A Hackers Guide To Job Hunting

Tricks for getting the job you want and the salary you deserve

Before I get into this, I want to preface this article with a warning: some of this stuff is likely borderline. Please don’t do anything you wouldn’t be comfortable doing yourself. This article is meant as a guide; feel free to put your own spin on it.

I’m watching people get laid off across the globe. Over the years I’ve compiled some resources to streamline my interview process. As a result, I’m attempting to help many of my laid off friends secure new offers, but finding myself regurgitating the same rhetoric over and over again.

So far, I’ve helped a handful of people close to me get the offers they deserved.

However, I think in these crazy times, people need every advantage they can get.

As a result, I’m bestowing this guide to the internet on how how to get the offer you deserve, from end-to-end. It’s inspired by @patio11’s guide to negotiating (Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued). If you haven’t read his guide, please do so. It’s likely the most valuable 7000 words you’ll ever read.

Without further ado, here’s the guide.

In Broad Strokes

From start to finish, there are only five steps to getting your dream job. They look something like this:

  • Apply

  • Get contacted

  • Job interview

  • Salary negotiation

  • Offer acceptance

This guide covers the entire process and will take approximately 6-8 weeks. You can condense or expand it, but in general I’ve found that this is the sweet spot between burning out and keeping recruiters interested.

Week 0-1: Apply

Apply to the jobs you’re interested in, but also some you’re not. For example, I’m not really enthralled by idea of working at Facebook. However, they pay extremely well, so I’m happy to head through their interview loop as they can be used as negotiation for companies I’m more stoked about. Worst case, they’re great backups to have. Hell, you might even discover a really cool company/team that you wouldn’t have before.

Week 0-2: Get Contacted

It’s no secret the best way to get contacted is via a referral. Sadly, getting contacted is the hardest part of this process. So, for those of you who can’t get a referral at your dream companies, I’m going to help you with it with a little trick I like to call the “Self Referral”.

You ready for the trick? Alright, here it is.

Inside Gmail, Google autofills emails

When you draft up an email in Gmail, you’ll be able to know whether you’ve got the right email before you send it (Fun Fact: Google doesn’t consider this a problem. I’ve tried to report it but they’re not interested in paying a bug bounty or fixing it, so, our gain).

Here’s an example. Let’s say I want to work at Airbnb. I go to LinkedIn and find a recruiter. I’m technical, so I’m going to skip the Creative Recruiter and move straight to the second person. In general you want to target as specifically as possible. Every additional hop your email has to make, there’s a non-zero chance your email gets lost in the Inbox Abyss.

According to RocketReach.co, the format for Airbnb’s emails is first.last with 89.9% certainty

In this case, we’ll try the first technical recruiter (second person on this list).

Go to gmail, and type in first.last@company.com. Now, click on the email body, creating an email pill. Hover the email pill.

Looking at this, the display picture hasn’t been autofilled and there’s no information. This isn’t likely to be someone’s email. Let’s try the second person on the list.

Bingo. I’ve never emailed this person and yet I know for certain this is his email due to autocomplete. The display picture, job, and location are all filled in by Gmail. How this exploit doesn’t qualify for a bug bounty is beyond me, but I digress.

Now, with your newly acquired recruiter’s email, you’re going to draft the following. If you’ve talked with an employee, a recruiter, or even heard from someone on Reddit that the company is awesome, it’s worth mentioning.

Hey <recruiter>,

My name is <first name> and I hope you don't mind me reaching out. I was talking with <person from company> previously when I was <interning/previously employed> at <past company>. They spoke extremely highly of <company>.

I wasn't open for new opportunities at the time, but I heard about <interesting team at company> and was wondering if they had headcount.

Best,
<first name>

You can fudge this email however you want, and I encourage you to do so. Your goal here is threefold

1) Establish social proof that you’ve already met the bar for reaching out
2) Establish simplicity by stating your work interests to make the recruiters job easy
3) Establish scarcity by stating you previously weren’t available but now happen to be

If the team you asked about happens to have headcount, their job will be insanely easy since they can just go ahead and set everything up. If not, they’ll probably try to see if they can slide you into the pipeline anyways, given that you’re a qualified candidate with a keen interest in the field. See how this one works?

Week 2-4: Phone Screens

So, I’m not going to go over the actual job interview, since this is going to vary wildly with your specification/career. For tech, study data-structures and algorithms. For quantitative finance study stats/math. For PM'ing study, well, honestly I have no idea, maybe Gant Charts? Sorry PMs

Instead, I’m going to give you two more meta tips:

1) The schedule for your interviews matters GREATLY: Companies often do 2-3 rounds of interviewing. Tech, finance, whatever. It seems pretty common. Usually this is 1-2 phone screens and an on-site (aka Final) interview. You should figure out what the interview process is for your companies/industry and work backwards from there to make sure they all end around the same time (More on this later).

2) You can use FOMO to your advantage: If you haven’t been able to get a reply/interview at a company you’re dying to work at, feel free to email the recruiter the following:

Hey <recruiter>,

Just wanted to update you on my situation. I'm now moving through the pipe with <Google/Facebook/Whoever> and just wanted to circle back before I finish this gauntlet. 

Like I said, I think <company> would be a great place for me to grow and contribute and wanted to give one last shot to get in touch.

Best,
<first>

This does double duty.

First, in the case where the recruiter missed your email, you get another shot by bumping it to the top of their queue. For extra visibility, use Gmails scheduled send for 8:30AM in your recruiters timezone. This makes sure your email is one of the first things they see in the AM.

Second, if they read it and decided against reaching out, they can now reconsider since you (a very qualified candidate) will likely go to another company renowned for their acquisition of talented employees.

For the phone screen section, your ideal structure here is going to be:

Categorize your companies into groups: Tier 1, 2, 3. These are entirely subjective, totally up to you, but they’re important none the less. Your goal here should be to allocate your final round interviews into a 3 week stretch. This allows you to maximally negotiate between companies you’re interested in by pitting companies together, much like a tournament bracket.

If your company is one of the many who does 1-2 phone “screens” (Non-onsite/final interviews) you should feel free to schedule these however you want within the Week 2-4 window.

Week 4-7: Onsite Interviews

Once you get confirmations for on-sites, you’ll want to schedule them as follows.

Week 4: Tier 3 company on-sites
Week 5: Tier 2 company on-sites
Week 5: Tier 1 company on-sites

By performing these interviews in order, you’re able to leverage each offer against more favorable outcomes, bubbling up to the best company at the best comp. E.g if Facebook is your Tier 3 category and and Airbnb is in your Tier 1 category, Facebook can probably have your offer letter (or at the very least details) to you by the time you do your on sites at Airbnb.

Week 7-8: Offer Pingpong

By now, a couple offers should be rolling in. In general you’ll want to:

  • Take Tier 3 offers to Tier 1-2 companies

  • Take the best offer from there back to Tier 2-3 to match/beat

  • Take this offer back to Tier 1-2 companies

When you get an offer that beats the others, you’ll want to shop it around to other companies. Here’s some copy:

Hey <recruiter>,

I really appreciate the offer <company> gave me and I can definitely see myself working with the team. That said, I've also interviewed at <other company> and while I'm not as excited culturally about them, they have given me a very enticing offer.

Is there room for negotiation here?

Best,
<first name>

The recruiter will likely ask what your offer is. Some people are tempted to lie here, or pad their numbers.

DON’T DO THIS

Competent companies/recruiters know what the comp bands are for different companies. If you mention something out of band, you’re likely to get bit.

In general, the bigger the company the deeper the pockets so you’ll want to work your way up that chain. After a couple ping pongs, you’ll likely have a great offer from 1-2 companies you’re really hyped about. Here’s another article to give you more info on how to run this gauntlet if you want more granularity into the process.

As a rule of thumb, I try not to hit up the same recruiter more than twice. Any more and they’ll get tired of you playing companies against each other. It’s important to have the recruiters still on your side for the next step.

Now it’s time to go for the kill, “The X factor”

Week 8: Go For The Kill

So, you’re sitting pretty with a fantastic offer from a company you’re really excited about. You’re ready to sign. But let me take a second to convince you to go the extra mile.

Ask for the X factor.

X is usually something extra you’re reaching for that’s gonna seal the deal. For example, if your top company is Airbnb, but Facebook has offered you $50,000 in signing bonus, whereas Airbnb has offered you $10,000, you could go to Airbnb and say the following:

Hey <recruiter>,

First of all I want to thank you for helping me through this. I've really enjoyed interviewing at <company> and, in particular, <something you found great like culture, a person during your interview loops, etc>.

That said, Facebook has offered me $50,000 in signing bonus. I think the Airbnb's offer is stronger overall, especially culturally, but the $50,000 would really help with <student loans, debt, mortgage, some excuse>. Is there anything that could be done to be brought it up? If so I could ink this right now.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best,
<first name>

Again, remix this however you want but the important things to keep in is your intention to sign provided X is met. Once the recruiter knows you’re on the hook, they’ll do whatever they can to get you to sign since placing candidates influences their numbers/end of year bonus.

In some cases you’ll get X, in other’s you’ll get X/2. Sometimes you won’t get anything. But hey, if you don’t ask you’re guaranteed to get 0.

Note: Perks, from easiest to hardest, to negotiate for are:

  • Signing Bonus (Easiest)

  • Stock (Do-able)

  • Salary (Difficult)

Once you the recruiter has come back with the absolute best offer they can, tell them to send over the document. Do NOT continue negotiating after this is done. “Criteria X” is the final card you can play. Don’t make the recruiter, who went out on a limb for you, look awful after they’ve pleaded with their employer that this is what will get you, a very qualified and upstanding candidate, to accept their offer.

That’s it. In general, this is the framework I’ve used to help myself and others negotiate offers from Google, Uber, Facebook and a few others. It’s served us well so I want to offer it to the community.

Again, this is just a rough guide, feel free to remix it however you want. I’d love to hear any tips, tricks, or additional thoughts.

Till next time