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What content do people recommend looking at when trying to find jobs?

by Nathan Young 1 min read19th Dec 20194 comments

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What books, videos, blogs etc, would you recommended. What good advice have you heard?

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I want to caveat the following suggestions with the information that although I have achieved a high degree of success when it comes to getting first-round interviews (>40% response rate), my track record of actually getting the jobs that I want is not particularly high. So take these bullet points as tried-and-true advice on how to get the interview, not on how to get the job (that part is up to you).

  • Think hard about the UI of your CV.
    • Your résumé should look really, really good! If you know InDesign, use it. If you don't, learn it. People who are hiring genuinely and sincerely try not to care about things like this. They still do. It can make a difference.
    • Tailor your resume to fit the jobs you're applying to. Do this for every job. This may mean moving your education to the top, highlighting your skills, or front-loading certain accomplishments. Think of your resume as a prior distribution that you're going to hand to a hiring manager who's trying to estimate your potential fit for the job: you don't want to supply every hiring manager with the same prior, since they're estimating fits for different jobs. You want to maximize the likelihood that you'll be considered a fit for any given job. Not tailoring your resume is not "more honest" than modifying it to fit the job— it's just providing hiring managers with an uninformative prior.
  • Organize and file your past applications
    • Make a subfolder for each application you do containing the resume and cover letter you used for that application. You should be adjusting your resume and cover letter for each job, but as you apply for more jobs, you'll be able to simply adjust the materials from similar previous applications. This will reduce friction for you and make you more productive in your application process.
  • Cold-emailing never hurt anyone
    • If you're interested in working somewhere, email them, even if there's not a job posted. Don't send them your resume at first. Just say you're interested, give a sentence or two of background, and ask if there's some way you can get involved. In the worst case, your email with disappear into the void. Often, though, your email will be treated as a serious indicator of genuine interest when a job is posted. This puts you in a very good position. In the best case, someone will actually set an interview with you (this has happened to me more than once).
  • Always, always, always follow up after your initial application
    • This is a no-brainer. It takes ten seconds, demonstrates interest, and brings you to the top of the pile for disorganized hiring managers.
    • Two anecdotes: (1) I wouldn't have gotten my first job ever if I hadn't followed up after submitting my application: their CRM had lost my resume, and they wouldn't even have known about me if I hadn't emailed. (2) I recently went through a process where the hiring manager only moved me forward after follow-ups after every stage of the process. I imagine this is a way of weeding out less interested candidates.
  • Be disciplined about your job search
    • When you're looking for a job, you'll feel like you have to be constantly looking. This is a mistake and will drain your energy. You'll have a few sites to check once a day. Check them. Then Google around if you have any ideas for finding new jobs to apply to. Don't do this for more than half an hour a day- you'll hit negative returns in terms of both your state of mind and opportunity cost. You can instead use that time to...
  • Make things that show you can do the job
    • This obviously can't work everywhere, but for some jobs it will go a long way. I think this has become standard advice in tech and EA, but it's worth repeating: it takes a big investment to work for free on a project that perhaps no one will see, but the expected return is much higher than that on throwing a CV into the void.
  • Networking is overrated
    • Perhaps the only potentially controversial item on this list. People will tell you "it's who you know." I think this is true in a limited way: people who you've worked with in the past and who are familiar with you in a professional context will, indeed, recommend you, meet with you, think of you for future positions, and occasionally go out on a limb for you. People you have just met will not, generally speaking, do this. They may or may not "pass your resume along" after you grab a coffee with them, but the fact that you barely know them will register with whoever they pass your resume to.

Aside from reading 80K's collected work on the subject, I'd recommend Ask A Manager's "How to Get a Job" and Ramit Sethi's work on job-hunting (frustratingly, this is spread across many posts, so there's no one thing for me to link, but if you browse his recent posts, you'll get the gist.

There's also this article (especially point #3) and this post (used to be free; not sure what the price is now, but it's worth at least as much as a good book on job-hunting).

These are, collectively, what made me feel most comfortable and confident when writing resumes, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews; this doesn't mean that they counterfactually caused me to get any jobs I wouldn't have gotten otherwise (I honestly don't know whether that's true).