Anecdotes from my job search

May these tidbits be helpful if you’re contemplating a job search in the tech market.

The search

Like last time, I wanted to stay in Seattle but considered as far north as Vancouver, B.C. and south as Portland. I wanted to work in the Python ecosystem and in open-source, in a technical or managerial position.

I think I’m more discriminating (read: picky) than the average job seeker. My technology preferences eliminated almost all of Microsoft, and every company using .NET. In Seattle, that’s a lot.

I started looking for a new job on May 31 and accepted an offer on December 19. The search took six and one half months. Looking for that long isn’t much fun. My head had to be in two places, giving my all to my current employer and managing my search. Juggling those demands for a couple of months is one thing, doing it for half a year is something else.

Sometimes the search itself was a major distraction. And when you think you aced an interview and three days later they say they’re passing on you, whoa Daddy that’s not fun at all.

The resources

I used six recruiters. Only two produced useful leads!

I notified 15 friends who were in a position to help. They got me four fruitful introductions that led to to serious interviews or connections.

I updated my profile and/or created search alerts on ten sites: LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, SimplyHired, Geekwork, ZipRecruiter, AngelList, Anthology, PrivaCV, and Python Weekly Jobs.

LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and AngelList had the best search results. Anthology gets an honorable mention because of how they operate vs. the typical job site, even though their results weren’t so hot.

SimplyHired, PrivaCV, and Python Weekly Jobs were terrible. ZipRecruiter was close to terrible.

Serious prospects

From time to time I had serious prospects, i.e., companies where I had at least gotten past the phone screens, and thought the interest was mutual and high.

Here’s my serious prospects vs. time.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 11.26.05 AM
Prospects vs. time
After working through the initial burst (they all fell away for one reason or another), there’s nothing to do but just keep at it. Job hunting is a numbers game! You keep looking even though a company looks promising, and even if it looks like a slam dunk. Because until you have an offer the fat lady hasn’t sung.

I had instances where I was certain an offer was coming. But surprise! No offer.


You need friends for a search this long.

You need friends to discuss alternatives, learn from, and help you understand how to sell yourself. About midway through my search I was debating whether to change tactics, and my friends’ counsel was enormously helpful.

You need friends for those times when you’re wondering why you haven’t found anything yet. You need friends to slap you in the head and say, “Dammit you’re great, if they don’t make you an offer it’s their loss, keep at it!”

I’m blessed with great friends.

Oh, and the benefit of a significant other (spouse, partner, whatever) who’s got your back cannot be overstated.

The interviews I landed

I’m lumping together everything from serious phone screens (at least one past the initial screen) to full-day interviews.

  • From recruiters: Five
  • From friends: Four
  • From them reaching out to me: Five
  • From submitting via a company’s job page: Zero

The last number reflects the general job hunting advice. Which is, get introduced by someone or use a recruiter, because submitting your candidacy through HR or the company website is like submitting to the circular file. Pity — if done correctly, it would be the quickest and most direct (not to mention cheapest for the company) way in.

Some interviewing oddities

Company “A” is large and well-known. I interviewed for an engineering manager position. The group was doing interesting work, and all the interviewers were smart. But the interview was hella odd.

  • Every interviewer looked down at their laptop and typed for the entirety of the interview
  • Every interview’s question (every one across every interviewer) was of the form, “Can you tell me about a time when…?”
  • Nobody took the time to sell me on working at A! No one told me why working there was great, or exuded excitement.

Company “M” wanted someone to build and run their new Seattle technical team, which would have about ten heads. I didn’t pass muster even though I’ve done exactly this multiple times with great success. Some months later they still haven’t filled this slot. Hiring me would’ve been worse than not filling it? I know I’m biased, but…yikes.

I interviewed with company “S” for a combined engineering manager and project architect role. I thought combining those functions was a bad move, and should have said so. Instead I kept quiet and planned to straighten them out after I joined. They chose another candidate who has great architectural chops but I wonder how good a manager he’ll be. The lesson is, When the position has a problem speak up about it! If I had argued for separating the managerial and architectural functions, maybe I would’ve won the position.

Company “V” is private and well-funded. I interviewed for a senior developer position with a team working on philanthropic ventures. I didn’t pass the interview, and they gave me explicit reasons why not. That was awesome! All companies should do this! Notwithstanding that, they thought I really wanted to be a manager even though I demonstrated strong developer chops, and wanted a “more traditional” company. (I asked questions about employee development, and that was a big red flag for them. Geeze, really?)

I interviewed with company “X” for a senior leadership role. I was asked my religion during the interview. I’m not kidding. I was also asked questions like, “Define polymorphism.” Yeah, no thanks.

I interviewed with company “Y” for a senior development role. Complete radio silence for three weeks, then came back as though nothing was out of the ordinary, then radio silence for two weeks, then they came back again… No thanks.

Odds and Ends

I continue to be surprised by hiring managers who want to classify you as a manager or developer. Good grief, someone can be both! Don’t you want people who can switch-hit? It’s a powerful advantage to have a deep bench of talent for when the company grows and pivots.

I’ve never sent a thank-you note after an interview. As a hiring manager I’ve gotten a thank-you twice, and both times I thought it was odd and it didn’t affect my hiring decision. Yet many recruiters advise sending them. Either I’m out of touch or I’m reading the wrong blogs.

A job search is this:

NO, no, no, no, no way, hell no, no, nope, no no no, no, No, no, no, no, Yes.

That’s the process. You go through a hundred Nos to get to the Yes that’ll be your next adventure!

One thought on “Anecdotes from my job search

  1. None of what you wrote surprises me. Interviewing has become ever more weird and dysfunctional over the last 25 years. Too many irrelevant or overblown requirements, screening by non-techies having no idea what the job entails, all day marathon sessions that leave you desiccated, overall degrading treatment. Combo jobs are the worst, where two or three basically unrelated jobs are mashed together, but pay for one. Even if qualified, can you really do well at multiple jobs simultaneously?

    Radio silence has been the norm 20 years. I’m shocked when I get any feedback, aside from an offer. Companies drag their feet more than ever. For my last job, I applied March, interviewed November, job offered December. I had long forgotten when they called, what position was that again? Few companies bothered to sell themselves to me (probably figured they were just so awesome it wasn’t needed).

    Searching while employed is easier, as employers do discriminate against unemployed, in no small part due to decades of unrelenting propaganda that the downsized are trash, by companies covering their own mismanagement or greed.

    Likewise baffled as to how companies select candidates. Curiously, I get more interest for jobs that strike me as iffy fit than for jobs that seem terrific fit. Almost like there is an inverse relationship there.

    Definitely prefer managers with deep technical background, being much less likely to be totally clueless about managing other engineers.

    I’ve sent “thank you” notes, that where actually interview follow-ons to boost my candidacy. Not sure it mattered.

    Unlike you, I’ve found recruiters to be completely worthless.

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