How to get a job in tech, according to an ex-Google Recruiter

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jeff Sipe, a private tech career coach and former Google recruiter. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Big Tech layoffs would always meet with backlash – that said, I don’t think any of them were handled perfectly and many of them could have been avoided. Yes, companies had to cut back, but more than that, I think layoffs have become trendy.

After layoffs, the company’s stock price usually goes up, and the board and shareholders (most of whom don’t work there) are happy. It is becoming more and more acceptable to perform them; Twitter did it, so Google can do it, so Microsoft can do it, and so on.

But there are other ways to deal with a recession. So says a Stanford business professor layoffs often do not lead to cost savings and suggests that companies could implement other strategies like a 10% pay cut across the board.

That said, I don’t think anyone got fired or wants to breaking into the industry should be discouraged – it’s always a good time to get into technology. Technical workers will always be needed. So if working at Google or Amazon has always been a dream, I always advise people to go for it.

Use LinkedIn to work smarter, not harder

Or you are fired or hope breaking into technology for the first time, the first thing you should do is clean up your LinkedIn profile. You could sleep, work, or hit the gym, and your profile does the work for you. Every aspect of your profile, from your photo, to your headline, to your name, to your story, to your experience, needs to be cleared up.

I rarely see real red flags on LinkedIn, but I find it unappealing when candidates don’t add their photo. Your headshot should be shoulders and above; I see a lot of people using a photo of themselves wearing sunglasses or a photo with their family, and that’s just not professional. I recommend just taking a selfie or having someone take a picture of you against a clean background.

You should be too use the platform to reach recruiters at target companies – with a giving approach, rather than directly asking for a job. A message like this will go a long way: “Hey Sue, I came across this really cool machine learning article, thought I’d share it with you.”

See what’s trending in your space and spend time sending these kinds of notes and commenting on other people’s posts. You will notice it much more when hiring teams on LinkedIn.

I also like it when people keep track of what we’ve talked about in the past. Let’s say you send another message to Sue a month or two later. Keep track of your connections in a spreadsheet to make it easier to follow up. Trust me: continue with that approach to giving, and eventually Sue will ask how she can help you – full circle.

Be open about your layoff

If you come from a big tech company, chances are you’ve built a great network. You should announce to the world that you are looking for work. Create a LinkedIn post that says, “Hey, I’m fired. These are the types of positions I’m looking for.”

I’ve noticed that many employees who have been laid off add the “Open to Work” feature to their LinkedIn, but don’t necessarily make it clear that they have been laid off.

I recommend creating a banner to set as your profile background photo. Anyone can make one for free, for example with Canva, which says “Impacted by Google Layoffs.” I would also list the types of positions you are interested in as well as your contact person and locations.

From a recruiter’s point of view, I would see this and immediately understand your status – I know you’ve worked in a tough environment and I know how to contact you. I haven’t seen fired candidates do this yet, but I think it would definitely help them move up the list.

Don’t underestimate soft skills

When you go to a job interview, it’s critical to have a plan. Any interview coach will tell you to practice with other people. It could be with a friend or a family member, but if you go through it one-on-one with someone, you’ll get significantly better.

For me, positivity is huge. We’re all going to make mistakes, but I’m looking for ways to show candidates that they’ve learned from them. Use positive language — call it a challenge or an opportunity, rather than a failure. If you were hit with a layoff and you’re angry, you don’t want to put down your former company. Focus on what you have learned and what you are grateful for.

If someone looks good on paper, they will only get so far in the hiring process. But soft skills are just as important. When recruiting at Google, I always paid attention to whether the candidate arrived on time, was friendly and had good communication skills. Failure to meet certain requirements can certainly result in an otherwise strong candidate losing out.

For anyone trying to recover from a technical layoff, it’s easy to get impostor syndrome, but remember: recruiters don’t look at people affected by the layoffs in a negative light. They know that some people were just unlucky and it had nothing to do with performance.

Own your layoff, use your network and show gratitude.

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