On Thursday, NASA announced its astronaut class for 2017. Only 12 individuals out of 18,300 applicants made the cut. (And you thought your applicant pool was out of control!)
Few organizations will need as extensive an accounting of background and psychological testing as NASA does. But how it conducts its onsite interviews is a lesson for any business wanting to hire the best.
1. Candidates given little time to prepare.
NASA astronaut candidates have very little time to prepare for their in-person interview.
NASA prefers this -- presumably -- so that it gets the honest and raw interviewee, the unpolished, but still talented applicant, the applicant who becomes a co-worker after the "best foot forward" falls by the wayside.
Tip: Next time you bring your candidates in for an interview, shorten the notice window to see who is naturally prepared for the position.
2. Candidates interview in groups.
Astronaut candidates arrive at the Johnson Space Center for initial interviews as a group.
They each interview individually, but many activities center around how the new group will work together.
Tip: If you are hiring multiple individuals at a time, bring them in together. See how this new crop of individuals will work together.
3. Candidates interview socially.
Astronaut recruits have a couple of opportunities to socialize with existing astronauts and staff. This gives them the ability to let their hair down (as always happens after a few weeks on the job).
This also allows NASA to determine how the batch of new recruits will get along with the existing organization.
Tip: Culture is key when hiring. Try and incorporate some socializing -- formal or informal -- with the existing team. Better to spot culture problems now, rather than in the future, when it will be costly.
4. Candidate interviewers are friendly.
The formal candidate interview is before a board and lasts only an hour. Each candidate is asked to prepare three to five reasons why he or she wants to be an astronaut.
And the interview goes from there, focusing mainly on what makes the applicant the person he or she is, rather than rehashing a written resume.
Tip: There is no room for aggressive interviewing. When people are in their most natural state, it shows how they will be on a daily basis.
Its true that much, much more goes into the hiring of an astronaut candidate (each still has two more years of interviewing to come). But you'd do well to follow NASA's in-person interviewing tactics to find your next best candidate.