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Talent Acquisition at SpaceX: It's Not Rocket Science, Or Is It?

Elon Musk made history again in February 2018 with SpaceX’s successful launch of Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. In a genius display of cross-promotional marketing, the Falcon Heavy’s payload included Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy astronaut named “Starman” in the driver’s seat and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing on the stereo (see photo below).
Two of the booster rockets returned safely to Cape Canaveral; however, the upper-stage of the rocket containing Starman and the Roadster, over-shot the intended Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid belt. As a result, Starman is expected to continue orbiting for millions, if not billions of years.
How SpaceX Secures the Best Talent on Planet Earth
Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX have made extraordinary breakthroughs in engineering over the past ten years. To achieve his goal of enabling humans to live on other planets, SpaceX needs the best talent possible.
Brian Bjelde, VP Human Resources at SpaceX states, “we’re looking for people that want to make other humans multi-planetary.” Whilst SpaceX receives thousands of unsolicited resumes each year, the challenge is identifying the right fit in terms of passion, drive and talent. Here are some of the reasons SpaceX’s talent acquisition team has a clear edge in the market:

  • An Exhilarating Mission

Dolly Singh, former Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX, said that “Elon’s vision is so clear, he almost hypnotises you. He gives you the crazy eyes and it’s like, ‘Yes, we can get to Mars.’” The mission has massive appeal to top talent and sets SpaceX apart uniquely as an employer of choice. (1)

  • Creative Talent Engagement Strategies

At conferences and trade shows, the SpaceX talent acquisition team identifies their top targets and hands them a blank envelope containing an invitation to meet for an interview at a nearby bar or eatery at a certain time. This generates immediate goodwill and curiosity and makes candidates feel special. (2)

  • Picking the Best Talent for the Mission

People who have had lifelong passions at building vehicles, robots or are fascinated by racing cars tend to do well at SpaceX. The talent acquisition team will seek to understand how a person has dealt with failure. Talking about how they’ve overcome setbacks is a way that the top talent stands out. SpaceX will give candidates real-life work assignments in their area of expertise as part of the interview process. They also want to see passion: the same mission-driven, can-do attitude and work ethic that Musk himself displays. (3)

  • The Recruiting Pitch

Dolly Singh said that her recruiting pitch was that SpaceX is special forces. If you want as hard as it gets, then great. If not, then you should not come here. Committing to a 90+ hour-work-week and being able to normalise to Musk and the exec team’s direct communication style are crucial for success.

  • Rated as a Top Place to Work

Not surprisingly, SpaceX has been rated one of the top places to work for the last two years. This, together with Musk’s public profile and SpaceX’s social media coverage make the company enormously exciting and attractive for prospective talent.

There are many lessons to be learned from SpaceX and Elon Musk that have little to do with space. Leaders who believe so wholeheartedly in the company’s vision can inspire an entire workforce to accomplish the (seemingly) impossible. Talent Acquisition teams who are strongly aligned and passionate about their company’s mission have the power to bring together a group of people to make astonishing breakthroughs and will one day reach the stars.
If you’re interested in viewing a SpaceX rocket in action, check out these videos:
Falcon Heavy launch: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch
Falcon Heavy’s two rockets landing: SpaceX Falcon Heavy – Two Rockets Landing
Article References:

  • (1)“Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CSO of SpaceX and Tesla Is Shaping Our Future” by Ashlee Vance, Penguin RandomHouse 2015, p. 223
  • (2)“Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CSO of SpaceX and Tesla Is Shaping Our Future” by Ashlee Vance, Penguin RandomHouse 2015, p. 220

Light of a rocket going into the sky


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