The job search is exhausting. You apply to countless jobs through LinkedIn and company websites. Apply, apply, apply. Submit, submit, submit. You're tired.

But you know that's not even the worst part. The worst part is the black hole your applications seem to fall into 95% of the time. Is there a better way?

Yes, there is.

I recently sat down with my friend, Michelle, who's a senior software engineer at Stitch Fix (recently IPO'd company). She shared how she landed each of her developer roles and what she wish she did more of.

The crazy thing? She never applied to a single job with a traditional application. She never had to press submit on a Greenhouse or Lever form.

Michelle shared with me what she did to land interviews and how developer candidates can do the same. The rest of the article will unpack Michelle's keys to success to landing a job as a software engineer. Let's go!

How to Land a Job as a Software Engineer

You might be astounded that Michelle never applied to a single job. But the reality is that 90% of people are all doing the same thing. Apply, submit, repeat. It's exhausting.

Michelle took a different approach. Below are four keys to success that Michelle internalized and literally took to the bank.

Focus on relationships

Instead of focusing on how many job applications she filled out, Michelle focused on relationships. Relationships are 90% of getting interviews and landing a job as a software engineer.

Think of the job search from the hiring manager's point of view. Let's say they post a software engineer role. You know when LinkedIn includes the "200+ applicants" on a job posting? Try somewhere around 500+. This means your résumé, not even you, has to stand out among 500+ people.

There's also the timing issue. Most applicant tracking systems (ATS) organize applicants sequentially. So if you apply at 2:37pm on a Tuesday and hundreds of applicants apply after you, the hiring manager won't notice you.

The hiring system is clearly broken, but there's a way to circumvent it. Focus on relationships. You can do this if you...

Build Relationships Through Coffee Chats

You can focus on relationships in several ways. One way is to ace the coffee chat. Reach out to your current network for coffee and lunch to talk about their jobs.

Start with the contacts in your phone. You might feel hesitant to reach out, but that's okay. If you haven't done a great job of keeping in touch, there's no time like the present to start.

Also consider asking friends to introduce you to people they know. You may not know someone directly in an industry, but you probably know someone who does.

Second, go to LinkedIn and start reaching out to people. Start with your 1st connections. Make the ask for coffee and see what happens. Then move to your 2nd connections (aka friends of friends). Never, and I repeat never make an ask for a coffee chat in your initial connection request. Don't be spammy.

Whether you have a lot of people in your network or not, your network can always get bigger. Add people who work in roles and industries that you're interested in. Here's a loose template you can use when you reach out:

"Hi [person],

[personalized fun fact the person would appreciate (i.e. their company IPO'd or released a product)]

[Say Hi and introduce yourself]

[Tell them you'd love to connect]

-You"

If you're looking for great tips on how to ace the coffee chat, check out this great LinkedIn article here.

Ask great questions

If you get far enough to book a coffee chat, great job. The work is just beginning. Your goal with a coffee chat is to ask great, open-ended questions. And make sure they're well-informed questions.

Here are a few examples of good questions to ask:

  • "What are the main types of projects you work on?"
  • "What are some of the key challenges you often face?"
  • "What technologies do you and your team predominantly use?"

Find out as much information about the person as you can (don't be creepy). You can check their LinkedIn profile to see if they have any posted projects or publications.

Whatever you find, follow up with it during the coffee chat. Don't place the onus on the person to drive the conversation, unless they make it really clear they want to do so. This person is giving your their time, use it well!

Ignore the noise, keep going

As you go through the process of building relationships, you'll encounter some barriers. Some people will tell you you're not cut out for the job. Some people will tell you how hard it is to break into tech.

Don't listen to them. Ignore the noise, push through, and keep going. Here's what my friend Michelle said about barriers:

What I disliked was hearing about how hard it was to break into tech. If you have a dream to work in tech, please don’t let negative thoughts bring you down or hold you back from putting yourself out there. YOU BELONG and you can do it!

Job interviews will follow strong relationships

As you build relationships, you'll notice something starting to happen. You'll start to see opportunities come your way. Over time, the people you meet with will keep you top of mind. As opportunities open up, they will ping you and you'll get interviews.

Another thing that will happen is that you'll grow more informed about what you want. This knowledge increase will guide your future coffee chats and job search. You'll start to hone in on opportunities you're really interested in. You'll start landing interviews.

Relationship building isn't a clear-cut science, but it creates clear-cut results.

Building Relationships > Applying to Jobs

When I remember Michelle's story I'm amazed that more people aren't building relationships. Instead, so many people choose to endlessly apply to job after job. That doesn't have to be you. You don't have to send your application into the dark abyss of the ATS.

Building relationships is life changing. Not only do you get to meet incredible people, but you get to learn about your space. The people you meet with hold the blueprint to your next role. You just have to build relationships with the right people to get to where you want to go.

Michelle landed interviews and offers from all the big tech companies. She did this simply by building relationships. If you incorporate what we talked about today, there's no doubt in my mind you can do the same.

You don't have to endlessly apply to jobs anymore.

Happy relationship building.

If you want to see more of this type of content, subscribe to my newsletter at Course to Hire. I'll help you learn how to code and break into tech. Feel free to add me on LinkedIn as well!

P.S. if you're interested in connecting with Michelle, ping me on Course to Hire or LinkedIn and I can make the intro!