"They have hired people we've fired. We always jokingly call Apple the 'Tesla graveyard,'" Musk said.
But to Silicon Valley recruiters, engineers moving between Apple and Tesla is hardly news. Instead, it's symptomatic of the scarcity of top talent as the technology space expands.
While analysts speculate whether Apple or Tesla would win the market for something like a self-driving car, both companies have stellar reputations in the tech space. What makes a bigger difference for top engineers is what they can get out of the job and whether their talent will be valued there — and Musk's comments may not make him seem like a better boss.
"There is fierce competition. Period. Beyond Tesla and beyond Apple," said Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify Talent, a consulting firm that helps companies optimize recruiting efforts. "You're starting to see technology in places you've never seen it before — cars, refrigerators, connected homes. It's the GE or the Amtrak, that five or 10 years ago, we didn't think about in the same breadth blue chip technology companies."
Musk said his former employees now at Apple were "not important" and were confined to those who couldn't hack it at Tesla.