Rafael uses puzzles to recruit algorithm specialists

Rafael anti-tank missile Photo: Rafael

The government defense company has devised an eight-stage puzzle to attract the attention of and select potential employees.

"The time when a company looking for topnotch personnel put an ad in a newspaper has passed," Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. EVP human resources Sagit Sela-Gal told "Globes," describing the hunt that she is leading after the brains and forces that will one day invent the next Iron Dome. In the effort to recruit mechanical engineers, algorithm and software personnel, cyber experts, and other specialists, for whom the demand in the market far exceeds the supply, Rafael has to be creative, despite being a government company.

In recent weeks, Rafael has begun a recruiting campaign for the algorithm specialists it needs for the computer vision ventures it is pursuing. The company, which has 8,000 employees, mainly in northern Israel, tried to attract the attention of potential candidates with complicated puzzles that only people with know-how and experience in algorithms can solve.

The chain of puzzles was devised by Aviv, a software engineer in Rafael's computer vision cluster who has been working at the company for 20 years. Rafael is not permitting his full name to be published for reasons of information security. The algorithm puzzle composed by Aviv is included in an inspiring and riveting framework story on Rafael's Facebook page, and was distributed among lovers of the genre through various forums and groups of algorithm aficionados. Aviv's inspiration for the puzzle came from several creative recruitment campaigns in the past two years by the Israel Security Agency and the Mossad aimed at recruiting cyber experts.

Obtaining an entry card to the algorithm puzzles requires answering a difficult mathematical question that serves as an initial selection tool for ensuring that people circulating in the virtual escape room deserve to be there.

Each of the eight stages that the challenged candidate must pass tests his or her technological capabilities, knowledge, and expertise in various spheres, as well as his or her visual capabilities and creativity. The correct solution to the puzzle opens the gate for the candidate to the next stage, based on a new and more challenging and complicated puzzle.

The reward for correctly solving the chain of puzzles is access to a channel in which the candidate can attach a CV and send it to Rafael in order to begin the process of being hired by the company. After weeks in which 1,000 candidates for jobs at Rafael worked day and night on solving the complicated problems, five solvers reached the finish line.

"There is no doubt that the selection processes and testing the fitness of employees at Rafael are more focused and effective," Aviv says, remembering how he was hired by Rafael 20 years ago, when he was a software engineering student at the ORT Braude College of Engineering in Karmiel. The processes he remembers were fairly standard and conservative, beginning with sending a CV and waiting for a job interview, which led to a chain of interviews and fitness checks, including security checks. "Today, the process is far shorter and much more of an experience," he says.

An Iron Dome battery in the yard at Technion

These are only the algorithm puzzles. Rafael's management is reinforcing its warm ties with academic institutions all over Israel, but its most prominent cooperative effort is with Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. The connection between the two institutions, which goes back many years, is almost intimate, with intensive cooperation between researchers and experts. This is well reflected in the company's personnel: according to Rafael's figures, a third of its employees are Technion graduates.

Rafael dominates recruiting at the Technion. In an effort to convince hesitating students, it utilizes its best weapon - in recent years, it has placed batteries of Iron Dome and David's Sling interceptors in Technion's yard in order to highlight to its next generation of employees where the company is headed.

"Technion doesn't work for us," Gal says. "Technion is a research institute and academic institution with its own purposes, while we are a national laboratory and a business company in all respects. Frequently, however, our interests coincide. Many of Rafael's employees are lecturers at the Technion, expose students to the company's activity, and find the ones who are the best and most suitable for working with us."

"This connection makes an impressive contribution to Rafael and Technion, and greatly increases the economic resilience of Israel," Technion VP for external relations and resource development Prof. Boaz Golany told "Globes." "Many of Rafael's senior researchers are external lecturers and project advisors at Technion, such as in programs related to electro-optics, electrical engineering, physics, etc. It is difficult to train professionals in these fields, and there is no doubt that they fill in a hole for us, because without them, we would not be able to provide that content that we believe should be provided to our students."

Golany added, "A considerable number of our faculty members, including professors who worked at Rafael, left the company to pursue their careers at Technion. I assume that in the short term, their decision was painful for Rafael, but in the long term, when the profit and loss is calculated, these personnel shifts made a stunning contribution to both institutions in the form of reciprocal fertilization."

"A high-tech company for all intents and purposes"

The main message of Rafael's recruiters to young employees is being in the forefront of innovation, a stable and secure work environment, a promotion horizon in the company's units and divisions, and well-oiled mechanisms aimed at preventing professional stagnation. Being a government company, Rafael cannot promise the employees it wants to promote the same heights that competing companies in the private sector can. Nevertheless, according to a report on wages and personnel by the Government Companies Authority for 2017, the average monthly salary at Rafael is NIS 27,618, higher than in competing government defense company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), where the average monthly wage is NIS 23, 847.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 2, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Rafael anti-tank missile Photo: Rafael
Rafael anti-tank missile Photo: Rafael
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