Tesla factory: Applicants report on the salary and lavish share packages

View of the street sign "Tesla Straße 1" in front of the construction site of the Tesla factory.

View of the street sign “Tesla Straße 1” in front of the construction site of the Tesla factory.


Randolf Schnittmann (name changed) embarks on an experiment. Out of “conviction”, as he says, not because of the money. The engineer has had good years at Daimler. Schnittmann had worked his way up to a well-paid position with a gross annual income of almost 100,000 euros with the Stuttgart-based company – including the many extra services that Daimler provides for its employees.

But that’s over now. Schnittmann accepted the golden handshake from Daimler boss Ola Källenius. At his age, he is in the second half of his life, he receives a severance payment of around a quarter of a million euros. The “golden handshake” is part of a large severance payment program at Daimler – the company wants to “reduce the number of engineers” that will be needed less and less in the future, says Schnittmann to

Daimler gives Tesla dozens of top engineers through the severance pay program

Schnittmann applied to Tesla in the summer – with success. Numerous ex-colleagues did the same. “The compensation program at Daimler is a blessing for Tesla. Americans need good, experienced engineers. Now the Stuttgart-based company is giving its US competitor highly trained staff. What the people at headquarters were thinking is a mystery to me, ”says the ex-Daimler employee.

Tesla’s mission to build sustainable cars was the main reason for him to apply to the US automaker, says Schnittmann. It was also the perspective of leading a team one day, assuming managerial responsibility. Neither money nor prestige were important to him. He himself owns two e-cars, has installed solar systems on the roof of his house, a water tank in the basement and meticulously separates his rubbish.

It is good that income is not the top priority for the ex-Daimler man. At Tesla, he now earns almost a quarter less a year in the same position. He doesn’t get any Christmas or vacation pay – or any other income subsidies from Tesla. “The gross salary is the gross salary,” says Schnittmann. The US automaker is still waiting with a juicy candy for the new employees: a share package that employees can freely dispose of after four years of service, says Schnittmann. His share package is in the mid five-digit range.

Before Schnittmann could sign his Tesla contract, however, he had to go through an unusual application process. After sending his documents, it took a few weeks for the ex-Daimler manager at Tesla to get the green light for the interview process. A few days after the Tesla email, the phone rang at Schnittmann, and this was followed by an initial meeting with a HR manager.

Something “sect-like” corporate culture

“During the interview, they check whether the applicant’s mindset matches Tesla. The lady didn’t ask me about academic achievements or degrees. She wanted to know why I actually want to go to Tesla. Identification with the brand and the mission is extremely important to them, ”says Schnittmann. This question was repeated over and over again in the four interviews that he conducted before he was accepted.

Identification with the brand, as you can see at Tesla events and occasional tours of the construction site in Grünheide, is not only important for top management. When employees talk about their company, they are happy to include that Tesla is actually the key to making the planet more sustainable. This is why the company is occasionally accused of a somewhat “sect-like” corporate culture by observers and competitors.

Interviews always follow the same pattern

The interviews that Schnittmann had to conduct always followed the same pattern: 30 minutes, only one interviewer at a time, five minutes each for the performance, the remaining twenty were question and answer sessions. In addition to the identification topic, a second question always came up in all interviews: Which professional achievement or project Schnittmann is particularly proud of – and why.

In the first interview, you speak to a Tesla employee who already works in the department you are applying for, says Schnittmann.

In the second interview, Schnittmann spoke to a manager who asked him the usual two questions and went into depth for the first time. He wanted to know how Schnittmann would solve certain technical problems on the vehicle.

In the third interview, Schnittmann spoke to a senior Tesla manager from San Francisco. The manager described fictitious problem scenarios in the conversation and asked the ex-Daimler man how he would most effectively solve them. Schnittmann had the final conversation with a “hiring manager” from the Gigafactory in Grünheide. “Here I knew that I had the thing in my pocket if I didn’t allow myself a big bang,” says Schnittmann.

After he received his acceptance at the end of the year, the HR manager, with whom he had had his first interview, took care of the salary negotiations. Schnittmann was a little surprised that his employment contract said that overtime was paid for either with free time or with money. Tesla is known for demanding a lot of overtime from employees without compensation.

For other Tesla colleagues of his, the passage in the contract is different: “Overtime is compensated with the existing salary”. The salary of the said colleagues differs insignificantly from Schnittmann’s salary.

“Professional and incredibly fast”

Robert König (name changed), like Schnittmann, has received an acceptance from Tesla. König comes from the plant engineering sector and has applied for a position as a manager in assembly technology at the US car manufacturer. He had to go through exactly the same interview levels as Schnittmann. At König, however, there were two more interviews in which the Tesla managers asked about his management style and outlined fictitious personnel problems and asked König to instinctively solve them.

“It was all very professional and incredibly fast. Four days after my application, I had a preliminary talk with the HR manager. Then the interviews continued every three to four days. They weren’t even interested in my degree and the grades. What was important: motivation and the last job, ”says König.

König does not want to give any specific figures, only guidelines. He was offered an annual salary of between 100,000 and 120,000 euros gross and a share package for 50,000 euros. In addition, there would be good gross subsidies for old-age provision and subsidies for a BVG ticket. In addition, there would be performance-related bonuses from the team leader positions.

The contracts of König, Schnittmann and other employees with whom spoke have one thing in common: They come with a separate “non-disclosure agreement”. In other words, a contract in which they undertake not to speak to third parties or the press about the company. Such contracts are uncommon in the German economy – and once again show the company’s tense relationship with the press and the public. That is also the reason why none of the protagonists wanted to appear in the article with real names – and König gave approximate figures for his future income to be on the safe side.

But none of this spoils the mood of the ex-Daimler employee Schnittmann. He is looking forward to 30 days of vacation, 40 hours of work per week and his new life in Berlin and the leading electric car manufacturer. He knows that if he was over 40 in his position at Daimler, he would not have had a great career. Tesla, on the other hand, assured him during the interview process that he should quickly take on greater personal responsibility. This perspective is important to Schnittmann.

He has now found an apartment in the capital, and plans to visit the construction site in Grünheide for the first time in the middle of the month. “I am excited about what to expect”.

Are you also applying to Tesla or have you already been accepted? Or have you accepted the generous severance pay program at Daimler? Tell me about your experience: [email protected]


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