THE spacex INTERVIEW

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Looking to land a job at SpaceX but don’t know what the process looks like?

 

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Detailed in this post is a look at the timeline of the interview process, preparation guidelines, and what's different or unique about SpaceX's interview process as opposed to other tech companies.

 

THE spacex INTERVIEW explained

 

BACKGROUND

SpaceX looks to hire the most capable and intelligent people that are willing to solve hard problems. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, even stated, "When sending your resume, please describe a few of the hardest problems you solved & exactly how you solved them".

SpaceX's interview process is a little different than a lot of the other major tech companies like Amazon or Google. You may be asked to prepare a presentation on the hardest problem you've solved, you may interview in front of a panel of SpaceX engineers, and you may even be interviewed by Elon himself.

For the SpaceX interview, it is extremely important to know your past projects inside and out, and if you claim to be an expert in one area, you better be prepared to back that up by answering a lot of technical questions.

The process is extremely competitive, so let's break down the interview to give you the best chance of succeeding and landing a job at SpaceX.

 

 

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

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update your RESUME

Make sure you’ve updated your resume and in particular your LinkedIn profile; use deliverables and metrics when you can as they are concrete examples of what you’ve accomplished. Make sure to be as specific as possible.

 

PREPARATION

Here is our guide on how to prepare for the coding interview with a 12-week plan.

 

CHOOSING YOUR LANGUAGE

SpaceX does not require that you know any specific programming language before interviewing for a tech position. However, you should be familiar with the syntax of your preferred language such as Java, Python, C#, C/C++. You should also know some of the languages’ nuances, such as how memory management works, or the most commonly used collections, libraries, etc. Choose one you’re most comfortable with and stick to it.

 

 

Prescreen with recruiter 

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After reviewing your resume, you’ll be paired with a recruiter who will be your guide through the interview process at SpaceX. This will be a 30 minute conversation where you will talk through a recent project and answer the interviewers' questions on technical details of the project. It's important to remember the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method as you frame your answers.

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screening with Spacex team member

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Once you've completed your prescreen, the recruiter will set up some time (it may take a week for them to reach back out) for you to have a chat with one of the engineers at SpaceX. Again, they will drill down into some of the projects you have done and what the outcome was, and exactly how you solved it.

They will also want to get an idea of your technical proficiency by asking some system composition and design related questions.

The SpaceX team wants to hire the best of the best, and they will want to know what are the toughest problem you have ever solved, and all the details for how you solved it. So come prepared with examples of projects that you are most proud of that solve challenging problems.

 

Codility take-home challenge

If you pass the screening process above, you will be given a take-home challenge where you will have 48 hours to complete. You can expect these questions to be on data structures, algorithms, and even some SQL.

Typical questions could be:

  • Detect patterns in an integer array

  • Path finding and traversal of N-ary trees

  • Find the bug in code and fix it

  • SQL query involving running totals

It should be noted that depending on the position and your seniority level, you may be asked to come up with a solution to a larger coding problem where you will have a 2-3 days to complete it.

To see the 15 most common SpaceX interview questions, click below:

 

ON-site (virtual) interview

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Presentation

For one of your rounds, you will be asked to prepare a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation which you will give to a panel of about 5 other SpaceX engineers. This is your chance to showcase a difficult problem you solved, how you solved it, and the impact it had. It's important to remember the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method as you frame your presentation.

 

It should be stressed that this presentation must be very low level. Show your code and explain everything.

Live Coding Challenge (2-3 rounds)

As with most companies, you will be asked to solve multiple coding problems that focus on algorithms and data structures.

For algorithms, it’s best to be familiar with traversals, divide and conquer, breadth-first search vs. depth-first search and understand the tradeoffs for each. Knowing the runtimes, theoretical limitations, and basic implementation strategies of different classes of algorithms is more important than memorizing the specific details of any given algorithm.

 

Data structures you should know:

Arrays, Stacks, Queues, Linked lists, Trees, Graphs, Hash tables

 

Algorithms you should know:

Breadth first search, Depth first search, Binary search, Quicksort, Mergesort, Dynamic programming, Divide and conquer

System Design:

This will be more of a discussion between you and the interviewer, where you will be asked to design a system that can scale. Typical questions include:

  • Design a TinyURL

  • Design Facebook Newsfeed

  • Design Instagram

For example, here are some things you should keep in mind as you think about designing Instagram:

  • What is Instagram?

  • Requirements and Goals of the System

  • Some Design Considerations

  • Capacity Estimation and Constraints

  • High Level System Design

  • Database Schema

  • Data Size Estimation

  • Component Design

  • Reliability and Redundancy

  • Data Sharding

  • Ranking and News Feed Generation

  • News Feed Creation with Sharded Data

  • Cache and Load balancing

Hiring Manager / Senior Engineers

Here you will meet with several members of the team to dive into more detail about your technical proficiency and behavior. Some people feel like this section is more of a pop-quiz than it is an interview because they will put you on the spot and ask you some tougher questions. You will be expected to explain under-the-hood technical questions.

For more practice on behavioral interviews, check out the link below:

 

Interview with Elon Musk

Elon doesn't interview everyone, but depending on the position, he may want to speak with you and get a better idea of how you work and better yet, problem-solve.

If this interview does happen, make sure you come prepared with the toughest problem you have ever solved and don't leave out any detail. Musk’s method hinges on the idea that someone making a false claim will lack the ability to back it up convincingly, so he wants to hear them talk about how they worked through a thorny issue, step by step. 

By asking for applicants to present examples of the hardest problems they've solved and the processes they used to solve them, Tesla gets insight into multiple areas of interest, including the candidate's:

  • Motivation

  • Ability to identify unique underlying problems and root causes

  • Reasons for focusing on specific areas of those problems

  • Individual strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies

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THE OFFER / NO offer

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From on-site to offer will take about another week or two. This is so management can either evaluate other candidates or to draft up your offer letter along with other logistics.

 

In the event that you don’t receive an offer, you’ll most likely have to wait six months to a year to re-apply. Don’t expect any feedback after your interview, but you can conclude that you either didn’t have enough experience or that it just wasn’t a fit culturally. 

 

If you do receive a job offer, the hiring manager will call you to discuss salary, start date, etc.

For more information on how to negotiate your salary, click below.

 

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WHAT'S DIFFERENT

Panel Presentation

Make sure you study up on the Magic Values that make up Twilio. Be sure to frame your responses to questions in terms of their values. How did you make bold decisions, what was the impact it had, etc.

Elon Musk Interview

While not super likely, this interview can happen. This has the potential to rattle some nerves, so make sure you do your homework on the company, its mission, and how the problems you solved relate to some of the problems Tesla is currently trying to solve.

Be comfortable with being put on the spot. The best way to do this is to think of questions you may be asked and rehearse your answers.

 

 

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Need help preparing for the interview?

Check out the Definitive Interview Prep Roadmap,

written and reviewed by real hiring managers.