Why Referrals are the Best Way to get a Tech Job

When you’re looking for a tech job, there are generally 3 ways to go about it. One is to blast out CVs and cover letters to all the places you might want to work and hope for a hit. Another is to work with a recruiting firm, which will do the same thing on your behalf to companies that have asked them to help find talent. The last is to leverage your network and get referrals and introductions to hiring managers at companies where you might like to work. The last is by far the best and most effective way to get hired.

The Problems with Cold Resume Blasts

Blasting out a CV to a ton of companies may seem like the best way to go – they all have job listings posted and are looking for people, right? Well, there are a few problems with this approach.

Super Time Consuming!

Assuming you’re putting in the effort tailor your resume and cover letter to each place you apply, you’re going to be spending around 30 minutes per application. This is an enormous amount of effort. Applying this way can become a full-time job.

Many times, a human won’t even see your CV.

Many companies employ automated software to filter the CVs of applicants. Sometimes you’ll receive an automated rejection email within a few minutes of applying – this means your CV didn’t even reach a human. An algorithm decided you weren’t a fit and rejected you. Personally I’m not a fan of these algorithms. They tend to reject qualified applicants for silly reasons, but that doesn’t stop companies from using them.

You’ll need to go through every single part of the application process

The company will throw every single test they can at you before they hire you. For a tech job this can include a recruiter phone screen, a technical phone screen, a take-home exam, and a long series of onsite interviews. This is time-consuming, and you run the chance of rejection at each step in the process.

The Problems with Working With Recruiters

There are some great recruiters out there, and they can do amazing work aligning your needs with a company’s needs. That said, I find the quality of recruiters to exist on the same bell curve as everything else – a few are great, most are mediocre, and a few are down-right terrible at their job. As a job seeker, you can’t always tell the kind you’re working with.

A Bad Recruiter can make you look worse to hiring managers

If the company is already frustrated with the recruiter they’re working with, that frustration can transfer to you as a candidate. You’ll have no visibility into their relationship with employers, so this could be hurting you without your ever knowing it.

Incentives aren’t always aligned

Sure, if you’re looking for any job you can get, things will be fine, but if you have specific requirements or want to be choosy then you might have mis-aligned incentives with the recruiter representing you. Recruiters are paid when a candidate they represent is hired by a company they’re working with. Outside of that, they don’t make much money. So generally the incentive is to get you hired somewhere as quickly as possible.

Working with a recruiter can limit your pool of potential employers

If you’re going through a specific 3rd party recruiter and not also doing your own outreach, you will be limited to applying to companies that the recruiter is working with. This can mean missing out on opportunities you might really prefer.

Why Finding Referrals is the Best Path

Finding a referral to the company or companies you want to work for is generally the best way forward. It carries a number of advantages and should be the primary way you look for work in the tech industry.

Employee Referrals are given Preferential Treatment

As a referral, your CV will always be reviewed by a human, and usually will at least be presented to the hiring manager. Referrals generally skip multiple levels of automated and manual screening.

You’re Generally Guaranteed at least a Phone Screen

Usually you’ll at least get to the point of having a phone screen with the in-house recruiter or HR team at the company you’re interested in. At the very least, this gives you the opportunity to practice interviewing.

You’ll have an Advocate during the hiring process

Having someone at the company who’s willing to go to bat for you, at least a little bit, makes a huge difference. Even if the referral is from an Individual Contributor or someone outside of the Engineering team, this can be a huge advantage. Having that voice in the room who believes in you can help push the company to actually extend an offer.

You’ll walk into interviews with inside information

Usually the person referring you can give you some idea of what the process is like, what the people interviewing you care about, what their communication style is, and how they like to interact with potential candidates. This is an enormous leg up that allows you to tailor your responses to what the interviewers are looking for.

You’ll have a contact to ask for the Straight Dope

Generally if you have a relationship with someone who isn’t on the hiring panel, they’ll be more willing to share the positives and negatives of working at their current organization more openly. I’ve found out very valuable information from my network that has led me to take or reject a job offer that I otherwise would have made a different decision on.

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