Famous for its incredible work in the field of space exploration as well as its controversial founder, SpaceX brings a tech mentality to the world of astrophysics. Its unique culture and the amazing scale of its vision make it a highly desirable place to work. Just think – if you work at SpaceX, you could achieve things on a truly cosmic scale!
But as is the case for any company in the public eye, the process of getting hired by SpaceX can be challenging. It can take up to two months to receive an offer from SpaceX, so you’ll need to be ready for a long haul. Once you’ve smartened up your resume for the occasion, the best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare for the interview process – particularly because you could face up to nine interview and assessment rounds.
If that sounds intimidating, don’t be put off! We’re here to help you make the best possible impression on your interviewers. In this article, we’ll cover the following points:
While SpaceX isn’t necessarily a consumer tech company, it does have one thing in common with companies like Apple and Netflix: the length and intricacy of its interview process. SpaceX is interested in hiring the very best, which means you will have to get through a highly selective hiring process in order to get the offer you want.
Here’s a quick guide to the SpaceX hiring procedure, so you know what to expect going in.
You can expect between two and four rounds of pre-screening interviews, which will be conducted remotely via video chat. These interviews are designed to select the strongest candidates, who will then be invited to complete further assessments and attend interviews on-site.
The first pre-screening interview will always be with a recruiter, who will ask you more general questions about your work history and your interest in SpaceX. This will be followed by a second interview, typically with a hiring manager, who will have more in-depth questions about your resume. If you’re applying for a technical role, this interview will also involve some technical questions.
If you have to attend any further pre-screening interviews, you can expect them to be heavily technical in their focus. They will usually be conducted by members of the team you will work with if you are hired.
If you make it through the pre-screening interviews, you’ll be asked to attend a full day of interviews on-site. Depending on the location of your role, you could be asked to attend SpaceX’s offices in California, Texas, Florida, or Washington. Once you’re on-site, you should expect between four and six rounds of interviews.
The types of interviews you attend will vary according to the role you have applied for. If you’ve applied for a technical role, expect to attend a combination of technical interviews and assessments. Technical interviews will ask you to think on your feet and answer a series of brain-teasers and problems, testing your technical knowledge and skills; assessments are designed to test your ability to perform the technical tasks your role will involve, and will ask you to carry out one or two example tasks.
Regardless of the nature of your role, you will attend at least one behavioral interview. These interviews are designed to assess your ability to work well in a high-pressure environment as part of a team. Be ready to talk about your work history in response to these open-ended questions!
After your interviews are over, SpaceX usually takes a week or two to make a final hiring decision.
Given the number of interview rounds involved in applying to work at SpaceX, you can expect to face a wide range of interview questions. The questions you’re asked will vary depending on the role you’ve applied for – for more technical roles, you can expect to be asked technical questions and problems as well as the standard array of behavioral questions.
But even if you aren’t applying for a technical role, SpaceX’s culture is idiosyncratic enough that you should be ready for the particularities of their behavioral questions. Be ready to talk in a lot of depth about your past experiences and what you learned from them! And most of all, be ready to show that you understand how SpaceX works.
Read on for a selection of interview questions you may be asked while interviewing at SpaceX. As always, these questions aren’t guaranteed to come up – but they get to the heart of what SpaceX will want to know about you as a candidate.
This is your opportunity to show off how passionate you are about SpaceX and its work! It’s also, more importantly, a chance to show off your knowledge of the role you’ve applied for. Think about how the role fits into the broader purpose of SpaceX, and tie that into your answer – it will show that you have a clear understanding of what SpaceX does, and of how your work in the role could shape that mission.
You will obviously need to familiarize yourself with SpaceX, its history and its mission before your interview. Browsing the company website can be a great place to start; this will give you an idea of SpaceX’s core values, which include collaboration, innovation, and accountability.
Remember, SpaceX is a visionary company, founded based on a belief in the possibilities of the future. If you can show that you share that excitement about humanity’s future in space, while remaining grounded in the practicalities of the role you’ve applied for, you will make a great impression.
Example answer: “I know that SpaceX was founded because a future where humanity has made it to space is more exciting than any other future, and I know the company is all about forging ahead toward that future. I’d be honored to be a part of that mission in any capacity, but particularly in a role that works so closely with the company’s space exploration division.”
Current SpaceX employees have advised anyone who is asked this question to be ready to talk about something really cool! It’s in your best interest to be able to show that you go out of your way to get involved in interesting projects. Then, of course, you’ll need to be able to talk about those projects in some serious depth.
This question actually stems from Elon Musk’s own philosophy of hiring. He believes that anyone who is lying about their achievements won’t be able to get into the fine details of what they claim they achieved. As a result, his company will take a real interest in the finer points of your previous work experience.
When you hear this question, keep in mind that you’re being given an opportunity to show off not only what you do, but how you do it. SpaceX is all about innovation, and it wants to hire people who can tackle interesting challenges with enthusiasm and creativity. Talk about the work that shows off those qualities, and don’t be afraid to linger on the little details!
Example answer: “In my previous role, I worked on an engineering project intended to design and deliver a network of transit tunnels to a major city in the US. I was the lead engineer on this project, which meant that not only did I have to manage a team of engineers – I also had to take final responsibility for every aspect of the project’s planning and execution. It was my first time in a major leadership role, particularly on a project with such high stakes, and I learned a lot about how to manage a team, a range of stakeholders, and a government client simultaneously.”
SpaceX requires its employees to be able to collaborate effectively. It works across a range of projects, from space tourism to global broadband – but all employees share the same core mission, and should be prepared to work beyond their remit wherever necessary.
Showing that you understand the importance of collaboration and teamwork will make you more appealing as a candidate. As usual, you should answer this question with a specific story about your past work experience. Talk about what you did, what you learned, and how you succeeded – and remember that teamwork is about collaborative work as much as leadership.
Example answer: “In my previous role, I was responsible for a team of engineers working across multiple public-facing projects. In particular, we took responsibility for the implementation and design of a new power system for a major US city. It was one of my first experiences of management, and I found the project’s high stakes and tight deadlines to be incredibly rewarding – I thrived as a leader under those conditions, and I was able to help my team thrive as a result.”
Previous questions have touched on SpaceX’s core values of collaboration and innovation; this one is all about its third core value, accountability. Nobody likes to admit to making a mistake, but SpaceX believes strongly in learning from past errors, rather than brushing them off out of embarrassment. If you can show that you are able to take accountability while also growing as a result of your actions, you’ll seem like a much more desirable candidate.
Take all this into account when you choose a story to tell in response to this question. Look for incidents that show your ability to acknowledge your flaws and move beyond them – all with the integrity and grace under pressure that SpaceX will expect of you as an employee.
Example answer: “In my previous role, I promised a deadline to a client that I wasn’t able to deliver. Fortunately, when I let my team know what had happened, they were willing to step up and put in overtime with me so that we could meet our deadline. I believe they did this because I was always forthright about the mistake I made – I never tried to deny that it was my fault, or shift the blame onto someone else. Ultimately, we met the deadline, the client was happy, and I was able to learn to be more conscious of my existing commitments when planning ahead.”
SpaceX employees report that the pace of life at the company is extremely fast. If you end up working at SpaceX, you can expect to experience a lot of pressure from day to day. More to the point, you will still be expected to do the best work of your life – even if it’s also the fastest work of your life.
This question is about showing off your ability to cope under that kind of stress. While the previous question was all about your capacity to learn from the occasions when you couldn’t cope, this one has narrower parameters. You’ll want to find a story from your past work experience that shows you in your best light: professional, cool under pressure, and willing to go the extra mile to make a situation work.
Remember, SpaceX values both innovation and agility. Think about times when you’ve had to think creatively and work in agile ways to solve problems. If you can present yourself as an employee who works in line with SpaceX’s culture, you’re more likely to be taken seriously as a potential candidate.
Example answer: “When a colleague fell ill at my previous workplace, I had to cover their work as well as my own while they recovered from surgery. I had to think creatively about how to use my time in order to make this work – I wanted to maintain high standards on both their work and mine, so I knew I had to avoid burning out. Thankfully, I had the support of my team, all of whom were familiar with my day-to-day tasks. I was able to train a trusted employee to act up and take on the more straightforward aspects of my role, while I learned my colleague’s responsibilities and kept on top of my own more complex tasks. Over a period of about six weeks, I took advantage of my workplace’s flexible working arrangements to ensure that I kept up with all my work without exhausting myself.”
For technical roles at SpaceX, you should also expect to be asked some technical questions – both as part of your assessment rounds and as part of your interview. We haven’t included sample answers for these questions, because they are designed to test the specifics of how you think. When you’re asked one of these questions, remember to work it through aloud rather than in your head; your interviewers will want to get a feel for the way you tackle tricky problems.
It’s common across all companies for technical questions to be rotated in and out of use. These questions may not come up at all, so don’t waste your time preparing formulaic answers! Instead, use these questions to get a sense of the themes and subjects you should expect – that way, you can prepare for whatever comes up.