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An intermediate step between "send in a resume and cover letter that no one reads" and "send in an unsolicited blow-their-minds project", which may well bounce off the same spam or attention filter which bounces a resume, is "convince one person in the company that they want you to apply there."

This is much, much less difficult than engineers think it is. People with hiring authority are on the same Internet you are. They use the same email / Twitter / etc. THEY WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. Engineers are in incredible demand.

They get a steady stream of resumes from people who are wildly unqualified for the job. That is one reason why they're not going to read your resume when you send it in unless their prior expectation is that you're interesting.

It is not harder to be interesting than "someone I've never heard of or met." "Hey Bob, I watched your presentation at $CONFERENCE last year on Youtube. Great stuff; loved what you did with $FOO, in particular $COMMENT_PROVING_YOU_KNOW_WHAT_YOU'RE_TALKING_ABOUT. I'm also a $FOO developer. Do you have a few minutes to chat on Thursday about what you guys are doing?"

You're not proposing marriage here. You're asking for 15 minutes to get to know them. You do not have to author a heartbreaking work of staggering genius to make this call happen.

Your goal for the chat: get Bob enthusiastic enough to either suggest "Hey you should apply here" or be receptive to you suggesting "Hey, I really like what you're doing, and would like to see if I could be a part of it. Can you get the ball rolling for me?"

n.b. If you want to knock someone's socks off with a demo of e.g. an application which uses their API, use the above to get one person enthusiastic about reviewing the demo, then implement. If you can't get one person enthusiastic about the prospect of looking at your work, there's sharply limited odds that actually doing the work meaningfully advances your interests.




Time to do such research is not always a luxury a job applicant has. The hypothetical job candidate would, I'm sure, love to be able to get to know the intimate details of the 30 companies they need to apply to right now (because their savings dries up in 3 months and they have a family to feed), but that takes a lot of time. Maybe you didn't happen to have watched Bob's presentation at $CONFERENCE. Chances are, you don't even know how to contact Bob or that indeed Bob is even the decision maker. What then? In many cases, you'll not know a single person at the company that is in the position to hire or recommend you. At that point, you're back to the "job posting black hole".

I'd turn it around on the company: You're not proposing marriage either. Take a measly few minutes every so often to really look at the stack of resumes you get, and give a few of them a whirl. Don't spend months and months of the company's time and money hopelessly looking for that special snowflake 100% match when there may be many 90% matches lining up at your door. Thanks to lax U.S. labor laws, the decision to hire is not irreversible.


If unsolicited apps are 1/10th as effective as solicited ones (generous!) then you only have to research 4 companies to outdo 30 shots in the dark.

You can find e.g. the name of the CTO of Fog Creek. It's FizzBuzz-level difficulty or less.

You can find e.g. any published work of Thomas Ptacek to bond over. You didn't have to run into him at Black Hat, or even know that he has spoken at Black Hat, to find a video of him speaking at Black Hat.

You may not know who is in charge of Fraud at Square. You know who probably knows? Well, to a first approximation, any engineer there should (or be able to find it out trivially). Can you find any engineer at Square?

We have the good fortune to be in an industry where people are hyper-connected, publicly identified, and Internet routable. Use these facts to your advantage when looking for a job.


I don't think we're talking about unsolicited vs. solicited applications. Surely a candidates odds are substantially better when the company initiates contact.

I'm talking about official vs. unofficial channels: does it makes sense to have an official (job site / resumes) channel that pretty much funnels into the trash, along side an unofficial one (where the real hiring happens) that rewards insider connections, friends of friends, cyber-stalking, cold-calling, and/or exhaustive research into companies? Is that the best we can do?

Also not arguing that the unofficial channel is ineffective. Clearly that's where all the hiring is going on, but is this the way it _should_ be?


It sounds like you guys are talking past each other. Patrick is telling you the reality of the situation. You're telling Patrick that the situation he describes is silly and unfair.

That's certainly true, but it's definitely not helpful to point it out then continue doing what you're doing.

The correct thing to do when faced with a series of silly steps that are 10-100X more effective than the "fair" way that an engineer would design is to learn how to follow those silly steps and follow them.

This pattern hangs engineers up quite often in life. See also salary negotiation, promotions, dating, etc. etc. It's worth taking a step back, looking at how the real world operates, then finding a way to make yourself operate in that real world.

You'll end up a lot happier for having done so.


I think it's more about a situation when you are 'omg I want to work at THIS company' rather than 'I just need a job'.

You can get enthusiastic about one company and get something done about it. Following the Patrick's suggestion, it's some mega project that would take the whole week or so, a couple of focused hours should do the trick. And if you are genuinely interested, you will naturally sound generally interested without any bs covering it all.

Even if the case of just needing a job, following this advice will probably help you get produce a few but high quality applications, rather than sending yet another resume.


>Time to do such research is not always a luxury a job applicant has.

I think their point is that applicants should focus more on quality, not quantity. Rather than focus on 30 companies, focus on six, and spend time trying to impress them rather than just throwing your application into the numbers grinder.


That is true, but I don't think I have 30 companies I would be really excited to work at. I could find 30 companies easily, but that would require doing the same amount of research. Sure doing research on 30 different companies may require too much time, but not doing it would mean I would probably end up shotgunning job applications to a bunch of places I don't have strong opinions on.


As a former recruiter, I can't second this enough. Applying online is like shouting into a black hole. Pinging a real person with sincere, earnest content and talking to them like they're a person is so much better.


>Pinging a real person with sincere, earnest content and talking to them like they're a person is so much better.

I was a bigtime Rdio fan. I loved their clean design, discoverability. I pinged a real person with big list of improvements and bugfixes that was I was collecting over many months. I told them I wanted to work for them and sent them my resume.

They got back to me with "We have sent over your suggestions to our engineers, but we can't hire anyone without Python experience" .


Anyone with Python experience should know how easy it is to translate any other language experience into learning Python.

They would've been better off saying they just couldn't hire anyone at the time.


And look where they ended up :/


yea, apparently their CTO didn't like anyone without python experience. bizarre.


I wish this was true everywhere. I've tried this few times on the companies I was very excited about, but it never worked so far for me. Most of the time, they don't even care to reply. I don't like faking interest, so I just drop my applications into the black hole these days.


> As a former recruiter, I can't second this enough. Applying online is like shouting into a black hole.

If this is true, why even have an online job site? Why waste everyone's time?


For one thing, existence of a jobs page tells desirable candidates to find the real way to apply; non-existence leads some candidates to assume you're not hiring.

Every company with 10+ engineers is hiring engineers but many people don't know that yet, so, have a jobs page.


> For one thing, existence of a jobs page tells desirable candidates to find the real way to apply; non-existence leads some candidates to assume you're not hiring.

Assuming there is a "real way". Many large companies force you through their terrible portals and HR filters.

> Every company with 10+ engineers is hiring engineers but many people don't know that yet, so, have a jobs page.

Mine isn't, and has not been for several months. We aren't in financial trouble, either. We just don't have the backlog or volume of expected work.


Hey "former recruiter" what do you do not? I'm currently a recruiter now and always interested in hearing about what people do after recruiting.


now


If everyone followed this advice, it wouldn't work because that person would quickly ignore the dozens of pings he'd get daily.


> You're not proposing marriage here.

For me the biggest job-search hurdle is emotional... I know it sounds like one of those bullshit "you biggest weakness" dodges, but the idea of "looking elsewhere" is perilous.

I feels either like cheating (on my current employer) or else some sort of irrevocable sense of obligation towards whatever I'm asking about. ("How dare you waste my time with questions if you weren't already planning to accept an offer!")


If it helps, remember that the people on the other side absolutely do not feel the way you feel. Your current employer understands that employees will leave, and plans and budgets for that. That's why people talk about bus numbers.

Your prospective employers do not expect every coffee, phone screen, or interview to result in a new employee. They understand that they will talk to people who are a bad fit, and that's part of the process.

I respect that you feel that way, and have felt that way myself, but it gets in the way of advantageous moves.


This is, legitimately, one of the most comments ever written about the job search process on HN. Employers run a portfolio strategy for candidate selection, much like sales guys run a portfolio strategy with regards to leads. Making the wrong decision on a candidate/lead is totally acceptable. Missing an opportunity with a candidate/lead is totally acceptable. Spending time investigating a candidate/lead which doesn't work out is not just totally acceptable it is the entire freaking job. If an employer has a 100% acceptance rate on candidates or a salesman closes 100% of leads that is an alarming signal that the process is out of control: they're clearly not exposing enough people to it!

Candidates need to understand this.


Very good advice. Any employee at any halfway decent company can put a friend's resume at the top of the pile. You still have to know what you're doing to get through the interview, but HR people are looking for any good reason to cull their stack. "Well, Jane over in QA recommended them" is as good a reason as any, and provides them cover when asked, "Why doesn't this person have skill X"




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