Big Tech negotiation

Got a job offer from Tesla? Here's how to negotiate it!

by Josh Doody

The key question to ask about an Tesla job offer is “How much flexibility do they have to negotiate my specific offer?” In my experience coaching engineers and leaders through Tesla salary negotiations, the answer varies from “not much” to “a whole lot”. Up front, you should know that Tesla’s pay ranges tend to be below other big tech companies for similar disciplines (like Senior Software Engineer). So if compensation is your only or primary motivation for working in big tech, there are probably other more lucrative opportunities available to you depending on your specialty.

In-demand engineers with specialties in areas that are crucial to Tesla’s business and skills that other firms need can often push harder than generalist engineers, but as they continue to grow, they need engineers from many disciplines to help them succeed. They also rely on experts in other specialties like supply chain management as a manufacturing company.

For example, Tesla needs lots engineers with experience in software engineering, machine learning, and AI, and the supply of experienced engineers in those areas of expertise is relatively tight among the big tech companies. So Tesla will offer competitive salaries with some room to negotiate to get quality engineers with that expertise to join their team.

By contrast, many junior generalists are eager to join Tesla and there is an increasingly large supply of those engineers. So Tesla’s offers for more junior engineers are often pretty close to their best offer right out of the gate. That doesn’t mean there’s no room to negotiate, but their offers are tuned to a competitive baseline, so smaller improvements are more typical than larger ones.

The bottom line is that if you have a job offer from Tesla, whether in a technical role or a leadership role, you likely have room to negotiate, and may have substantial negotiation leverage depending on your specialty and background.

What a typical Tesla job offer package looks like

Once you finally get through the Tesla interview process, you may receive a job offer. Let’s look at an example to see what you can expect.

Tesla’s offers are pretty standard big tech job offers:

  • Base salary
  • Sign-on
  • New-Hire Equity

They may also include other components, but these are typically the components with the most flexibility.

Here’s an example taken from a modified version of a real Tesla job offer from one of my clients (all numbers are $1,000s). This client was an experienced hardware engineer with substantial background in processor design. This offer is for $175,000 base salary, $400,000 total equity (vesting over four years), and a $20,000 sign-on bonus:

ComponentYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Total
Base Salary175175175175700
Total Cash195175175175720
New-Hire Equity100100100100400
Total 2952752752751,120

Let’s look a little closer at the main components of an Tesla job offer.

Base Salary

Base salary is the most stable component of your job offer, and the one you can budget around for the coming year. My clients often focus here first because it’s the most predictable component, and because it impacts their bank account immediately and indefinitely.

Tesla’s base salary offers tend to be very competitive with other big tech firms if slightly below them. If you’re wondering whether the salary you’re offered is competitive, blind and are good places to start.

How flexible is Tesla on Base Salary?

In my experience, Tesla will move on base salary a small to moderate amount, meaning that they’re not totally rigid on base salary, but that they typically don’t make big moves on base salary. They’re generally more flexible when you have not disclosed salary history or expectations, or when you have a competing offer with a higher base salary (more on this below).

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more base salary, but it means that request may result a modest move in base salary coupled with other more aggressive moves in the other components of the offer.

New-Hire Equity (RSUs)

The equity component of an Tesla job offer can range from “not very much” to “Whoa, I had no idea that was possible!” depending on the role and the candidate.

For Tesla (and most of the other big public tech companies) I tend to model equity as pretty much equal with base salary on a dollar-for-dollar basis since the value of that equity is public and the company fundamentals appear to be pretty strong. In other words, a dollar of Tesla equity is pretty close in value to a dollar of base salary.

The difference, of course, is that there’s a vesting schedule and you’re taking some level of market risk by counting on equity.

But for a company like Tesla, the market risk for equity is very similar to the market risk for your base salary. (If things suddenly get very bad for Tesla, their stock would probably drop, but the bigger problem could be that your job might be in jeopardy).

How flexible is Tesla on New-Hire Equity (RSUs)?

Potentially extremely flexible. They will sometimes make very big moves with equity to attract the right candidate with the right skillset to a particular role. In general, they’re moderately flexible on equity for most candidates, often improving that component by half or more.

As with most big tech companies, equity is a lever that Tesla will use to persuade well-aligned candidates to join their team.

Sign-on bonus

Even if there’s not a sign-on bonus included with your initial offer, there may be one available through negotiation. Sign-on bonuses, like equity, can range from a low five figures into six figures.

I like to think of the sign-on bonus as a way to help bridge the gap between your first paycheck and your first RSU vesting date.

How flexible is Tesla on Sign-on Bonus?

Moderately flexible. They will often use this as a sweetener to close the deal. Five-figure improvements in sign-on bonus are fairly common. I recommend focusing on base salary and equity before negotiating sign-on bonus, but asking for a sign-on bonus to finalize your negotiation will often be a nice later addition to your compensation.

How to approach your Tesla salary negotiation

The salary negotiation with Tesla will begin earlier than you might expect.

Before you get a job offer

Your Tesla recruiter will likely ask for your salary expectations. That request will sound something like this:

So what were you hoping for in terms of compensation if you come aboard here at Tesla?

Do not tell them your salary expectations because you will essentially be guessing what they might pay someone with your skillset and experience to do the job they need done.

While they might have a good idea of the value of that job to Tesla’s business, you would only be guessing. You will practically always guess wrong and cost yourself money later on. So just don’t guess.

Tesla will hold on tight to these numbers and it can be very, very challenging to get them to move once they know what they are aiming for. So avoid sharing that information if at all possible.

They may also ask you to tell them about any competing offers you have because they “need more data”. In cases where my clients do have competing offers, I generally recommend that they confirm that they have one or more competing offers while being vague about the details of those offers. It’s ok to mention that other big tech companies are interested, but sharing the specific companies or details of the offers could work against you in the early stages of the negotiation.

Once you receive your job offer from Tesla

Because Tesla is typically only moderately flexible on base salary while they often have greater flexibility on equity, I prefer to negotiate with them on a “total compensation” basis. In other words, by focusing on total compensation, you give your recruiter agency and flexibility to adjust base salary or equity, and you give them a chance to add or improve a sign-on bonus.

This is a subjective decision that is largely driven by the relative proportions of base salary and equity in their offer. If the offer is extremely heavy on base salary and light on equity, you might just be better off focusing on base salary. If the offer is extremely heavy on equity, you might focus on eqity. But usually you will find that base salary and equity are both significant components of the offer, so negotiation on total compensation (clearly defined as base salary and vesting equity) is the path of least resistance.

Once they reveal where they’re flexible and how flexible they are, you can use that information to focus the negotiation on the most flexible components to maximize your offer.

What to look out for when negotiating an Tesla job offer package

  • Tesla will often ask for competing offers—sharing those offers may be beneficial in the later stages of your negotiation. That being said, they may improve their offer under pressure from a superior competing offer, but they are unlikely to match a competing offer that is substantially higher. Some big tech companies will do this (Google and Meta, for example), but Tesla usually won’t.
  • Tesla will often respond to a request for higher base salary by slightly improving base salary and significantly improving the equity component or sign-on bonus. If you do decide to focus your initial counter offer on base salary, you may find that they prefer to move away from base salary and toward the other components. This will give you good insight into where they are flexible so you can focus there during the later stages of your negotiation.
  • For more junior engineers, Tesla tends to make competitive offers with less room to negotiate. So many junior engineers want to work at Tesla that they don’t need to negotiate very much to get good candidates at these levels. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate, just expect them to be pretty stubborn when you do.

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I offer full-service 1-on-1 support to help Senior Software Engineers and Engineering Managers negotiate the best offer possible and with more confidence and less stress.

Here is one example of the results I've helped others achieve in their negotiations with Tesla.

I would highly recommend Josh as a salary negotiation coach because has the knowledge and experience of what it takes to maximize your salary and total compensation.

I was expecting job offers from Amazon and Tesla, and I wanted to be confident I got the best offer from each company so I could make the right decision. I considered just handling it myself, but decided I would rather work with an experienced coach and expert with whom I could discuss all aspects of the positions and corresponding offers.

What a great decision!

Approachable, knowledgeable, available

Josh is very approachable and knowledgeable about the entire process and was able to provide possible next steps that were very accurate. He made himself available for calls and was very quick responding to emails with thorough, specific guidance on what to write or say at each stage in the negotiations. He was there to answer even the smallest of questions.

Josh took time to research specific questions related to both positions and the intricacies of the salary and total compensation discussions for both companies. The offers I got were very different offers, and he took the time to break them down into components so we could negotiate effectively and do an apples-to-apples comparison so I could make the best decision.

A great investment

I would highly recommend Josh as a salary negotiation coach because has the knowledge and experience of what it takes to maximize your salary and total compensation. He is also highly approachable and made himself available on very short notice.

Josh added value by making me confident when performing salary negotiations and showing me how to take the right steps in the process. He was professional and honest during the entire process.

This was a great investment.


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I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps High Earners negotiate their job offers. On average, High Earners improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.

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