Tesla and SpaceX are constantly in the news, for reasons positive and negative. What’s undeniable is that both companies are doing incredible work in the arenas of electric cars and spaceflight, powered by thousands of ultra-skilled workers. What tech skills are these companies looking for?
For an answer, we can turn to Emsi Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Based on that data, we can analyze the skills that popped up most in Tesla’s job postings over the past 90 days. Take a look at the chart:
As you can see, Tesla is intensely interested in technologists who are skilled in Python, which is an ultra-popular generalist language. It also needs employees skilled in the principles of software engineering and project management; given the complexity of projects (and challenges) facing the automaker, whoever takes those engineering and management roles will certainly have to be very, very good at multitasking.
Over at SpaceX, Python is also critical, along with Linux, C++, software engineering, and a bunch of health-related skills (it’s easy to surmise the lattermost deal with astronaut health in some way). Here’s the overall skills breakdown over the past 90 days:
At both Tesla and SpaceX, job interviews will focus on your problem-solving abilities. Although Elon Musk, CEO of both companies, likely doesn’t interview every single engineering candidate anymore, he told the World Government Summit in 2017 that he liked asking interviewees, “Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”
Chances are good that hiring managers and recruiters at both companies ask some variation of that question. And to be fair, it’s a straightforward line of questioning: If you can describe how you solved a problem in granular detail, your potential for landing a job at either company will rise. (If you weren’t responsible for tackling your previous companies’ challenges, by contrast, you likely won’t be able to provide anything besides generalities—and you’ll be in serious trouble.)
Even if you’re not applying for a job at Tesla or SpaceX, keep in mind that providing as much detail as possible in response to job-interview questions is always important. You’ll give the recruiter and/or hiring manager a better picture of how exactly you’ll add value to your prospective employer, including your unique approach to problems.
Before heading into any interview, it’s key to review a few relevant stories from your professional background. Rehearse beforehand, preferably with a friend or trusted colleague. If you know ahead of time that the interview will involve a whiteboard or keyboard test, practice with a few online challenges or tests before your interview.
One last, fun thing to mention: Musk has also asked prospective SpaceX engineers a fun little brainteaser:
“You’re 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?”
The easy answer: the North Pole. However, as you can tell from the comments when we originally posted the question on Dice, there are lots of creative responses (“still on Earth,” “anywhere with a broken compass,” and so on). Although tech companies have largely stopped asking brainteasers in favor of other kinds of questions, they’re still a fun way to demonstrate how you think through a problem.