Greg Kamradt is a senior growth analyst at Salesforce who transitioned from a career in finance with the help of an accelerated data science program and a lot of hustle.
In this Codecast, Greg discusses the step-by-step process he used to blaze a path through his job search to land a position -- after over 100 manual reach-outs and dozens of interviews -- in just over a month of near-continuous grinding. This search required a high level of organization, creativity and hustle and he shares exactly how it all came together.
Greg's story likely has overlaps with your own -- he came from a non-traditional development background (finance) and went through a bootcamp program so he didn't have the advantage of a "good" resume to jolt employers into taking him. He had to find the side door and get on the radar of recruiters and hiring managers using the techniques he describes below.
There is so much value in this Codecast that it's almost criminal to not watch (or read) the whole thing...
- You have no excuse for not working hard and for not being fully prepared. Putting in 10, 20, or 30 hours a week to your job search means you won't compete with someone who's hungry enough to spend 7 days a week grinding it out. Acknowledge up front what it takes and make sure you're ready to commit.
- Look for a position which actually matches you instead of spamming yourself out to every possibility: "Don’t fake who you are because recruiters [and hiring managers], it’s their job to find out the people who are faking. It’s a lot easier to find that position that’s going to be right for you."
- Don't just drop a resume... find the "side door" at all costs: "If I’m going to be getting in contact with these technical recruiters, do I have a better chance of submitting my resume online with 400 other people or do I have a better chance of emailing them directly and hopefully getting a response and them hearing my pitch?"
- Organization is key: "My coming from an excel background, being an excel monkey I naturally went straight to excel and I put in all these different companies in an excel spreadsheet. I had I think something like 120 different companies I was interested in and I would put a rating by them."
- Recruiters (within companies) are your friend: "...a recruiter's job is literally to put - to fill a job, they literally want to get you a job... If you’re ever about to do an interview whether it’s in person, especially if it’s in person, but if you’re ever going to do an interview, for the love of god surprise yourself and ask the recruiter how can you best prep for this interview? You’ll be amazed as to the knowledge gain you’ll have from an insider’s perspective."
- Set up your reach-outs to make your contact's job as easy as possible: "A huge, huge takeaway here is you want to make everybody’s job easier, once you send out the email to the right person you get one shot, if that, to leave your mark. You have to make it easy on this gatekeeper. What I mean by that is you have to make sure your email pitch is short, sweet, and ready to get passed onto the next step."
Hello everyone, welcome to the Viking Code School Codecast series. My name is Erik Trautman the founder of Viking Code School and we are an online development school which teaches beginners to become job ready. With us today we have Greg Kamradt, who is a once upon a time corporate warrior who got into data science and he went through an accelerated program locally here in San Francisco and managed to parlay that experience through a very rigorous job search process into a job currently working as a senior analyst at SalesForce.
Greg, welcome here and thank you for joining us, I know you have whole lots to talk about, so I won’t hold you back.
Absolutely, well first of all thank you very much Erik. I guess I will start off a little bit about myself and where this whole presentation came around. Like Erik was saying, I started off in the finance world and it took about two years to figure out it wasn’t for me and I slowly started to make a transition into the data science world, and the way that worked is like learning anything new you pick up one piece of material that interests you, you pick up another piece of material you’re interested in and you start and keep on going down that route. It finally got to the point where these cool new technical things, you have to keep in mind here I didn’t come from a technical side either, so I was an excel monkey the first half of my career so the most coding I did was - if this then that.
Anyway, got into it and got to the point when it was almost consuming me. I was so interested in it and my girlfriend at the time, she said “Greg, you should try to take this a little more serious.” I never really considered it until she said so, and I said “Yeah, I’m going to look into it.” I ended up joining Galvanize in July of 2015, their Data Science Immersive, which was a 12 week full time program and I graduated beginning of July 2015, and I was definitely in a money crunch for sure. The program cost money, I wasn’t working and I didn’t have a whole lot saved up and so I was very, very, very motivated to get this job search underway.
What that meant was after the program I would spend most of the waking hours, at least eight or nine hours a day going at this job search. It took about a month and a half-ish of going very hard at this job search and then finally I ended up working out a job with SalesForce on their product data science team being a growth analyst over here.
I have been at SalesForce for about a year now, it’s been awesome and I’m excited to spend much more time here and keep on learning. The interesting part is right after I got done with the job search I was like a kid who just got done playing video games for 24 hours straight, drinking Coke and Red Bull because I was so wired but not in video games but in the job search sense. We’re talking emails, phone screens, interviews, seeing what works what doesn’t work, and I was so knowledge heavy. I had this big job weight on my head, I asked Katy Kent who works at Galvanized, I said “Hey, I have so much in my head right now I have to drop some knowledge on some students if you think it would be a helpful lesson, I don’t mind putting together a PowerPoint presentation and sharing this material.” She said “Greg, I think that’d be great.” And so in August 2015 I came and I shared this presentation which I am going to share with you guys today - Cool?
Awesome, thanks a lot.
I’m not going to go through it quickly but I’ll kind of go through it with a little bit of haste, and so please anybody ask any questions along the way, no need to wait till the end. If not we’ll just get through it and we’ll ask some questions from there.
Cool, and actually as a note for anyone who’s out there who's viewing on the hangout or will be viewing we do have the Q&A app which you can use to ask questions and we’ll be able to see those and get to those, and if you’re here locally of course you can just unmute yourself and feel free to fire away whenever you want.
Awesome, thanks Erik. I want to kind of put a PSA out there, this is geared towards the data science world but in all actuality this is for a lot of jobs, it’s for a lot of technical jobs and the kind of things we talk about here can be applied all over the place. If you ever see anything data science, you just try to apply it to your specific situation.
Let me share my screen here - Erik I’m going to look to you for audit - do you got it?
There we go.
Beautiful. Alright, so let’s jump into it. Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Data Science Interviews - and first of all thank you very much again Erik for letting me come and present this, I’m excited to be here, and let’s get into it.
First let me talk about myself - so like I said my name is Greg Kamradt I attended Galvanize last year 2015, April to July, and I’m a Senior Analyst on the Product Data Science team here at SalesForce. I attended Zipfian which has turned into Galvanize and here is a nice little headshot of me.
First of all I’ll put the data right in front of you guys - here is a summary of what I went through during the month while searching for jobs. I sent out 105 emails to people, so these are distinct people, so individual technical core recruiters and analysts, things like that. I ended up in contact with about 31 recruiters, so out of 105 one third of them converted which is I was happy with. From the 31 recruiters I passed only about 13 of them, and so about one third of them as well. And from the technical and team members I got 5 take home passes, and so in the data science world they say basically tell us what you think about it, we have some business questions we want you to solve. After I took the tests I ended up talking to about 6 hiring managers and after talking to the 6 hiring managers I had 3 onsites and of those 3 onsites I landed one offer. Some extra information that is kind of nice to have on there is I ended up talking to 63 unique companies, 40 of them responded back to me which was nice and I counted a “no” as a response so I physically heard back from 40 companies, and once I got the offer there was still 10 more interviews in process. So this is either a phone screen, a team member screen, a hiring manager screen or something like that.
I don’t want to interrupt your flow but I think the sound quality got a little degraded when you did the screen share, do you think it might be possible to sort of unshare and reshare or something? We went a little bit robot mode.
Can the rest of you guys hear it well? Yeah, let’s just carry on.
Erik you got the screen?
Awesome. So the first thing I’m going to call up here is from a job perspective, 105 emails and 31 recruiters for one job offer. This is the first thing that kind of blew my mind and this was not that uncommon across the rest of my schoolmates as well. Just keep in mind these ratios and the key takeaway here is that there is actually a ton of time and work that goes into getting this job offer and even though it was a lot of work what I told myself was “Greg, yeah that’s a lot of work but you’re not going to be lazy because you have your goal and your goal is to get a frickin job, so you’ve got to work hard to get it.”
Two quotes that I want to call up here - the first one is one of the data scientists that I talked to, his name is Robin and he says “Greg, finding a data scientist is hard, hiring one is harder.” So there aren’t that many data scientists around and so finding one is hard but even once you find the data scientist hiring him is going to be a whole lot harder. This speaks to how hard the funnel is to pass in the first place, and second a quote that really spoke to me during this process was from a VP at SalesForce actually, his name is Hernan, he says “Greg, If I wanted an XYZ data scientist I’d go grab one off the street, but I don’t. I need somebody like you.” In this situation what he was speaking to was Greg, if I wanted a PhD data scientist with a PhD in stacks and a whole bunch of experience I’d go grab one off the street, I’d go find one, but I don’t. I need someone like you - the main takeaway with this is a lot of people think there’s a mold that they need to fit and that’s not necessarily the case because it’s really hard to be somebody that you’re not, but it’s a lot easier to find a situation that perfectly matches your skills.
One of the main lessons I like to tell people is, don’t fake who you are because recruiters, it’s their job to find out the people who are faking. It’s a lot easier to find that position that’s going to be right for you.
Awesome, so now getting into more of the takeaways, we’re going to go over three things.
Organizing and Following up.
We’re going to make everyone’s job a whole lot easier.
We’re going to talk about hard creative energy.
Back when I was doing finance, I was searching for kind of a new career, a new job, a new anything and what I was doing is I was sending out a lot of job applications trying to get out of my current finance role, and what I was doing was sending out these front door applications. What I mean by front door applications is I would go to say Airbnb.com, go to the career page, look at the careers on there, find like eight or nine of them and see which ones I liked and then just blast out my resume to whoever would take it and I would do very little reaching out. By reaching out I mean sending out emails or trying to get introductions to people, and what I found was it was - I mean bluntly it sucked. The ratios were absolutely horrible and I would never know where the heck in the process or the funnel I was with these job offers. It wouldn’t tell me anything.
Once I did this data science job interview process I switched things out completely, actually flipped it around and what I did was I spent most of my time doing reaching out and I spent very, very little of my time doing these front door applications.
The main takeaway here is that it’s very easy to send off these front door applications and because it’s so easy that means everyone and their mother’s are doing it and no one is getting these introductions and these warm intros which I’m going to be talking about a little bit later. But now I want you guys to start thinking in the mindset of like okay, if I’m going to be getting in contact with these technical recruiters, do I have a better chance of submitting my resume online with 400 other people or do I have a better chance of emailing them directly and hopefully getting a response and them hearing my pitch. We’ll get into that.
Next, so this was the process that I put around a year ago when I first made this presentation and this was the very rough funnel that I saw. Sourcing means you find the companies that you want, and the you Pitch the companies that you want meaning you make your pitch about your value proposition, about why you’d be an awesome employee and then finally you go into your interview. Now that I’ve been at SalesForce for a year, I’ve been on phone screens, I’ve been on interview panels, I’ve looked at a whole bunch of different people I realize that the process is a little bit more - we’ll call it granular, it’s a little bit more of a funnel to be honest with you.
The way I like to see this, keep in mind I do growth now for a living so this kind of a growth funnel but think of it as a job interview funnel, the different stages and steps you’re going to do.
You’re going to have to get the gatekeeper’s awareness. This talks about getting in front of that technical recruiter or getting that person to refer you in or something along those lines. It’s getting simple awareness from the other side about your application.
Next, just because they know about you doesn’t mean that they’re going to convert you meaning that they’re going to send you off to the next level, but then if you get past these two steps you’re going to get over to a technical recruiter. Once you get pass the technical recruiter you’re probably going to get yourself over to a team member on the team that you’re applying for. After you talk to a team member they’re going to give you the thumb’s up, they’re going to send you off to the hiring manager. After the hiring manager talks to you on the phone and they that you’re cool they’re going to send you over to the final round which is either an onsite or a project presentation or a take home test or something like that, and after you pass the final round you’re going to get your job offer from there.
What I want to convey here is that each one of these stages there’s different things that you could be doing, so whether it’s sending out emails. You say okay Greg, I sent out 1,000 emails but only one person responded. That tells me that the pitch within the email, your value proposition, that is the part you need to work on because it’s not working. People always ask - Greg, I’m having troubles in the job interview process. I say okay, are you getting enough phone screens and they’ll say yeah, I’m getting enough phone screens but I’m not getting passed off to the next round. It’s like okay, let’s talk about your phone screen strategy and let’s see where we can go from there.
I will make sure that I pass this funnel off to you guys later, but when you think about your job process interview think about where in the funnel you’re stuck and what you need to do to get past that stage in the funnel.
Next, now we’ll talk about the sourcing - when I talk about the sourcing topic I’m talking about finding out who in the heck to contact in the first place. Which gatekeepers do you want to talk to, which people do you want to refer you or simply which companies are you interested in? The fact is that a lot of folks coming out of technical bootcamps much like I did, much like a lot of you are or a lot of job seekers in general, sometimes the company doesn’t matter as much necessarily, they’re just looking to get into a place, apply some really good energy and learn, so if you can have a wide range of companies to do that in where do you find that wide range of companies.
This is where I had my personal big list, and so what I did was I first off made a scratch list and I wrote down all the cool companies I wanted to work for, so we’re talking our Uber's, our Airbnb’s, our LinkedIn’s, Microsoft, all those and I just made a big list there. Next I went to a lot of VC’s in the area, a ton of VC’s have websites where you can just get their portfolio companies and I’d research these portfolio companies and say, they seem like they have cool data, they seem like they’d be a cool experience to work for, I’m going to try them. Alternative data science industries, just remove the word “data science” from here, but alternative industries. A lot of people think that we need to get in roles where they’re technology driven, so they need to be in Silicon Valley or they need to be in New York or something like that, but also looking at oil and gas industries, commodity industries and all these other guys. Don’t have such a narrow scope and think that it has to be in tech, that’s just usually the norm.
Because I wasn’t closing out any options at all I was contacting staffing and recruiting agencies. There are literally people who you give your resume to and they don’t get their money until you get a job, and so if somebody wanted my resume to try and get me more job impressions, absolutely, so I was contacting staffing agencies. I was looking on Hacker News, who is hiring all the time, every single month and filtering in on data science jobs. In fact I think there’s something like 200 different job listings on Hacker News, not even just August 2015 but July 2016 there’s over 200 job interviews, there’s a whole lot of cool stuff on there. Then finally DataTau which is like a Hacker News for data science. The main goal here is you want to start with a huge, huge list, just very expansive huge list of any company that could maybe interest you and then pluck and prune it based off of your priorities from there. Even make a prioritization list where the ones you want to contact are at the top, the so-so ones are down at the bottom.
Cool, so now that you have this big list of companies you need to organize and follow up, which means if you send out 20 different job applications how the heck are you going to keep track of all 20 that you sent out, or say you emailed 50 different people, how are you going to organize all these emails that you sent out? My coming from an excel background, being an excel monkey I naturally went straight to excel and I put in all these different companies in an excel spreadsheet. I had I think something like 120 different companies I was interested in and I would put a rating by them [Editor's note: See the bottom of this post for links to these]. Airbnb I kind of want to work for them so I would give them a 5 or a 10 and another firm, maybe not so much so you put them at a 2 or 3. This way I could see where I wanted to prioritize my efforts. Any notes I wanted to keep on the company, a URL to keep handy - any job postings I was interested in I would put that URL right here. This is a part of a resource document that I’ll give you guys after this presentation also, I will give you guys this and it has 120 companies of people I was interested in so you guys can get some inspiration from there.
Here is my email and interview tracker, so on the left here I had every single email that I sent out to somebody and then on the right I had all of my job interviews and one that are in progress. Here’s the funnel that I showed you guys earlier today, so all the emails I sent out, all the recruiters, so that means they got over into my job pipeline. If I submitted an application I put in an entry right here, then did I get through a recruiter? Yeah I did, okay cool put an X right there. Instacart for example, I submitted an application and I was rejected straight up, no big deal whatever but I didn’t put an X there for those guys.
I forget where I first learned it but somebody said something like you should seek to get 50 rejections from companies. I was like what are you talking about? I don’t want to get rejected from 50 companies. They go no, no, no Greg, you have to understand that the funnel is so wide that conversion rates aren’t that great for companies, you should seek to go through so many companies and just get that rejection so you’re making forward progress from there.
I kind of thought about it, I was like okay I guess that kind of makes sense. And so even if I thought I was going to be rejected from somewhere I submitted an application, I tried my best because there’s a lot of instances and cases where I got on that extra phone screen or I got that extra interview where it gave me more practice and I could see where I wanted to focus my efforts. Here I don’t mind showing all the companies I applied to and all the ones I got rejected because this just shows the work that went into this process and how much work it actually takes to get through these different stages of the funnel.
I am giving you guys this as well, so not only the company list but then also the email and interview tracker as well at the end of this talk.
Cool, so after you send out these ton of emails what goes into the body of the email, because you can’t just say “hey, I want a job, please put me in touch with that person.” Nobody is going to take you seriously, what I would go over here is how do you get the attention of the right person, who is the right person, and then what the heck can you do to reduce the friction on their end?
The pitching process - here you have your company list. This is my list of 120 companies I was interested in and from there I went and I looked at LinkedIn, I said who are the technical recruiters at those companies, who are the data scientists at those companies, or who is the web developer at those companies that I want to have the job, I want to be doing that. And then from there I had that list of people and then I put in my email pitch for them. You can see we have quotes around the email pitch and it’s on all titles because it’s the ominous email pitch of what the heck goes in there.
First thing is what you have to do is you have to find the gatekeeper. These are the people at the companies that are going to be forwarding off your application to the correct technical recruiter. What I want you to take notice here is I haven’t said the word application through the front door at all, I haven’t even mentioned going to the career page. I haven’t even mentioned checking if there’s a job opening for what you wanted. To me, honestly, I didn’t care if there was a job opening I just wanted to get in front of that technical recruiter because they know the ecosystem the best and they’re going to see which job posting if any my background fit best. I wasn’t going to bucket myself into something that maybe wouldn’t have been a right fit and I would have gotten rejected for.
Once you have your list of companies you want to find these technical recruiters and so usually you’re just going to go to LinkedIn and just type in “instacart technical recruiter” and you’ll get a list of 20 technical recruiters on there, which is great. After about a week of doing this you’re going to find out that LinkedIn has a querying limit, unfortunately, because they don’t want you abusing the service, they want you to pay for the premium, but simply here’s a little trick that I learned. If you go to Google and you type in “site:LinkedIn.com” and then type in your LinkedIn query you’ll get all the Google results which are precast and they update it all the time, and you can see all the LinkedIn results within Google and then you just click on those guys from there. So that’s a nice little tip, I guess.
When you’re reaching out to these gatekeepers, if you’re going to a really large company you’re going to want to try and get in front of a technical recruiter, because they have technical recruiters in place to deal with people like us reaching out. If you’re going to a smaller company, say a startup where it’s 6, 7, 8 people or less than 20 people you’re usually going to want to reach out to somebody that’s on the specific team because they will have a more hands on approach to the recruiting and they’ll be able to know what to do with your application from there.
Like I said before for this timeline, when in doubt reach out. This just means if you ever have any question about whether or not to send out an email - it’s like “Oh Greg, I don’t necessarily think that’s the right person” or “You know, maybe they don’t have the exact job that I want” something like that. Who cares, if they don’t respond then they don’t respond and you can just document that that’s how hard you tried. Or too, if they do respond you can do an informational interview and you can get that much more knowledge gain about the industry that you’re curious about or something like that So when it doubt reach out.
The goal for this one is you want to get your story in the right hands so this is alluding to the content that’s in your email, but basically you want to get your pitch into the hands of the right person, whether it be a technical recruiter or somebody on the team.
A huge, huge takeaway here is you want to make everybody’s job easier, once you send out the email to the right person you get one shot, if that, to leave your mark. You have to make it easy on this gatekeeper. What I mean by that is you have to make sure your email pitch is short, sweet, and ready to get passed onto the next step.
Now I want to go over the content of what my email pitch looks like, I am going to give you guys my email pitch that I used to reach out to 105 different emails. First paragraph was a quick intro - Name, background, name of the school that I attended, linked to my program for the alumni and stated that I’m a data scientist. Basically letting them know who the heck I am, where I’m coming from and I show them a link to the alumni because they have some cool alumni that are working on some spots and I wanted to have a recruiter look at those alumni locations and it would give a little bit of an authoritative voice to Galvanize in general. If I linked to alumni and they saw they were working at Telsa and Airbnb and LinkedIn and all these things I wanted the recruiter to know that it was a reputable program.
Next, after my quick intro I was going to go to my final project, so for my final project here it could really be any project that you have. I had a project that I put up online and I wanted to share a link to it to these technical recruiters and to these different team members and I wanted them to see my project and let the project do the speaking for me. It was a little bit of work and I just threw it out there for people to go explore it if they wanted to.
Finally is to express interest to learn more, so I’m excited to learn about interesting problems XYZ or whatever you’re working on. I would love to find out more about the data team. You notice here that I’m not asking about the job, I’m not saying jump on a phone screen, I’m not forcing them to do anything for me because they get the pitch - it’s like let’s be real here, we’re all humans, we all get what’s going on here. The object of this game is to not seem to needy but rather that you’re interested in hearing more about what’s going on and that you’re a valuable asset here.
Then also I did a lot of A/B testing for my subject finds and you might not think it’s that big of deal but when you’re a technical recruiter and you’re getting 200 emails a day from random people you start to notice which subjects work the best and which ones don’t. What I found that works easiest for me is introduction - my last name, so "Introduction - Kamradt", because now the technical recruiter or whoever is receiving this email is going to be like, "oh introduction, I wonder who I am getting introduced to".
If you’re going to be introduced to somebody it usually implies that you’re getting introduced to somebody you want to be introduced to, the subject line isn’t job candidate seeking job because then they already know it’s a pitch and they haven’t even read your email yet. So "introduction - Kamradt", worked best for me, and Kamradt is my last name.
Finally the other thing, too, is you have to understand that if you’re sending out say 10 emails per company chances are you’re not going to hit the right person, but however, that person is going to forward off your email to a technical recruiter or to a data member or a person on the technical team to see if they want to find out more. The huge, huge hint here is you’re going to be forwarded, and so knowing that you’re going to be forwarded, what information do you need to include in your email pitch to insure that the person you’re getting forwarded to has all the information they need to do their job. Think about it from their perspective.
Final project, if you’re going to be displaying some sort of project I found out that a visual project is always better than a text based project is always better than a code based project, because honestly nobody is going to read any code that you have unless they’re getting really deep into it, nobody really wants to read any text, like three paragraphs of text but it’s pretty easy to digest a visual representation of whatever the heck you’re trying to describe and so visual usually worked out the best for me.
You can keep your project up on GitHub if you want but I found out that a web presence works out best for me. You want to make it easy for others to digest and the project if you think about its actual purpose, any project that you’d ever do is to display that you know what the heck you’re doing is basically what it is. it’s a validation that me as a data scientist, or me as a web developer, has the skills to put together something, not only has the skills to put together something but the initiative to put together something, so think about what a web presence does for your specific project. It actually does a whole lot, and I know the data scientists they are not very web savvy people so we always use Bootstrap which is really easy for us and then once I had my project I promoted the heck out of it. I was going on Reddit/dataisbeautiful, Reddit/datascience, blogs, newsletters, twitter, Hacker News, Data Tau, all over the place.
If you have a project to promote it everywhere, there are blogs that are begging for material to send out to other people. I think I pitched it to three blogs and two of them said yeah looks cool we’ll put it out in the next subject or next edition. Don’t be afraid to share your final project anywhere.
Like I said before, you want to let your work do the talking, so what’s cool about a project if it’s up online, up on the web it’s going to sit there, it has a very passive way for people to learn about you and for people to reach out to you. I was actually shocked but during promoting my project I had people contact me just off of finding the project online and wanting to talk about it. I didn’t even have to reach out to them in the first place which was very cool.
Okay so let’s say after the project the recruiter says you’re good to go, how can you can most sufficiently convey your skills to the technical recruiter or to a team member or hiring manager?
The main takeaway here is you have to step in the interviewer’s shoes, and you have to do prep. There is no excuse to not be doing your prep beforehand, because in the interview process there’s not much that you can control but you can control the level of preparation that you do.
First of all here, there’s no excuses. Like I said before you can control how much preparation you do. There should be no excuses as to why you’re not prepped for something.
Next, recruiters are your friend. I don’t know why this is such a big knowledge gain but blow my mind moment for myself, when one of the people at Galvanize said, look a recruiter's job is literally to put - to fill a job, they literally want to get you a job. They want to maximize the success of their candidates because if they fill a bunch of roles then they look great. You have to think about what their motivations are, they want to fill these roles. What I do is before every job interview that I had, whether it was with a team member or whether it was with a hiring manager, I contacted the recruiter and I said “hey, I’m about to go on the phone with XYZ what can you tell me about them? What is their work style, what kind of things are they interested in?” The recruiter was always, always, very, very receptive to that and they always wanted to jump on the phone with me and they always wanted to tell me more about my specific situation.
If you’re ever about to do an interview whether it’s in person, especially if it’s in person, but if you’re ever going to do an interview, for the love of god surprise yourself and ask the recruiter how can you best prep for this interview? You’ll be amazed as to the knowledge gain you’ll have from an insider’s perspective.
Next, before I interview with anybody I always look them up. Do they have a blog, do they have LinkedIn, do they have articles, what are their interests, what are the tech stacks that they use? You’re like Greg, why do I care what tech stacks do they use? Well if they’re asking me a question about how I completed a project if I can drop a common tool, and by drop I mean if I can name drop a common tool that we use together then they can see that I’m a regular person and they can ask me about that specific tech stack and they can know that maybe we could have a point of commonality between the two of us.
I saw on somebody’s LinkedIn that they loved using Ipython Notebooks, I specifically mentioned during that interview to this person that I loved Ipython Notebooks and this is how I use them XYZ and it was a great point that we could talk over, which is awesome.
Then finally, questions are golden - what I would always do, people always Greg, I don’t know what questions to ask, I don’t know anything about the company - blah, blah, blah. It’s like again, there’s no excuses, that’s a lame excuse for not being able to prep. What you do is go and Google the company and you see the latest news articles about that company, so it’s Instacart, I’m going to Google Instacart news and I’m going to see what are the recent techcrunch articles about them, or what is going on? Did they just acquire a new company or did they just hire somebody new or something like that? Either way I can ask how the specific team that I’m interviewing for relates to that piece of news.
So for example SalesForce had acquired a tempo, it was a calendar app and what I did was when I got into the interview I asked the data science team I was working with, I go - Oh, I just saw SalesForce acquired tempo, can you tell about if you’ve worked with the product at all or if you’ve helped with the acquisition, and even if they say no what I’ve done is I’ve communicated that I’ve done my prep and that I’m smart enough to give the initiative to show that I’m researching and preparing for this interview. So even if they haven’t worked with them and I don’t get the answer that I want, I still conveyed value in that message. And then if you need more questions to a specific interviewer an easy one that I always do is once you’ve looked at their LinkedIn, you can see their previous job history obviously. So if they’ve gone from say a marketing role into more a product driven role you can say, how was the transition into marketing from product, I’m curious about it, what did you learn from it? People love talking about themselves so they will love talking about the transition.
Goal - No surprises, be prepared.
Interview key points, the common questions that you’re always going to get asked no matter what is tell me about your background. That is most standard as does this woman have a pulse question that there is. The next one that is very, very common is why us or why our data? Why do you want to do web development for us, why do you want to do data science for us, what makes our backend infrastructure interesting to you or why would you ever want to work for us - blah, blah, blah.
The other thing, too, is I talk to a lot of people on phone screens and they get nervous and it’s natural to be nervous during an interview, it’s 100% natural. I get it, I get nervous myself. The way that I always got myself un-nervous or at least tried to was opening the phone call lighthearted, and what I mean by that is the person is always calling you and they say “Hi, is this Greg?” “Yes this is Greg.” “Hi Greg, this is blah-blah-blah, from company XYZ.” I say “How’s it going?” They go “Good, how’s it going?” I go something like “Oh, the weather is great today.” Or something where you’re working really hard at doing something, XYZ or something out of the ordinary because then it loosens you up, it loosens them up and it gets the call on a lighthearted tone which is awesome and makes everyone feel better.
The next is when the recruiter goes “So what are you looking for?” The person that says I’m down for anything unfortunately that doesn’t sound awesome, you don’t really want to say I’m down for anything because they’re kind of thinking I don’t want somebody who’s down for anything, I want somebody who’s down for what the job is I’m advertising right now, that’s what I want. I don’t want a generalist in here. And the person says “I’m just a general all over the place, like I don’t want to go this direction.” That’s better but it’s not 100% great. If you have a direction that you want to go, display the direction you want to go.
The point I want to emphasize here is back to like that faking aspect we talked about before. A lot of people say they’re down for anything because they want to be open for anything, they’re afraid to say they’re in a sharp direction or they have an interest or a goal, but I tell you what if you don’t have an interest or a goal in that job then one the job isn’t going to be very satisfying, but two the technical recruiter is going to see that and they’re going to weed it out and they’re not going to want to move forward with your application in the first place. So don’t be afraid to say that you don’t have a general direction, at least.
Next is it’s okay to not know the answer to something, don’t panic. My number one deflection thing that I always said if I didn’t know a question were things that were over my head absolutely, and instead of saying I don’t know. The question is a test in itself, can he answer a question, if not can he understand what steps he needs to do to answer the question so I’d say “That’s an awesome interesting question, I’d love to do more research and get back together with you and answer it.” They got that I was saying no, but they also got that I was prepared enough to deflect the answer instead of saying I don’t know.
Next is how I would always kind of rewrite my resume, I wouldn’t literally rewrite it but I would reread it before every interview because on your resume you have sub-bullets and bullet points, there might be 30 different points on your resume, and I’m not going to remember all those if I read my resume two weeks back and I’m talking to somebody. What I need to do before every interview is I need to look over my resume and I need to get fresh with my own background so I could say that’s right, I did do that project where I led this team, did this - blah, blah, blah and so when they ask about it to me on the interview I’ll have it fresh on the top of my mind. When you’re in your interview you’ll have your resume in front of you, yes, but you’re going to be so nervous - or at least I was - that I couldn’t read my resume and answer as I was trying to think on the fly. Having it on the top of my head was great.
The goal - Effectively deliver your preparation because you’ve done all this prep let’s effectively deliver it.
Lastly is we’re talking about hard creative energy, when I was making this presentation I avoided using the words hustle, ninja, rock star or anything like that. I thought what is it really I’m trying to say? I’m trying to say that one you need to put in the hard work but you need to put in creative work and so it’s creative hard energy is what it is. Get creative and put in a lot of really hard energy.
After this I’ll hook up with Erik and I’ll send off these resources. We’re going to get you a list, these are the 120 companies, the email interview tracker for if you want to track all your emails and interviews, the cold template email. I’ll give you my resume that I used, I just made mine off Creddle.io which was kind of weird for me because coming from a finance background I gave this really boring looking resume because I thought that’s what finance people needed to do and Creddle has really colorful ones which is really awesome. And for all the interview prep that I had, this all came from Galvanize. I hope that you guys can use and improve this stuff for the next people you use it for and I’d love to hear about what’s working and what’s not working in your job interview yourself.
That’s all we have right now.
That’s awesome, thank you so much. I’m pretty sure we have one or two questions lurking out there after that.
I hope so.
I have a question - first of all I’m Matt, thank you for presenting that was very interesting. It’s kind of maybe a request, but could you give us - well I’m interested in what your final project was and maybe you could use the language you used to talk to like recruiters or whoever to describe it for us?
Yes, absolutely. My final project was - one second, the pitch line was an explanation of the New York City beta list in finding out distributions of where rides are getting dropped off. Basically I took a look at every single block in New York City and what was really interesting is you can see that some blocks, all the taxi rides got dropped off at late night so these were people that were going out to the bars. Some taxis only got dropped off in the mornings or on the weekdays, so these are all commercial places. What’s cool is if you visually represent that you can get a really cool map out of that. I am going to pop up this link for you guys.
So I did that but what I knew, I knew that my website was going to get forded off to people and I knew that I needed my website (inaudible) I was not going to have control over that, over who saw it and when so I made sure it was self-service, it was ready to go.
I will give you the link when I give you the rest of the goodies, but I thank you Matt for the question.
Hi I have a question, hi I’m Adrian. I was just wondering after you landed the job how hard was it or difficult was it for you to get acclimated to what you needed to do for the job?
Sure, absolutely. My dad at one point said “Greg, you don’t really understand what you’re doing at a job for a year.” I was kind of like “Dad, what are you talking about, that’s not true.” You know bless his heart in actuality for the first four months you don’t know what you’re doing - I swear, and then month four through month eight you finally start to provide some value and then after month eight that’s when you really start to get in your groove. So if it feels like a long time it actually is a while. You have to learn text stacks, you have to learn how people work, you have to learn who people are, you have to learn the email situation, you have to learn how to book a conference room. You have to get setup, there’s a whole bunch of things you have to get acclimated to.
Could I ask a question - we spoke, Greg I’m sure you remember, we spoke late last week and one of the things that I really thought was very interesting or was profound from you was the emphasis on - the way I’d put it is the emphasis on what we call the side doors in the pipeline, which is to say you don’t necessarily go into to the front door by just going to the career page and going through a wizard, but like the thing that I didn’t get was that side doors is its own pipeline, you reach out and create your own connections as opposed to using the ones you just happen to know from your prior life, right. The interesting question I have is in your presentation it seems to be kind of like technical recruiter heavy, is that - are those the right people to reach out to? Those are people who are going to try to funnel you into their job portal process. How do you go out and reach out to people who aren’t in that position or do you feel like that’s a good use of your time? What are your thoughts on that?
What I told myself was if I don’t get the right person two things are going to happen - one, they are just going to blow me off and won’t even care. Two, they are going to read my email or whatever, and three they are going to forward my email to the right person. It’s almost like you’re throwing your baseball to the cutoff man and even though it hasn’t reached second base yet they’re still going to throw it to second base, which is nice because I don’t know who the heck the right person is. Usually how it works is there is one technical recruiter or a specific team for a specific job and so even if you hit the wrong technical group they’ll forward it off to the right technical group because they know who it is. Now even if you forward it off to a web developer or data scientist, they might say I don’t deal with recruiting let me forward this to the right person because it’s their job to deal with this kind of stuff. I kind of shot my arrow in the darkish towards an area, they took that arrow and they put it towards the right person.
I have another small question - it’s Adrian again. So in your resume you called yourself a data scientist. My question is, is there a difference when you call yourself a data scientist versus like a web developer?
Absolutely, with those two distinctions, absolutely not. The point I want to make about data science talk there is that I had a big case of imposter syndrome as do a lot of other people and I was hesitant to call myself a data scientist because although I just went through this big bootcamp I didn’t feel like one because I didn’t have any industry experience and one of the points I was taught in Galvanize was no, don’t feel that way, you sort of fake it till you make it but it’s sort of ignore this imposter syndrome because honestly when the technical recruiter looks at your resume for the five seconds they’re going to look at it for, they don’t want to see somebody who is not a bona fide person in the industry they’re trying to get in. If you’re trying to become a web developer, you are a web developer, you have this training and you have this experience, don’t think anything otherwise. If you’re trying to become a data scientist you are a data scientist. If somebody wants to say Greg I want to become a data scientist but I’m not one right now, what do you want me to do for you then - do you know what I mean?
Adrian: Yeah, thank you.
Actually there’s a related question in the text which is how do you handle applying for positions that require two to three years of experience?
Awesome, so if a position requires two or three years of experience it just means at the top of the funnel it’s going to shrink a little bit more but there’s less jobs that you can actually go out for, but I would attack it the exact same way. Instead of targeting intro to web development roles now you’re going to go experience web developer roles or something like that. Just redirecting your scope but honestly I would go about it the exact same way.
And so were you actually applying for roles that were sort of beyond your years of experience?
Honestly this isn’t a great answer to that question but I wasn’t applying for roles to be honest with you. I want to show you guys this, I am going to share my screen one more time. Here is my outbox, I just searched the subject I was looking at and told you guys about, you can see how many emails I sent out. Look at this delivery status, failure. I was guessing their email address - no response, no response, okay here’s a response. But I’m sending out these emails and the no responses didn’t discourage me. I wasn’t really applying for roles I was trying to get my name out there is what I was trying to do and the worst thing that’s going to happen is somebody is not going to respond. The middle best case is you’re going to get an informational interview, the best case you’re going to say let me go for a phone screen or something like that.
The lowest competition is for a role that doesn’t actually really exist.
I have a quick question Greg, this is Conner. When you’re applying to 100 jobs, sending emails to 105 people and then you eventually get to the point where you start sending out your resumes to these individuals that responded back and are interested in you, do you gear your resume differently to the job or do you spend time on reformatting and making sure it fits that specific company or that specific role, because not all roles, they are general but it might be a little bit different. Maybe one is more on the Ruby side or backend stack or maybe one is going to be on the user experience stack - do you kind of base it off of what you’re applying to?
Absolutely, I love that you asked that question. I agree, it takes a lot of work to reformat your resume to every job you’re applying to and every single person, it takes a lot of work. What I have come to find out is that a lot of LinkedIn profiles will get searched based off of keywords, a lot of resumes will get filtered based off of keywords and so I went for more of the generalist resume rather than trying to specifically cater each individual resume to each individual job. What I will say has more effect is when you send out the email to the person, catering that a little bit more has more ROI than catering the resume. I say that because you don’t know if your resume is going to get read but chances are whoever is looking at your email is going to give five seconds to your email and if you can make that pitch more effective then you’ll do better for yourself there.
I have a question also, my name is Chris G. I was wondering it come to catering your resume, if you had jobs say 12 years ago say working at Whatever Burger would that be something you just lop off and just be relevant in the last X-many years or all kinds of experience you had before?
Sure, absolutely. So if it was 12 years working at Burger High, I’d give that the boot for sure. How would I put this - usually you just want to show the experience that maybe the top two positions, top three positions that want to closely identify with your industry. If you look at some director at a corporation he’ll have three pages worth of a resume because he’s done something industry specific for his entire life. If you look at people coming out of bootcamps like myself in a transitional phase our experience won’t always cater to what we’re actually trying to go after. So what I would do is I would highlight my finance experience but I would emphasize the type of class whether I was querying a database or whether I was presenting to external stakeholders or whether I was managing a project or something like that. I was trying to highlight the skills that could transcend industries and transcend jobs, but would more focus on me being a good employee and good worker and that. But you kind of want to be a little strict with yourself if it’s not super industry specific, and now the next natural question from there is - Greg, I don’t have anything industry specific, then take your prior experience whether it’s two or three jobs and highlight the things that kind of transcend industries or transcend jobs.
Cool, a couple of quick ones for these. So just to be clear, you were not sending out your resume attached to your initial batch of emails?
You know, actually I was. What I’m going to do, I am going to give you these.
I’ll reach out to you afterwards and when we get the transcript of this I’ll post it up on the blog as well.
I’ll tell you what, I’ll throw up here real quick. The last one is the cold email intro and from there you can see the words that I used and I would attach my resume actually to that, to the email because my thought process was they’re going to look once at my email and I don’t want them to have to go through a drop off point and responding to me to get it or whatever.
Maybe this is actually a good one to go out on, but in all one offer, how many hours of work whatever you call it, thought, pain suffering and betrayal did you go through to get to that one offer?
I’ll tell you what, it got to the point where my friends were going out on a Friday night and I told myself, I go "look man, you don’t have a job why would you go out to the bar when you don’t have your goal? You don’t have your goal so why are you going out?"
It got to that point where I was that motivated to do something and it also got to the point where I was getting really discouraged after sending out that 40th email of the delivery failure notice or nobody responded, or having that phone screen where I’m sure all of you will relate to this at one point, you have a phone screen and you don’t hear back from the person for a week and you think maybe they just forgot to follow up.
It’s like no, usually if you don’t hear back for a week or two it’s usually not a great sign, and I would get really discouraged. There’s hard times, there’s ups there’s downs, but I tell you once you get the job and once you’re happy where you are that makes it all worth it. Let’s put it this way, a month, four weeks, I had to take one day off for myself, so six days, eight hours so what 140 hours, 160 hours or whatever.
That sounds low end.
That’s low end. Here’s another data point too, there was 16 people in our cohort that were eligible for the job and I was the fourth one to get one so I was a little bit on the earlier side, but there are students that were out there, it took two or three months to grab a job after that. They would always ask, Greg what can I be doing? I would say let’s take a look at your email pitch, how many emails have you sent out? They’re like well I haven’t sent out that many, it’s like well let’s get some energy in here, let’s get working towards it and let’s help you out here.
Hit it hard.
I think we’re actually down to the end of our time here and I want to be respectful of your time as well. Greg thank you so much this is awesome. I think this aligns very well with the way that we also kind of approach this whole job search. But you’ve also provided a lot of very interesting things that I think could be helpful for anyone out there, I won’t even begin to list them all. It is really awesome stuff.
Awesome, thank you very much.
Thank you, and thank you everyone else who is joining us as well. This is the Viking Codecast, regular series with professional developers and others in the industry. Please join us next time and otherwise, Greg thank you again and I hope everyone you have a great night.