How I finally got job interviews at Palantir and Dropbox

If you’re not getting job interviews, make sure you’re applying to the right role

I spent days perfecting my resume, but couldn’t get an interview.

I had my heart set on transitioning into tech. Naturally, the first thing I focused on was my resume (wrong!). I agonized over every word and drove myself crazy formatting my resume.

I perfected my resume and every time I submitted my life’s work on paper to a job posting, I was filled with hope.

This is going to be the job gets me into tech.

But I wasn’t getting interviews. Even when I was applying through referrals, I wasn’t getting interviews.

I was applying to the wrong roles.

I was going after software engineering and product manager roles at brand name tech companies with limited programming and no product experience. No wonder I was getting rejected left and right.

I was applying to roles I aspired to one day have, but in reality, my background and skills didn’t meet the needs for those positions, yet.

I had to change my approach.

Instead of thinking about what I wanted, I thought about it from the company’s perspective:

What needs do they have that I can fill right now?

Look for stepping stones 👟 👟 👟

This approach is especially helpful if you’re transitioning into tech from a different industry, non-traditional background, or just don’t have the relevant experiences for the role you want.

Since I didn’t have the background or experience to get interviews for my aspirational roles, I started looking for positions that would be stepping stones toward them. I looked for roles that would give me relevant experiences for my next job — I was thinking two roles ahead.

Before applying to my aspirational role, I wanted to make sure I had two things. First, experience working at a brand name tech company. Second, a role that gave me understanding of how end-users used products. I knew those experiences would help me for the job I would apply to next.

With that in mind, I honed in my job search on technical customer support roles. I wanted an end-user facing role where I could leverage the technical skills I built up learning how to make simple iPhone apps earlier in the year.

Once I started to apply for those roles, I was getting interviews, not rejections, left and right.

I was so pumped to get this interview at Palantir!

I had my sights set on the Forward Deployed Engineer role at Palantir and what later became the Product Specialist role at Dropbox.

These two roles hit the criteria for the experiences I wanted to gain for future roles. Just as important, I had the background and skills that these roles needed, now.

After going through onsite interviews at both companies, I eventually joined Dropbox as a Product Specialist (then called Embedded User Operations Engineer).

My offer from Dropbox!

I was able to immediately contribute in my first role at Dropbox and in one year, I transferred into the Partnerships team. A year after that, I successfully went through the internal interview process to become a Product Manager, my aspirational role.

Where you are now is not where you are going to be.

By recommending stepping stone roles, I’m not telling you to sell yourself short. When you’re trying to break into tech, optimize for getting into a tech company first, then transitioning into the your aspirational role.

Everyone’s situation is different, so by all means, if you’d like, go after your aspirational role right away as you look to transition. However, if you’re not even getting interviews, take a step back and consider if you’re applying to the right roles.

Identifying stepping stone roles

Take a page out of Yuki and Lacey’s books, use these guiding questions to identify the right roles to help you transition into tech.

Is there a role where I can leverage my current industry experience or core skill set?

My friend, Yuki, had previous experience working in government before jumping into tech. He leveraged his understanding of how government works as well as the community organizing and operational skills he learned to get roles at Uber, Airbnb, and LimeBike to help launch markets and manage community relations.

Does this role give me experiences or a network I can leverage for my next role?

My wife, Lacey, was interested in building healthcare technology products. Before transitioning to tech, she was a business consultant. Before applying to her aspirational product manager role, she knew she needed some experience working with product teams at a healthcare tech company. To first break into tech, she leveraged her business consulting background to transition into a product integration Partnerships role at Practice Fusion. That role required her to understand and work closely with engineers and product managers. That experience helped her land her next role as Product Manager at Proteus.

Do I meet 75% of the posted job “requirements”?

Job requirements in posted job descriptions describe the perfect candidate.

Nobody meets all of those requirements.

But, you can’t completely disregard them. A good rule of thumb is hitting 75% of them. It could be 75% of the stated requirements or 75% of each of the requirements.

I’ll close with this:

Searching for a job brings out insecurities for everyone.

Don’t let job requirements somebody made up prevent you from applying to a job you really want. The worst that can happen is you get rejected. On the flip side, if you keep getting rejected, it may be time to take a pause and go after a stepping stone role that helps you get to your aspirational role.

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