job-search in the time of corona

i recently landed multiple job offers in fall 2020. i'm offering the advice that i wish i'd gotten about the hunt!

just the highlights

  • make the most out of your network
  • check that your resume is doing its job
  • understand what you want vs what's out there


i think i'm a moderately successful interviewer. my first job search out of bootcamp resulted in 3 job offers.
my second job search got me into google, which is regarded as a dream workplace by many people (including my extended family!).
most of this post will be about my third job search in tech after resigning from google in october.

folks often ask me for interviewing advice without explaining much about their goals or backgrounds, expecting generic and universally applicable principles. but i'm going to describe what worked for me and why it was appropriate for me.

i'd recommend seeing where our intentions or struggles are similar and only taking that relevant advice!

using your network

i don't have many connections in my industry compared to my colleagues, and didn't have the benefit of working as a intern at tech companies or joining as a batch of cs grad hires (my college didn't even offer cs101!)

since my network is so sparse, i do 2 things:

  1. keep my linkedin updated

i'm not sure how uncommon this is, but all of my tech jobs started as applications or conversations through linkedin.

linkedin comes with a lot of spam and third-party recruiters who will waste your time, but it's also a platform where i've heard directly from spotify, twitter, microsoft, google, amazon, promising startups, etc.

do things like filling out your description, contact details, and tech skills. linkedin makes suggestions and offers a "rating" on your profile. it's worth it to complete it, because recruiters rely on linkedin heavily when they're scouting.

this advice might be more relevant for women and other URMs - since this might be a result of these company's efforts to diversify their pipeline!

  1. cold contact strangers who seem like they could help me with specific asks

i never did this before starting tech because it can be horridly uncomfortable, but this is an ingrained habit in me now.

whenever i have a company or type of position i'm interested in, i find any folks who are currently working there and dm them.

(of course i try to plumb my network out first, but this usually turns up nothing!)

9 times out of 10, that person will not respond.
but the kind individuals who take the time make it worth it. all of them revealed a whole different side of their company / job / role that was a blindspot for me.

since i know what it's like to be on the other side, i've been game to talk to someone when they approach me with a specific goal or questions with which i can clearly help.

pro tip: give them a personal reason that you connect or share similarities.
one woman i spoke to told me she responded because i was clear about my request and also gave me extra advice because i reminded her of her little sister. that sure was lucky, because my conversation with her is the reason i was brave enough to ask and get $130k base salary for my first job.

a resume's job

this is very basic job advice so i won't spend too much time on it, but i'd forgotten the value of it this time around.

if you're applying to mid or senior level dev jobs, and you don't hear back from them, your resume gives really poor signal. this is important to know because applying on a company website is the easiest and fastest method when you know what job you want.

pass it to friends, ask around on the internet, find recruiters — figure out what you're missing. it might be some specific keywords or role-specific messaging, and it might also mean "rewording" or "renaming" things to get past the filter (without crossing into outright fraud).

this is the most impactful thing you can do if your pipeline is not filling up with prospects.

what do you want to do? (be specific!) ...and what does the company think they want? (play the part!)

when i was looking for my first role in tech, i thought of all fullstack software engineer roles as equivalent-ish jobs. any job would do because getting my foot in was the priority.

in interviews, i emphasized my ability to quickly pick up new ideas and topics, and how passionate i was about learning. combined with solving whiteboarding problems, this worked very well!

this also worked very well within google. engineers are largely seen as swappable resources, and it's trusted that if you're put on a completely foreign domain, you're smart enough to pick it up in time.

as someone applying to mid-senior roles outside of google during covid times, my attitude about "well, i can learn that!" harmed perceptions of me at onsite interviews.

when companies are hiring for junior roles, it's often from a place of prosperity, when they have resources to share. when they only have mid-senior roles listed, they might be trying to deliver something and lack the goods in their current eng dept. this was particularly true for covid-times hiring. many folks i talked to often had urgent product deadlines or a new critical feature to launch, and they sought candidates who were going to lend technical leadership to their team right away, much less require ramp-up time.

instead of casting a wide net for all roles that seemed pursuable, i should have thought carefully about the tech skills i had and wanted to continue developing. i hadn't had the mental space to reflect on this.

i'd applied to many roles to get competing offers, but anyone else should spend a lot of effort on a few extremely similar, equivalent roles so the topics you review are the same.

best of luck to anyone out there job searching, and i hope i gave a window of insight for folks!