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How to get 70 job interviews in 17 days



When I was but a wee lad, I dreamed of being a janitor for NASA. There's just something awesome about playing a part, no matter how small, of something that dares to push the world forward. While I no longer hold my old lofty dreams of working for NASA, I have had to recently look for jobs. For whatever contrived reason, the conventional thinking behind how people should search for jobs falls under two categories: networking and job sites. While those approaches work, a very useful metaphor for how you might view yourself is that you're a business. You sell your product (your time) for a salary (your revenue). You might argue, most wages in the western world are $20,000 USD to $500,000 USD. If you're a business, then it's probably also helpful to think about selling your product (time) like a business. Typically, different price points in business dictate different sales and marketing techniques. Below say, $10 a month, direct sales (sales where you sell to people on the phone/email/etc., directly), tends to be economically infeasible. However, our product is worth northwards of $20,000 a year. So we can still do direct sales where direct sales is akin to traditional job hunting approaches. However, it's not as if all businesses which sell product at that price point rely solely on direct sales. This is where things get interesting.

Marketing has at least two key components: brand and channel. Brand is story telling and the channel is how you get your story out. Big companies tend to focus on brand building. Startups, on the other hand, tend to focus on channel. The reason being: big companies tend to have huge budgets and multi-million dollar revenues. When a business is starting out, however, it's impossible to spend money like a big company might. A startup just can't spend a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign just to drum up awareness. So just getting the word out and getting people to buy is more important than crafting the perfect message. If you're a business, then you're probably more similar to a startup than a big company (unless you're Warren Buffet). That said, if we're going to market ourselves, we should probably be marketing like a startup. The following was my process to getting 70 interviews in 17 days.

Who are my customers?
Before I started my search, I asked myself who my customers were. Were they located in a particular place? Was there a particular role I'm interested in? What's my salary range? Generally the less specific your criteria, the more jobs you can source and therefore the more leads you can put into your funnel.

In my case, being a two time founder, to be frank, I had no idea what my product (my time) was worth. The reality is, if you're working for someone else, it's usually fairly clear what your salary range is. Founders, on the other hand, can operate at an incredibly high level, but there are also a great deal of founders who aren't very good at anything. I decided to let the market price me and my time. Role wise, my background is engineering, but having founded two companies, I'd taken an interest in marketing and product. So the type of roles I looked for were technical product management and growth roles where I'd be able to leverage my engineering background. Beyond that, the only other two variables I was interested in, was growth and impact.

It's important to characterize your customers, both with respect to companies and the titles of the people you'll be talking to. For example, if you're looking for a senior position, while there are recruiters who look for those roles, it might be argued that you might be better served looking for senior executives to talk to. In my case, I had two different customer types:
  • Founders at interesting, fast growing, post seed-stage startups world wide
  • Recruiters at late stage Silicon Valley companies with clear paths to huge growth
    • Ie. Google will likely grow through mobile ad revenue
    • Ie. Airbnb will likely accelerate growth by diversifying revenue streams outside of accommodations

Where are my customers?
Easy question. 

Obvious answers to this question were:
  • LinkedIn
  • Angel.co
  • Indeed
  • Monster.com
  • At physical offices
  • In accelerators
  • Hacker News
  • On search engines
  • etc.

How do I reach those customers?
Arguably the most interesting question of all and it's where we can bring some creativity. In the traditional world, we've got snail mail, TV ads, billboards, and telemarketing. In the new world, we've got search engine marketing, pay per click, social media, etc. However, the problem with all of these approaches is they cost money and may be overkill. If, for example, I'd like 5 interviews a day for 20 days, I'd only need 100 interviews. If my message has a 5% conversion rate, those 100 interviews need be sourced from just 2,000 prospective customers.

If we want to be uncreative, we can just pay for any of the channels I just mentioned. That said, I just listed a series of places that my customers live and that can be used for profit. We can use that fact, creatively. For example, say I know that recruiters for Google work in physical offices down in Mountain View, CA. I might send 50 physical copies of my resume to 50 different recruiters at Google to make sure that my resume got noticed. I can do this at scale using services like: https://lob.com/

One particular point of importance is that business think about numbers and scale a fair amount. Although we probably don't want or need to reach more than a few hundred companies, it's important that your "how" doesn't take an incredible amount of time so you can achieve a reasonable scale. In a lot of cases, when all fails, you can use a service like Upwork or Mechanical Turk to get people who aren't you to apply to jobs on your behalf at scale.

In this particular instance, I ended relying on Indeed and Angel.co.

What's my message?
What's my brand? What do I stand for? Why should anybody hire me? What value do I provide? What do my customers care about? There are a ton of questions you might ask yourself to craft what it is your message is.

In my case, my message was: I've built 2 companies, got a strong technical background, worked at places like Microsoft/Amazon/Nvidia, and I'm looking to work with great people.

There's a ton of literature on branding and even personal branding so I won't regurgitate. For further advice on branding, please seek Google, books, your network, and common sense.

Execute and measure
Mix (all the answers to the previous questions) well and repeat. In this phase, we'll combine our message with how we'll reach our customers (brand and channel). In my case, using Angel.co, I sent a small message where my prospects could click on my profile and resume. Its important not to get discouraged here. Marketers get messaging wrong all the time. We might have written something that doesn't resonate with our audience, we might be talking to the wrong audience, there might have been technical difficulties. The important thing here is to measure what your response rate is, that you're reaching the right customers, and you're iterating on the things that matter so you can get better metrics.

To be frank, the bar here isn't all that high because you only need to make one sale to land a job. In my case, I had too many interviews to really optimize any more than I did.

At the time of accepting an offer, my funnel looked like the following:
  • 1300 applications
  • ~70 interviews (~5.4% conversion)
  • About 6 offers

It's of note that these conversion rates, are likely lower than their eventual steady state rates because I ended up accepting an offer which essentially stopped the process.

The following is the script I used to algorithmically apply on Angel.co (use on https://angel.co/jobs):
function apply() {
  if ($(".add-note-button > a.g-button.blue:visible").length == 0) {
    $(".browse_startups_table_row:visible").first().click();
  }
  $(".add-note-button > a.g-button.blue:visible").first().click();
  $(".interested-note:visible").first().val("I copied this script to automate job applications from a guy named Brandon (brandonwang.ca) and you should probably hire me.");
  $("a.g-button.blue.interested-with-note-button:visible").first().click();
  $(".js-done").click();
  $("html, body").animate({ scrollTop: $(document).height()-$(window).height() });
  setTimeout(apply, 4000);
}

I'd like to note how imperfect (bad) this code is and how that doesn't really matter.

Aftermath
There are a ton of un-related facts I took away from the process:
  • Having lots of offers takes a lot of psychological pressure off of the process.
  • The things that resonate with founders differs greatly than recruiters. At least from what I've seen, founders tend to optimize for raw material first, experience second. Recruiters, on the other hand, tend to prioritize credentials. It may make sense to create two different messages/resumes for each group.
  • Business roles seem to require negotiation unlike engineering roles to get reasonable compensation. I've never negotiated for salary for an engineering role, but when I compare my offers from when I was fresh out of school and looking for pure engineering roles, my new grad engineering offers started much higher. It seems the demand for engineers greatly exceeds business roles.
  • Value based pricing (compensation according to the value you provide to a business) is a wonderful thing as it de-risks a lot of the downside for businesses. Although it's more commonly done with a business' pricing models, it can also be applied to certain roles. 
  • Supply and demand very much applies to your time. Competition, whether implied or explicit, has increased the values of some offers I've seen by more than 100%.
  • As soon as I verbally accepted an offer and expressed I was no longer on the market, a ton of very impressive counter offers came out of the woodwork. This is probably dependent on who your "customers" are, but I think it goes to show that founders (my potential customers) don't like to lose. Recruiters on the other hand seem to be ok with losing to competition. Ethics apply here, however. It's my belief that when you say you're going to do something, you should do it.
  • Startup compensation can be right up there with the big companies.
  • There are truly wonderful companies out there doing crazy things. If you're not working on something that gets you excited, there's no excuse, find the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.

All to say, it's my hope that the idea that viewing yourself as a business and not as an employee is helpful and that the job search doesn't have to be hard. 

I hope you find the work that turns you on, gets you excited, and makes you happy.

Happy hunting!

Comments

  1. Thanks, I enjoyed the read! I have just started teaching myself to program a couple years ago, but am still a noob. Can you tell me the language that script is written in and where I might learn more about implementing something like that? Good luck at featForge!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JavaScript and JQuery. I learned a while back (a decade ago?), back then I used W3Schools.

      Delete

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