Blog How to get hired

How to get hired

This blog post is a reflection on my 12 years of hiring and getting hired. It’s my honest view on the hiring process from a company and an applicant’s perspective. Ultimately, it’s a guide I wish I had in the beginning of my career.

A guide to get the offer

Disclaimer. ⚠ This is not a collection of hacks and shortcuts on how to land an offer. Rather these are learnings I’ve got from hiring and getting hired, my philosophy and view on a hiring process from both sides. I hope that this guide will help you to find and land a dream job and be a great hiring manager in the future.

How do we get here

I lied in my first job interview. In 2011, I was interviewing for a Software Engineering position and pretty much everything I said was a lie. I didn’t have much experience with Ruby on Rails, SQL, git, writing tests, etc.

I didn’t give deep answers, and the interviewer didn’t ask deep questions. That’s how I landed my first job. Shame on me. It was my very first interview and I took the offer because I didn’t really believe in myself (more about it later).

I didn’t believe I was a good engineer so I thought if I don’t get that opportunity, I’ll keep interviewing forever. Another big reason to get the offer was the project – a music social network startup in 2011 sounded mindblowing.

The fact that there was no barrier to getting hired didn’t ring any bell in my head. 6 months later I and all engineers quit the company. We found out that the company’s investor was some kind of criminal banker and he went to jail. Wild.

That’s how my career began more than 12 years ago. Since then I’ve worked for a bunch of companies and started 3 companies myself. There’re so many stories I’d love to share from these experiences, but after surveying SQL Habit students it’s clear that we should talk about hiring.

Company’s point of view

I strongly believe that there are people who love hiring. I still have yet to meet one 😄 after more than 10 years since I’m a hiring manager myself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to talk to people during interviews, learn from them, and eventually become teammates with some of them. It’s just it takes ages and consumes so much energy. You review 500 CVs, talk to 20 people and only one gets hired.

For a hiring manager, the biggest problem is that hiring is never your primary job. As an employee, you get meetings to attend, and projects to deliver. Reviewing CVs, doing short introduction calls and long deeper interviews always break your schedule. So next time you see an interviewer a bit anxious and maybe not fully present – that’s why.

Another problem is weariness. It’s 2023 and (usually) out of 100 CVs for a job 98 are almost identical and irrelevant. 😢 Google already rejects tons of CVs automatically, I’m sure the world will catch up soon. I believe the root cause here is that candidates don’t make an effort to showcase how their experience is relevant to the job.

Hiring manager point of view

You also get tired to read dry cover letters like “Dear employer, I’m a perfect candidate for your position, I have relevant skills and experience. Looking forward to our call”. No names, no details, just a copy-paste (I wonder how GPT will change that 😉). I don’t know if these submissions are from some kind of bots, but there’s absolutely no effort made to showcase yourself as a potential hire. It’s so tiring to sift through hundreds of such applications. Why a hiring manager will make an effort to review such a CV? What goes around comes around, I guess.

What goes around comes around.

Not all hirer problems come from applications though. Half of it is internal. First of all, there are a lot of hiring managers who are just freshly promoted senior employees. It means that they’re absolutely junior hirers 💣 and they’ll be making all possible mistakes and, hopefully, learn their way up. It is unfortunate if your interviewer is one of them, but you’re in the same boat – if you do a great job interviewing they’ll do a great job hiring.

Candidate’s point of view

It’s not just hiring managers who suffer. Candidates get their fair share as well.

We all know how unpleasant it is to wait for weeks to get a reply to our job application.

We all know how frustrating it is to get a rejection reply without any feedback, especially after you’ve had several interviews. I know that there’re some legal reasons behind it (probably some companies got sued by applicants), but this approach doesn’t move the industry forward.

Tons of companies around talk about feedback culture for their employees, but no one gives feedback to candidates who need it most. Shall we change that finally?

Some of us (unfortunately) stumble upon interviewing weirdoes who show off and try to prove that you know nothing, instead of looking for your strong sides. Sadly, applicants still get questions ranging from “What animal represents you best?” to questions related to your age, family plans, etc. Sometimes it’s just awkward, sometimes it’s plain rude. It’s bad luck and I’m very sorry if you had this experience.

Bad luck meeting a weird hiring manager

Let’s start our job-seeking process

I feel like I’m describing a couple that is having an argument. They might have an argument now, but it is clearly a love story – employers want to hire great employees, and employees want to work for great employers.

As with any couple, there’re misunderstandings, insecurities, communication barriers, and the individual baggage that prevents them to see that they’re actually in love and are meant for each other. So let’s begin our therapy session. 😆

Looking for a company

In my experience, landing a great offer starts with looking for a great company to join. I remember in 2015 I reviewed nearly 300 (!!) companies in Europe on Wellfound (former AngelList) and made only 5 applications. One of them was Blinkist where I still work as a Principal Engineer (the SQL Habit course itself is highly inspired by my experiences working at Blinkist).

How to understand if a company is for you? If it’s your 2nd+ job you probably already know what your want. But if it’s your first time – IMO your only criteria should be an interesting project (and a reasonable compensation, of course) where you won’t lack motivation.

IMO motivation and minimal technical knowledge are the only things required from a junior staff. Skills are teachable, but you can’t easily light a fire in someone, it has to be intrinsic. It drastically increases your chances and you’ll be way more productive working on something you’re excited about.

What I mean is you’ll spend tens of hours going through hundreds of companies. Remember that the perfect one, the company that’ll change your life is somewhere there. We’ve got to find it!

💡 To give yourself feedback and a solid Plan B, try to cluster companies into several tiers:

  1. Dream Job.
  2. Might be a great fit.
  3. Need more research.
  4. Most likely no.
  5. Hell no.

💡 Another tip here: don’t just look for companies with open positions. Try (I didn’t notice that they started to charge $29/month for access) and see all companies: by the amount of funding, employees, location, etc. It’s totally cool to reach out to a company that isn’t actively hiring. In my experience, the best hires were made when someone reached out and offered their help.

Why companies hire people

At this point, you should have 5-10 companies in the first tier. It’s too early to shoot CVs though. The most important thing now is to understand why the company is looking for a new employee.

Let’s imagine ourselves in the company’s shoes. There could be many reasons:

  • someone just left and a company needs a substitute
  • a company is growing and they have a new product line or a big project to deliver
  • there’s a legacy monster project that needs more hands to maintain
  • some engineers got promoted to a more senior position and they’re looking for someone fresh to coach

It also could be something different. Most importantly, there’s a reason and we need to know that reason. It helps us answer an important question – are we the right person for the job?

Recognize yourself in the job ad

Your role as a candidate is to recognize yourself in the job ad. Do you want to do that for the next 2-3 years? Are you able to deliver right from the gate or it’s a brand new challenge for you? How quickly can you be up to speed?

Start by reading and studying the job ad. Try to pinpoint these questions:

  • What will be your future role?
  • What department is it?
  • Is it a brand new team or an existing team?
  • Is it a micro team of 2-3 people or a 15 people party?
  • What projects has this team delivered in the past?
  • What is the project(s) you’ll be working on?
  • Who will be your boss? Your teammates? Look up their LinkedIn profiles, and get some sense of an opportunity there – will you learn a lot from them?
  • Will you be the smartest person in the room? (unless it’s a goal, you should aim for the opposite, especially in the beginning of your career)
  • Assuming it’s your 1st or 2nd job, how good are they with growing people? Do they have a process for it? What’s their promotion track record?

I guess you’ve got the point – you need to have a great picture of what’s coming. There’re two reasons to do this homework. First, you’ll understand if this job is for you or not. Second, if that’s the one – you’ll have a genuine motivation and excitement that you can’t hide or fake. It’s like falling in love, it’s written all over your forehead.

Why having genuine motivation is important? From my hiring experience, you can’t teach or increase someone’s motivation. Skills yes, you can teach them. That’s why, I believe, great companies are looking for motivation first and for skills second.

Genuine motivation

If your initial research hasn’t given you many answers, reach out to a hiring manager with questions (usually their email should be in the job ad). Be bold and ask for a call to discuss additional questions. Write a genuine letter, describing your situation and aspirations.

Don’t worry about not getting a response. Remember, there’s a person (a hiring manager) on the other end and they’re desperate to find a new colleague. When they receive your letter that clearly shows you’re a very motivated candidate, they’ll jump from their chair screaming “Finally, someone interesting, let me talk to them!”. The worst case – they won’t hire you, but they’ll clarify your questions in the job ad for others. You’ll make the world a better place.

How do companies hire?

Before we start with writing our CV and a cover letter, let’s look at one more aspect of job ads – how do they get published? What happens behind the scenes when companies decide to get a new employee? I hope it’ll give you an insight into why certain questions get asked during interviews.

In my experience, hiring decisions were rarely made in a day. Usually, there’re two ingredients for hiring new people: the company’s budget and strategy.

It all starts with a yearly company budget. Whether it’s a small startup or Google, they both are on a budget. There’s a financial model (be it a spreadsheet or something built by a 30 people team) that gives every team budgets. For example, salary budget, educational budget, travel budget, tools budget, and, finally, the hiring budget. If a company enters a crazy growth state this budget might change during the year, but usually, managers already know upfront in which quarter of the year they’ll be adding new people or building new teams.

Another input is the company’s strategy. It boils down to a quarter-per-quarter tactical plan with projects needed to be delivered. At this point, managers try to make sense of whether it could be achieved with a current workforce or if they need to expand and hire new people.

Finally, there’s another option for a job ad to come around – someone is leaving the company and they need to be replaced. Often the old job ad is re-published and the position is re-hired.

Often hiring is a competition between managers – a finite budget means a finite number of hires. Managers that win this hiring budget should understand deeply why the company wants a new employee. The pressure is on them. They likely need to deliver a big project, and hiring is just the first step. They dream about hiring someone motivated, someone experienced, ideally tomorrow. 😅

This dream rarely comes true, that’s why their stress levels build up with time and they might behave a bit crazy during interviews. For hiring managers, finding you is a critical step to delivering this year’s strategy. Their reputation and future promotion are on the line.

At this point, the best they can do is to publish a great job ad. The one that would give you all details to recognize yourself in it and apply (and make all irrelevant candidates don’t apply).

Guerrilla hiring

Ideally, after reading a job ad and doing company research you should get a pretty good understanding of whether a given company fits you. If you still have some questions left, let’s get them answered. In my experience, the best way to get honest answers is to talk to your potential future colleagues. Find them on LinkedIn, reach out to them, and ask for a quick Zoom call or better offer them a coffee chat or lunch. Of course, the bill is on you. 💵

Remember, they’re in the same boat with a hiring manager, they also want this position to be closed asap and get back to day-to-day business as usual. Hiring is a stress for everyone.

In the worst case, they’ll ignore you. In the best case, you’ll have a complete picture of what you’re getting yourself into. Even better case – you’ll actually fall in love with the company even more and that person will refer you and it’ll be a great referral – they’ll see you’re pumped and have relevant experience. Doing it like this will help you skip the line and land an interview with a hiring manager right away. We’ll enter the hiring process through a back door!

Cover letter 📫

Let’s talk about a more traditional approach – you apply for a job via the website and send your cover letter and CV.

After you apply, your CV and cover letter will be reviewed. First, by HR (Human Resources) people. They’ll check your CV for relevant experience, and interesting projects you delivered. Remember, sometimes they have to review hundreds of CVs and if yours doesn’t stand out – consider your chance is gone.

Then HR gang passes your application over to a hiring manager with a note. Your job is to make sure that note makes their heart a bit faster – surprise them with a great cover letter, and a little pet project that’s super relevant for this position.

A cover letter is absolutely necessary. A cover letter is the beginning of your conversation with a hiring manager. Your first interview (if you get it) will be the continuation of that conversation.

So how do you start a conversation? I believe you already know: introduce yourself, explain how did you get here, and what you have to offer.

In both your CV and cover letter you should make an effort. Otherwise, why a company should make an effort to review them? Make it personal, make it fun and energizing. Make a hiring manager jump off their chair and scream “That’s the one, I have a great feeling!”, make their day!

A great cover letter is an expression of your motivation to join in words. As I said before, it’s hard to fake that kind of excitement and curiosity. That’s why you need to develop it.

Learn about the company’s history, and read through their recent news and achievements. Maybe you’ll have some questions about their strategy and your role in it? Ask them in a cover letter. That clearly shows you did your homework and want to move forward.

Make sure to try the product and have your feedback ready. I personally end interviews quickly if people don’t even try the product. That’s a big red card and a sign of no motivation.

Finally, surprise them. 💥 Make your application a website or a video. When applying for Blinkist, I had 33 ideas for tech and product improvements and I listed all of them in my cover letter (a couple of years ago I realized that all 33 were done, took us just 6 years haha).

Another way to get their attention and showcase your motivation – write a blog post relevant to your position. You’re applying for a Data Analyst? Pull all publicly available company data and do research. You’re applying for a Web Engineer? Built a small website or a browser plugin that adds a new feature to the company’s product.

There’s another hidden trick here: by showing your work, you’re making it easier for your interviewer. They’ll know you’re pumped and have the skills – they just need to make sure you’re not crazy haha and it’s an easy hire for them.

I’d love to give you an example of a perfect cover letter, but I believe there’s no such thing. A cover letter is about you, it should tell your story, reveal your personality, your character, your drive. Of course, you can fake it, but it’ll be apparent in the first interview and it’s a path to a quick rejection.

Writing a cover letter

Now go wild and start writing your cover letter, write everything that comes to mind. Then shrink it to a single A4 page – a perfect format to print and share your cover letter, not too long and not short.

Put yourself in the shoes of your hiring manager – what’s important for them? Imagine that you’re already talking to them and simply write down your words.


At this point, you might think that I’m offering to do a ton of work to write many cover letters and land only one job. You’re absolutely right, I do. Here’s a tip that helped me back in the day.

At this point, writing custom cover letters and CVs for each company looks like sales management – you’re cold-calling customers that has no idea about you. Eventually, you’ll make only one sale.

The trick is to use probability theory. With all the company research you’ve done I believe your chance of landing a job should be somewhere in the 5-20% percent mark. It means that in the worst case, you’ll have to make roughly 20 applications to land a dream job.

Every application earns you 5% of the offer. Send out 20 applications and you’re done. Think about it as earning 100$. Every application earns you 5$. Not in cash, but in probabilistic dollars haha. 20 applications and you get your real 100$. Let’s get it 🚀.

CV 📋

I often hear how people talk about hiring and they start with “You got to have a great CV”. It’s so funny, do you see how much it took us to get to that point? In my view, preparing a CV is the easiest step.

By now, we should have a great idea of why companies hire, and how an internal company decision was made to open a job ad. We know there’s a hiring manager on the other end with their goals, deadlines, etc, and that they need to fill that position asap.

There might be an HR person that does an initial screening of your application. They do the basic matching – years of experience, technologies, relevant projects, and fluency in English. Every day they scan 20, 30, or even 100 CVs to find ones to pass to a hiring manager. It’s a plain old competition, especially for junior positions when a company receives thousands of applications.

Our goal is clear: to get an HR to pass your application to a hiring manager, then convince the hiring manager to get on a call with you.

Let’s start with basic CV hygiene:

  • if you have typos and trivial grammar mistakes – most likely it’s a rejection. You didn’t make an effort to fix grammar – why do people need to make an effort to read it?
  • some of the links in your CV don’t work. Again, you didn’t make an effort to fix them – why do people need to make an effort to read them? There’s literally a fear that you’ll be hired and you’ll continue the pattern of half-working things at work.
  • CV == 1 A4 page, 2 pages max. If they decide to print it shouldn’t be a block of paper. Somehow giant CVs really feel like people who talk too much. I should mention that this point is very opinionated, so if you have to have 5 pages – go for it, just make sure it’s relevant and helps a person on the other end to make a decision.

To make our CV stand out we always need to keep in mind why a company opened this position. Our CV simply answers HR’s and hiring manager’s questions:

  • why you’re a great match for the company
  • why the company is a great match for you
  • how will you solve their problems

Everything else will be discussed during the interview process. So how do we shape up a great CV?

Rule 1. Make it custom. Showcase your experience that’s relevant to this position. If the job ad mentions SQL – mention your SQL fluency level, and what analysis you did before or can do. Remember: your CV should answer the question for a hiring manager: do you have what it takes to do the job?

Rule 2. Real work is better than words. Provide links to things you’ve built and explain how you did it. It could be a website or an app, a blog post, or a GitHub repo with SQL queries. Anything that makes a hiring manager nod and send you an interview invitation.

Rule 3. For previous jobs, always mention your role, job constraints, and challenges, how you were involved and what was the outcome of what you delivered. Make it custom for every job ad, because these descriptions will help a hiring manager to recognize you in their team.

Rule 4. Do something to showcase your skills. Even if it’s your first job, I bet you’ve done a boot camp, an online course, a workshop, etc. Turn this experience into a pet project, a Github repo, a website, or a super detailed blog post, and add it to your CV. You’re showing your skills and giving a hiring manager an idea of your motivation and how quickly you’ll learn on the job.

In the end, our goal is to make it a story that your HR and hiring manager will tell to all employees at company gatherings: “You won’t believe how awesome it was to get your application, it was one in a million.”.

Imagine how they grind through their days, reviewing hundreds of CVs, getting tired of the monotony of copy-paste applications. You really have a chance to make their day, give them goosebumps. Landing a dream job is worth all the effort.

Interview preparation

Congratulations, all cover letters, and CVs are sent (directly or via a referral) – you’ve planted the seeds. Take a day off, celebrate, and reflect on the process, on the companies you reached out to. You should be proud of yourself!

Rarely you’ll get an answer within the same week, so it’s OK to ping the company every now and then (maybe after a week or two). Don’t send a blank “Ping” email (rude!), but sincerely explain that you fell in love with the company, have what’s needed for a job, and even more, and waiting for them to call you.

Don’t worry, with all the prep work I’m sure one day you will wake up and find that interview invitation in your inbox. One down!

Ideally, you’ll see the interview agenda in the email or a calendar invite. If not – don’t be shy to ask for it, maybe there’s something you need to prepare for. In general, when in doubt – always ask a question, in any situation. I believe your questions show that you care way more than answers.

When in doubt – always ask a question.

Usually, the first interview is either with an HR or with your hiring manager. They’re short get-to-know-each-other interviews, but you should be ready for anything – deep tech questions, ad hoc puzzle questions, etc.

Interview preparation

I’m sure you’ll be asked about what you think about the company, the position, the product, etc. If you have nothing to say here, it’s an automatic rejection and an early stop in the interview.

I recommend checking your interviewer’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Github, and conference talks. Sometimes interviewers talk about things they’re interested in (an open-source Github project, for example) and you’ll be ready. It’ll also lower your anxiety a bit (oh don’t tell me your heart rate doesn’t go up during interviews haha) since you’ll be a bit familiar with the person you’re talking to.

Regarding anxiety, the simplest (not easy) advice is just to be yourself. In the end, landing a job is a win-win situation for you and the company and you shouldn’t fake it. Otherwise, you’ll have to fake it for years to come.

Don’t be afraid to share how you feel if you’re getting nervous. Just be honest and remember what’s going on – you’re talking to a hiring manager and they’re thinking about adding you to their team. If they see that you’re trying to cheat your way in – how it’ll help them? If they see that you’re honest, reasonable, skilled, and motivated – it’s the easiest decision in the world to hire you.

Some DO-s ✅

Do ask clarifying questions, no one ever got fired for doing it. When in doubt – think for a few seconds and then ask a question if needed. Again, for your interviewer this conversation is a work simulation – if you give them answers on autopilot without any questions, they might think you’ll behave like this after you get hired.

When in doubt – think for a few seconds and ask a question, if needed.

Do have a list of questions for the interviewer ready. Print it, write it down, and when they ask you “Do you have some questions for me?” show it to them – you’ll make them laugh and show how motivated you are. Your questions show that you care better than answers. So do ask great questions. What your future team will look like? What’s a normal day/week/month look like in your future team? How do they plan future work? How the company grows its people? Always ask what’s important for you.

Some DON’T-s 💣

You don’t need to fill all pauses in the conversation by talking more. Take a few more seconds to think about your answer. It shows that you care and doesn’t give automated generic answers.

Don’t ask “How did I do?” right after the interview. Sometimes an interviewer will invite you to the next interview right away (it’ll save them time writing emails), but if there’re more people in their pipeline – you’ll have to wait, and showing impatience doesn’t do good.

In the end, there’re no tricks here. If you don’t have minimal skills you won’t get the job. That’s why the best way to get a job is always being “so 🔥 good, they can’t ignore you”.

Be so 🔥 good, they can’t ignore you.

Don’t stop mastering your craft. After you’ve sent job applications, get back to work and learn, study, and continue growing. It’s now just a matter of time before you get a call, it shouldn’t stop you from getting better.

Offer negotiation 💰

My little blog post about hiring already turned into a monster read, so I’ll leave the soft and hard skills interviews for another time. If you’re interested to see a post about it – ping me on Twitter or drop a comment here.

Offer negotiation

Although there’re plenty of great articles or books on salary negotiation, I still want to share what worked for me during the past 12 years.

Another reason why I want to share my thoughts on compensation and offer negotiation is because, for a long time, I thought that salary, stock options, and money aren’t really important. I mean they really aren’t, once you have your basic needs covered, what we’re after is deep satisfaction from your work, happiness, and making other people’s lives better.

BUT getting fair compensation is very important. If you didn’t make an effort to negotiate a fair and good salary and forgot to ask for a promotion – I believe you haven’t set yourself up for success. It’s especially valid for stock options.

Imagine after a year or two you’ll wake up one day and realize that you haven’t negotiated the best offer. You can’t turn back time, this regret tastes very bitter, believe me. The Stoics would call this exercise negative visualization, I recommend you imagine going through this experience. I hope you’ll get a good motivation boost to continue our journey of landing the best offer.

I’m sure with all the prep work we’ve done you have the best chance of nailing all the interviews. I’ll assume you’ve done great and finally got an offer. It could be a PDF file, a draft of your future contract with the company. It also could be a plain text email describing it – a couple of numbers basically.

There’s also a third option – your hiring manager might ask you what salary/conditions you see for yourself. In my experience, the third option happens a lot with 1-5 people startups, because bigger companies have hiring budgets and the salary range is pretty strict.

⚠ Very important: don’t give any salary estimates in the beginning of the interview process, simply say you’re not ready yet and need to learn more about the company.

The worst case scenario is that you give a low number and by the end of the interview process realize that you should have asked for way more – maybe you’re a perfect match, your experience is golden and the company will save tons of money by hiring you. It’ll be hard to increase the number after you’ve agreed on it in the beginning.

The 10% rule

Whatever yearly salary you have in mind – add 10% on top and ask for that salary. The best case – the company approves it and you’re 10% happier. In the worst case – they’ll reject it. Here comes the plot twist – this is the moment when we should start our negotiation.

You need to justify and explain why you think you’re worth 10% more. Please note that I’m not offering a cheat code. If you really think that even getting an offer was a success, then we should already uncork that champagne bottle. But if you think you’ll work more, grow faster, and deliver there’s no reason why you should ask for an extra 10%.

The trick is to split your salary into a fixed and a 10% bonus in 6 or 12 months. Agree on what you have to show or deliver, work hard during the year, and land that bonus. I’ve learned that trick from a friend and it worked for me. 10% isn’t an extraordinary amount of money, but 10% is 10%.

Another way to look at it is that you’re not an employee. You’re the CEO of a growing startup %YOUR_NAME% LLC. That company is interested in buying the services of %YOUR_NAME% LLC, so you better make a good sale and grow your business.

The AAFS rule

Always ask for shares.

In the long run, shares are always better than cash. There’s no point in piling up cash in your bank account when you believe your company will go IPO or will be sold. If it’s a VC-backed company, then it’s part of the deal – your founders and investors are looking for an exit (you can think exit == everyone sells their shares for cash).

As always, there’re those “ifs”. If you don’t think you’ll stick with the company for a long time, negotiate a higher cash compensation. If you believe in the mission and think you’ll contribute to the company’s success – get shares, an exit might be a life-changing event.

Ask your hiring manager or a co-founder about IPO or exit plans. They probably won’t tell you the date, but you’ll get a sense if it’s on the horizon or not.

A sign-on bonus

I need to be honest, I’ve never used it myself, it’s a hack I learned from a couple of friends. Some companies agree to pay a sign-on bonus – simply a one-time payment after you join the company.

The code phrase is to say “I have a %YOUR_NUMBER% bonus coming in some months at my current company, could you please compensate me if I join now?”. This trick is a must especially if you do have that bonus coming. Worst case you’ll hear that the company doesn’t offer sign-on bonuses, not a big deal.

💡 In case you’ve negotiated a sign-on bonus, make sure you won’t have to return that money in case you leave the company early.

First week on the job 🏆

I remember vividly how I received my final offer from Blinkist back in 2015. I knew that I’d go to Berlin, life will never be the same again.

I also remember that getting an offer compared to the daily grind at work was nothing. We were a 15 people startup dreaming about becoming the biggest in the world in our niche of book summaries. 7 years later, we are the best and the biggest book summary service in the world, wild.

The only easy day was yesterday.

I love the Navy SEAL saying “The only easy day was yesterday”. Getting an offer was hard, but the real work begins after you’ve signed it and committed to the company. Here’s a couple of advice on how to kick things off.

First week on the job

First things first, schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with all your teammates and ask them with whom you should talk from other teams. Schedule 1-on-1 with them too. At this point learn about everyone, how did they get to the company, what projects they’ve shipped, good and bad stories.

Some might say that you should “build your social capital”, but that sounds so … calculated. Just enjoy it, make friends, and be curious about your new colleagues. Soon you’ll be covering their backs and they’ll cover yours.

In the first couple of weeks, you should learn the tools, systems, and rituals you need to learn to be a productive employee. Every company has its own custom rituals – it’s never Scrum or Kanban, it’s always a homemade Frankenstein. Ask your peers what Slack channels they’re a part of, what meetings are must-have, and what you can delete from your calendar.

I’d recommend keeping a work journal. Note down what did you learn every day, and what new questions pop up. After the first 6 months, when the stream of questions goes down you’ll know you’ve conquered the first mountain peak.

And there’ll be so much more! Just imagine how amazing it’ll feel – come to work you love every morning, learn and grow professionally and as a person, have fun along the way, and do hard rewarding work. It’s all worth the original investment of searching for a company, writing that cover letter, and preparing a custom CV. I’m sure it’ll be one of the most profitable investments of your life.

Good luck ❤

You can do it!

If you’ve read till here you definitely have what it takes to land a great job offer – motivation is clearly there.

I must say that what we’ve discussed here isn’t a silver bullet, these are the recipes that worked for me. If something resonates – try it, if not – get creative, improve it, and when you do – please, come back and share what you did.


If you have questions – post them on SQL Habit Forum or comment here.

P.S. If you have questions always ping me on Twitter or here in the comments. I’d be glad to write another post if it helps you on your journey.

P.P.S. Share your experience 🙏 – drop a comment or an email to, and I’ll be happy to include it in the article. 👇

Community stories

Practice your interviewing skills on “Most likely no” companies

From Elena, ML/Backend Engineer in Berlin: interviewing is really stressful, especially in the beginning of your career. It helped me a lot to apply to companies from the “Most likely no” tier and just practice coding interviews, being present, and not freaking out. You know that you won’t work there, so getting to the offer really boosts confidence.

💡 Also, having another offer is the best lever for negotiating with a company you really want to work at.

Just observe during the first weeks

Also from Elena, ML/Backend Engineer in Berlin: during the first weeks at your new job you go through an emotional roller coaster – you’re happy you’re there, but some people are weird, some (but not all!) of your expectations aren’t met, etc. It’s very important not to jump to conclusions – it’ll be hard to rewire them in the future. So just observe without judgment, enjoy that you’ve made it here, and ask a lot of questions.

Prepare short and strong answers before the interview

From Oleg, Principal Data Analyst in the US: your stress level during an interview goes up and it’s harder to think clearly. To help yourself, do a little homework – write down answers to the most common interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • How did you find our company?
  • What do you like about our product?
  • What would you change/improve in our product?
  • How does your dream job look like?
  • What are your must-haves and red flags on the job?
  • Tell me about your biggest success/failure at work
  • etc

Remember: your recruiter is on your side

Also from Oleg, Principal Data Analyst in the US: don’t view your interview as a wrestling match or an “I vs them” situation. Your recruiter is on your side, you’re in the same boat. Their success is measured by closing job positions and for that particular one, it depends on you.

Your questions tell about you more than answers

Also from Oleg, Principal Data Analyst in the US: I totally agree with how important it is to ask our interviewer questions. Not doing is a signal of absent motivation, the same goes for asking superficial questions.

Here are my TOP-5 questions for interviewers:

  • Describe a day in the life of a person in that role
  • What is the best thing you like about the company?
  • What do you like the least about the company?
  • If your interviewer will be your manager, ask them who’s their best employee and how they coach and work with them
  • Ask about whether the company deals with letting people go. If your interview was directly involved – ask them how did they go about it.

Negotiate with the 2nd offer on hand

Also from Oleg, Principal Data Analyst in the US: in my experience, the best negotiation tool is having the second offer. It’s way more work, but saying to your dream job company that you have an X% higher offer leaves them no choice but to match it.

💡 If you are close to getting the 2nd offer and your dream job company gives you one – be open about it and say that they’re not the only company you’re talking to. That already gives you a stronger negotiation hand. You can even delay the negotiation process with the 1st company by asking for another call with your future colleague, for example. Just be mindful that companies interview many people at the same time and your dream position could be closed within days. In other words, play it but not overplay it. 😄

Get found

From Artem, a Senior Software Engineer in Amsterdam: I’ve never written a single cover letter in my 10+ year career. A couple of times, I was introduced directly to a hiring manager by former colleagues. All other times, hiring managers found my profile on LinkedIn and reached out – that’s it.

I guess the moral here is simple – get found. Allow hiring managers to find your profile and conduct screening without even talking to you.

Getting hired is a marathon

Also from Artem: I know a person who quit the Software Engineering profession after several months of rejections in interviews. That’s an extreme case, of course.

I think the trick to landing a great job, especially if it’s your first job, is to mentally prepare for rejections. A lot of rejections!

Get yourself ready and use the negative visualization technique to prepare yourself for the emotions that will flood you after receiving a rejection email.

Another hack is to think of interviews as learning opportunities. Make sure you have time for questions at the end of each interview and ask your interviewer questions. Don’t ask “How did I do?” but be specific and ask them how they would answer the same questions. Be open and say you want to learn from them.

After my very first rejection 10 years ago, my two interviewers spent an extra 30 minutes with me, pointing out my mistakes. They recommended a lot of great learning resources, so I aced one of the next interviews and got a job (that’s how Anatoli and I met, haha). Good luck! ❤