Hack the Developer Job Search: The Most Successful Tactics Used By Job Seeking Software Engineers

It’s rough out there, but it doesn’t have to be so bad

Blasting your resume out to hundreds of companies is soul-sucking, demoralizing, and largely ineffective.

But in the current job market, it can be difficult to find other ways to find opportunities. This is especially true if you’re new to the industry, recently graduated, or trying to relocate to a new city.

I’m currently starting a new job search in New York City, and I want to take as much pain as possible our of the process. So, I’ve spent the past few days reading dozens of stories from other developers about how they landed their dream jobs. I’ve also talked with lots of developers about the job hunt process.

In this post, I’ll give a summary of what I’ve learned. I’ll share the specific tactics that I’ll be using in my upcoming job search — the ones that I’ve seen to be most effective for others.

After all, we’re software developers! The job search process is just another complex task that can be optimized and made more efficient!

Get Very Specific

Before you start, it’s helpful to get real with yourself about what you expect from your new job.

You need to get really specific. Try to carve out a niche in what you’re looking for so you can target your efforts. By doing so, you’ll become a big fish in a small pond and stand out.

Create a target so you know what you’re aiming for

Saying, “I’ll do anything, anywhere!” is not an effective way to start your job search.

Here are some questions that you should know the answers to, and your answers should be very specific and limited:

  • What tech stack would I like to work in?
  • What cities would I consider living in?
  • What industries would I consider working for?
  • What level of compensation do I expect?

For example, my one-sentence explanation of the job I’m looking for is:

Python backend positions at Health or InsurTech startups in Brooklyn or Manhattan paying $100k+

By limiting your scope, you give yourself laser focus.

It also becomes easier to ask people for recommendations. Instead of asking, “do you know of any jobs?” you can ask, “Do you know of any C#/.NET developer jobs in Austin at FinTech startups?”

It’ll be a lot easier for people to answer the second question than the first.

Work Your Connections

The very first piece of advice in almost any job search article is to talk to the people you already know.

At this point, it feels like tired, trite advice. It’s also the last thing you want to hear when you don’t know anyone to talk to in your target city or industry.

However, the reality still remains that a solid 80% of jobs are never posted publicly. They’re filled through networking and word of mouth.

Luckily, the common conception around networking is totally wrong. Rarely do you just happen to know someone who gives you a job.

Instead, networking usually works when you know someone who knows someone who knows someone else. So you don’t need to have direct connections, you just need to have some connections. Any connections at all is a good start, including your family, friends, and current coworkers.

Talk to those connections, tell them the specific job you’re looking for (as you defined above), and see who they might know who might know someone.

Then, the hard part is to follow up with those people. Keep tracking down new connections. Keep asking who else you should talk to.

By far, in my own life and in the stories I’ve heard from other developers, using your network is the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get a job you’ll actually like.

Talk to Recruiters

If you put “web developer” or “software engineer” on your LinkedIn profile at all, chances are you’ve received messages from recruiters.

Here’s just one random day from my LinkedIn messages, all of these people are recruiters:

I’m not showing this to say that I’m special — I’m sure nearly any experienced dev with a LinkedIn can relate.

It boils down to simple math. A recruiter only gets paid when they headhunt a candidate to fill a position. So, it makes sense for recruiters to reach out to as many developers as possible in hopes of filling the open positions they have.

Talking to these types of recruiters may be worth your time. However, you’ll want to spread your time around to as many recruiters as possible. Don’t develop recruiter loyalty and don’t spend too much time on any one recruiter.

That said, adding recruiters on LinkedIn and scheduling a bunch of phone calls is a great way to expand your network and learn about more open positions.

You can even signal privately to recruiters that you’re open to talking by changing some settings on LinkedIn.

Some recruiters and positions will be duds, not worth your time. Others will be incredibly helpful, give you feedback on your resume and what to say in interviews, and assist you with negotiation.

The recruiters want you to get the job and get paid as much as possible, because then they get paid. It’s nice to have that kind of cheerleader sometimes.

Nevertheless, don’t rely on recruiters as your whole job search strategy. Make them part of an overall plan.

Recruiters will act like everything is urgent and demand a lot of your time. Don’t be afraid to make them wait. The best recruiters will never pressure or pester you.

Reverse Recruiting

Another strategy that comes up often in developer job search stories is targeting companies by doing the recruiter’s job for them.

Here’s how to reverse recruit:

  1. Make a list of 10–15 companies that you’d like to work at in your target market
  2. See if those companies have open positions that overlap with your tech stack and experience. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match. Partial overlap is okay.
  3. Find that company’s recruiter on LinkedIn and send them a connection request. In the request, include the job title/# and a brief note about why you’d be a good fit for the position.
  4. When they accept your request, immediately send them your resume, contact info, and time you’re available to meet that week.

By doing reverse recruiting, you’ve already done most of the recruiter’s job for them. They just have to review your resume and schedule a call!

This strategy is more work intensive but also shows initiative and thoughtfulness on your part. It’s much more likely to land you an interview than a cold application.

Email Your Future Coworkers

I’ve used this tactic to success in the past.

It’s similar to reverse recruiting. However, in this version, you’ll send an email to someone at the company you want to work for.

Tell them you saw the job description online and would love their feedback on what it’s like to work at the company.

This type of initiative gets you noticed by a real person. In turn, that person may share your name with HR or the hiring manager. That immediately flags your application and gets you special consideration.

A more heavy-handed approach is to directly ask the person at the company to pass your information along to the hiring manager. You could even attach your resume to the email if it feels appropriate.

The best strategy, however, is to try to build a relationship with the person. So, if you can take them out to coffee to ask about their work, that’s the ideal scenario.

Companies often have recruitment referral bonuses, so in many cases it is to the person’s advantage to recommend you.

Prioritize & Ignore the Rest

There are certainly other job search tactics, but these are the ones I’ll be focusing on.

Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s right-hand man) has famously taught the lesson of essentialism.

He says you should make a list of things you hope to accomplish and then ignore the bottom 95% of the list. Only focus on the 5% of the most important tasks and goals.

Your laser focus will pay off because your attention won’t be divided. Instead of being half-baked and burnt out on a bunch of ideas, you’ll put all your energy into accomplishing the few most important things.

I hope this list helps you on your job search. If it does, leave me a comment below!

Top writer in Technology | Backend Web Developer | bennettgarner.com

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