I have moved from Washington, D.C. to Palo Alto, California for a new job. On December 8 I began working at a start-up called “Infer”, which is using machine learning to help companies focus their salesmen on the potential customers who are most likely to buy. I got the job offer after I created a Python script that automatically applied to jobs on HackerNews’ monthly “Who’s Hiring?” thread.
One thing I found interesting was that I actually applied to Infer twice: once on August 1st, and again on September 10th. The first time I applied I never heard from them, but the second time I was offered an interview. I thought that was interesting because I had made several changes to my application materials between the first and second time I applied.
Below is the resume I sent them on August 1st:
And below are the attachments I sent them the second time:
From this whole experience I came to a few conclusions that I could use in a future job search. I then tried out these ideas on Tinder and OkCupid and they really seem to work:
1. Don’t spend much/any time learning about a company / woman until they express some interest in your candidacy. Learning about a company / person takes time. If you do that for every potential company / date, you are going to lose a lot of time to that process. Also, by doing it you risk developing feelings for them and getting hurt if they don’t reciprocate. Not having imagined yourself being happy with them also helps you relax in the interview. It took me a long time to learn this lesson.
2. It’s very useful to have a way to quickly send your application to a lot of potential employers / potential dates. This is helpful because 1. Your odds of getting any particular job / date are low (so if you’re slow at applying, it’ll take a lot longer to find a job), and 2. It’s demotivating to spend a lot of time applying to jobs without hearing back (and so you risk giving up altogether). A general rule to follow is: Try to figure out how to limit the time you spend applying to a particular job / sending a message to a potential date to the amount of time that that person will spend on their initial evaluation of your candidacy. So if they’re going to spend 10-20 seconds looking at your resume, try to figure out how to apply to each job in 10-20 seconds or less. My Python script for HackerNews takes less than 5 minutes to set up and it applies to ~100-170 jobs. There’s a new HackerNews “Who’s Hiring” thread every month, so I can repeat this every month. That’s an extreme example. A first step is to stop customizing your application to the employer; I wasted a lot of time doing that when I first started applying to jobs straight out of college.
3. Even if the employer / female says they have specific requirements, apply anyway. Many will be interested in talking to a candidate who has an interesting application that is close to being what they want, even if that candidate wasn’t what they initially had in mind. The job position at Infer that they had posted on HackerNews–the one I applied to–was one I was not at all qualified for. The smarter employers will be on the lookout for talented people; it’s one of the big pieces of advice given in the well-known business book “Good to Great”. Regarding dating, I have heard back from many women who said in their profile that they had particular requirements (which I didn’t meet). But this bit of advice (“apply anyway”) is only really useful after you figure out how to apply to a lot of jobs quickly, because you are probably going to have a lower chance of getting jobs you don’t fully qualify for, and so if it takes you 30 minutes to apply to each job you’d be better off focusing on the ones you are best qualified for.
4. Try to make the potential employer’s / date’s evaluation job easier, even if that means doing things they haven’t explicitly requested. For example, most job postings on HackerNews will tell you something like, “Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org”. But that doesn’t mean you have to only send your resume. Between August and September I changed my application to not only include my resume, but also a portfolio of projects, references, and books I had read. It made it easier for the potential employer to get to know me. I also made my initial email short (just 1 sentence), whereas many people will have long multi-paragraph “cover letter”-ish emails, which just make the potential employer’s job harder when they have a hundred applications to consider. In my resume I underlined the most important points I wanted the potential employer to notice / remember, which makes it easier for people to skim. I have spent a lot of time working on my website / YouTube / LinkedIn / Facebook and have them all public, so potential employers / dates who want to learn about me have a much easier time doing so. On Tinder / OKCupid, I immediately cut to the chase and invite potential dates to dinner, saving us both time (the normal etiquette is to trade messages with the woman to help her decide if she wants to meet in person, but in my opinion that’s not really a very helpful way for the woman to decide). To help them decide whether to accept my invitation to dinner, I give them my full name and invite them to Google me. I have had at least one young woman say I was the only person to ever do that, and she seemed very pleasantly surprised.
5. Invest time in making yourself a candidate potential employers / dates will be interested in. If you spend all of your free time watching TV shows and eating ice cream, you may have trouble competing against people who spend their free time working out, studying new job skills, finding nice clothing, or otherwise grooming themselves. I have met a lot of people and seen a lot of resumes from people who–even if they followed all of the advice above–would still have trouble finding a good job because they just don’t have a lot to offer, and they don’t have a lot to offer because of the way they are spending their free time.