I often see messages from people asking for help getting a job in data. Usually the message reads something like this:
“Hi, I just graduated from the masters in data science program at ________ and I noticed there’s an open data science role at ________. Could you help me out with a referral?
These messages aren’t very compelling and I hope to share examples of reaching out cold that I’ve had success with.
I was looking for a new job a few months ago. I reached out to two people at two companies via Twitter. I got in-person interviews at both of the companies and ended up taking a job at one of them. I also applied to perhaps 15 companies through LinkedIn’s “easy apply” feature, where you can apply in about 3 clicks. I didn’t hear back from any of these applications.
It’s easy to apply to a ton of companies through formal job postings online and feel as if you’re making progress. But I believe you’d be much better served spending that time researching companies you’re really interested in and then reaching out to people at those companies directly in a thoughtful way.
A disclaimer: I’m sure this advice works for me in part because I have lots of inherent advantages in the job application process. I’m a white male, have a reasonably strong resume etc. But I think and hope that it can help anyone get into companies that they are actually interested in. Please do reach out to me (joe at this website by email) if you’d like help with any of this.
Here are the Twitter messages I sent that led to the interviews.
I blocked the names and companies to keep the privacy of the recipients.
Here are my thoughts on what made the messages successful:
- They reference work I’ve done that is specifically relevant to the role I’m applying to. In my case, that work is this blog. This blog has directly led to my last two jobs and I highly recommend you make one. This website took about 2 hours and $100/year to set up, if that seems too daunting you can write on Medium for free in 10 minutes.
- They reference specifics about the company / person I’m messaging. It shows that I’ve at least done a bit of work researching the company and have thought about why it is I want to reach out to them, beyond the fact that I just want a job with anyone hiring for data roles
- They have specific asks: “let me know if you have time for a 20 minute phone call” or something similar. This gives the reader an idea of what I want from them and lets them know that it’s not a huge time commitment.
- I followed up! I didn’t receive a response to either of these messages immediately. I followed up after 3 or 4 days and received responses on the second message. This can be uncomfortable but if you are polite I view it as very high upside, very low downside. People are busy and following up lets them know you are serious about the role and differentiates you, especially if they are of a seniority level that they get a ton of messages.
With all this in mind, I would advise someone looking for an analytics job to spend their time like this:
- Spend two weeks finding out what kind of companies you’re interested in. Listen to podcasts, read industry publications, see what feels compelling to you. Podcasts are especially great because you can hear first-hand perspectives from people at lots of companies, and then reference them when you’re reaching out / interviewing at those companies. The resources page in this blog has some suggestions for where to start.
- Do a small, public project that relates in some way to the type of job you’re applying for and post it. This project doesn’t need to be perfect in the slightest; the people you send it to probably won’t even look closely at it. But the fact that it’s there and you did it will go a long way, it’s something the hiring manager can show people and it shows that you have a baseline level of competence.
- For the 3 – 7 companies you’re really interested in, find people who work there who might be hiring for data roles at that company and message them on twitter or email. Send a link to your work, say why you’re excited about the company, ask them for a quick phone call.
- Follow up to the messages if you don’t receive a response within a week. I would say follow up twice, and if you don’t receive a response at the end, move on and repeat the process with another contact or company.
For me, this process has led to a lot less time filling out online applications and being frustrated when I don’t hear back. Even better, because you need to research the companies beforehand, you know you’re actually excited about working for them, and you’ll be prepared for the onsite interview.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like my input on a job search, please do reach out to me at joe at [this website] via email, or on twitter.
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