Demystifying the Silicon Valley Job Search

by Beverly Harvey

Map of the Silicon Valley area of CaliforniaAlthough the number of job postings coming out of Silicon Valley has trended downward since 2015, this tech mecca is still seen as a desirable place to work. Despite the rarefied reputation of this locale, techniques for landing a job in Silicon Valley vary little from those for gaining an executive job in any other field or region.

Still, some nuances present themselves to those seeking a job in this locale:

Passion for the sought-after employer and dispassion for that employer’s competition are key. As Silicon Valley guru Guy Kawasaki notes, “Passion for what a company makes or does is the most important factor in getting a job in Silicon Valley.” Kawasaki also advises job-seekers to know – and demonstrate dislike for – the competitors of the company they’re pursuing. Job-seeker manifestation: Conduct research that enables you to identify the “hottest” companies of the moment. As in any job-search situation, research each employer extensively, and in job-search communications, convey enthusiasm for what the company gets right. Be able to respond with passion when asked questions such as “Why do you want to work here?” and “What do you know about our company?”

Networking still works. LinkedIn is big in Silicon Valley. There are more than a thousand LinkedIn groups that you can join. San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley Jobs and Careers has nearly 10,000 members; Silicon Valley Product Management has 3,500+ members; Bay Area Artificial Intelligence-Silicon Valley has 3,900+ members; Silicon Valley Sales Professionals has 1,100 members. Job-seeker manifestation: Update your LinkedIn profile. Join groups that will expose you to folks who can refer you to openings. Don’t be afraid to conduct informational interviews.

Pitch culture dominates. Silicon Valley mushroomed through entrepreneurs pitching their startup ideas to venture capitalists. Thus, Valley employers can relate to the pitch. Job-seeker manifestation: It’s not unreasonable to have a 20-slide pitch deck to take with you to interviews. You may not have the opportunity to show the deck, but if you do, the employer will likely respond positively to a well-done pitch. Even if you don’t use a deck, you can pitch yourself, writes Alex Honeysett, by – in one sentence – telling who you are and what you do, by telling your story, by explaining why you do what you do, and telling why you are the best choice to do what needs to be done. Job-seekers are frequently asked: “Why should we hire you?” The unspoken part of that question is “… over any other candidate?”

Resumes are condensed. Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist strongly recommends a one-page resume with just three sections – contact information, work experience, and educational background. Paul Tyma, an entrepreneur and computer engineer suggests adding a section called, “Cool Stuff I Have Built.” Silicon Valley recruiters expect you to prove your worth by having worked on outside projects so an online portfolio can be very beneficial and support your candidacy. The unique culture does not take exception to job hoppers.  Job-seeker manifestation: Create a one-page resume that pares you down to your critical essence and also conveys your admiration for a targeted employer. One way to do so is to identify the employer’s mission statement and explain how it resonates with you.

“Plug and Play” is the watchword. Companies want tech gurus who can hit the ground running. They’re not interested in training employees. Job-seeker manifestation: You will likely be asked to show you are “plug and play” via technical problem-solving and algorithmic questions posed at the interview. You will also probably be asked to describe a recent project.

Hacking culture prevails: Silicon Valley employers seek those who not only adapt well to change but produce change and continuous improvement. Job-seeker manifestation: Bring to the interview a short list of ways the employing company can improve. Take notes during the interview.

Worth Noting
Some experts use the term “Silicon Valley” not so much to identify a geographic region but as shorthand for “the tech industry,” and it’s worthwhile to note that tech jobs in other parts of the United States (Seattle, for example) are actually on a faster trajectory than those in Silicon Valley.

Mature executives may face obstacles in a Silicon Valley job search. A 2017 study from Visier Insights, The Truth About Ageism in the Tech Industry, found systemic ageism in tech hiring practices. While younger workers can increase their chances of hire in Silicon Valley by pursuing a grad degree in the area or taking coding classes, older workers may be disinclined to do so.

Final Thoughts
Executives who aspire to make their mark in Silicon Valley need not fear a job-search process cloaked in mystique. With the exception of minor nuances listed here, a Silicon Valley job search aligns with a typical search.

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