How to land a job at Tesla

Workers assemble cars on the line at the Tesla's factory in Fremont, California.
David Butow | Corbis | Getty Images

Last year, Tesla received nearly 500,000 applications for just 2,500 open positions. That means the chances of getting a job at Tesla is just 0.5 percent, making the sustainable car manufacturer more exclusive than any college in the world.

Despite the avalanche of applications, Tesla still manages to review every single application.

"It is painstaking, because we really don't want people to feel like they're going into a black hole, so we do go through all of those applications," Cindy Nicola, Tesla's head of global recruiting, tells CNBC Make It. "It isn't easy. But to be honest, we're super excited and want to be respectful of the fact that people are interested in Tesla."

Nicola oversees Tesla's recruiting efforts for "basically anyone, from interns to executives." She says that even though no two applicants are the same, there are several things that Tesla employees have in common.

If you want to get a job at Tesla, here are three things to keep in mind:

Two Tesla START students.
Courtesy of Tesla

1. Love the mission

Something that sets Tesla — and Tesla employees — apart is a dedication to the company's founding mission "to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible."

In order to prove that they are the perfect fit for Tesla, applicants need to demonstrate that they are passionate about this mission.

"We are extremely mission-driven. There's a lot of energy in the world around what we're trying to do. We have really tough problems to solve, so I think people want to be a part of that," says Nicola. "There's not many companies that you can work at today where there's really a direct impact between the work you do and changing the world."

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2. Demonstrate your 'DNA'

At Tesla, the application process is tailored for each specific position. "One of the things that is unique about the way I run my business is that we do not have a cookie-cutter approach," says Nicola. "So we shy away from kind of that one-size-fits-all approach."

It's crucial that applicants understand precisely what skills the role requires and demonstrate the character to excel in the job, and at Tesla. Applicants should reach out to someone who holds a similar position and do their research about the characteristics that the company values.

"There's four main principles that are important at Tesla — being innovative, driven, collaborative and trustworthy," says Nicola. "It really is important for us to preserve the culture that we do have, and to design assessment processes that are making sure that people have the right DNA to be successful at Tesla."

To get a job at Tesla, applicants need to demonstrate that they possess these qualities. Using examples from previous work experience, bringing a portfolio of your work or highlighting a specific reference can help you show that you have the character that they are looking for.

A Tesla service center
Courtesy of Tesla and Alexis Georgeson

3. Show, don't tell

"We are big believers in showing us what you can do, versus telling us what you can do," says Nicola. "So for example, if you were an engineering candidate and you were coming in, there might be some coding test or some problem solving that we would do on a whiteboard."

During these exercises, Tesla is assessing a candidates competency as well as their problem-solving process.

"We are looking for people that are comfortable with ambiguity," says Nicola. "What we are doing here is really hard, it's never been done before, there's not always an instant right answer, so when we are doing those problem-solving exercises we are actually looking for how people think and how they approach problems, versus having the perfect answer."

Candidates should make an effort to explain their thought process to interviewers. By talking about how you're approaching a difficult problem, applicants can demonstrate that they are comfortable with tricky problem solving and can show off their communication abilities.

If you do manage to score a job at Tesla, congratulations! Buckle up for quite a ride. As Nicola says, "Our growth has been incredible and exponential — and there's no end in sight."

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