It’s no wonder that jobs at SpaceX are coveted by many. Best engineering talent is always attracted to hugely ambitious projects and SpaceX exists to do what’s never been done before. After all, who wouldn’t want to work on sending humans to Mars?
This makes the hiring bar at SpaceX incredibly high, as the company can afford to be extremely selective. Still, SpaceX just announced hundreds of open positions across all departments and locations — this is the right time to apply. So, if you’ve ever wondered what exactly does it take to get a job at SpaceX, you’ve come to the right place.
1. Decide how do you want to apply.
Make up your mind as for whether you want to do an internship or go straight for a full-time position. If you’re still a fresh graduate, applying for an internship might be a better idea. It’s much easier to get into. Every year, SpaceX accepts about 150 interns who have a good chance to receive a full-time offer at the end of their internship.
In both cases, you can apply directly through SpaceX’s website.Yet, it might be even better to get a referral from someone who already works for SpaceX. And even if you don’t know any of them in person, emailing directly Elon Musk himself apparently works too.
I hate to say it but you need to be a US citizen to be able to get a job at SpaceX. Since the company deals in rocket science, it is subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which prohibits it from hiring foreign workers. This may change in future, as Elon Musk has already come up with the idea of using SpaceX rockets for intercontinental travel. For the time being, however, you might want to try your luck at Tesla, as they’re subject to no such limitations.
2. If you want to get a job at SpaceX, be ready to talk about your past projects.
Although SpaceX hires mostly people from Ivy League universities, in the end it’s your hands-on experience that makes all the difference. They’ll want to see your problem solving skills in action. Be prepared to go into great detail about your previous projects during the interviews. You need to be the Subject Matter Expert in your domain. If you’re not, you may get to an interview, but you’re probably not going to get a job at SpaceX.
It goes without saying that having excellent grades, extensive experience, and a demonstrated passion for aerospace are all a huge plus. If you’re still in college, make sure you join an engineering club or competition. It’ll pay off in the long run.
In spite of the fact that Musk’s companies are recruiting for some of the most esoteric, technical positions, he makes it clear that skill alone is not enough. At the end of the day, it all comes down to team play. If you’re going to be disagreeable with your co-workers, even your superb engineering talent won’t make up for that.
3. Get ready to go through A LOT of interviews.
Hiring process in SpaceX is often incredibly long, sometimes taking as much as 6 months. Once your resume makes it through the applicant tracking software that weeds out 90% of candidates, you finally get to the interview phase. And boy, can it be exhausting! This is how one of the successful candidates described the process on Glassdoor:
- Initial phone screen.
- A few more phone interviews.
- Emailed test problem.
- More phone interviews.
- They fly you over for a one-day on-site visit in Hawthorne, CA, where you go through several one-on-one interviews. You do a presentation too.
- More phone interviews with those who couldn’t make it for the one-on-ones in person.
The main reason behind the length of the interview process is that besides hiring managers, each of the respective team members is involved. And you need to get “thumbs up” from each interviewer in order to receive an offer. If anyone votes no for a candidate, he or she won’t get hired. Well, at least once you get the job, you can be sure that all of your co-workers already like you.
4. Write a short essay for Uncle Elon. And yes, there’s a good chance he’s going to read it.
At some point during the application process, SpaceX will ask you to write a two-page essay detailing why you should get a job at SpaceX. This essay is not only for hiring managers but also for Elon Musk to read and evaluate. He likes to be personally involved in hiring new employees.
Why would he want to do it? After all, SpaceX already has more than 5,000 employees and this number is likely to grow rapidly following the successful launch of reusable Falcon 9 rockets. It’s simply not humanly possible for a single person to review all the applications. Yet, according to Musk, this helps to create something of a small-company atmosphere, where everyone feels personally involved in the project. This is why he still reviews at least some of them.
5. Get ready for some really tough interview questions.
One of the riddles Elon Musk liked to ask at interviews has already become so popular that probably even your grandma knows the answer by now.
“You’re standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”
If you think it’s either at the North Pole or somewhere close to the South Pole, you’re right but it’s not a complete answer. That would be 1 + infinity solutions. Anyway, this brain teaser is still one of the easiest questions you’ll have to answer if you want to get a job at SpaceX. When you look the company up on Glassdoor, you might find even more challenging questions, such as:
- If a satellite is attached on the top of a rocket, how do you suppress the vibrations during take-off such that the electronics on the satellite won’t be damaged?
- If our grasshopper rocket is leaning to the left on decent how much variation in the gyro settings need to be offset accounting for the speed of the earth?”
- Design a system to mount a spherical pressure vessel to a flat wall, allowing it to expand or contract?
- How can you apply statistical process control to a low volume product such as rockets?
- Fixed wall with an aluminium beam in between. The beam is heated, what happens inside the beam at and the walls? How would you optimize a beam, which is fixed to the wall at one end, for a vertical load at the very end? What is happening at the wall due to the vertical load? How would you optimize a beam for a torsional load?
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