Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I like this list of criteria for SpaceX

Via Quora, a very interesting set of hiring criteria for SpaceX, Elon Musk's space vehicle corporation (edited for grammar): 
I ran recruiting at SpaceX for almost 6 years; everything about how they recruit is part of the footprint myself and my team created - so hopefully you'll find this input helpful, though it will only magnify the challenge that lies before you. 
SpaceX aggressively pursues top collegiate talent; but because the hiring bar (mandate per Elon) is top 1% of the human population - we focus on top ranked engineering programs because their strict acceptance requirements are a good prefilter and remove 90% of the bell curve, thereby automatically bringing us to about top 10% of the college population; making our haystack much smaller and thus easier to find the proverbial needles. 
Once within the top program populations we again filter aggressively based on: 
1. Hands-on hardware/software development experience - i.e. What problems have you actually encountered and solved?
2. Experience with engineering competitions, and placement in top positions/brackets at those competitions
3. GPA/ SAT - other hard scores
4. Drive/Grit  
The reality is that SpaceX makes some of the most magnificent machines on the planet (and beyond - yes, pun intended :).  So the world's best engineers want to work there. That paired with what I've already stated means there is both an ability and a necessity to only hire people after they have in some way demonstrated themselves to be truly exceptional.
I wonder if any large pharmaceutical/chemical corporation would be as willing to divulge their internal criteria. I doubt it.

[I am not saying, NB, that SpaceX's criteria are good/correct/ideal (as a matter of fact, I think focusing on 'top engineering programs' may be the least good of their criteria, but maybe I'm wrong.) But I think that they're relatively clear and more importantly, well-publicized. (now anyway.) That's worth something.]

8 comments:

  1. Everybody knows big pharma's criteria. Which Ivy did the hiring manager go to? Did you? If yes, you're hired. If no, go away.

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  2. That they can have ridiculously high standards for a company that was in debt to its eyeballs shows that THERE MUST BE A STEM WORKER SHORTAGE!!!!

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  3. biotechtoreadorMay 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    "3. GPA/ SAT - other hard scores
    4. Drive/Grit "

    Brilliant, take a 'hard score' and multiply it a value pulled out of the ether. Yup, that'll work.....

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  4. ResearchUseOnlyMay 7, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    >>because the hiring bar (mandate per Elon) is top 1% of the human population

    And for that you use the "top ranked" educational institutions... Which frequently have little to do with actually being the best, but usually having to do with being the most well-monied.

    But, hey, it's their company.

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  5. "Hands-on hardware/software development experience - i.e. What problems have you actually encountered and solved?"
    "Experience with engineering competitions, and placement in top positions/brackets at those competitions"

    I think these two are excellent criterion for hiring fresh graduates. Their emphasis on university rankings will throw a lot of babies out with the bathwater, though. The top 1% of students do not all attend US News & World Report's top 10 programs. A quick look at Goldwater Scholarships for 2014, which is considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards in science & engineering, shows that most awardees do *not* attend those top programs. If their hiring criterion have contributed to their success, then more power to them.

    To me, it just sounds lazy. Imagine if, in solving a chemical problem, a researcher only chose to consider publications from "high impact factor" journals.

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  6. You said, "I think focusing on 'top engineering programs' may be the least good of their criteria". I would agree. I have found that while the average student at a higher ranked institution will be better than an average student at a lower ranked one, the quality of the very top students at any institution are essentially equivalent. Since SpaceX is putatively looking at only top students anyway, then the "top engineering programs" criteria is useless. It limits the diversity of students it will consider, while not excluding anyone they would like exclude.

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  7. "edited for grammar"

    I see you decided not to disturb the murky waters of the problematic emoticon-next-to-parenthesis: "(and beyond - yes, pun intended :)"

    Probably for the best, it's a minefield: http://xkcd.com/541/

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  8. Engineers don't get their hands dirty turning wrenchs! What about age discrimination against those who actually like the physical act of building something ?

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