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The Art of Filling the Most Desired Job in History

by
Gail Miller
Jun 11, 2013, 6:45 am ET

mars oneINHABITANTS WANTED: Mars One, the Dutch-based, nonprofit space travel organization, is recruiting a few brave men and women to colonize the red planet.

I’m a skeptic of the Mars One mission. In fact, I think Mars One’s interplanetary initiative is based on more nonsense than facts — a publicity stunt at best (or worse, a Ponzi scheme.) Will Mars One explorers ever get off the ground, given the scope of this unprecedented scientific and technological undertaking? I doubt it.

Still, as a staffing professional, I am astonished by the early success of Mars One’s astronaut recruitment efforts. Believe it or not, nearly 80,000 video applicants have paid up to $75 for a chance to explore the heavens. While many question the motives of this so-called boundary-pushing space mission, employers can’t deny that Mars One’s unique recruitment process provides some fascinating takeaways.

  1. Integrate a social media recruitment strategy. With its career website, Mars One can connect with would-be astronauts everywhere, 24/7. Its social media strategy to “share” video, information, and local press through Twitter and Facebook, has produced massive worldwide coverage and quickly built the Mars One brand.
  2. Keep job posts truthful. Mars One is not sugarcoating the astronauts’ job description. The reality is spelled out: This role is permanent. It’s a one-way ticket to a cold and desolate wasteland. Indeed, work always intersects with a person’s lifestyle. Job prospects deserve accurate assessments of the roles they apply for. In fact, HR consulting firm Development Dimensions International conducted a recent survey of 2,300 workers and 250 staffing directors in 28 countries who were hired in 2012. They found the majority of these recent hires already disillusioned with their new job. Their No. 1 complaint: “The hiring process failed to paint a realistic or accurate picture of this job.”
  3. Tout training and education. According to its website, Mars One astronauts receive years of training in, “physical and electrical repairs to the settlement structures, cultivating crops in confined spaces, and addressing both routine and serious medical issues.” Does your company support the personal growth of employees? By promoting your firm’s dedication to training and education, you too will attract and retain desirable talent.
  4. Demand diversity. Mars One is casting a wide net, “seeking applicants from all over the world.” Sure, this move is politically correct, but it also ensures the Mars-bound talent pool is productive and efficient. After all, a well-rounded workforce can better cope with change, react to complex situations, and display an edge in creativity and innovation.
  5. Develop a pipeline. Mars One officials expect some astronauts to fail their physical and mental tests, so from 2015 on, the nonprofit will have an annual process to select a dozen backup astronauts. Bas Landorp, Founder, says, “We will always have about 10 groups (of four) in training, so if one group drops out, there will be replacement crews.” This proactive approach to developing a talent pipeline is something we can all learn from. The Mars One effort reminds us to identify, contact, and maintain relationships with a community of top quality talent.

Here’s another interesting factoid: Once Mars One executives eliminate unsuitable candidates, an American Idol-like TV audience will vote on the best candidates for the mission. This brings into consideration an interesting approach to crowdsourcing for talent.

This mission may never provide mankind with answers to the mysteries of the universe, but I’m going to keep my eyes and my mind open to Mars One’s staffing tactics. After all, even the most unexpected recruitment scenarios can provide employers with learning opportunities.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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  2. Ronald Katz

    Gail, I love the connections you’ve made in analyzing all the HR impacts of this endeavor. I’m skeptical too that this will ever get off the ground, but they have done a great job of integrating many HR best, and next, practices. And funding it!
    Thanks!
    Only the best,
    Ron

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Gail. …And they say, “recruiting isn’t rocket science!”

    ;)

    -kh

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  5. Harry Keller

    Having written extensively on the Mars One project in the Educational Technology and Change Journal, I find this article to be an excellent take on it. Look! We’re already benefiting from the effort even if it never lifts off.

    I’d also like to see more companies following item number three above. In fact, I’d like more companies to be ABLE to follow item three. Our companies used to do lots of employee training. Now, they want new employees to walk through the door already trained.

  6. Keith Halperin

    @ Harry: It’s many companies perception (rightly or wrongly) that encouraging their employees’ training and education
    makes them more valuable for their competition.

  7. Harry Keller

    @Keith: Times change. That issue was always around. Yet, companies calculated that the gains outweighed the losses. Training programs improve employee loyalty as well as productivity. All benefit if all companies do the same.

    So, how do we return to those days? What will convince companies to stop using employees as interchangeable parts. Sure, some are different, but not enough as I see it.

  8. Keith Halperin

    @ Harry: “Loyalty”? Loyalty = Cashflow. It’s one of those quaint, disappearing TwenCen concepts like privacy and the middle class.

    “What will convince companies to stop using employees as interchangeable parts.” A very long period of across-the-board labor shortages and/or a revitalized and powerful labor movement would help, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for those.

    No Cheers,
    Keith

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