In today’s episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast, I speak to Jeremy Schifeling.
Jeremy is a former kindergarten teacher and founder of the website, Break into Tech. He also worked at Apple, LinkedIn, and other big tech companies.
Jeremy’s journey from kindergarten teacher to business school to the tech industry was unconventional. As with many who transition into tech careers, Jeremy had to discover the best way to break into the industry. Despite bumps along the way, his strategies proved successful.
As a former hiring manager at LinkedIn, Jeremy has a unique perspective into how you can stand out as an applicant. He shares tips on crafting the perfect resume and cover letter and discusses the three C’s of resume writing. He also offers advice on how to take advantage of networking to make recruiters come to you.
Hey guys, it's Laurence Bradford from the Learn to Code With Me podcast. Today I have Jeremy Schifeling, the founder of Break into Tech. Jeremy is a former kindergarten teacher who later transitioned into tech. He has worked at Apple, LinkedIn, and other big tech companies. Not only has he worked at those companies, he's also helped hire people at those companies. Inside our interview we talk about resumes, cover letters, and other kinds of job application strategies.
Essentially, he shares how to stand out in a sea of applicants. To learn more about Jeremy and access other resources we talk about today in the show, visit learntocodewith.me/7. Yes, just the number seven. I hope you have a notepad and pencil ready, because Jeremy is about to share a ton of helpful advice. Enjoy!
Hey Jeremy, thanks so much for talking with me today.
Oh yeah, happy to join, Laurence.
Great, so I would just love if you could introduce yourself quickly.
Yeah, no problem. My name is Jeremy Schifeling. I'm the CEO and founder of a new site called Break into Tech, which is at www.breakinto.tech. Basically the reason that I started this site, it goes back to these twin passions I had when I launched my career. I was really passionate about education, but also a huge tech nerd at heart. I was always trying to find the coolest gadget. I began really focusing on that first passion, and I started my career as a kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn and a funny thing happened along the way. Even though I loved coming to school every morning and seeing my kids learn, I found myself gravitating more and more to helping the kids learn about technology and learn to do PowerPoint and learn to make songs and all this stuff through technology.
And then I started to think to myself, wow, this is what I'm really excited about, maybe I should make that my occupation and not just my hobby. And through a series of career transitions, I ultimately went from teaching kindergarten to working behind the scenes in the nonprofit sector, to business school at the University of Michigan, and ultimately into the tech sector itself. First as an intern at Apple, later as a full-time hiring manager at LinkedIn, before starting my own site.
Wow, so impressive. I love your story so much because you just went from education to working at Apple and then at LinkedIn. And I know there's a lot of people in the Learn to Code With Me audience that are teachers or were former teachers. In fact, I used to teach English in Thailand, so there's a lot of people that are switching over from that . I just want to dive right in because I know that you used to review resumes while you were working at LinkedIn and I'm sure some other companies as well. And that's something, not just resumes, but the entire job application process, that can really stress people out, especially when they're transitioning from a career that's unrelated to tech and they're trying to move into the tech sector. The first thing I want to ask you about resumes is, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see people making on their resume and, maybe even more specifically, on their technical resume?
This is an area of particular passion for me because as a hiring manager at LinkedIn and later at a startup, I would see all these applications come across my desk. 200, 300, 400, depending on the position. And you would think that I'd be excited because here are these awesome people that I have a chance to meet, but unfortunately, when I dug in, every single resume had all these fatal flaws.
I think the number one flaw, at a very high level, is that they didn't know who they were writing for when they created that resume. First of all, you take a step back and think about how we learn to design resumes. The first place, a lot of us get that information either from school, or from friends, and basically it boils down to you've got to have the right format for your resume. Choose the right template in Microsoft Word, add the right size margins, make sure that every bullet point is in the active voice, make sure that no bullet point is more than two sentences long, all those typical rules that have been drummed into us by society. The problem with that, is that the implication of all this focus on formatting, is that ultimately the content doesn't matter. And that the person reviewing your application is some kind of design-based robot who's going to say, "Oh, Laurence's margins are 1 1/2", she's out of here, whereas Jeremy's are 1", so he gets the job." Of course, that's not how humans actually think. We as humans are pretty frail when it comes to decision making and so, we don't dive into all that nitty gritty.
Instead, all we think about is A, can you do the job, and B, do I want you doing the job with me? Do I like you? And so if you think about it through that lens, all of a sudden all that advice from society goes out the window, it's largely irrelevant. Instead, if you put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter or the hiring manager reading through those hundreds of resumes, you start to realize that hey, all that stuff that I thought was really important, doesn't actually make even a bit of difference, and the stuff that I'm putting in there unintentionally, is really dragging me down. And I think there are three things in particular.
Number one, and this is probably the biggest one, especially for career changers, is that you're giving me all these bullets that are just unclear. Someone coming out of the non-profit fundraising space might have a bullet that says, Analyzed Raiser's Edge data to increase life income pool trust by 75% and enhanced donor recognition. And I'm like, "What? What's Raiser's Edge? What's a life income pool trust? What's donor recognition?" All this stuff just doesn't make any sense to me, because basically, I'm from another species. I'm part of this tech tribe and this person's bringing all this lingo and all this jargon from their old world that I have no visibility into. So that lack of clarity really hurts people.
The second fatal flaw is a lack of relevance. So again, in that example, maybe that was an impressive thing in your old space, but what does it tell me about what you can do as a designer or a web developer or a marketer in a digital context? If I don't see the connection between what you've done and what you want to do, chances are I'm not going to give you a shot to actually go out and do it.
And then finally, it's just boring. So many people, again because of what society has told us, play it so deadly safe with their resumes. Everything is exactly, sort of in this boring format, and it just feels soporific. And the result is, if I'm scanning really fast, going through hundreds of applications in one sitting, maybe ten or fifteen seconds per resume, if you don't have exciting words on the page, things that catch my attention, awesome stories, guess what? I'm out of there, because maybe the next person does. So again, just to reiterate, a lack of clarity, a lack of relevance, and a lack of compelling content ultimately drag down so many of the resumes I see.
Okay, wow, thank you. That was really enlightening. While you were talking, I had two questions that kind of came to mind, especially since you're a person who used to review these applications. I'm sure it's different depending on the company you work in and whatnot, but when you're reviewing a job application and a person has a resume and a cover letter, do you look at the cover letter first or the resume?
Great question. So, obviously every person is different. This goes back to the sort of fundamental human nature of application reviewing. What I'm going to tell you only really counts for me, but I do look at the cover letter. The reason for that is, the resume as a format has become so cliched where everyone has the exact same kind of bullets and the exact same kind of boring language, I don't even get a sense of who you are from it.
The cover letter is a chance to stand out, where you can speak directly to me and sort of give me a sense of who you are and what you're passionate about, why you belong in my organization. So, while not every recruiter or hiring manager will read your cover letter first or will read it at all, I think that there are enough people out there who will that it's worth putting together a really personalized, awesome cover letter that grabs the reader’s attention in a really human way and gets them excited about your candidacy.
Great. So I really want to ask you about cover letters then, but first I have another question that came to mind. When a person is putting together their resume, should they follow the typical format that you can easily find a template online? Or should a person kind of break away from that template? Or, maybe a third answer, does it depend on the role that they're applying for?
Great question. I think that, especially give the audience for this podcast, there are going to be folks out there who are applying for design-focused roles where design does matter. You know, the resume is your first work product that anyone sees, and if it looks really boring and conservative and you're applying for a hip design agency, that could be a cultural mismatch.
However, for the vast majority of people who are not applying for design roles, who are applying for coding roles or marketing roles or any other roles where you're not supposed to be an awesome designer yourself first and foremost, then I would say, don't sweat it. I'm going to spend ten seconds on your resume, I'm not going to remember the fancy font that you used or the beautiful color choices or whatever, I'm going to remember sort of a highlight reel version of what I saw, maybe two or three bullets max, have become my shorthand for who you are. You know, “Laurence is an amazing entrepreneur, Jeremy is that crazy kindergarten teacher guy,” and ultimately, if you can really nail those highlight reel bullets, and give me your very best stories and very best accomplishments, that's where I'm going to take away, way more than your typography.
Yeah, great. Actually, I usually tell people that myself or I just say that if you are applying to a design position then the design of your resume does matter but if it's something else, not so much. It sounds like, say if person wasn't applying for a design position, they were applying for a software engineering position or something like that. A resume that broke away from the format, or the standard template, it wouldn't be necessarily seen as a bad thing, you're just saying that there's no use in really putting all that extra time into doing that.
Yeah, because here's what's going to happen. You might have spent a thousand dollars and went to a professional designer or a hundred hours of your own time slaving over photoshop or whatever, and then all of a sudden, all that time and effort goes in one ear and out the other. In one eye and out the other because ultimately what I focus on are the bullet points underneath it. And if you've got the same tired bullet points that are unclear, that are irrelevant, that are boring, that's my big takeaway, not that you're some sort of design genius who has a skill that not even necessarily relevant for the role.
Yeah, exactly. Unless you're a designer, the copy, or the content in what you're saying is a lot more important than the design or the format of the resume.
For sure, and let me just make it clear also, when we talk about content mattering, we're not talking about quantity, so much as quality. Because another big problem that I see is folks feel, because of all these societal rules around formatting, that they have to have that one-page resume, and now it's sort of this cat and mouse game of trying to change the margins and the font size to get at least 30 or 40 bullet points on there. Again, if you think about it through the recruiter's eyes, if they're going to spend ten seconds here, and they have to read through 40 bullet points, that's a quarter of a second per point and they're not going to really see anything. Whereas if you had ten or a dozen awesome, killer, rockstar bullet points, that's way more powerful that 40 mediocre ones.
Yes, definitely. I'm thinking of some resumes I've seen myself that have so many skills listed, and not just skills, technologies and frameworks that you know and all these other things. For someone struggling with that, maybe they have a lot of skills. I know a lot of people listening to this are newer into tech, but say a person is more experienced and they have a bunch of skills to share, should they tailor that list down to be relevant to that specific job they're applying for?
Absolutely. So let me give you a list or sort of a rule of thumb for what should count on that highlight reel, what should go in, what should be out. I think it really comes down to what I call the three C's. The first is making something clear. We talked before about that example of the fundraiser who had this really unclear jargon-filled bullet. I think the first thing you want to do is, you want to strip away all that vernacular, all the lingo that's going to be foreign to the recruiter. In that case, maybe you would, instead of this Raiser's Edge thing, and life income pool trust, you might say, Analyzed fundraising program to increase retirement gifts by 75% and enhanced our process for thanking donors. Okay, so now it's a little clearer. Maybe not exciting, and not sexy, but at least they have a sense of what's happening. You're a fundraiser.
The second C then, is to make it count. This speaks to that relevance point. Because ultimately, if this is a cool story, but it's totally out of left field for the job that you want, maybe it doesn't belong on there as much as a slightly less sexy story that's totally relevant. In this case, I might say, “Hey, if this person wants to be a web developer, there is something there,” so maybe we change that to say, Analyzed fundraising website to measure the success of a retirement gift campaign and optimized the campaign to increase those gifts 75%. And now, instead of being about this obscure, sort of fundraising black magic, now it's about websites and optimization, the same kind of thing that a web developer's going to have to do.
But it's still kind of boring, it doesn't really pop off the page. That's where the third C comes in. You've got to make it compelling. I think the easiest way to do that, is take the universal human recipe for great stories. From the earliest religious texts all the way to Star Wars, every single great story has the same exact three characteristics. They've always got that bad guy, they've got a heroic actions, and they have a happy ending. Think of Darth Vader trying to destroy the galaxy, Luke Skywalker risking his life to take down the Death Star, then the happy ending of peace and justice restored to the solar system. That's a great story.
So we can apply that same model here. Now we beef up some of those really important details. We say, After the 2008 stock market crash, analyzed fundraising website and found a golden opportunity. Retirees looking for social impact and guaranteed returns. Optimized campaign to boost annuity donations 75% in the middle of the Great Recession. And now, you're not just a web developer, you don't just have clarity and relevance, you actually have a really juicy story that says “Hey, no matter what I do, I'm an overachiever. I get the job done above and beyond your expectations.” And that's the kind of person that I, or any human, ultimately wants to hire.
Wow, great, thank you so much for sharing all that. I want to transition a little bit now. We talked about cover letters briefly, but with cover letters, what secrets do you have or what tips can you give someone when they're preparing theirs for a technical position.
I think it comes right back to that same framework, understanding who your audience is. Again, so many people will go to Google, will search 'Cover Letter Template,' they'll find the first template, which is totally boring by the way, and they'll just paste in their name and the company's name and then they'll find and replace a hundred times over until they have all their cover letters. The problem is that, if people do read those cover letters, as I certainly did, my first impression of you, because I was reading them first, is "Whoa, this guy's totally boring, he totally copied and pasted my company compared to our competitor, and I don't think this person's truly passionate about actually being here." Which is the worst possible first impression anyone can make, let alone a job candidate. If you start with the reader in mind, you flip that script, and you write a really personalized opening paragraph. You say, "Hey, I want to grab your attention right away."
So, for example, I'll actually read from my own cover letter to Apple, Laurence, so your listeners can get a sense of what I use. My first approach was going to be like, "Dear Sir/Madam, I'd really like to work at Apple, it's such a cool company, blah blah blah..." but then I scrapped that, and this is what I said: "Dear Ms. Young, It was clear from your presentation last month that Apple is not your typical company. It doesn't create typical products or provide typical experiences for its customers. It certainly doesn't hire typical people to design and market those products and experiences. Thus, as the only former kindergarten teacher to teach himself PHP and MySQL in my class, I proudly submit my application for a product marketing manager internship this summer."
As you can see, it's a very different approach. It focuses on the specific reader in mind and lets her know that I'm talking directly to her and not someone else or some totally different company. So that ultimately grabs the recruiter or the hiring manager's attention in a much more profound way than “Dear Sir/Madam, I want a job at your company.”
Great, so circling back just slightly, in the beginning you said 'knowing your audience,' and I totally agree. When you're doing anything, whether it's applying to a job or writing a blog post or creating a YouTube video, you should know who your audience is and have that person in mind. When you're applying to a job, how do you know, what are some tricks or tips that can help you decide or know who your audience is?
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about some sort of cyber-stalking thing where you're going to go out and find out all these juicy details about the actual person. I'm just talking more about the idea that at the end of the day, whoever this person is, no matter the background, they are a human, so they want to be spoken to in the way that people talk to each other naturally, right? Unfortunately, the approach that we have in all our cover letter templates is the exact opposite of that. It turns it into a transaction, it turns it into a robotic engagement, where they are just the 'other' on the other side of the screen who can't be known. So, even if you don't know the first thing about who actually is going to read it, you can be pretty sure that they have passions and feelings and emotions just like you do, and if you can talk directly to them, give them a sense of why you're special, why you're unique, why you have a little bit of charisma, that's the kind of opening hook that's going to catch their attention and get them to read more.
Yeah, that's great and that's definitely true. Just thinking about another human on the end and not making it transactional. One quick thing I wanted to also touch on, when you're writing a cover letter, is it best to do it in first person, saying, "Hi, I am interested in this job," or should you do it in third person?
Absolutely first person. You never want to veer off into that Ross Perot territory, not to date myself too much, where like someone is saying, "Ross Perot is the greatest candidate," and he's actually the one up there on the stage saying it about himself. That's just awkward, no one wants to be that guy.
Yeah, does anyone recommend doing it third person? Are there templates that do it in third or is it always first?
I've never seen ones in third, actually, but it wouldn't surprise me. I reviewed about, maybe a thousand applications or so in tech, and then several hundred more just in sort of the graduate school space, and I've seen a lot of crazy things out there, so I wouldn't be surprised.
I was rethinking to when I used write them more. I haven't actually written one in a while, but now that I'm remembering better, I think what I would do was try to avoid the word 'I,' so I didn't want to start every sentence with "I this, I that, I blah blah blah," but I think I was still writing in first person so maybe I got confused then, thinking you did it in third. But it totally makes sense, why would you write it in third? I do see people writing their LinkedIn bios and summaries in third person.
Yeah, it's funny. I actually had a discussion with a client about that recently. I think it is true that if you're trying to project a certain level of executive status, basically the implication is, 'your assistant has written your LinkedIn profile for you.' And so, in the same way that a fancy conference brochure with all the bios in the back are often written in the third person, so is your LinkedIn profile. But if you're not at that stage in your career where you want to come off as that pompous, I would say, always err on the side of humanity. People want to get to know each other, and they do that through first person. If you have any kind of concerns or qualms about which direction to go, just say “Hey, this person could be my friend someday, if we get to know each other in the workplace. I'm going to start with that kind of relationship, not start with icy coldness.”
That's a really good point about how it depends on the audience and the image you're trying to give off and for some people, third person could work on a LinkedIn. I'm trying to think of who it was, I can't remember, but there's definitely been people I saw that they seemed very legitimate. They have their stuff together and it was written in third person. I want to talk a little bit about job application strategies. Specifically, for full-time positions. Not freelancing, not contract work, not trying to get clients, nothing like that. Is there any kind of general advice you can give for a person that's trying to get a full-time job in tech? On how to apply to jobs, is there a certain number they should do every day? Things like that.
Again, I always believe in the power of metaphors to organize our thoughts and provide a framework. In the same way that for resumes and cover letters you're thinking about the person on the other end, for an application strategy, think about it like a funnel. In the world of sales, there's the idea of if you want to close one deal, at the very bottom of the funnel, if you can imagine that in your mind's eye, you have to put a hundred leads into the top of the funnel and 99 of them are weeded out along the way and that leads into that one final closed contract.
The same is true of job hunting. You only need one job offer at the end of the day, but if you only apply to one company, that's a pretty small top of the funnel. It doesn't give you a lot of hope at the bottom. So if you think about it like a funnel, there are basically two ways to enhance your experience.
One is to increase the top of the funnel, so more opportunities are coming in, and the other is to enhance and expedite the bottom of the funnel where normally you would lose opportunities over time, but through savvy strategies, you can actually keep more in the mix. So let me talk about both of those. In terms of the top of the funnel, I think the first thing to do is to automate your job search. It can be really demoralizing if you spend every day typing in the same keyword for LinkedIn or for Indeed or whatever job site you're using. Then you're saying, "Aw man, I'm not getting anywhere. "Whereas on all those sites, you can always save your search and get daily or weekly alerts. So that way, nothing slips through the cracks, plus you don't have to worry about your fallible human brain getting demotivated and giving up on the search. Your robot helpers are going to keep those cool opportunities coming into your inbox. Automation helps.
Another thing is, in addition to applying for jobs directly, think about how you can have recruiters come to you. That's the power of a site like LinkedIn. In my experience, when I just sort of had a very generic LinkedIn profile, nothing special, nothing specific, it really didn't do a lot for me. When I tailored it, and focused on a couple of key keywords for my specific industry and gave off that same sense of humanity and passion I was talking about before, with resumes and cover letters, all of a sudden, recruiters started approaching me out of the blue about opportunities. The crazy thing was, 9 times out of 10, those opportunities were not posted anywhere. If you want to double your chances or even further increase your chances, don't just be stuck applying for jobs, have those jobs come to you by having an awesome LinkedIn profile.
Yes, I love that last one. I love about having people come to or having recruiters, hiring managers come your way. I want your opinion on this, aside from LinkedIn, are there any other ways that you can get people to come to you and, if so, have there ever been any that you would use when you were hiring people?
Yeah, that's a good question. There is this talk about 'have a great social media presence, have a blog, have a personal website.' To be honest, recruiters are so slammed, going back to the whole point about the number of applications and limited time, that for the most part they're not out there on the prowl, checking out the blogosphere and trying to figure out who the cool candidates are. They say, "Hey, LinkedIn already has basically all the world's white collar professionals, why would I waste any of my time looking somewhere else when, with a couple of keystrokes, I can find all the world's web developers, or all the world's project managers." So I would say if you're going to spend time on anything, make it LinkedIn, because that's where the recruiters are.
Yeah, definitely. I think that, and for people that are more developers, software engineers, GitHub is also really important. When I was writing, this is how Jeremy and I first connected. When I was interviewing and writing the LinkedIn ebook that I put together, when this will be airing it will be several months ago, I interviewed a few recruiters and they were telling me how they would also look at a person's GitHub account. Even though the one guy admitted, "I don't really understand everything going on on the GitHub account, or what everything means, I could tell if a person is active, if they have a lot of repositories, and then that's always a good sign. So, again I think figuring out the position you're applying for and who you are may vary, the social media. But definitely LinkedIn for any professional. I think that's a non-negotiable. Anyway, back to the bottom of the funnel.
Yeah, so it's really the bottom of the funnel. If you think about your average applicant pool, again, we were getting hundreds of applications per role at LinkedIn. It really is like that online application black hole. Applications go in but they never come out. What that means is, the bottom of your funnel is going to be really narrow. Because all of a sudden, all that time you spent dropping applications at the top, basically ends up being wasted because no one ever reads it. It gets stuck in that black box no one can ever get access to good content. If you want to widen that funnel and accelerate things at the bottom of the funnel, I think there are two strategies.
I think the first is to do what we already talked about, which is to personalize your applications. You want to have really tailored resumes for every kind of job. You want to have customized cover letters for each particular company you're applying for. Because, to the extent that your application is seen, now it's going to have a sort of punch at its highest capacity. You're going to get the biggest bang for your buck.
The other thing to do, and this is really important, especially in the tech world, is that referrals matter a ton. At Google, I spent years and years applying there, getting absolutely nowhere, just totally stuck in that online application black hole, and then I had a random stranger from my alma mater refer me and the next day I got my first Google interview. So they really are valued quite highly inside that culture.
The best way to get referrals, even if you think you don't know anyone in the tech world, is two steps. Number one, if it's a generally big company, like a Google or a Facebook or a place like that, you're pretty much going to have alumni who work there from your alma mater, no matter where you went to school. So if you go to this website that I worked on when I was on LinkedIn, which is linkedin.com/alumni, it's going to show you every single alum from your school who's on LinkedIn, and it's going to give you all these filters. you can say, show me all the alums who work in tech. Show me all the alums who work in New York City. Show me all the alums who are web developers. Now you can reach out to those folks and sort of share that same sense of affiliation and affinity that comes from having the same alma mater and have them refer you.
The other strategy, if you don't actually have a giant company that you're going after. Maybe it's a start up that's just one year old, that's still in the garage, you can look at their company page. You can basically find that by going to LinkedIn, searching for the company, and then what LinkedIn will do is it will actually show you, not just who you know there, which in this case is probably nobody, but who you know who knows someone there. So basically a friend of a friend, a second degree connection, in LinkedIn lingo. And once you have one second degree connection, all you have to do is find out who's that mutual contact, and ask your first degree connection, AKA your friend, for an introduction. So whether it's through an alum or a second degree connection, those are awesome ways to get your foot in the door and get those referrals that are so powerful for widening your funnel.
Yeah, wow. Another example of the power of LinkedIn and all of the use cases, all the ways it could come in handy. Exactly as you said, it shows who your second degree connections are or a friend of a friend, which then you can leverage to get an introduction at a smaller company you want to work for. So thanks so much, all great stuff. Let me see here, because you touched upon a lot of the things I wanted to ask you. I was going to ask you next about going through connections. Is there anything else you have to add on that? I know you just covered it.
Yeah, so I think in terms of job applications, I've made every single mistake in the book. I had total naivete, Laurence, when I was first applying to the tech world and that's why it took me so long to get in there. But, if you learn from my mistakes, you can be really successful.
The first big mistake I had was more psychological than anything. It was this feeling that I was an imposter, that I didn't belong. Here I was, a kindergarten teaching guy who didn't know the first thing about coding, and here I was going into the land of the coders, what right did I have to even be there? The crazy thing that I found, years later when I looked at LinkedIn data, is that actually, not only are tech jobs open to everyone, but it turns out, there are more folks working in tech today, as defined by LinkedIn profiles, who have liberal arts degrees than even CS degrees. So whether you're a history major or english major or visual studies major, don't feel shut out psychologically because you really do belong in tech. I think the other key thing that I ran into was that, because I thought I didn't belong in tech, I tried to turn myself into someone that I wasn't.
Basically I hid the fact that I was a kindergarten teacher, I hid the fact that I had worked in education and tried to come off as more corporate.
The funny thing that again, I realized after the fact, is that tech's culture is so crazy. Tech was founded by all these cowboys and wild guys. When I got into tech, I met so many folks with all these random backgrounds, people who were reporters for major league soccer, or opened coffee shops in China. People in tech love that. They love that sense of being kind of outside of society's normal margins. So if you have a weird background, don't hide it like a vulnerability, turn it into a strength. Make yourself differentiated from the pack and ultimately let your freak flag fly.
The last thing I would say, don't get stuck in the scarcity mindset. That's the idea that, we've all heard of a handful of tech companies - Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc. What happens is, we tend to apply all our energies on those companies at the cost of not really looking anywhere else. The problem of course is, everyone's doing the exact same thing, which means that Google gets about 3 million a year for something like 7,000 jobs. So your chances are pretty slim. The 99.9% of other companies in the tech world, that are startups or midsize or companies you've never even heard of, they all want you. They need you. If you give them a shot, not just the usual suspects, now again you've widened your funnel. You've given yourself a much better shot at getting a cool tech job as opposed to being stuck in that scarcity mindset and only applying to the usual suspects.
Okay, love that. So just to recap what the three things were. The first is kind of a psychological or imposter syndrome, which a lot of people I know are familiar with the feeling of not belonging. The next was, not to hide who you are. To use your differences as leverage and, as you said, let your freak flag fly. That's kind of a tongue twister there. The last was this whole scarcity mindset. To not just apply to the Google and the Facebook that get millions of applications every year to look at. Other companies are also hiring people in tech. I think that's such a great piece of advice, that last one, especially for people just starting out. Don't try to get a job at Google right away. You can always switch careers and move there later if that's still a dream of yours. That's all really good stuff.
Let me see here if there's anything else. We covered a lot with the application strategies and the cover letters and the resumes, that's all great. I think the last question that I want to ask you is, if there is a person that has no technical experience whatsoever but they want a job in tech, what is one thing they can do today, so something that takes less than 30 minutes, less than an hour ideally, to take a step in the right direction?
I'll come full circle here, Laurence. I'll say again, if you have only 30 minutes to launch your tech career, begin by putting yourself in the shoes of the recruiter or the hiring manager. As we've talked about, they don't care so much about your generic passion for their company or generic passion for the industry, because they need to find someone to do a job. And they need to find that person really fast, given the limited time and resources at their disposal. Ultimately, your best chance to break into tech is not to focus on wishful thinking, like how cool it would be to play ping pong at Google, but instead to say, what can I actually do at Google? How can I help a recruiter do his or her job and find the right person? The way you do that is by focusing on what recruiters care about, which is role. Should you be a designer, a developer, a product manager, a marketer, a business operations professional, a business development professional? There are so many cool roles in tech, and tons of them don't even require technical skills, at least to the level of a CS degree.
What I would encourage folks to do, is if you only have those 30 minutes, go to my website, which is breakinto.tech and download my free cheat sheet on all the coolest roles in tech. Everything from busops to busdev, from product management to product marketing, and get a sense of what the opportunities are out there so that ultimately, you can bring all these great experiences you've developed over your career to bear in helping the recruiter do his job, which is to find the perfect person for the role. Hopefully that person will be you.
Great Jeremy, thanks so much for talking today.
It was my pleasure, thanks so much Laurence.
Have a good one.
I hope you found our conversation helpful and that you guys can put into place some of the tactics Jeremy talked about. One of the things we spoke about multiple times in the interview is LinkedIn. As a professional in 2016, you really can't afford to not be on LinkedIn. I feel so strongly about the power of LinkedIn, I created a 5-day LinkedIn crash course. Inside the crash course you'll learn the basics of setting up your LinkedIn profile, how to write a stand-out headline, memorable summary, and action-oriented experience section. I'll also tell you what recruiters and hiring managers look for on your LinkedIn profile and many other tips. The URL to get the book is learntocodewith.me/linkedinbook. Yes, that's just one word. learntocodewith.me/linkedinbook. I hope you enjoy the episode and I'll see you next time!
- Target your resume to the person reading it. It’s the first impression you’ll make with the hiring manager—and you want it to be memorable.
- There are three C’s in resume writing. Make it clear, make it count, and make it compelling.
- Each point on your resume should be relevant to the job and should grab the reader’s attention. A dozen distinct points are far more powerful than 40 mediocre ones.
- A customized cover letter is your opportunity to stand out. It allows you to speak straight to the hiring manager and make your case.
- When it comes to making a hiring decision, it takes a hundred leads at the top of the funnel to get a single closed contract. Work to increase the top and bottom of the funnel to improve your chances of landing the job.
- Automate your job search and optimize your LinkedIn profile to increase the top of the funnel. Personalized applications, resumes, and cover letters increase opportunities at the bottom.
- Make second-degree connections through networking and seek referrals to boost your job prospects.
- Don’t get stuck in a scarcity mindset. Widen your funnel and apply to different types of companies, not just the big names.
- Turn your unconventional background into a strength. People in tech love stories that highlight differences, so let your freak flag fly.
Links and mentions from the episode:
- Break into Tech
- Hire Jeremy for a coaching call
- Hire Jeremy for an application review
- 5-day LinkedIn Crash Course
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