Elon Musk’s new Tesla hiring policy ‘disrespectful to HR’

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has sent an email to staff saying he must personally approve all new hires, but HR and recruitment professionals have said this will waste time and risks biased hiring.

The email read: "No one can join Tesla, even as a contractor, until you receive my email approval.” 

Musk asked executives to send him a list of their candidates once a week for approval.  

The company employs over 127,000 people, and received 3.6 million job applications in 2022. 

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Liz Sebag‑Montefiore, co‑founder of HR consultancy 10Eighty, said the policy is disrespectful to HR and hiring teams. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “It's not an effective HR strategy. You hire an HR director and HR professionals to do the bulk of the recruitment.  

“The CEO will have talked with the HRD about corporate culture, employee engagement and experience and they will have agreed the HR strategy and direction, but then the CEO needs to leave HR to do their job.  

“If the CEO interferes, that is disrespecting HR professionals hired for qualifications, experience and skills.” 

The news comes as Musk announced Linda Yaccarino, former head of advertising at NBCUniversal, will replace him as CEO of Twitter. 

Victoria Short, CEO of recruitment agency Randstad UK, agreed that Musk’s policy is unlikely to be successful.   

Short said CEOs becoming overly involved with recruitment leads to inefficiency and delay, which employers cannot afford in the current labour shortage. 

She said: “It slows the process down – makes the recruitment sclerotic.   

“In Musk’s case, he’s suggesting no one can join Tesla, even as a contractor, until his approval has been received. Well, permanent staff need to be hired quickly, and contractors doubly so. When you find the right one, you need to move fast.   

“As our global CEO says, it’s no longer a jobs market – it’s a talent market. In the past, jobs were scarce and talent was abundant. The world has changed and employers need to operate as such.” 

Paul Taylor-Pitt, director of organisational development consultancy Metamorphosish, said when CEOs insist on micromanagement in this way it signals a lack of trust. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Any CEO who gets so involved in the everyday detail of an organisation is sending a clear message to their staff: 'I don’t trust you'.” 

Taylor-Pitt said the move is likely to damage morale across the company.  

“This will be felt by everyone. A lack of trust from the top can disempower leaders and managers, resulting in slow or poor decision-making and a general slump into apathy. 

“With over 120,000 employees I’d hope their CEO has better things to do than meddle in the minutiae.” 

Tesla has repeatedly come under scrutiny for allegations of racism and workplace harassment. 

Most recently, the company had to pay $15 million to a black former employee who successfully sued it for racial harassment at its flagship assembly plant in California. 

Short said an over-involved CEO could cause unconscious bias and impact diversity.   

She said: “This occurs when a hiring manager overlooks talented individuals and instead favours those who share their own characteristics or views.   

“It is natural, unintentional and affects decisions.  Even with the best intentions, we all bring our own background and experiences into play when determining who the “best” candidate is.   

“A diverse hiring panel helps mitigate the impact of any individual unconscious bias.  The power shouldn’t sit in the hands of one man."