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How to get a tech job in 2024

Vision and Values
Getting a job in tech has always been tough, but 2023 10x'd the challenge. Most companies have always been bad at hiring, but the past year has been so much worse. By the time you see a job on Linkedin, there are likely thousands of candidates; your objective is to be one of dozens, not one of thousands, and to manage the process (and your experience) to the best of your ability.

Here are five suggestions that might be helpful for next year, plus a few bonus tips, to give you an edge:
  1. Acknowledge the chaotic hiring landscape. It's no secret that companies have always struggled with effective recruiting and hiring. This year, the situation has worsened. Maybe it’s because HR, people ops, and recruiting teams were the first to be laid off. I’ve seen reports of applications going unacknowledged, weeks between interviews (or any communication), and candidates being ghosted after their final round. It's important to recognize this new reality - it's not just you finding it tough; the system is more chaotic and disorganized. This is just as true for big, established companies as for startups.
  2. Early application advantage. Timing is crucial. If you're eyeing roles in tech, a useful strategy is to monitor venture capital (VC) job boards. VCs pay to aggregate jobs from across their portfolio, and jobs here often show up days or weeks earlier than on more mainstream sites like LinkedIn. Check these sites once or twice a day (I like to keep the tabs open in a separate window). Being among the first to apply can significantly increase your chances of getting noticed and landing an interview. Of course, the moment you apply, you should go into networking mode (see below).
  3. Proactive networking is less productive. In the past, especially at startups, you might have been able to connect with a founder or exec, and if you hit it off, they might create a role for you. Or they might have accelerated an open role. But with the end of cheap startup money, you can’t count on the same thing. You should never stop networking, but your next offer will probably come from an open, posted role. Focus your networking for after you've applied. 
  4. The power of “cool leads.” In a sea of applicants, standing out is key. If you can't secure a direct referral, consider a “cool lead.” This involves connecting with someone, anyone, within the company as soon as you apply for a job. It doesn't have to be someone in the same department; any internal connection can be valuable. So, apply for the job (do that first!) and then quickly search out anyone you can who works at the company. Have a brief chat, ask insightful questions about the company, and request that they mention your conversation to the hiring manager. You’re not pitching them on yourself as a candidate (they don't know you and probably don't know the role); you just want them to think of you as a cool person and share your name with the hiring manager. This interaction can make your application memorable amidst hundreds.
  5. Brace for a longer job hunt: It's likely that securing a job this year will take more time and may feel more frustrating. To cope, consider professional communities (let me know if you need some suggestions) or forming a personal job search council (as suggested in the book Never Search Alone). Preparing mentally for this reality can help you stay resilient and focused during your job search.
Bonus evergreen tip: Utilize loose social ties. Don't underestimate the value of your less-close connections when job hunting. These are people you might not talk to often but can be surprisingly helpful (e.g., not family or close friends). Don't hesitate to reach out even if you haven't spoken in years. I spoke with close to 200 tech folks about their professional networking (exploring a startup concept!), and most reported being surprised at who provided the critical introduction.
Bonus tip #2: Recruiters can be your friends. Make a note of who seems to really understand their clients (my favorite question: “What 2-3 differentiating attributes separate the successful candidate for this specific role, at this specific company, from all the other well-qualified applicants you see?”) and be sure to stay in touch. Check-in regularly to see if they have any open roles they’re having a hard time filling. And try to connect them to folks in your network who might be looking.
Bonus tip #3: Are you applying for an exec or leadership role at a startup? Don’t be afraid to help them “manage” their hiring process. This could be as simple as helping them define their hiring rubrics (”What 2-3 differentiating attributes separate the successful candidate? How are you identifying those qualities in the interview process? What questions are you asking and what answers are you listening for?”) or even helping them establish a better process. Make sure you’re talking to the right people, make sure they’re asking the right questions, and if they’ve been struggling to fill a role, even help them think through why. No better way to audition for a leadership role than by showing leadership.
Bonus tip #4: If there’s a book that tells you how to ace the job interview for your profession, read it! I re-read Cracking the PM Interview every time I’m on the market. And if there is no similar book for you, consider reading a guide for the interviewer. I like Hiring Talent and Behavior Based Interviewing.
Bonus tip #5: I don’t know their magic, but has been surfacing roles I don’t think I would have seen otherwise. Consider adding it to your rotation, along with LinkedIn alerts and the VC job boards listed above.
Let me know if there’s anything you think I got wrong or missed! And if there’s something I can do to be helpful, please let me know.
UPDATE: There's been a request for a list of VC job boards: here's a nice starting place!
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