13 of the hardest questions you may have to answer in a job interview at Tesla

If you truly thrive under pressure, you may want to consider going to work for Elon Musk.

“Diamonds are created under pressure, and Elon Musk is a master diamond maker,” Dolly Singh, the former head of talent acquisition for SpaceX, previously told Business Insider.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who recently ranked No. 7 on Business Insider’s The Creators list, which features the top 100 business visionaries creating value for the world, has been described as relentless in his work ethic and tough on employees, expecting long hours and hard work from his people.

As Singh explained, everyone that joins Musk’s team knows that their lives are going to become much more difficult – Musk reportedly likes to say he pushes people so hard that they feel like they are “staring into the abyss” – and the most successful employees use the intense pressure as fuel to work even harder.

If this sounds like you, and you want a part in disrupting the auto industry and reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, you’ll have to prove you ability to thrive under pressure by making it through Tesla’s thorough and sometimes challenging interview process. Here are some interview questions you might encounter along the way:


‘Why Tesla?’

caption
Tesla Roadster
source
Scott Olson/Getty Images

James Wong, a mechanical test engineer at Tesla Motors, writes on Quora that one of the main questions interviewers want you to answer is how passionate you are about the company and its mission and whether you have a compelling reason to work there:

“Overall the process wasn’t difficult, but they really want to see if you are passionate about Tesla and their mission. I really like the interview process because not only are they looking for someone who is capable, but also someone who is actually passionate about working for the company and the space they’re in. It helps weed out the people who are only interested in the company because of the name.”

Question source: Glassdoor


‘What exactly motivates you to work in this certain area?’

source
REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Question source: Glassdoor


‘Describe how you would change the culture of the company’

source
Tesla Motors

Question source: Glassdoor


‘What do you know about cars?’

source
Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

Question source: Glassdoor


‘Tell me about the problems you’ve worked on and how you solved them’

source
Michael Seto

During Business Insider’s Ignition conference, Musk shared with the audience that having job applicants explain how they solved a problem in the past helps him figure out if they really are qualified for the job and lets him know if they’re lying.

“If someone was really the person who solved the problem, they’ll be able to answer at all levels – they’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks,” Musk explains. “And if they weren’t, they’ll get stuck.”

“Anyone who struggled hard with a problem never forgets it,” Musk said.


‘What would your former boss and coworkers say about your performance?’

source
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

Question source: Glassdoor


‘Talk in detail about everything that you put on your résumé’

source
antoniodiaz/shutterstock

Glassdoor reviewers agree that you should be prepared for lots of detailed followup questions about anything on your résumé.

“My advice: you never know what you might be asked, so stay on top of your game!” one interviewee writes.


‘You are standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?’

source
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

According to the biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” this is one of Musk’s favorite interview questions, and he likes to ask candidates this riddle to test their intelligence.

There are multiple correct answers, and one is the North Pole.


‘You’re in a row boat, which is in a large tank filled with water. You have an anchor on board, which you throw overboard. Does the water level in the tank rise or fall?’

source
Flickr / Don DeBold

Question source: Glassdoor


‘Explain how XYZ works.’

source
Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Wong says that interviewers want to see you have a knowledge of fundamental engineering topics.

“Being a mechanical engineering student, they were not in depth technical questions,” writes Sam Youngdale, a former Tesla battery engineering intern, on Quora. “Rather, it was a conversation to check my understanding of certain concepts and problem solving processes.”

Wong also notes that interviewers may also ask technical questions outside your domain “to see if you can figure it out.”


‘Tell me about a time when you had to work in a team to solve a problem’

source
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

Question source: Glassdoor


‘How do you cope with repetition? ‘

source
Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Another question Wong says interviewers want to answer is how you’d handle the stress of the job. “It’s tough working here and no one will hold you hand,” he writes.

Question source: Glassdoor


‘We have seen a lot of people like you. What makes you different?’

source
Strelka Institute for Media

Question source: Glassdoor