- Kiel Towns is a recruiter for Raines International, a recruiting company that helps place candidates for jobs at SpaceX.
- SpaceX is considered one of the best companies to work for, according to job search site Hired.
- Kiel Towns details the most important steps to get a job with the company.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was recently named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. Prior to that, he was voted by Silicon Valley tech workers in 2020 as the “most inspiring leader in tech,” according to job search site Hired.
And in recent years, the same survey has found that SpaceX – a rocket manufacturing company with a mission to “make humanity multi-planetary” – was the first tech company people wanted to work for, more in demand as an employer than Google,
, and Facebook.
We asked Kiel Towns, senior vice president of Raines International, one of the leading recruiting companies for the space industry, the top five steps he recommends for candidates looking for a job at SpaceX. He shared the following information based on conversations he has had with several current and former SpaceX executives. They explain what it takes to stand out while trying to land a job at the coveted space exploration company.
1. Be autonomous and handy
Towns explained that SpaceX is looking to hire top executives who have already distanced themselves from their peers in the form of real-world apps and results. With that in mind, your experience and ability to “tinker” far outweighs your college degrees.
âDevelopers, DIYers, and the hands-on type people tend to do very well out there,â Towns said.
“They want the person who is going to be practical when working with their team and who is comfortable in that type of environment.”
In addition, he said SpaceX would much prefer to hire someone who would be the chief engineer of a prototype vehicle or engine at a lesser-known company than the traditional leader of a large corporation.
âCulturally speaking, someone who works to disassemble an old car (and reassemble it) in their spare time is more attractive than someone who just enjoys driving fast cars.â
2. Do more with less and bring real innovation
The Raines recruiter also noted that SpaceX prides itself on solving the world’s biggest problems with minimal funding.
âProducing great results with less resources is one of the main things they look for in executives,â Towns said.
Likewise, he noted that entrepreneurs who have âsucceeded and accepted failureâ bring invaluable lessons to the business.
âYou are expected to come in on Day 1 with the ability to think outside the box,â Towns said. âSpaceX doesn’t want the simple solution to building rocket engines; they want the one that no one has thought of, including Elon.â
3. Understand that systems are overused at SpaceX
Another key point, according to Towns, for job seekers targeting the company is that “everything at SpaceX is inherently its own system.”
âThey want mechanical, aeronautical and electrical engineers who go beyond processes and continually want to break things down to see how they can be improved,â he added.
4. Be a low ego hard worker who is comfortable with sleeve rolling.
SpaceX employees pride themselves on being part of a horizontal organization, as vice presidents often do the same thing during the day as senior managers. âSpaceX executives aren’t crazy about titles,â Towns said. “Being title oriented is the safest thing for a quick exit.”
He added that while âroll up your sleevesâ is a hackneyed phrase, the sentiment behind it is very true at SpaceX. âThey praise proven ability over anything else,â Towns said. “Be prepared to work hard and keep your head down if you are just starting out.”
Finally, Towns stressed that the company wanted executives who see the big picture, personally and financially.
âEnter with a sense of humor and humility, he said. SpaceX prides itself on being reclusive and operating more behind the scenes for its leaders.â
5. Apply for an internship
According to Towns, there are two main routes to SpaceX: internships and referrals. The company offers a year-round internship program with internship opportunities available across all of its engineering and business operations functions.
SpaceX’s website notes that these internships are open to technical and non-technical applicants who are enrolled in an accredited four-year university. Internship candidates pursuing roles in software or business operations may also be within six months of graduating from college before starting their employment with SpaceX, or be enrolled in a graduate program.
Towns explained that while these internships are incredibly competitive, it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring if you qualify for one, since SpaceX hires over 70% of its interns.
âWhat sets someone apart for an internship is the hands-on application experience during their college years,â Towns said. âWas this individual part of an engineering club or did he help launch a new application or software? This type of candidate is much more attractive than a holder of an MBA from a top school. “