This past Thursday, NASA announced its astronaut class for 2017. 18,300 applicants applied for the prestigious honour, and only 12 were selected. That’s the equivalent to 1 in 1,525 making the cut.
In a recruitment process that spans 541 days, NASA has found a way that allows them to pick the very best of the best.
Before we get into the list there are few organisations out there that will need to conduct as much background and psychological testing as NASA does. But any business could learn a thing or two on how NASA conduct their onsite interviews.
Candidates are given little time to prepare
This is possibly one of my favourite interviewing techniques. Candidates have very little time to prepare for their in-person interviews at NASA.
We presume NASA does this on purpose, so that candidates cannot polish their answers and must rely more on honesty and raw integrity, allowing truly talented applicants to shine through. In a traditional interview, candidates can prepare any number of pre-prepared answers, and by putting them under a time constraint, you can easily tell the difference between genuine answers, and ones who think they are telling you what you want to hear.
Tip: Next time you are scheduling interviews for a role, shorten the notice window to see who is naturally prepared for the position.
Candidates interview in groups
To be fair, your position may have slightly fewer applicants than NASA, but astronaut candidate’s initial interviews take place in groups at the Johnson Space Center.
Each candidate is interviewed individually, while activities are run and designed to test how the new group will work together.
Tip: If you are hiring multiple individuals at a time, bring them in together for a group activity or project. Some individuals work well on their own but not in groups.
Candidates interview socially
Astronaut candidates have the chance to meet with existing astronauts and staff. Candidates can feel more comfortable in a casual setting and can learn about NASA without feeling under pressure to come up with the best answers all the time.
This also allows NASA to look at how candidates will get along with people and existing teams.
Tip: Making sure new employees fit within your culture is key when hiring. Try to allow some form of socialising, formal or not, with the current team. It can be costly not to identify culture alignment issues early on.
Interviewers are engaging to candidates
Each interview takes place before a board and lasts for just one hour. Beforehand each candidate is asked to prepare up to five reasons why they want to be an astronaut.
The interview goes from there, taking shape based entirely on their answers, rather than going over a written resume in detail.
For an incredibly important position, an unstructured approach allows NASA to stray away from the well-rehearsed sales approach many take with their resume, and get a more natural idea of what they will be like in an everyday setting.
Tip: Resumes should be read beforehand and referred to in an interview, but it can show you haven’t done any research if you just read from line to line.
We’re not saying that its rocket science to find the best candidate for your business, and obviously much more goes into the recruitment of an astronaut. However, recruiters could learn a thing or two from NASA’s interviewing process if they find themselves constantly struggling to attract the wrong people to their organisation.