Elon Musk famously discredits traditional schooling as a way of identifying and recruiting high talent, stating that “college is basically for fun and not for learning.”
And while firms across the country rely on academic degrees as a means of identifying talent, Musk maintains his belief that skills are more important than degrees. In doing so, his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, attract and retain some of the world’s greatest minds, regardless of educational background. However, the hiring process does require two things, which ultimately boil down to one: the two-hands exam.
The two-hands exam identifies applicants without requiring traditional gatekeepers such as degrees. Instead, it qualifies individuals through testing of direct experience and practical expertise.
It is a stunningly simple procedure that, like any well-engineered process or product, was built for simplicity and efficacy, and any company can use it to identify top talent.
1. First-hand Experience
Although there is considerable disagreement over experience versus education, Musk does not just believe that experience is more important than education. Rather, experience is an educational method. In many respects, it is the best education. A paper from the Association of American Colleges and Universities proves Musk’s argument inadvertently.
According to the AACU report, three-quarters of hiring managers consider a college education vital. The justification, however, was not based on a specific curriculum, but on the soft skills that college is thought to impart. The same soft skills (i.e., creativity, emotional intelligence, and resiliency) are notoriously difficult to evaluate in an interview, and their development is not restricted to college courses or student life, but rather to real-world experiences.
In other words, education is not restricted to what is taught in a classroom but also includes what is learnt from direct experience. Consequently, direct experience is sought as a technique for identifying talent with extensive expertise. Consider, when examining applications, which applicants have the experience necessary to hit the ground running or require the least amount of training to be successful in the post.
2. Hands-on evaluation
Elon Musk has a history of adapting engineering techniques and strategies to various aspects of his business, as well as his personal life. This is the reason why the billionaire lives in a little house for $50,000. In the same way that rigorous product testing is a must for product development, so too is candidate testing.
Certainly, a job interview is a test, but rather than scrutinising a candidate’s abilities, many employers focus on evaluating their knowledge. This is a catastrophic defect, as there is a significant gap between memorising and regurgitating knowledge and understanding how something works. To overcome this obstacle, conduct highly relevant hands-on testing on candidates.
To properly evaluate candidates, administer tests (e.g., a task or assignment) that most nearly resemble what the role itself may entail. Ensure that the scope of the exam is confined to the resources required to execute the test or task in order to provide an accurate measurement of a candidate’s ability to effectively fulfil the position’s duties.
Undoubtedly, the hiring process is tiring. Therefore, the faster you can sift through and narrow down applications, the sooner you can conduct interviews, implement hands-on testing, and find the needle in the haystack – the way Tesla and SpaceX find the world’s best talent.
Because future-proofing your organisation requires more than just discovering unusually efficient strategies to retain employees (especially as the Great Resignation surges on). But also having an excellent hiring strategy to swiftly discover and attract new personnel so that your organisation can go back to work.
I suppose it’s a fairly unusual hands-on evaluation, but if we reflect back to ancient times, there was no such thing as a degree. Historically, it has also been proven to be true.
However, with further reflection, Musk is essentially involved in all tech-related companies. Doesn’t it require some sort of degree? However, technology today allows us to learn from the Internet.
In my opinion, Elon Musk is only interested in identifying and hiring the greatest candidates for his firms. Sometimes, the best candidates do not have a degree but are able to demonstrate proficiency and experience in their field of expertise.
And by doing so, he does not even close the door (to hiring non-graduates); instead, he indirectly tells millions around the world that it is possible to be successful and competent without a degree.