My Job Search During COVID-19

06 Jan 2021

During May 2019, a few months after the coronavirus outbreak in Canada, I started to search for a role again.

My job search lasted for 4 months. During the first two months (May-June), I didn’t apply much - I started testing the waters by applying to 3-4 jobs in company job portals. It didn’t work - I didn’t get any calls. I then decided to apply more aggressively from July, and by the end of August, I had 2 offers. Here I’ll talk about my experience during this process in general.

The data

Job application stats: 56 applications, ~21 rejections (37.5%), 2 offers (3.57%)

Roles I applied to : Software Developer, Machine Learning Engineer, Data Scientist

Companies I interviewed at: OpenText, Nasdaq (Quandl), Clearbanc, ProNavigator, BenchSci, theScore, Zynga, FormaAI, Loblaw

What worked and what didn't

In general, I found that referrals were the most influencing factor for landing that first interview. After that, of course, it was upto my skills, job fit, what the company wanted, etc.

Even though I’ve seen cold emails recommended in some websites, I found that in general the strategy doesn’t work. People don’t like to talk to strangers. Just applying to job portals also has a low success rate - it can be done if you are persistent and apply to many, many jobs, but the odds are still low.

Preparation

The problem with targeting slightly different roles is that preparation for them also varies a lot.

For engineering roles in startups, the emphasis is on coding/problem-solving skills and take-home questions. Some companies tended to ask Leetcode-style questions. For machine learning engineering roles, Apache Spark was an important skill. All data roles also tested SQL skills - in particular it’s a great idea to learn to use window functions, common table expressions and just practise a ton of SQL questions on Leetcode.

I didn’t really apply to and land too many Data Scientist roles (it’s not a great fit for me rolewise) but based on what I know, the emphasis for those interviews is on SQL, modelling, case studies and probability/statistics.

For all interviews, Python skills were very important. I found that knowing advance features of Python was a great advantage (eg concurrency, list comprehensions, Python’s standard library, etc.). This article has some useful pointers about some of Python’s features that are useful in interviews.

Offers

As mentioned, I landed 2 offers from Nasdaq (Quandl) and OpenText, both in the same week. I was delighted to join the team at OpenText as a Software Developer in September.

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