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Ask 100 business leaders to identify their companies’ most important assets, and I’ll bet 99 will say the same thing: “Our people.”
Most of the time, they’ll be right. Often enough, they’ll actually believe it.
But that simple, near-universal truth belies a big problem, something you probably face in your business, too — namely, how do you find, recruit, and retain these truly excellent people?
With that in mind, let’s talk about Elon Musk.
Between Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, recruiting and retention is a constant concern for Musk. So, I paid attention over the weekend, when he asked any engineer who had applied to Neuralink, and who thought their application had been “incorrectly overlooked,” to respond to him on Twitter.
It’s not the first time Musk has used Twitter like this. For example, earlier this year he called on Twitter for applicants who wanted to work in AI at Tesla — which he said would mean reporting directly to him and having contact “almost every day.”
He also called on Twitter for applicants at SpaceX earlier this year (“A super hardcore work ethic, talent for building things, common sense & trustworthiness are required, the rest we can train.”).
And, he did something similar for the autopilot program at Tesla a few years back. (“Should mention that I will be interviewing people personally and Autopilot reports directly to me.”)
Now, is “recruiting by tweet” effective? Musk has 38.8 million Twitter followers, so he certainly has a large audience with whom to get the word out.
And it seems there have been at least a few serious replies to his Neuralink tweet among the 200 or so who responded. I suspect (and hope!) that he at least has someone at least looking through the replies for legitimately overlooked candidates.
That said, whether this kind of “we’re hiring, apply directly to me” announcement works at scale or not for Musk, I think it’s worth considering, and maybe even blatantly copying.
At the least, there are some good takeaways for anyone who runs a business, and who needs to recruit top candidates continuously:
1. Let people know.
The size of your platform doesn’t really matter; simply the fact that you’re the boss, and you’re announcing that you’re looking for top candidates does two things–even if you don’t have a specific job open:
First, it increases the possibility, even if slightly, that you’ll hear from a top candidate who might not otherwise think of you.
Second, it also advertises to the world that your company is doing well — well enough to consider hiring people, anyway.
2. Make it possible to go around the system.
This probably applies more to companies that are large enough to have organized recruitment and hiring systems. But, inviting people to apply directly to the boss creates a safety valve for candidates who might otherwise get caught up in the bureaucracy.
Perhaps you still want to delegate the first rounds of recruiting. That makes sense.
But, why not create another channel — especially one that costs so little — to identify people you find interesting and and funnel them into your hiring process?
Maybe your platform is .01 percent the size of Musk’s, but if raising the idea of working for you can create a conversation among potential applicants — whether online, on social media, or in person — that’s a good thing.
This doesn’t only apply to tech companies seeking to hire engineers. You could run a pizza place, and be looking for students to work part-time, or a factory, hoping to recruit workers away from a competitor.
The more your announcement sparks these kinds of people to talk positively about you among themselves, the better.
4. Build a bit of a barrier.
This point is a bit of a paradox, but especially with his Neuralink tweet, Musk immediately created a barrier to entry, even while opening a call for applicants. Basically, you’d have to be interested enough to work for him that you’ll announce your desire to do so to the world (via tweet).
Maybe tweets aren’t your thing, so this might mean asking people to reply to you in a specific way, or at a specific time or on a specific day. Maybe the owner of our pizza place example, above, talks with potential applicants only from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., when business is slow.
You don’t want to make it overly difficult to apply, but adding some sort of small barrier at least weeds out some people who have no chance of being a good fit.
Are you going to staff your entire company recruiting this way? Probably not.
But if directly calling for applicants brings you just one or two really good employees who might never have thought of working for you otherwise, wouldn’t that be worth the minimal effort? If so, hire them — and tweet a note of thanks to Elon Musk.