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Tesla Software Engineer Interview Guide

Interview Guide Jul 20

Detailed interview guide covering Tesla's Software Engineering interview process - with breakdowns of each step, the sort of questions you're likely to face, and tips to make sure you're set up for success.

The role of a Tesla Software Engineer

Tesla's easily one of the most innovative car companies in the world. It's redefined what clean cars look like, it has also reset expectations on how much they should cost and what the experience should be - and it's brand is incredibly powerful. In addition, the mission of making cars sustainable is in of itself incredibly powerful, and these collection of factors make Tesla Engineering roles quite competitive.

As a software engineer at Tesla, you'll be expected to work on super scalable platforms, and in collaboration with other strong engineers. in addition to a strong software engineering background and skill sets, the role requires excellent interpersonal communication, problem-solving, critical thinking skills, and experience accepting and giving meaningful feedback on technical designs and change requests.

Tesla Software Engineer role pays $104,000 - $348,000/annually + cash, stock awards & benefits. Compensation typically varies based on factors like location and experience.

Tesla Software Engineer Interview Guide

Let's dive into the interview process for a Tesla software engineer role. The interview process typically consists of several rounds, including:

  1. Online Assessment (Codility Questions)
  2. Phone Round 1
  3. Phone Round 2
  4. Onsite Interview

Let's take a closer look at each round:

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Tesla SWE: Online Assessment


The first step in the interview process is an online assessment that involves completing a series of Codility questions. This round typically consists of 3 leetcode-style coding questions that you must solve within a specified timeframe—the purpose of which is to assess your coding skills and problem-solving abilities.

Here are some example questions you might encounter in this round:

  • Given an array of integers, return the indices of the two numbers that add up to a specific target.
  • Reverse a singly linked list.
  • Write a function that takes a string and returns true if the string is a palindrome, false otherwise.

We recommend you prepare for this round by practicing your coding problems thoroughly and working on similar projects you find on websites like LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeSignal. 

Make sure you're comfortable with data structures and algorithms commonly used in software engineering, such as arrays, linked lists, trees, and graphs.

Tesla SWE: Phone Round 1


In this round, the interviewer will review your online assessment questions and ask follow-up questions to assess your coding skills further. They'll also ask about your resume and past work experience to get a better understanding of your skills and background. Additionally, they'll discuss the core details of the job role with you in order to familiarize you with your potential job responsibilities.

Prepare your responses to these types of questions in advance, and be ready with specific examples to discuss your experience and impact clearly.

Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Can you walk me through the approach you took to solve the Codility question X?
  • Could you tell me about a challenging project you worked on in the past, and how you overcame the many obstacles?
  • Tell me about a time you had to handle a situation where you disagreed with your team members on the approach to take for a project.
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Tesla SWE: Phone Round 2


The second phone round will typically be with the hiring manager; it involves a discussion about your past experience, skills, and your motivations for applying at Tesla. The hiring manager will ask you behavioral questions to understand how you've handled situations in the past and how you might handle them in the future.

This call is also a great opportunity for you to ask questions about the upcoming interview rounds, Tesla's company culture, what they are seeking, and so forth.

Interview Questions

  • What is the career progression for this role, and how does the company support professional growth?
  • How does the team at Tesla collaborate and communicate on projects?

Tesla SWE: Onsite Interviews


If you make it through the phone rounds, you'll be invited to an onsite interview at one of Tesla's offices. The onsite interview typically consists of five rounds, each lasting 45 minutes. It typically includes LeetCode exercises, PHP, SQL-based questions, and more pertaining to your previous experience.

Let's take a deeper look at these rounds:

Round 1: Design Problem (45 mins)

In the first round of the Tesla Software Engineer interview, you'll be asked to solve a design problem related to the role you're applying for. You may be asked to whiteboard your solution and explain your thought process. Also, expect questions about your existing work.

Here are a few example questions:

  • Can you walk me through your approach to designing a system that can handle a high volume of user requests while maintaining low latency and high availability?
  • Given a set of Redis instances, how would you design a service that can perform CRUD operations while ensuring data consistency and fault tolerance?
  • Design a system that allows Tesla engineers to analyze telemetry data from a wide variety of data sources in real-time. The system should be scalable, secure, and performant, and should allow engineers to easily add new data sources.
  • Design a system for automatically detecting and reporting issues in Tesla's fleet data. The system should use machine learning and statistical analysis to identify anomalies, and should be scalable and fault-tolerant.

The interviewer is not necessarily looking for a perfect solution but is more interested in how you approach the problem and your ability to think critically and creatively. So, make sure you ask clarifying questions and explain your assumptions, trade offs, etc along the way. 

Round 2: Problem Solving (45 mins)

In the second round, the interviewer will ask you a combination of questions about your existing work and leetcode-style questions on data structures, SQL, and PHP.

You'll be given a coding problem to solve on a computer or whiteboard, which will give insight into your ability to come up with a clean, efficient solution using your problem-solving skills.

Some example questions you may encounter in this round include:

  • How would you optimize the performance of a database query?
  • Can you explain the difference between a binary search tree and a linked list?
  • Write a PHP function that takes two arrays as input and returns a new array that contains the common elements of the two arrays. The function should be optimized for performance and should handle large arrays.
  • Can you implement a solution to detect and prevent SQL injection attacks?
  • Can you describe a scenario where using a hash table would be the best approach to solve a problem?

Make sure you're comfortable with the basics of common data structures and algorithms, and be ready to apply them to real-world problems.

Round 3: Problem Solving (45 mins)

The third round will also focus on problem-solving, but the problems may be more challenging than those in the previous round. Again, you may be asked to solve problems related to data structures, algorithms, using programming languages like PHP and SQL. There may be follow-up questions to the initial prompt so the interviewer can judge if you can tackle curve balls thrown your way.

Here's a few example questions to practice:

  • Write a PHP function that takes a string as input and returns true if the string is a palindrome and false otherwise. The function should be optimized for performance and should handle large strings.
  • Implement a function that checks if a binary tree is balanced.
  • Write a PHP class that models a car. The class should have properties for make, model, year, and color, and methods for accelerating and braking.
  • Write a function that takes in a linked list and returns the nth to last element of the list.
  • Implement a function that checks if a string is a palindrome.

Make sure to practice your problem-solving skills and familiarize yourself with common algorithms, data structures, SQL concepts before the interview. You may consider teaming up with a Tesla software engineer to really boost your prep and get a better understanding of technical challenges that come your way.

Round 4: Behavioral Questions with Senior Manager (45 mins)

In the fourth round, you'll meet with a senior manager at Tesla who will ask you behavioral questions about your managerial experience to get insight into interpersonal skills, leadership & problem-solving skills, teamwork, and so on.. The purpose of this round is to assess your fit with the company's culture, your ability to work collaboratively, and whether you can tackle pressure, conflict, etc.. Thus, the questions will focus on similar past experiences and how you handled specific situations.

Here are examples of such questions:

  • Can you describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult team member? How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you faced a problem that seemed impossible to solve. What steps did you take to solve it?
  • How do you handle disagreements with your colleagues or manager? Can you give an example?
  • Can you describe a situation when you had to communicate technical information to a non-technical stakeholder? How did you approach it?
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. What did you learn from the experience, and how did you correct it?

Remember to provide specific examples and don't hesitate to ask for clarifications if you don't understand a question.

Round 5: Behavioral Interview with Hiring Manager (45 mins)

This next round is also a behavioral interview where you'll be face to face with a hiring manager focusing specifically on the role you're applying for. You may be encouraged to talk about your current work so Tesla can get a better understanding of your experience and skills, and determine what role or team you'd fit in best.

Questions are typically scenario-based/hypothetical or simply those that judge the candidate's abilities to thrive at Tesla's work environment:

Here are examples:

  • Tesla is known for its innovative and disruptive approach to the automotive industry. How do you see yourself fitting into that culture?
  • Why Tesla?
  • How do you approach prioritizing tasks in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment?
  • Can you describe a time when you had to quickly learn a new technology or programming language to complete a project?
  • Can you walk me through a project you've worked on that required you to think outside the box and come up with a unique solution?

This round is also your chance to ask questions about the team, the company culture, and the projects you'll be working on.

Tesla Software Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

  • As a Tesla Software Engineer, your primary responsibility will be to develop web applications that enable engineers to analyze telemetry data from various sources. You will also support internal teams by providing complex ad-hoc data analytics to better understand and improve Tesla's products.
  • You will be tasked with maintaining multiple MySQL databases and leading efforts to migrate and automate data structures from other locations. You will conduct statistical analysis on product parameters to identify patterns and quickly detect outliers.
  • As a Tesla Software Engineer, you will be required to respond quickly to evolving business requirements and collaborate with various teams, including front-end developers, product managers, content producers, QA engineers, and release engineers to own your solution from development to production. 

Tesla Software Engineer Skills and Qualifications

  • You should have at least 2 years of experience building web applications using PHP and a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a related field. However, equivalent experience is also acceptable.
  • You must possess sound knowledge of PHP 7, including OOP and Drupal. Additionally, you should be familiar with PHP frameworks and Unit Testing.
  • You should be familiar with fundamental design principles to build scalable, secure, and performant applications. 
  • Familiarity with development tools like Composer, Git, and RESTful APIs is a must-have skill for this role.
  • You should have the ability to identify tasks that require automation and automate them. 

Additionally, knowledge of maintaining and debugging live software systems, as well as backend skills like Views configuration, MySQL, and integration with other systems is a plus. While not required, C# experience is also nice to have.