenters didn't find Musk's trick of the trade all that earth-shaking. "Very standard question," said one. "I asked (a variant of) this at all my interviews as well. Didn't even realize this is newsworthy," commented another. "This could be called the Working Girl (film) method," concluded a third.