THE tesla INTERVIEW
Looking to land a job at Tesla 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 Tesla’s interview process as opposed to other tech companies.
the tesla interview explained
Tesla looks to hire the most capable and intelligent people that are willing to solve hard problems. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, even stated, "When sending your resume, please describe a few of the hardest problems you solved & exactly how you solved them".
Tesla'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 Tesla engineers, and you may even be interviewed by Elon himself.
For the Tesla 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 Tesla.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
updating 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. Be sure to have a couple projects on there that highlight major problems you solved, your actions to solve them, and the outcome.
If a Tesla recruiter believes that you are a good match they will reach out to you (via email or LinkedIn) to set up a time to chat.
Here is our guide on how to prepare for the coding interview with a 12-week plan.
CHOOSING YOUR LANGUAGE
Tesla 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 a recruiter
This will be a light 30 minute call where the recruiter will gauge your interest level and determine if you’re a good fit. In some cases, the recruiter will touch on a few technical aspects, but it won’t be a deep dive as it’s not their profession — they basically want to get an idea of your skills in relation to the position.
Typical questions might include your past work experiences, your knowledge of the company/position, salary, and other logistical questions such as:
Can you walk me through your work history?
What has been your most challenging project? (expect a probing question after)
What salary do you expect in this position?
Overall, it's recommended that you prioritize preparing to answer questions in your own field of specialty. After the call, the next steps would be to go through a take-home coding exercise.
THE ONLINE ASSESSMENT
Once your interview with the recruiter is finished they’ll administer you an online coding test.
The coding test will consist of two questions and you’ll have about 2 hours to complete it; the test may be through Codility, HackerRank, or another site. You can expect some easy to medium questions which will typically be algorithm related. Examples include:
Reverse the second half of a linked list
Find all anagrams in a string
Merge overlapping intervals
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 commonly asked question in an Tesla interview, click below:
Once you’ve made it past the first interview, the recruiter will schedule your next round, either with a hiring manager or a senior engineer from the team you’re looking to join.
This is where they’ll ask you questions directly related to your resume, as well as data structures, algorithms, and other various coding questions that apply to the position. Expect to either write or review code, or demonstrate other technical knowledge.
Regardless of how you thought the interview went, always ask what the next steps are.
For one of your rounds, you will be asked to prepare a 30-minute presentation which you will give to a panel of about 5 other Tesla 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.
You should be able to give a high level overview, but be prepared to talk about even the tiniest of details as there will be probing questions.
Coding (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
In the Tesla interview you will be asked a system design problem. These are open-ended problems where you are asked to design a system, for example Instagram, and walk through design tradeoffs, how you would make this system scale, the APIs you would use, etc.
Here are some things you should think about when designing something like Instagram:
What is Instagram?
Requirements and Goals of the System
Some Design Considerations
Capacity Estimation and Constraints
High Level System Design
Data Size Estimation
Reliability and Redundancy
Ranking and News Feed Generation
News Feed Creation with Sharded Data
Cache and Load balancing
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:
Ability to identify unique underlying problems and root causes
Reasons for focusing on specific areas of those problems
Individual strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies
THE OFFER / NO offer
Generally, you’ll hear back from a recruiter within a week after your interviews.
If you didn’t get an offer, Tesla will give you a call to let you know, but don’t expect any feedback.
Avoid waiting another 6 months to apply by checking out our 12-week guide on preparing for the coding interview.
Judging that your on-site interviews went well, they’ll reach out to you, at which point they’ll make you an offer, send you documents to sign, and discuss any further questions you have.
For more information on how to negotiate your salary, click below.
The focus here is how well you can display your ability to solve tough problems. You will give a PowerPoint presentation to a panel where you will walk through a problem you solved step-by-step. Expect a lot of probing questions, so keep calm and practice your presentation beforehand.
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.
HOW TO BEST PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEW
In our experience, it’s best not to try to memorize specific questions. There are no silver bullets.
The questions that companies ask are always changing, because companies of this size are always trying to stay ahead of the curve and try new things. The questions you face will also depend on the team and the hiring manager.
Instead, it’s best to work your way through the fundamentals so you understand the underlying concepts and can answer even new types of interview questions with confidence.
Need help preparing for the interview?
Check out the Definitive Interview Prep Roadmap,
written and reviewed by real hiring managers.