5 Things Every Tech Recruiter Should Know To Pick Right Candidates (Hire Like Elon Musk!)

In the tech industry, you might have heard the name Elon Musk once, twice, or maybe more. After all, according to the Forbes ranking, as of February 2022, his net worth is a stunning $249.1 billion, and he’s currently the wealthiest person in the world. 

Elon Musk is a South African-born American entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal. He’s also the founder, CEO, Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and early investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc. All of these companies are successful.

One of a successful company’s greatest assets is its employees. And finding the right talent is the responsibility of a recruiter or a hiring manager—if not the employer himself. Hiring can be quite a challenge. It is not a one-way process where candidates just look for you and sell themselves to you. No. You should also work hard to find and hire them.

You may have doubts about your skills, or maybe questioning your ways, or even anxious if the candidate you suggested to be hired will be of great help to the company you work for. 

Now let’s learn how to pick and hire the right candidates to succeed in your recruiting life and the tech industry from today’s richest man, Elon Musk, himself.

1) Don’t Focus on College Degrees

"There is no need to even have a college degree...If you look at people like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or Steve Jobs, these guys didn't graduate from college."

In 2014, Elon Musk had an interview with Auto Bild. At this time, he was ranked 158th richest man, and his net worth was only (compared to his net worth today) $8.4 billion. He was asked about the importance of a college degree, and he answered:

“There is no need to even have a college degree…If you look at people like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or Steve Jobs, these guys didn’t graduate from college.”

The candidate’s talent shouldn’t be disregarded just because of the lack of a college degree. Don’t ignore them either because they’re career shifters, and what they studied isn’t related to what they are applying for. Look at their experiences, how good they are. If they have no experience yet, still allow every candidate to sell themselves through proper skill assessments. 

2) Give a Plus Point for a Positive Attitude

"Generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they very easy to work with... It's very important to like the people you work with, otherwise, life and your job are gonna be quite miserable."

During an interview with The Henry Ford, Elon Musk also talked about the attitude he looks for before hiring. He said, 

“Generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with… It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise, life and your job are gonna be quite miserable.”

A positive attitude in the workplace can boost motivation and productivity. Positive thinking stimulates the brain, ensuring it’s at its best. And its effect doesn’t stop on that individual only; it can be contagious. One person with a positive attitude can inspire a whole team to be the same. 

When hiring, you should also consider the workplace’s future condition. It’s always best to work with someone you aren’t miserable with. 

3) Ensure a Talent Can Communicate

"We are all in the same boat."

Elon Musk occasionally sends emails to his employees, and in one of his emails, he mentioned that the standard way of communication flow fails to serve a company.

The standard flow of communication

  • One person talks to their manager.
  • That manager talks to a manager in another dept.
  • That manager talks to someone on his team.
  • Then the info will be sent back the other way again.

Musk described this way to be “dumb.” He encourages his employees to communicate directly with someone who can solve issues the fastest way possible. Anyone can talk to anyone no matter what their position is. After all, like Musk reminded them, “We are all in the same boat.”

4) Assess First-Hand Experience

“If someone was really the person who solved it, they’ll be able to answer on multiple levels. They’ll be able to get down to the brass tacks. And, if they weren’t, they’ll get stuck. And then you can say, ‘Oh, this person was not really the person who solved it.’ Because anyone who struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

While having experience or many of them is a good sign in a resume, it’s always not good to trust what’s put in there. Marilyn Burgersdijk, a former Tesla Acquisition Lead EMEA, revealed in an article what she learned from Elon Musk when hiring top talents at Tesla. She mentioned that one of the questions they were asked to explore was:

“Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”

Musk also explained, 

“If someone was really the person who solved it, they’ll be able to answer on multiple levels. They’ll be able to get down to the brass tacks. And, if they weren’t, they’ll get stuck. And then you can say, ‘Oh, this person was not really the person who solved it.’ Because anyone who struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

Indeed, this is one of the best ways to confirm those experiences. If your candidate was actually the one who stressed over an issue, brainstormed about a solution and worked on it, or they just took the full credit or took a share. If your candidate didn’t answer the way you wanted them to, ask follow-up questions like, “how did you come up with the solution?” or “What inspired you to solve it that way?”

Know your candidates beyond their resumes and how they portray themselves to be. Study their way of thinking, how they make their decisions, and with that, you can decide better on whether they are the right talent or not.

5) Look for Exceptional Ability

"Generally, look for things that are evidence of exceptional ability... Did they build some really impressive devices? Win some really tough competition?... What did they do that was clear evidence of exceptional ability?"

Last 2019, Elon Musk spoke at the U.S Air Force Space Pitch Day, and he was asked how he finds talent amidst competition. He replied:

“Generally, look for things that are evidence of exceptional ability… Did they build some really impressive devices? Win some really tough competition?… What did they do that was clear evidence of exceptional ability?”

Writing a good resumé with impressive and attractive skills and achievements is easy. Look for that exceptional ability or let them make you see it. If they’re a front-end developer, ask for previous projects they worked on. Or give them a simple task they should work on in a specific amount of time.

Another way is to use assessment tools like the re-launch of Data Compass’ Programming IQ test. The first-ever assessment tool lets you know how high or low your candidate’s programming IQ is. You can check their Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts to be updated and be one of the first to use this tool.

Be Right to Pick Right

As mentioned earlier, hiring isn’t a one-way process. Be keen on the details. Be interested in your candidates. Work to get them, as hard as they work to get into your company. Put in the same effort.

Why?

Because the best candidates never have only one option. As they are only one of your choices, you could also be just one of theirs. Be like how Elon Musk’s companies hire their talents; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be as successful as him. But at least be as keen as him when it comes to hiring the right people. Eye excellence with no biases.

To pick the right candidate for you, you should be the right company for them.

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