How I got a job at a tech company

How to turn $2,328 and no network into 3 job offers

Packed all of my belongings into my small car. Yes, even that mattress.

On July 25, 2016 I moved to Vancouver without a job and a place to live. It took me 40 days and $2,328 to get 3 job offers and a place. My professional connections were weak and I didn’t have a degree. Here is my thought process:

1. Applying for jobs is just like sales
2. Think like you are running a startup company 
3. Interviewing is like going on a date (you should ask questions too)

I don’t think I have to go into details of why applying for a job is like sales. But I will explain my process, it’s not complicated at all. In fact, it’s all about measuring and tracking.

Most companies have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), it’s a CRM but for hiring people. When you apply for a job they move you down their pipeline based on the hiring stages. From initial screening to job offer and more. I asked myself, if they have a system that tracks what stage you’re in… then why shouldn’t I have my own system? So I built a pipeline!

The Stages of Getting a Job

  1. Applied
  2. 1st Interview (phone call)
  3. 2nd Interview (in person)
  4. 3rd Interview (presentation)
  5. Offer(s)

The Application

[Applied] 400
[1st Interview] 30
[2nd Interview] 14
[3rd Interview] 4
[Offers] 3

On average, I applied to 10 positions a day. Each with a specific resume and two cover letters (I’ll explain later). It was a lot of grinding but this leads me to my second point, why you should think like a startup founder.

As a ‘good’ startup founder you should have a close eye over your finances. Money is the fuel you feed into your company. Whether that money is from the bank, investors, or your family and friends (in this case it was my own).

Here are two terms you will need to learn ‘burn rate’ and ‘runway’. To simplify, burn rate is how much you are spending on a daily or weekly basis on essentials. Runway is how much money you have until your company goes bankrupted.

At all cost, you should always cut your burn rate to help stretch your runway as long as possible.

What did this mean for me? Well… I did everything that was ‘free’. Swimming at the beaches, going for a walk in the park, and attending free events. How did I end up spending $2,328? Well… rent took up a big chunk of that, and the rest I spent on transportation, food, and random ‘helpful’ stuff.

For example, my runway would have ended when I had to move back to Calgary. So I set my ‘move-back-to-Calgary’ date at the end of September. If I hadn’t gotten a job, then I would’ve moved back to my parents house. This is something I did not want at all (not that I don’t love my parents).

My plan had to work and in the past I’ve put myself through harder struggles.

Now that the pressure was on I had to make sure that I got my numbers right. Here are more terms to learn ‘MRR’, ‘ARR’, ‘TAC’, and ‘OKRs’.

MRR is monthly recurring revenue, this term is typically used for SaaS companies. ARR is the same thing but measured annually.

I didn’t have any passive income so I didn’t have a MRR. TAC is total acquisition cost, how much money did it cost you to get a job?

OKRs stands for ‘Objective and Key Results’ — it’s a quarterly goal setting framework used by Google.

I used it to set goals for myself like: find a place to live, get a job, build a network, learn about Vancouver, and live with my girlfriend. Now that you understand these terms it’s pretty simple.

The amount you spend (TAC, or Total Acquisition Cost) to get a job should be recovered from your first month’s pay (MRR).

Now there are no hard and fast rules, and I’m sure finding a job that pays more than $2,328 isn’t that difficult. But I didn’t move to Vancouver so I can live in survival mode, I wanted to grow and become more knowledgable in my area of interest.

If there is a key takeaway, it’s that you should pay close attention to all these numbers when you are making a move. Plus applying a little pressure wouldn’t hurt, you have to be uncomfortable first before you can make it.

Side note: I’d also learn about AARRR it’s a model that helps you look at your business objectively. This will help you understand the channels you use to apply for jobs and much more.

Let’s Talk About Dating

Have you ever been on a date where the conversation is one sided? If so, how did that turn out? I think there is some wiggle room when it comes to reverse interviewing your future employers. Some like it, some hate it, and you most likely wouldn’t do that for a job at KPMG (or maybe?) but for the sake of my career path, it was absolutely okay… in fact encouraged.

In every interview I went to, I always heard the word ‘fit’. What does that mean?

And how can you find fit when the conversation is one sided? So here’s what I do before every interview: I stalked hard. In a nicer way, “I learned about the company and the hiring manager.”

Use LinkedIn, Google their names, read their social media posts, call their bosses (joke). It’s true, you should screen them just as much as they screen you. Have this information ready when you step in, and use it liberally during the interview. It’s the little things that count! Always have a notebook with a list of questions that you want to ask them.

In most of these cases, I asked them about their growth strategy in the next quarter. Don’t be afraid to do this… it shows that you care and you’re a self starter. Don’t wait for them to hold your hand through the process, show them that you can add value on day one.

Now as alpha as that sounds, it does vary depending on the companies you are interviewing at. Some don’t take it well. You should ask yourself is this the company that I want to date? I wouldn’t. That’s why I rejected two other companies in my pipeline.

Summing it All Up

Applying for jobs is never fun, it’s a lot of hard work and can yield little return (unless you land something big). It’s not for the faint of hearts… if you already have a good job and you’re happy, then stay there. If you aren’t happy, then maybe it’s time for you to take the leap of faith. I know for myself, it was difficult to apply at companies because they require a degree or 3–5 years of experience. I did it anyway… but there was one guiding principle that I never lost track of.

Remember what you represent to the employer.

You are a line in their budget and it’s a huge risk when they make a wrong hire (especially for small companies). They are hiring because someone quit/got fired or the company is growing. Find out which one that is… this is how you will create value for them. Never give up and continue to apply every day. Measure everything. Find the right company. Keep pushing!

Extra stuff:

  • Yes, I have two cover letters, one is more formal and one that talks about my passions.
  • ‘No positions available’ doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring
  • Every 10 years of experience = 1 extra page added to your resume
  • It’s okay to reactivate applications for different roles in the same company. (AARRR)
  • Use these websites: Angelist, DigiBC, Indeed, Craigslist, LinkedIn, Betakit, Techvibes, Facebook, Meetup, and Eventbrite
  • Get a mentor, do a pro-bono project, meet people in the community.
  • Make sure your personal brand is on point. No lame college photos.
  • Always follow up and always ask for feedback
  • Take a course while you are applying for jobs, use that new found knowledge to ‘wow’ them away during the interview
  • Wake up everyday with a positive mindset
  • Apply while you’re on-the-go use Indeed Job Search or LinkedIn Job Search

Some companies I applied to:

Weddingful, Thrive Digital, Thinkific, Process Street, Oak + Fort, Vancouver Legend Yacht and Car Club, Woodruff Sweitzer, LedgerDocs, Nimbyx, Elton Media, WiderFunnel, Aequilibrium, VIVA Lifestyle and Travel, Koho, thisopenspace, BTL Blockchain, Picatic, Fusion Projects, Procurify, YellowPages, Fortis Energy, Lululemon, Foodee, Zaui Software, Cult Collective, Icebreaker, Wallop, In The Rye, MEC, Camp Pacific, Intranet Connections, Daily Hive, Axiom Zen