After Hack Reactor: Job Interviews


I graduated from Hack Reactor in the mid-March 2015.

Looking for jobs and interviewing SUCKED (are they ever fun?). Towards the end of April, I had three job offers and decided to go with the company whose interviewers I liked the best.

Here are some of the things I learned along the way:

  1. Use LinkedIn: Do a LinkedIn search on all companies you apply to. Try to reach out (via mutual connections) to the 2nd or 3rd degree connections you have. Always, always, always do this. It can't hurt to ask and it's always best to have someone on the inside.

    LinkedIn usually has a free first month promotion for their premium account--I suggest signing up.

  2. For Referrals, Different Rules for Large Companies: If it's a large company, get the person referring you to reach out to a recruiter on your behalf. The larger the company, the less of a boost an internal referral will have. If you're like me with no tech background and no CS/technical degree of any sort, you'll likely hit some resume filter for large companies.

  3. Practice your 'Tell me about yourself' answer: I think my experiences going through investment banking and trading interviews gave me the most important boost. Compared with finance superdays, tech interviews were a lot more low-key and casual, more like a walk in the park with a friendly introvert where you get asked to figure out a little brain teaser. Have a good story to engage your interviewer--interviews are probably awkward for them, too.

  4. Pretend You're There to Collaborate: Coding challenges always give me jitters. The imposter syndrome kicks in and I begin to question my knowledge on even the most basic concepts when someone's watching me code. I tried to pretend I'm working on a project together with them. Make believe to the rescue!

    This tip was given to me by another Hack Reactor alum.

  5. Be honest: I picked up bullshit-itus somewhere between college and finance as a survival strategy. At Hack Reactor, I had to learn to shake off this need to pretend and just openly admit my lack of knowledge on an issue. If someone asks you something during an interview that you don't know, just admit it and say that you're certain you can pick it up...because you can! No one can expect you to know everything.

  6. Put something interesting (and exact) at the bottom of your resume: Resumes are often pretty boring--projects, experience, education. My favorite part of people's resumes is to see if they've put down some personal interests at the bottom. This is your time to inject some personality! So don't squander it with "reading, yoga, cooking, and watching Breaking Bad", be interesting!

"Interests: making faces at dogs, sunsets in Beirut, Ethiopian food, getting lost in foreign cities, cat cafes in Tokyo, corgi butts, turning cereal into code"

  1. Combine like-companies together and apply in batches: A lot of places still require cover letters or expect some kind of an introductory paragraph about yourself. I was able to stream line the process a bit by focusing on one industry so I could swap out company names.
    For example, when I was applying to food-related start-ups, I had the following introductory paragraph--all I did was swap out the name. Here's a silly intro I wrote for all the food startups I applied to.

Dear INSERT FOOD STARTUP NAME,

I am a strategic global foodie. Equipped with Google maps, a list of restaurants, and my gut instincts, I can impressively and efficiently traverse an entire city in a day, trying all the local delicacies while still exercising. It is a talent and passion of mine that combines eating, problem-solving, and efficiency.

  1. Use words/phrases from the job posting: Unless it's a small company, recruiters and human resources will be the gate keepers. Most will just have a list of things to look out for--specified on the job posting. So if the posting says that they're looking for knowledge on Angular, highlight the projects you've done in Angular on your cover letter/emails and/or by putting it first on your list of projects in your resume.

  2. Don't overload yourself---quality over quantity: Here's something Hack Reactor told me to do that I went against; I did not apply to 100 jobs. I only applied to about 50, with at least half of those as referrals from friends and acquaintances.

    I also rarely did more than 3 phone interviews in a day. Even though phone interviews are only an hour tops, they're tiring and stressful! If you have a shitty interview, you don't want any negativity to creep into your next one. Give yourself some time to re-energize.

  3. Tell people you're looking: Post on your Facebook and Twitter. Tell your friends to tell their friends. This should be obvious, but initially I was hesitant to post on Facebook. I got over myself and managed to get over a dozen solid referrals from my friends--some I hadn't even talked to in years! Good friends will step up to the plate no matter how long it's been since you've last talked.

In the end, I went with a company that offered a lower compensation but had, in my opinion, a team I could see myself really enjoying.

Good luck with your hunt!