Landing a Job in Silicon Valley

Those following along know that my wife and I relocated from Portland, to San Francisco, then to Denver. Well, we recently moved BACK to San Francisco after realizing we're West Coast folks at heart.

The first time we moved to SF, it took me 5-6 weeks to receive two job offers. What follows is the story of how I got a job in SF this time around.

Motivations

I'm generally entrepreneurial in nature. So, why go back to Engineering? Truthfully, I'm burnt out on founding companies. I'm headed back to W-2 employment so I can recharge. I'm tired of the financial instability and want to give my wife a break from being the primary breadwinner.

Process

When I started my search I had grand ambitions to work at a mature tech business like Google, Uber, Facebook, or AirBnB. The first time we moved to SF it took me 5-6 weeks to receive a job offer. With more experience under my belt, I expected to have a job lined up in less than 8 weeks. This was not the case.

Having not interviewed for 5+ years, and taken a break from Engineering to start two companies, I didn't have a clear narrative and I struggled with many of the technical assessments. Most of the larger companies viewed me as a liability.

So, did some reflecting on my search strategy. I started recording my interviews to learn where my narrative was weak. I worked on reducing the "Um" and "Uh"'s in my conversation. Chats with my wife and friends led me to realize that I'm better suited to work at early-stage companies, so I refined my search to smaller companies. Finally, I started doing 2-3 programming challenges per week and reading architectural design content.

Slowly, but surely, I got better at interviewing. My narrative became focused, I got better at the technical assessments, and more-over, I started being more candid about my strenghts and my weaknesses. Proactively discussing my weaknesses during interviews allowed very little room for interviewers to hold them against me. Exactly like making fun of yourself in a crowd. If you own your flaws, no one else can use them against you.

Stats

Date job search started: May 2018
Date job search ended: Nov 2018
Duration of job search: 6 months
Search services used: LinkedIn Jobs, Glassdoor, Hired, Angelist A-List

Applications Submitted: 253
Phone calls (HR, technical, behavioral, feedback): 99
Rejected/Ghosted: 232
Onsites: 9
Passed/Mismatch: 10

Advice

So here is some advice that I wish I could give myself when I started this process. Hopefully someone else finds it helpful.

Track your progress

If you're actively looking, you're probably applying at a volume that is difficult to track by just looking at your inbox. Consider a more structured approach. I used Trello, with a List for reach stage of the interview process.

This way you can keep track of each application and the relevant details for each role. Consider using Trello labels to classify different roles by experience, or those where you had a referral. Doing so forces you to think quantitatively about your process.

Hone your narrative

In general, folks who are interviewing you are applying a bunch of heuristics to filter out people who are a waste of time. They are looking for red flags and reasons to filter you out. Red flags include: poor communication, excess ego, irrelevant experience, no goals or job requirements, etc.

I found this behavior question guide to be really helpful.

Develop concise, 2-minute answers to all of these questions, then practice, practice, practice. Practice with friends. Record yourself. Chop out the extra bits until you have an easily-digestible response. Good interviewers will pick up on the juicy bits and know where to dig in for more context; no need to drone on about the specifics.

A clear narrative helps people understand your background and signals to them that you are capable to deep introspection.

Ask for referrals

Ask your friends for referrals and introductions. Your network can introduce you directly to managers or senior level individuals who can bypass much of the recruiting bureacracy.

Don't worry about a "formal" resume

Confession: I've never written a single resume in my life.

Focus on creating an accurate and detail-rich LinkedIn profile. You can save your profile as a PDF in the "More..." dropdown on your profile and it looks identical to a resume. If anyone ever gives you flack, there are dozens of resume builders that will import your LinkedIn data.

And if you're not writing somewhere online, start doing so. It doesn't have to be long-form blog posts, nor does it have to be tech focused. But actively broadcasting your projects and thoughts can be a surprisingly good way for people to get to know you. No need to go overboard either; Github, Twitter, LinkedIn, portfolio site, or a blog are all good options.

Be persistent and resourceful

Keep applying. Everywhere that makes sense. It doesn't matter if you've already applied; apply again. Apply for the same job across multiple platforms. Try to find someone in your network who can introduce you to an HR person, or a hiring manager. Use LinkedIn or Clearbit to message folks directly.

Know what you want

And don't be afraid to vocalize it. Early on, I had a tendency to speak generically about my skills and requirements so as to not rule myself out of a job during the interview process. But this is the opposite of what I should have been doing. Companies don't want to hire someone who hasn't yet figured out what they want, how they like to work, or the types of industries they like to work in.

If you don't know what you want, odds are you won't get it
-- someone smart probably

Conclusion

This interview process was more challenging than the first time I interviewed for SF jobs. However, I learned a great deal about myself during the experience. I hope the lessons I've shared here are helpful for others.

I want to extend my deepest gratitudes to all my friends and family for their support. Adarsh, Pavan, Hunter, Simon, Stephen, Leah, Zac, Kelly, Aki, and the entire Solish community. I owe a special thanks to my wife, Devon, for supporting me in this journey. Her faith in me never waivered. She was my coach and cheer leader throughout the 6+ months of interviewing. Thank you hun, I love you bunches and boocoos.

Resources

LinkedIn Jobs
Glassdoor
Angelist A-List
Hired
Resume Advice
Behavior Interview Guide

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