Advice for job seekers on resumes and reaching out

To help job seekers amid this crisis, I’m spending a lot of time doing 1-1s and resume reviews. Below are my most common pieces of advice.

Mail me your resume ([email protected]) if you want feedback or pointers. And if you’re looking for a job, check out our active jobs list on Work at a Startup, which makes it simple to browse the 400+ YC companies that are well-funded and actively hiring, including larger ones like Segment, Brex and Instacart.

Resume: For each position on your resume, be sure to cover What, How & Impact.

  • What did you work on? Assume that recruiters and hiring managers don’t know much about your last company or job. So provide a concise description about your product line or initiative, so they can “imagine” what team or project you’d be a best fit for at their company.
  • How did you get your work done? Be sure to include technologies used — programming languages, frameworks, libraries, etc — included with each position. Technology is very contextual and time-specific: my SOAP/XML-RPC work at Salesforce made sense 20 years ago, but you would laugh if we migrated Work a at a Startup to SOAP today. Also, provide team size and dynamics. It’s important to know you’re able to work cross-functionally — with product, designers, ops, and more — to ship products.
  • What impact did you have? Stating your impact on the business — growth numbers, cost savings, sales increase, marketing distribution. This shows your ability to deliver, and also that you understand how you work contributes to the business. This is the biggest missed opportunity I see on resumes, and often the easiest to show.

Lastly: Don’t be afraid to clear out your resume. Remove side projects that don’t necessarily fit the job requirements, and especially if it’s duplicative to more recent experience. And trim down each position to 3-4 bullet points, maximum. It helps the reader digest your experience, and also shows you can be concise and still impactful.

Cold outreach: Highlight 2-3 things you’d be excited to work on at the company — and why.

In the past, I’ve hired people who showed more enthusiasm and energy than other candidates who were technically more qualified.

They stood out because of their initiative: suggesting strong product ideas/improvements, outlining plans for go-to-market, or even writing sample code showcasing their skills and excitement. For my own Lyft interview, I reversed engineered the API and built a mini-SDK to perform common tasks.

If you’re submitting an application, be sure to also include ways you’d be excited to contribute — even 1 or 2 lines on your resume, cover letter or intro email. It can be the thing that help you stand out from the hundreds of other resumes in the recruiter’s inbox.

Considering startups: Ask about runway & burn rate.

Many YC startups are well funded (some even with $10M+ raised) and offer benefits and job security of a more established companies. You might not know, unless you ask.

  • Runway. The number of months the startup has to operate, based on money raised and revenue. There is no “right” answer, but you likely want somewhere with enough runway to weather this pandemic, and still get the business in good shape after that (if it’s not already).
  • Burn rate. The company’s monthly spend. At Zuora, we made it a goal to be “in the black” (not burning more than we were earning), and it helped us survive the 2009 market crash. Not all startups have the luxury of early revenue, but knowing the financial levers to the company will help you understand the business (and how the founders think about it).

Lastly: you should be discussing these things with the founders at least at the offer stage, if not earlier. We tell YC founders to be transparent with this information, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it helps establish mutual trust. You should be wary of founders — YC or otherwise — who are not forthcoming and honest, as a reflection of what to expect later down the road.

The silver lining of the current job market is that 1.) there are still a lot of great companies that are actively hiring (including hundreds of YC companies), and 2.) job offers have not yet decreased, mostly because many of the larger companies are still competing for good talent.

Hopefully the above helps you stand out and get early conversations going. We’ll be sharing more on other steps of the job hunt, including interviewing and negotiating offers.

And most importantly, reach out if YC or I can help. You got this.

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