A senior engineer/EM job search story

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Davidson Fellipe is a lead software engineer based in New York, with more than 15 years of experience. In April this year he was unfortunately impacted by job cuts at the company where he worked, and found himself on the job market. A few months later, he signed an offer to start a new company, and shared brief details of his job search on LinkedIn:

Davidson summarizing his job hunt. Source: Davidson’s LinkedIn

I was interested in learning more about how Davidson went about his job search, and his experience of being in the jobs market, so I reached out and he kindly shared more context and advice for navigating the current market.

Davidson shared that he eventually received one engineering manager offer and two individual contributor offers. He accepted the senior engineer offer.

How long was your job search?

‘My search lasted for about three months, until I received the first offer.

‘Starting in April 2023, I applied to a few positions, mostly targeting engineering manager roles. During that time, I dedicated a significant effort to applying using referrals whenever possible. The period from April to mid-May was challenging: I found myself in hiring freezes and canceled processes. For some applications, it took 2-3 weeks before I had a call with the hiring manager. At this time, more than half of my applications were rejected during the resume review, even with referrals.

‘If you attempt to apply everywhere, you can get a lot more frustrated. Instead of applying broadly, I focused on engineering manager positions for frontend, product engineering, and developer experience (front-end.) Over time, I gradually opened myself up to individual contributor roles, but only for frontend positions (senior, lead, staff, and founding engineer roles.)’

Which tools did you use to stay organized and to apply for so many positions?

‘To keep track of all my applications, I created a spreadsheet with columns like:

  • Company name
  • Position applied for
  • Application date
  • Status
  • Last stage

‘Other tools that helped:

  • Teal application tracker and Simplify for applications. Simplify helped me a lot to automatically fill applications in the most popular applicant tracking systems (ATS.) Another useful option was for me to have an "Identity" ready in 1Password, with the most common information requested by the ATS.
  • Notion: for every company I talked to, I took notes on Notion to record what we talked about.
  • Crafting tailored resumes: I dedicated time to crafting two, different one-page resumes, highlighting accomplishments, and showing my past experiences. I did one as a manager, and the other as an engineer: with the goal to improve my chances of converting interviews. For instance, my experience as a founding engineer at a startup helped secure interviews with some startups.’

How helpful did you find referrals?

‘People in my network offered referrals, and I also asked people I knew when I saw positions close to my profile at their company.

‘I also had cases when I saw a position I was interested in, but didn't know anyone at the company. In some cases, I added someone from the company via LinkedIn, and asked for a referral. I got a few interviews with this strategy!

‘I helped others impacted by layoffs, and the other way around. I shared opportunities or redirected recruiters to others I knew were let go, and people did the same for me. We were all experiencing the same challenges, after all!

‘I worked with external recruiters as well. These recruiters – which work with multiple companies – tend to have a number of opportunities that may match your skills and interests. Working with external recruiters helped in getting more interviews, especially with startups.’

How did you find the interview processes?

‘There are far more candidates for fewer positions, so the bar to go to the final round is higher.

‘Talking about startups, they are very creative with interviews! I’ve completed both technical quizzes and even cognitive aptitude tests. These types of interviews were usually an extra round before the coding interview or take-home assessment. Having at least 4 interviews or screening steps was pretty common.’

How did you manage your time and energy?

‘Job searching took a toll on my time and energy. I took a few weeks of vacation in my home country, then gradually started to increase the pace of interviews. My daily high-level plan was this:

  • Morning: walk, study, review answers and tailor my resume.
  • Afternoon: interviews, review job descriptions and take-home assessments that were timeboxed.
  • Evening: take-home assessments that were not timeboxed; fire off applications, and in the end: recharge!’

What are interesting observations about the hiring process, and what advice would you share with job seekers?

‘What was surprising was that most hiring processes took up to 3 weeks from the conversation with the recruiter to the conversation with the hiring manager!

‘One thing that helped: New York City’s Salary Transparency Law was very helpful for not applying for jobs whose salary was below my salary expectations.

‘Advice for others: Don't underestimate the power of your LinkedIn intro and LinkedIn headline! And don't be afraid to apply if you see “500 applicants” for a role.”

This is Gergely again. Thanks a lot Davidson, for sharing the reality of your job search, and congrats on securing offers and accepting one of them. You can follow Davidson on LinkedIn or Twitter. He announced this week which company he will join.

It’s nice to hear about the positive impact of salary transparency regulations, and a good reminder that companies which publish compensation bands in their job adverts will likely attract more qualified candidates, as Davidson passed on places whose compensation was not a fit, which saved both him and the company time.

This was one out of the five topics covered in this week’s The Pulse. The full edition additionally covers:

  • Are reports of StackOverflow’s fall greatly exaggerated? A blog post suggests traffic is down 50% at Stack Overflow, due to ChatGPT gaining popularity. I reached out to Stack Overflow for more details: the company admitted a drop, but it’s only 14% as per data shared with me. The company seems to be doubling down on Teams for generative AI use cases as well. Exclusive.
  • What kind of migration is causing a payout outage at Booking.com? Small business hosts on the travel booking platform are waiting more than a month to be paid. Booking.com says a systems migration is the reason for the delay. I talked with engineers at the company and discovered an SAP migration is to blame. Exclusive.
  • Amazon gets stricter about enforcing return to the office (RTO.) The online retail giant sent a warning email to employees “not meeting the expectation of joining colleagues in the office at least three days a week.” I talked with engineers about the response to this ominous, unfriendly email. Exclusive.
  • Zoom to end remote work: an RTO turning point? Remote work tool Zoom is having most staff return to the office for two days a week. It’s a symbolic turning point which may signal how many companies will operate in a similarly hybrid way, going forward. Analysis.

Read the full The Pulse here.

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