Rivian uses one of Elon Musk's favorite job interview techniques - Josh Loe

Rivian uses one of Elon Musk’s favorite job interview techniques


  • Rivian and Elon Musk note the amount of detail job seekers use to describe problems they’ve faced.
  • To Musk, too little detail indicates you’re overstating the role you played.
  • For Rivian, failing to give credit to coworkers suggests you’re not a team player.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have different approaches to leading their companies, but the two electric-vehicle-makers share a job-interview technique they use to determine which candidates have the skills they seek: asking about problems the candidate has faced and listening to the amount of detail they use to describe how they solved them.

“We want people that are able to be incredibly specific about what they’ve done,” Cindy Nicola, Rivian’s vice president of talent acquisition, told Insider in 2020. “If you’ve ever solved a really tough problem, you never forget it.”

For Musk, “evidence of exceptional ability” is more important than a college degree, he said in a 2014 interview with the German automotive publication Auto Bild.

“If there’s a track record of exceptional achievement, then it’s likely that that will continue into the future,” Musk said at the time.

Read more: Rivian execs reveal the interview red flags that turn them against job candidates

To get a sense of whether candidates are high achievers, Musk said during the 2014 Auto Bild interview that he asks how they solved the most challenging problems they’ve encountered. To make sure they’re not taking credit for someone else’s work, Musk asks detailed questions about they problem they describe. If the candidate doesn’t know the answers, it indicates that they didn’t have as big a role in the process as they claimed.

For Rivian, ignoring or taking credit for contributions made by coworkers raises another troubling possibility: You’re not a great team player. Rivian has a very collaborate culture where few tasks can be completed by one person, Helen Russell, the company’s chief people officer, told Insider in 2020. If you give the impression that you’re not good at working with others, Russell will notice.

“If they use the word ‘I’ and never use the word ‘we’ — huge red flag,” Russell said of job candidates.

Are you a current or former Tesla or Rivian employee? Do you have a news tip or opinion you’d like to share? Contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com, on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address mmatousek@protonmail.com.



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