Can't get engineering interviews? Try the side door.

lynnetye profile image Lynne Tye Originally published at keyvalues.com ・3 min read

If you're applying for new engineering jobs and are struggling to get your foot in the door, consider looking for other ways in.

Imagine a big crowd of people in front of a building, pushing and shoving to get inside through the main door. A few people, tired of the mob, decide to explore the premises and come across a side entrance. They knock, someone opens, and they walk right in. Wouldn't it be nice to use that side door, too?

Find the side door on Key Values.

The many ways into a startup.

In a tall pile of applications, there aren’t a lot of ways stand out aside from simply "being better” or “doing more impressive stuff.” Most people work hard to get ahead by fortifying their resumes and portfolios with more work experience and more projects. Others wait patiently for their turn. Some just brute force it by applying to hundreds of companies until one eventually says yes.

What if instead of competing directly with everyone else, you could just redirect your energy into finding a side door?

Here are a few things that I’ve personally done, or seen other engineers do, to jump the line, get interviews, and land jobs at tech startups:

Use the product.

Many B2C companies hire directly from their user base. Startups with consumer products want to hear from their users, especially those who have ideas on how to improve UX, performance times, or fix the bugs they encounter. Be proactive in reporting issues. If you have a solution, you might speak directly with their engineers. Voila! You’ve cut the line.

Many B2B companies have products that you can also use, especially if you’re working on a side project of your own or your previous employer was a customer.

Make a PR.

Sure, you can build your own projects and make them open source, but you can also find companies that have open source projects and contribute to those. Make a PR and engage with the current engineers maintaining it. You’re demonstrating ability and interest without it even being an interview.


I begrudgingly started using Twitter for real a little less than a year ago, and I can't believe how much I've been missing out on. The software engineering community is extremely active on Twitter, so it's a huge advantage anyone can easily get. Engage with current team members at your dream company on Twitter. Answer questions they ask. Comment on articles they post. Contribute to the conversation.

Don't know who to follow? Start with the technical founders quoted in this article.

Fun fact: I got my second contract web dev gig on Twitter.

Meet in person.

Why not have conversations in person? Many startups host meetups, hackathons, and/or workshops, sometimes in their own offices. Attend them. Talk to everyone, especially current engineers at the company. Not only do you get to casually ask questions about life at Company X, but in many cases, they'll want to refer you because of something called internal referral bonuses.

Worst case scenario: you'll meet all sorts of new people who will help expand your network.

Ask questions via Key Values.

Finally, if you’re interested in any of the engineering teams on Key Values, I’ve created a small side door for you on each company's profile page. You can leave thoughtful questions for current team members at the bottom left corner of the page, along with your email address so that they can get in touch.

There are so many side doors out there, and I love discovering them. So I ask my fellow DEV peeps: what do you know that the rest of us don't? 😜

If you want to get in touch, you can email me (lynne@keyvalues.com) or find me on Twitter (@lynnetye, @keyvaluesio). Also, I haven't decided what I should write about next... so if you have ideas or requests, holla!

Cover photo by Samuel Zeller.

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Lynne Tye


Lynne is the creator of Key Values, a website that helps engineers find teams that share their values. She lives in San Francisco, is an Iron(wo)man, and loves meeting new peeps!


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I'll throw another one out there: go to conferences and product launches. I landed my first real job because I went to a Microsoft sponsored product launch/conference. I sat down next to some folks, started chatting with them, and low-and-behold, they were looking to hire!

It's amazing how powerful even a small social network can be. Sometimes not everyone you have on social media knows you are looking for a new position. Even a simple shout-out can raise awareness.


Yes!!! These are such great examples. What made you go to that Microsoft sponsored product launch/conference? Were you going w/ the intention of networking and potentially finding job opportunities?

Ps. Maybe I should compile all of the other "side doors" that I failed to include in my first post 🤔 If I do, can I quote you?


For that particular conference, I was really looking for networking opportunities. I was about to graduate, and desperately wanted to find a job working with .Net.

For other conferences (e.g.: Rock the Launch back in 2005), it was all about getting free software. As a student, having a full copy of Visual Studio and SQL Server with a full legit license was mind blowing. It was like $2300 worth of software, just for going to a one day product launch!

You are totally welcome to quote me!


I can't go to any conferences. Can't afford to. I also live in a small town in Pennsylvania now so meetups aren't really feasible. I'm happy you have the small side door on Key Values. This really helps people who wouldn't ordinarily be able to do some of the other stuff you mentioned.

Twitter is a big way to get seen and connect if you can't do it in person. I've met a lot of folks on there that have been really helpful.

This post hit at the right time for me. Thanks for writing it!


I just looked it up! July 8th, 2015 (almost exactly 3 years ago today). Alex tweeted this out (see below). I wasn't even on Twitter yet, but a friend gchatted me the link, and helped me (the noob) compose the perfect response (jk, as you can see 😂).

What's so funny is that Felipe, Alex, and I all worked on a Learnivore together in 2015. I didn't realize until literally just now that he had also responded to this tweet. I guess that's how they got in touch, too!


+1 for Twitter!

I only became active once I started learning programming and the community has been amazing! I made so many friends and learn new things every day.


I’ve never been much for social media, so I’m still trying to figure it out.


I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a job at a startup. I’ll give some of these a try and let you know how they work!


Please do! Let me/us know how we can help It sounds like there are lots of other side doors that I didn't know about about, and some of those might be more helpful to you.






I LOVE all of this!!!! Great post

PS So happy to find another MIT 10 here 😊


You're an MIT 10, too?! I love it! (And I'm always so surprised when I meet other 10's that I haven't met before!)

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Sorry, but this is so typical for 2018. A woman writing an article how to get a job, cheating the process. This is an insult to all capable women, who earned respect by actually having skills, not using "side ways to get in". SJWs do that.

Besides - the described picture of a crowd, that nobody wants to let in is so wrong, it's beyond belief. Companies are struggling to find capable people. Everywhere in the world. And yet here you are describing a night club instead of a startup...

Edit - I just checked your website and it explains everything - you ARE a SJW...


Cheating? Are you deranged?

The normal process of sending job applications etc. is flawed in so many ways that nobody should want to take part in it.

If you really want into a specific company, showing that you're interested in THEM is definitely going to boost your chances, for a good reason.


I assume, you're not a software developer, nor you owe a company and you never tried to hire capable developers to work on your projects.

I guess now is the time for you to be schooled on how far assumptions will get you.

I am in fact:

  • A software developer
  • Owner of a company
  • Both currently hiring and having hired many people in the past

As if any of these things were in any way relevant. Trolls like you are why people need to earn internet privileges.

So let me ask then - are you deranged? You owe a company and instead of fixing your hiring process you rely on "funny" methods, where people try to "hack" through your broken methodology to get hired?

I don't "owe" anything, I "own" a company. Also you're not saying anything worth listening to, so I'm not going to continue this.

Thank you for correcting my spelling and confirming the rest of my post.