How engineers can stand out from the applicant pool

Lynne Tye on April 30, 2018

What have you done in the past, or seen other engineers do, to stand out from the applicant pool? I asked six technical founders t... [Read Full]
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I definitely feel like any form of demonstrated "I actually looked into what you're working on and this is why I want to help" can go along way. If anyone in the process can put a name to a face in the form of "oh yeah, this person reached out", you've already beat out a lot of faceless candidates.

We're all humans and nobody is measured perfectly objectively. Any chance to make a human connection is one worth taking if you want to make a good impression.


I agree 100%. Whenever possible, find a side door.

I always imagine a big crowd of people in front of a building, pushing and shoving to get inside through the main door. There's always a few people who, tired of the mob, decide to explore a bit and come across a side entrance. They knock, someone opens, and they walk right in.

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.” Instead of competing directly with everyone else, consider redirecting your energy into finding a side door.

Report bugs and better yet, propose solutions. Make PRs to open source projects. Engage with current team members on Twitter. Attend the company's workshops, hackathons, and/or meetups. There are actually many "side doors" we can use.


Just realized that I talked about it here, and then later wrote a post about finding those side doors 😜

In case anyone was curious!


Anyone else find a little bit horrifying or is it just me?


Airbnb turned her down. She put all that effort in and she's only getting indirect returns for being very visibly willing to go to incredible lengths for free. Played right the experience will absolutely launch her career, but very few others are going to be able to achieve the kind of reach she has. For the rest, this strategy is a recipe for self-abasement, broken hearts, and wasted time. I'm sure it seems great from the hiring side -- who wouldn't love to hear from someone so desperate to work for you that they won't hesitate to throw over their professional pride to fix you coffee?

It's also something you can pull off once in your entire career. You are not going to be believable if you repeat it every time you are looking for a new job.

Also, since the internet doesn't forget, you'll always be known as "Nina for airbnb" which may suit you well or not, depending on the situation.

When I was first learning to code, I found a different website to copy every day. I'd give myself 60-90 minutes and try to recreate the website from scratch using vanilla HTML/CSS/JS. I certainly wasn't getting paid to do this, but it also turned out to be helpful when it came time to interview. (I did this with AltSchool and they hired me as a contract developer to update their marketing website and then later build them an entirely new one.)

I think that as an individual, you learn a lot by building something like this. It's also a great exercise that puts you in the shoes of the employer, which many applicants fail to do.

From a hiring standpoint, I'd like applicants to have chosen Key Values above all (or at least most) other companies for X, Y, or Z reasons. I'd also want them to demonstrate that they'd spent time considering what problems I'm currently facing and how they'd contribute. I don't know if I'd read what Nina did as desperate... but I'm sure everyone has their on opinion on it!

Copying websites from scratch seems like a solid frontend exercise & a great way to learn how to put them together.

But it's possible to learn like that, and even to show the results off in an interview if you like, without falling all over yourself -- "hire me! Please, god, hire me! I'll make you coffee! Need your shoes shined? I have X Y Z qualifications and A B C relevant experience with this or that and could put my skills to use at a thousand companies in this area code, but I'm stuck on you specifically so just in case you're not looking to grow in these areas or implement my business plans yet how about I just refill the soap dispensers in your bathrooms? Please?"

When I look at that website I don't think "wow, that's dedication, we should all be so fortunate as to hire Ninas", I think "holy shit lady, have some self-respect".


I don't think we need to do anything special. However, it's important to understand what the company is looking for to provide appropriate application

Resume & cover letter must be short and straight forward about your technical knowledge, soft skills and why you are a good match for them

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