Software job searching 101: The how-to

Jul 2, 2021

Welcome to my series on job searching as a software engineer. I have some long-form advice in the following pieces, but this is the how-to intro to get you started. The order is intentional, but not mandatory. Skip around!

Getting an interview

Make templates for initial interactions

There is a lot of written communication involved in getting an interview. Resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn responses are great things to have working templates for. That way your messaging can be consistent, and you can modify it based on your level of success.

Cover Letter and Resume

I go into cover letter and resume templating in great detail here: shotgunning vs sniping job application

LinkedIn Responses

Responding to recruiters on LinkedIn is a great way to waste time, but this is more of a stand-in for any type of written communication you have to do over and over on different platforms.

Here is what my LinkedIn template looked like

Work on personal branding

This is a large topic and I defer to swyx on it. He has a great book you can find here:

There is a free chapter on marketing that I highly recommend.

Things like consistent profile descriptions and pictures make you more memorable as a recruiter goes through your profiles.

Get your resume and cover reviewed

I got a resume review from friends and someone on Rooftop Slushie

It helped me take my resume from V1 to V2

I don't recommend LinkedIn resume review services. Everyone has 30+ years of experience and it all feels like BS. I like Rooftop Slushie, because it requires less vetting and your review is done by a FAANG employee rather than an HR person.

Here is the feedback I got in my review

Find places to apply

These recommendations are not for everyone. I wanted to work remote at a late-stage start-up or a scale-up, and I wasn't interested in corporations or young start-ups.

Tier 1

They have the largest flow of jobs and are mainstream enough to get most companies in my criteria. Most of my success was through Glassdoor.

Tier 2

These a great because they have opinions like people-first, remote, and angel invested. There aren't as many jobs, but it says something when a company shows up on These companies wear their values on their sleeve and are worth extra effort to get into.

Tier 3

Surf industries using Similar Sites a Chrome extension that allows you to find companies in an industry based on SEO. I wanted to work in finance (It didn't happen :shrug: I am ok with that), and this tool allowed me to jump around between similar finance companies quickly to see if they had frontend openings.

^ here is an example of searching the car insurance industry from Clearcover's site

The downside here is there is some manual work in finding places to apply.

Tier 4

Hacker News has a thread every month called "Who is hiring?" Here is the one from June

People have made tools for parsing them like

Post about yourself or use a tool to find jobs and contact companies by email there! Try to be early because the thread gets dense by mid-month.

I got a couple of leads by just posting a little bit about myself, which was low effort considering I had templates for my personal introduction.

Tier (n-3)

There is a group of companies that are trying to make a platform for company/perspective-employee connection. Unfortunately, they are all too small at the moment to be helpful.

I spent a lot of time on tools like these, even doing their dumb challenges for internet points. Little was gained through them. My take is not many companies have bought into the idea, so your chance of getting contacted is slim.

Tier (n-2) recruiters on LinkedIn

I have talked about LinkedIn recruiters before in job searching as a mid-level software engineer. There are some good ones, but if they work for an agency the work will be mediocre. If you are going to talk to them, start by asking if they work for the company they are representing or for an agency. And end the call there if they don't work directly for a software company.

I ultimately had 20 or so 30-minute phone intros, which was good practice for giving my spiel, but the companies represented never panned out to be places I wanted to work.

Tier (n-1)

These sites are great for other professions, but not for software engineers. Don't use them.

Keep track of where you apply

Here is how I did it. Not the only way, but you can't keep it all in your head, so don't try. Make a system to keep yourself organized.

Getting an offer

Make templates for your spiel

Questions like "Tell me about yourself?", "Why are you leaving company X?", and "Why did you become a developer?" are easy money. So write down your answers and practice them in front of a mirror out loud.

Here is what my Spiel looked like

Don't study algorithms unless you want to work in FAANG

If you are not going for a prestigious corporation (lol) you won't see algorithm questions. Don't grind Leetcode unless you are trying to go FAANG. This is coming from someone that owns Cracking the Coding Interview and has never really used its contents.

Know your audience

I was interviewing

  • as a frontend engineer

at companies

  • below 500 people
  • that used React.

Most of the technical questions I encountered could have been answered given knowledge of array manipulation in JS (mostly reduce) and React docs. If their app uses canvas you should probably study canvas though, since it's a whole separate ball game.

Outside of FE, I can't really break it down so simply. Keep track of what you are asked, email it to me when you have enough data, and I can update this article for other specialties!

Apply to your strengths

I didn't apply to any companies that used Svelte or Vue. When I did, I didn't get far.

Similar principles can be interpolated for backend and other specialties.

The Halo Effect

“The Halo Effect is the tendency for positive impressions of a person in one area to positively influence one's opinion or feelings in other areas.”

This effect is why you assume Gordon Ramsay is a good dad and smart with his money. Show only your strong sides and the interviewer will likely backfill what they don't know about you positively.

Things like having good signal for a phone intro and good lighting for a Zoom call can compound to make your interview presence that much better than someone else's.

So care about the details.

Getting a job you want

Sooo you got an offer!! Now what?

Is it a Cool Job?

The first thing to do is see how it matches up to your Cool Job criteria. If it doesn't, stand your ground and either negotiate hard or move on.

Does it have any little gotchas in the contract?

Read it through to double-check that you are ok with everything. Especially the IP (Intellectual Property) section. Honestly with this, I just make sure that things like this blog aren't all of a sudden owned by my new employer.

It's to be expected that anything you use the companies' property for is owned by the company, but don't get suckered into not having any side hustles. Remember, the negotiation ends when you sign. The IP agreement is negotiable. They will make you feel like it isn't or that they are on your side, but being a Karen here will pay off.

Salary Negotiation

I defer to this article for most things:

I have read this 3 times in total. Including out loud with my family. The only things I would add are:

Equity is a scam

Unless you majored in business finance before switching to software just assume that it will be diluted to pennies on the dollar. The dozen or so people that got equity in a start-up and became millionaires are the instruments of propaganda used to exploit new grads for cheap labor.

Use GlassDoor to know the salary ahead of time

So you don't waste time applying to places that don't meet your Cool Job criteria.

That’s all I got for this practical intro to your job search... Check out other sections of this series for big pictures to help you succeed.

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