How I Got a Job in SF

I would like to describe how I managed to get a job in San Francisco, while living in Saint Louis, Missouri. I did not know how difficult it would be – or if I would even succeed – so I would like to share my journey for anyone else in those same shoes.

For context: I got the job in January, 2018. I am Software Developer with a B.S. in Computer Science. I had just under three years of experience and two internships on my resumé. Here is a copy of my resumé.

So, what was my process for getting the job?

I first started by applying to as many job boards as possible, instead of applying to companies directly. I updated my profile on LinkedIn and AngelList. I also applied to be on A-List (by AngelList), Hired, and CodeFights.

Hired was pretty straight-forward. I had already used them before, so I just had to update my profile and set it to go live. Setting up a Hired profile is really easy. I highly recommend it. I would say that Hired targets mid to large-sized companies.

CodeFights was also pretty straight-forward. I set up my profile, and did a coding test through their site. I am not sure how well I performed, but I think I "passed". After the test, I got a call from one of their staff and we chatted about what my interests were so that she could match me with the right companies.

A-List was a bit more involved. They actually offered me the option to do an interview with one of their staff. If I "passed" the interview, I would be "endorsed" by A-List in my job profile. I took this opportunity to interview.

At the time of the interview, I joined a Hangouts session and shared my screen. I was told that I would be making modifications to code that was already written by "a junior developer". I was a simple tic-tac-toe game, except that it had bugs. My job was to identify three bugs and fix them.

The interviewer was incredibly helpful, offering hints along the way. Once I found the three bugs and fixed them, I was told to add an AI player to the tic-tac-toe game. I was given loose requirements, and I just had to implement them. I was able to do this pretty quickly, with light feedback from the interviewer.

After the coding part was all over, I was given a rapid-fire technical question interview. Questions like "What are standard HTTP headers?" or "How do you implement password hashing and storage?". I got through most of this easily, except for some trivia questions that I had forgotten since college.

Overall, the interview was like an hour long and was not too stressful. I got the endorsement from A-List and I think this was honestly the most helpful action during my entire job hunt.

After setting up all my profiles, I started seeking out companies directly, mostly using AngelList. I would find interesting companies/startups on AngelList and then apply on AngelList immediately. If I was particularly interested, I would find their website and try to find a way to apply for a position more directly.

This was the bulk of my job hunting experience. I tried using LinkedIn to find companies, and it just was not the same. AngelList was so much more active in my experience.

So, after having my profiles set up, and applying to companies directly, what are the results?

After a week of being set up, during the week before Christmas, I had zero companies reach out from CodeFights, one company from Hired, and around five companies from A-List. For the remaining two weeks that I was hunting, I received one message on CodeFights, zero from Hired, and five more from A-List.

I also probably applied to about fifty different companies individually, and only three of them wanted to talk to me. Two of them wanted me to interview.

The one company from Hired was actively interviewing me when I accepted a different and had to turn them down.

Of the 10 A-List companies, only one became unresponsive. I rejected three immediately. I was in the process of interviewing with the other six, but many were not moving particularly fast, probably due to being near the holidays. One of them wanted to fly me out to San Francisco to interview in person.

I flew out to San Francisco and managed to interview with two companies. One from A-List and the other being a company that I found and applied to on AngelList. One of these companies gave me an offer immediately, and the other wanted to keep interviewing.

I took the offer, and that is how I now live in San Francisco working for Leapfin. The offer itself was really compelling, but they also took me out for dinner & drinks after the interview which gave me a chance to get to know the team, and I think this is what really sold me on Leapfin. Finding the right team – and the right founders, since I was aiming at startups – was really important to me.

After taking this offer, I had to cut the interviewing process with about three companies. I also received emails from two companies to whom I had personally reached out that wanted me to start interviewing after I had already taken an offer. I expect this was the result of job hunting during the holidays.

Truthfully, getting a job was much easier than I expected it to be. In the past, job hunting was something I really dreaded. In fact, it's partly why I tried freelancing for almost a year. I attribute this change to a number of factors:

  1. There are way more companies in San Francisco hiring Software Developers than anywhere else I have ever tried to move.
  2. I mostly avoided large corporations (Google, Facebook, Uber, etc...)
  3. Having three years of experience is some magical number or something.

I think I am a good developer, but I do not think I am special. There are a plenty of other good developers. So, if you think you are a good developer, or even if you do not, I encourage you to pursue moving to San Francisco if that is your goal.

Also, I was applying to jobs throughout December, which is the worst month of the year to job hunt. All of these events took place between December 18th, 2017 and January 9th, 2018. I found a job really quickly, even with the odds against me. I think this gives you, dear reader, quite a good chance.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at nick@nickpierson.name or on Twitter.

Love,
Nick