When it comes to the employment scene, two seemingly incongruent things are happening at any given time. From the perspective of many hiring companies, getting top-notch people can be a major pain point, particularly for any business located in a thriving startup scene where there's only so much A-level talent to go around. At the same time, scads of smart people who want to get their foot in the door of a hot startup often don't have any luck doing so.
There's a reason you're not getting hired, according to David Baszucki, a Silicon Valley CEO who says he seldom sees people doing what it takes to land the job they want. As chief executive of Roblox--a San Mateo, California, user-generated gaming platform on which more than 4.5 million people a month spend more than 70 million hours playing cloud-based 3D multiplayer games--he mostly hires through referrals. Here's his advice on how to get noticed if you don't have a connection at the company where you want to work.
Find your passion and learn everything there is to know about it.
Regardless of the discipline in which you're trained or have experience, you need to know its ecosystem backward and forward, inside and out. Research and understand the issues surrounding the top 50 companies operating in the space and lock it down to the top handful of companies you really want to go after.
Forget the cover letter.
Once you have identified the top companies where you want to work, relentlessly approach them. Handwrite a note to a CEO or a VP you found and connected with on LinkedIn. Get across your passion and knowledge about the uniqueness of the company. Then ask how you can engage with that person. "That kind of proactive approach--I've never seen it," Baszucki says. "I've done it in the past and I think it's ridiculously effective at moving from [being] a consumer of job boards to becoming an offensive job-getter with a passion, knowing the industry and why you want to be somewhere."
Honor your passion and knowledge.
In other words, ask for an interview. "You know enough about the company to speak about it and then asking for the interview is really natural," he says. "It's just like 'Hey, I know this space. I know why you guys are so hot. How do I come in and meet someone at the company and interview with you?'" The idea is to let the company know this is more than just a job to you. You have concrete reasons you want to work there. And you know who within the company you want to meet.
If you're genuinely interested in other people and their ideas, you will be well on your way to charming them. "The candidate who knows the space and is really interested in a company rather than just applying for a job will be able to engage with everyone who's interviewing him or her with interesting questions at the right level," Baszucki says. "And if that candidate gets to meet the VP or the CEO, they'll be able to ask about the competition and 'What are you guys doing versus this thing?' or 'What's up with this new trend? How are you handling that?'" Then, when meeting with non-C-level types--engineers, for instance--you might focus questions on the rationale about using a particular programming language, for instance.
"The big one we like to see is people coming in inquisitive about the business," he says. "The other recommendation I would have is be yourself."