Success at Tesla: What sets the best candidates apart

Tesla, the groundbreaking electric car company, is well-known for its bold mission to change the way the world uses energy. 

Nonso Onowu on October 27, 2023 Average reading time: 3 min
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Success at Tesla: What sets the best candidates apart

Achieving this mission depends on putting together a team of people who are dedicated and really good at what they do. Over the past ten years, Mr. Tesla Thomas, who goes by @MrTeslaTom on X (formerly known as Twitter) and works as a hiring manager at Tesla, has interviewed and hired lots of people.

From his extensive experience, he’s figured out some important qualities that help people do well at Tesla.

Whether you dream of working at Tesla or you’re just curious about how one of the world’s most innovative companies operates, let’s explore the special qualities that make high-achievers stand out at Tesla.

Insights from Tesla Thomas:

  1. They were genuinely aligned with Tesla’s mission.

    It really helps to feel part of the mission. The environment at Tesla is simply too fast-paced to just “chug along”. Of course, if you get hired, finding your own balance is also critical. Working at Tesla can be a lot, but having that fire in your belly really helps.

  2. They applied for a position they actually wanted.

    I saw it so many times over 10 years. MBAs applying for an entry level job, not to do the job, but to “get their foot in the door”. There was a one year minimum in the job before promotion or internal move at Tesla and these candidates were generally unhappy after weeks in the job. We stopped hiring them after a little while.

  3. Do your homework

    Sounds simple, but they’d read Tesla’s website (many times) before their interview rounds. There is so much information out there and it is condensed on Tesla’s website.

    It was painful, when talking to a candidate who didn’t know basic product information or current events around what was happening at Tesla.

    That’s not to say they wouldn’t have done a good job, but the competition is so steep, we had to filter those candidates out.

  4. Hot-Tip

    prepare some examples of your past achievements or obstacles you’ve overcome using the STAR method (Situation – Task – Action – Result). This will help you stay succinct in your interview. Thank me later.

  5. Thriving in a mission-driven culture

    The best candidates thrived in a mission-oriented meritocracy, where performance isn’t left to chance. They’re aligned with the mission and they do measurable work. Tesla is a place, where you can really thrive as a top performer.

  6. Mastering key performance indicators

    The P&D numbers that Tesla publishes at the end of every quarter are caused by thousands of employees, hundreds of teams and senior managers all making their individual targets. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are tracked throughout the quarter. The emphasis on each KPI changes throughout the quarter. Once in the job, the best performers paced themselves throughout the quarter and had defined what part of their own behaviour was causing a positive influence on their KPIs. Then they did more of it.

  7. Email etiquette at Tesla

    They didn’t e-mail Elon in their first week. OK, kind of a joke here, but yeah don’t email Elon to suggest Supercharger locations. If it’s something safety or company critical fair enough, but in reality there are a hundred people in the company that can solve your problem, other than Elon.

  8. Self-motivation and mastery

    They were self-motivated and made it their business to know their job inside out. Again I had people without a degree in my team who made it to Senior Manager because they were curious and had a savage work ethic and I had others with a Masters degree, who couldn’t make it to work on time..and of course everything in between.

  9. Embracing teamwork

    They were team players. Generally everyone had a day, sometimes weeks or even longer, where for whatever reason, their performance dipped. Most noticed this themselves, but if you’re part of the team, your team-mates will help you get back on your feet. Be a team player.

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