Although NASA formally ended its space shuttle program almost a full decade ago, in 2011, becoming an astronaut remains a dream for a large number of those entering the global workforce. In fact, when recruiting for its 2017 class of astronauts, of which only 12 people were selected, NASA’s prospective applicant pool encompassed more than 18,300 candidates. The revived popularity of the space program may be attributed in part to social media, where astronauts post photos and stories of their life on the International Space Station (ISS).
Yet available jobs in aeronautics and space exploration span well beyond the title of astronaut. Further, NASA is now only one of the innovative organizations working in the realm of spaceflight. Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues on its course towards the colonization of Mars, as Virgin Galactic inches closer towards its goal of commercial flights in space. Both companies need smart and capable employees to help with their respective missions.
So, what do NASA and similar organizations such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic look for in a prospective candidate? A strong background in STEM subjects is essential, of course, but there’s much more to it. The good news is that modern hiring techniques, including crowdsourcing, open up the field of aeronautical jobs to more job seekers than ever before. Modern HR recruitment, therefore, benefits recruiters and NASA hopefuls alike.
The increasingly remote nature of work in our modern digital age provides ample opportunities for hiring managers and prospective employees alike, no matter the industry. In the field of aeronautics and space exploration, many jobs can be performed far from NASA offices — indeed, remote work is essentially the name of the game for astronauts on the ISS.
Of course, NASA’s gig recruitment process can be quite complex, as there are so many requirements. For starters, hiring managers in the aeronautics field typically want candidates to hold at least one of four distinct degrees: Computer science, physics, geology, or engineering.
Although there are inherent challenges in the remote hiring process, it’s imperative that recruiters in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration have a wide array of candidates to choose from just like in any other business. Whether hiring for fieldwork, ground control, or space exploration opportunities, it’s much easier to find the right fit when the potential employee pool encompasses the entire world. What’s more, remote hiring helps streamline new hire onboarding and shortens the hiring process as a whole.
As previously mentioned, the remote recruitment process isn’t perfect, and hiring managers should be aware of potential challenges. For instance, it may be more difficult to determine a potential candidate’s mental state via solely remote channels. Strong mental health is typically required of astronaut candidates and other professionals working in the field of aeronautics.
Especially for astronauts, strong mental health is so detrimental to the job that NASA even employs an in-house Behavioral Health team to research the psychological effects of spaceflight and optimize the health of crewmembers. Behavioral health scientists may also ensure that astronauts have the tools they need to effectively manage stress.
The psychological aspects are relevant to the recruitment process because it can be difficult to determine a candidate’s mental health state during the remote hiring process. Even medical records may not tell the full story, especially if a potential candidate hasn’t been formally diagnosed. Thus, assessing for mental health may pose a challenge for remote recruiters.
Further hiring challenges may include the need for NASA and others to jump through bureaucratic hoops, as well as a staunch resistance to change.
Despite near-constant technological breakthroughs that continue to revolutionize the industry, aeronautical organizations are notoriously slow when it comes to adapting to the times. No matter the industry, implementing new business processes can be an uphill battle. Thus, a company reorganization process, even if it’s something as simple as introducing remote hiring, “must be undertaken with sensitivity, strategy, and foresight,” according to Lucidchart.
Within the aeronautics industry, adaptability is key, so recruiters should be on the lookout for prospective employees who can roll with the punches. Even then, communication and execution are key to a successful transition when executing policy or technological changes in any workplace. Yet there still may be vocal dissenters, as exemplified by a recent job post at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
In the lab’s job description for Data Scientist 1, it requested candidates with a background in cryptocurrency and blockchain. Almost immediately, that request was scrutinized by the scientific community. Yet data science and blockchain are emerging fields with many potential applications in the aeronautics industry, so requesting a blockchain background in applicants doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
In our constantly changing recruitment landscape, it’s easier than ever to realize your dreams of becoming an astronaut or aeronautical engineer, even though the candidate pool is much more vast. Recruiters are looking for team players and creative thinkers who can also handle stressful situations and have a strong STEM background. And thanks to the widespread implementation of remote hiring, qualified candidates can be recruited from across the globe.