Can’t get engineering interviews? Try the side door.

If you’re applying for new engineering jobs and are struggling to get your foot in the door, consider looking for other ways in.

Imagine a big crowd of people in front of a building, pushing and shoving to get inside through the main door. A few people, tired of the mob, decide to explore the premises and come across a side entrance. They knock, someone opens, and they walk right in. Wouldn’t it be nice to use that side door, too?

The many ways into a startup.

In a tall pile of applications, there aren’t a lot of ways stand out aside from simply “being better” or “doing more impressive stuff.” Most people work hard to get ahead by fortifying their resumes and portfolios with more work experience and more projects. Others wait patiently for their turn. Some just brute force it by applying to hundreds of companies until one eventually says yes.

What if instead of competing directly with everyone else, you could just redirect your energy into finding a side door?

Here are a few things that I’ve personally done, or seen other engineers do, to jump the line, get interviews, and land jobs at tech startups:

Use the product.

Many B2C companies hire directly from their user base. Startups with consumer products want to hear from their users, especially those who have ideas on how to improve UX, performance times, or fix the bugs they encounter. Be proactive in reporting issues. If you have a solution, you might speak directly with their engineers. Voila! You’ve cut the line.

Many B2B companies have products that you can also use, especially if you’re working on a side project of your own or your previous employer was a customer.

Make a PR.

Sure, you can build your own projects and make them open source, but you can also find companies that have open source projects and contribute to those. Make a PR and engage with the current engineers maintaining it. You’re demonstrating ability and interest without it even being an interview.

Tweet.

I begrudgingly started using Twitter for real a little less than a year ago, and I can’t believe how much I’ve been missing out on. The software engineering community is extremely active on Twitter, so it’s a huge advantage anyone can easily get. Engage with current team members at your dream company on Twitter. Answer questions they ask. Comment on articles they post. Contribute to the conversation.

Don’t know who to follow? Start with the technical founders quoted in this article.

Fun fact: I got my second contract web dev gig on Twitter.

Meet in person.

Why not have conversations in person? Many startups host meetups, hackathons, and/or workshops, sometimes in their own offices. Attend them. Talk to everyone, especially current engineers at the company. Not only do you get to casually ask questions about life at Company X, but in many cases, they’ll want to refer you because of something called internal referral bonuses.

Worst case scenario: you’ll meet all sorts of new people who will help expand your network.

Ask questions via Key Values.

Finally, if you’re interested in any of the engineering teams on Key Values, I’ve created a small side door for you on each company’s profile page. You can leave thoughtful questions for current team members at the bottom left corner of the page, along with your email address so that they can get in touch.

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