As millions of Americans desperately search for jobs, Tesla Motors (TSLA)' Arnnon Geshuri is racing to fill some. He's the point man for a company on a hiring spree, looking for top-flight engineers, vehicle technicians, sales experts and even an executive chef.
Tesla is ramping up to manufacture its all-electric Model S sedan at the former NUMMI plant, now renamed the Tesla Factory, in Fremont. It currently has 1,400 employees worldwide, a figure expected to roughly double by the end of 2012 and double again by the end of 2013.
"We're going to have hundreds of openings at the Tesla Factory," Geshuri said in an interview at Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters. "We're going to bring manufacturing back to California, and it's going to stay."
But landing a job at Tesla is not easy -- it's looking for the best of the best.
"Do you question tradition and constantly think of ways to improve status quo? Do you thrive in environments where brilliance is common and challenge is the norm?" its website asks. "Are you excited by challenge because you're among the best in your field? If so, you'd be in good company at Tesla Motors."
Geshuri, 42, has a track record for assembling great teams and putting people to work. His reputation as a Silicon Valley legend in the realm of staffing and recruiting was cemented at Google (GOOG), where he oversaw a recruiting staff of 900 that fielded 2.5 million job applications in one year.
He got his first job in human resources while still a graduate student in industrial and organizational psychology at San Jose State, when the former NUMMI auto plant hired him as a consultant. Geshuri held frank discussions with line workers to find out what would make a better working environment and zeroed in on the need for better communication within the plant.
From there, Geshuri went on to Applied Materials, E-Trade Financial and his own startup. He's always been fascinated by the intersection of business and human behavior and likes to cultivate talented people around a common cause.
He's rarely had to look for work himself: Google came knocking in 2004, when the company was about to go public and explode in size. Geshuri met with Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt on a weekly basis as they sought to hire the best engineers from around the world. From 2004 to 2009, the employee head count skyrocketed from 2,500 to more than 20,000.
"I thought I knew recruiting and staffing but Google really changed my perspective," Geshuri said. "It really forced me to think about how to cultivate talent and make Google the destination point, and everyone in the company was responsible for bringing in more talent."
Geshuri never thought he would leave Google. But now he's two years into his next act at Tesla. He joined the electric-vehicle company in November 2009, when the company's head count was about 600. Geshuri remembers walking through a vacant former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) building on Deer Park Road in Palo Alto with J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer.
"I was walking around Tesla's future headquarters while under construction with J.B. and he said something like, 'Imagine building this place with the best of the best,' " recalls Geshuri, who loves the startup phase of a company and the chance to have a hand in creating a unique corporate culture. "He pushed on the right buttons."
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