4 Surprises Of Job Hunting In Silicon Valley

I have over 10 years direct working experience before the job hunting. And I’m comfortable to call myself an IT professional.

But it took me more than 4 months to land a nice offer.

Why so long? And we can learn from it?



To narrow down the discussion, here are some solid facts:

  1. Apply engineering positions of cloud, infra or DevOps.
  2. The economy is normal. Neither too good or too bad.
  3. Only target with big corps or pre-IPO startups.

We are moving from Texas to Bay Area. (Yeah, I know it’s super expensive there). And I’m relatively new to their hiring process and those IT companies.

The world talents are there. So I knew the hiring bar would be high! But I still experience below surprises during the job hunting.

Surprise1: Big Corps Tend To Ask Code Problems

There usually be one or two rounds of code tests. Especially when you interview with Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, etc.

Agree: If you’re smart enough, you should be able to solve our code puzzles. And write clean code quickly.

Disagree: Small companies may value more about velocity. Thus hands-on experience win over clean code in most cases.

For those who do well in those tests, it’s simply because they have invested a huge amount of time for preparation. Personally I have spent 4 months with the code tests preparation. About 3-4 hours every day.

Way Out: Crack One Or Two Code Puzzles Per Week. Stop arguing. It is what it is. It’s more like a game. Play more and do better.

Related reading:


Surprise2: Ask Things Deep

You may have experience with Jenkins. Now describe the HA model of your Jenkins agent and Jenkins master.

You may use elasticsearch quite a lot. Now explain the shard rebalancing logic in details.

Agree: since our project is very important and very challenging, we need someone who can do things in a perfect way. Far better than others.

Disagree: we may not always run into this kind of issues quite often. Mostly the devil hides in the details. I don’t have to know all the details. We can google it, or they are just not so important.

Way Out:

  • Keep Your Technical Curiosity
  • Deep Dive Into Your Daily Work

I may use etcd or elasticsearch quite a lot. However I rarely take a deep dive into its architecture design or implementation. And what trade-off they have made. Maybe now is the time.

Keep asking yourself how people design this feature, how people solve that problem. The more you think, the better you understand. YouTube tech talk is your friend.

Find the beauty of new approaches solving old problems in a better way.


Surprise3: Unfamiliar System Design Questions

You may bump into specific design puzzles. Usually they are quite typical scenarios in distributed system.

But just unfamiliar to you. Either you rarely run into them in your daily job, or you have made some trade-off or workarounds. And they simplify the requirements a lot.

However the interviewers may be very deep with some of them, or the job demands that.

Related Reading: Concepts For System Design


Surprise4: Care Less About Your Personal Achievements

You may be an active blogger, or maintain a good open source project, or has some extraordinary hobbies. This will give you some advantages.

However many interviewers may not weigh those factors that much.

Either because he/she may not have similar experience in those fields. Or your strengths in those fields may not be that important with the position you’re applying.

Remember, you get paid only for the value you have created. You’re not paid because you’re a tech nerd. Sometimes this could even be a bad thing to hiring managers.

Way Out:

  • You need major or extraordinary achievements. Let’s say you maintain a world-famous opensource project. You will definitely rock.
General hiring is killing us, as IT professionals.

You know certain things better than others. It's not good for you to be treated as replaceable resources.

How you can convince people about that? Extraordinary achievements!

If you can start your own business from your skills, it's better.
  • Stop talking about yourself. Present how your strength can benefit the specific position. And impress the interviewers with how depth your knowledge is, and how broad your knowledge is.
  • If you lack of professional converstaions with good quality, you will grow slowly

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