How to Land Tech Jobs During COVID-19

The 2008 financial crisis left Silicon Valley relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, the tech sector wasn’t so lucky this time. Companies like Airbnb and Yelp cancelled their summer internship programs. Lyft laid off 982 employees with Uber soon to follow suit.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

This guide is meant to help you navigate through this difficult situation. There is still opportunity to be had - you just have to search harder. Companies are STILL HIRING - but you can’t just rely on your college career fair to set you up. You can’t hope a recruiter DMs you on LinkedIn with an invitation to apply. You have to take the job search into your own hands.  I’ll tell you ways to do that in this guide.

Finding companies that are hiring is just half the battle. With so many job seekers applying for so few jobs, the bar has been raised. Companies are more conservative than ever when making new hires. It’s up to you to prove your undeniable value to a company. I’ll tell you about ways to do that as well.

These tips are based on my own experiences successfully landing Software Engineering internships at Microsoft and Google’s Nest Labs, and a new-grad job on Facebook’s Growth team. My experience includes cold-emailing the CEO of SafeGraph, Auren Hoffman, and landing myself a job as SafeGraph’s first marketing hire (when I had no marketing experience!). 

My tips also come from my experience being on the other side of the recruiting equation at SafeGraph. Here I've conducted 40+ interviews for roles such as VP of Marketing, VP of Operations, Software Engineers, Product Managers, and summer interns.  

From these experiences as a job seeker, career switcher, and interviewer, I am able to write to you confidently on how to land tech jobs during COVID-19.

Tech Companies Still Hiring During Coronavirus

Here’s 11 resources to find tech companies that are still hiring during coronavirus. - Still Hiring - 351 tech companies still hiring. Has a ‘last updated’ date column so you can filter out old opportunities which are likely filled up by now. - features 150 companies that are actively hiring and 30 companies which are still filling their internship programs during COVID-19. Their cold-emailing tool fills out recruiter email addresses automatically and lets you reach recruiters directly in their inboxes within minutes. More on cold emailing later in this guide.

Startup, Hire Me! - Submit your info on this platform to get recruited directly by startups. Also has an Airtable with 455 companies still hiring.

Handshake - Lists 500 companies that are hiring students across multiple industries - not just tech. This list seems well maintained and was last updated 4/28.

Hiring 2020 - Crowdsourced GitHub repo of 104 internships and full time tech jobs. This list is a little less focused than others, and has MBA internships for example.

Blind - Companies Hiring & Laying Off - The Blind community gathered 40 tech companies that are still hiring. There is also a referral Google Sheet so if you were laid off you can fill it out and potentially get referred. But I’m doubtful a referral from a stranger will be very effective in this climate, but it can’t hurt to try. More effective ways mentioned later in this guide.

Covintern - Site for finding internships specifically during COVID-19. Lists 19 SWE internships, 15 marketing internships, and a few dozen more split between PM, Design and Data Science. -  Lists 13 tech companies that are openly still hiring. Includes data on the hundreds that cancelled programs or froze hiring so you can avoid these companies. - Hiring Status Airtable - Lists 3,761 companies that are still hiring. I’m skeptical of this list - seems too large to be maintained - but might be a good place to try after exhausting the smaller more curated lists mentioned above. - Curates remote internships & jobs for students. A quick look reveals many are not explicitly remote opportunities, but might be an okay resource to sift through after exhausting some of the other resources above.

Careero’s Online Career Fair - This virtual career fair, hosted on May 7th and 8th, is targeted at soon-to-be graduates and anyone affected by recent layoffs.

Framework For Applying To Jobs During COVID-19

Make Sure Your Bases Are Covered

Before we even start talking about the COVID-19 application process, make sure your bases are covered. Just like before any job search, make sure your resume is optimized for getting interviews. I talk about this in way too much detail in my 36 Tips For Software Engineering Resumes guide. Try to have some portfolio projects or hackathon wins to talk about too. 

Cold Email Works Well During COVID-19 Because Most People Still Aren’t Doing It

The lists above of tech companies still hiring during COVID isn’t secret knowledge. I’m sure these companies are being inundated with job applications. I know we are at SafeGraph.

Yet, even in this climate, cold-emailing remains such an effective way of getting jobs. 

Less than 1 in 50 applications we receive at SafeGraph send a cold email to a specific person at SafeGraph. This is true even now during COVID-19 times, when our volume of applications is way up. It takes less than 15 minutes to write a good email, and it puts you in the top 2% of applications. And yet people still aren’t doing it!

In my most popular piece of writing, now read by 50,000+ people, I talk about 8 Cold Email Tips To Land Your Dream Job, give 3 successful examples of cold-emails from my past, and talk through my story of how I landed my job at SafeGraph by cold-emailing the CEO. In case you are an auditory learner, I have a YouTube video with Life of Luba covering some of these cold email tips.

Nick Singh Cold Emailing YouTube Video With Life of Luba Youtube Video

I also recommend the tool MassApply for cold-emailing. It automatically fills in a verified recruiter’s email address for 200+ tech companies so that you can directly reach their inboxes.

MassApply Cold Email Tool For Tech Jobs
MassApply automatically pulls in the college or university recruiters verified email address, along with your customized email copy.

MassApply also makes it easy to customize your emails, and just generally manage the application process and learn about new companies. Within minutes you will be sending out your cold-emails and standing out from the large applicant pool. 

COVID-19 Created New Part-Time & Internship Opportunities That Didn’t Exist Before

Companies are laying off folks and slowing hiring, but this can create an opportunity for those okay with internships (instead of jobs) or okay with part time work. To explain why, consider the employer’s perspective.

The loaded-in cost of an employee (the cost to an employer when you account for healthcare, 401k, payroll taxes, paternity/maternity leaves, and initial hiring costs) is often 1x the base salary per year. That means, to pay someone $120k per year, a company spends ~$240k. And they usually can’t get rid of the employee so easily so this is a longer term commitment. A risky proposition when month to month the situation is changing so rapidly.

This reasoning, combined with the gaps in a business that arise when laying off workers or delaying full time hires, creates new opportunities for part-time contractors and interns. It’s much easier to commit to a $3k per month intern than a $20k per month full time hire.

So, how do you find these opportunities for part-time work? Cold email!

Cold emailing is so effective you can even create opportunities where one didn’t exist. 

This is something I’m seeing play out here at SafeGraph. We have never advertised any internships, but might have a marketing intern or two this summer! This happened because a prospective intern emailed us at the right time, and we decided to delay a marketing hire but still need some help. 

If you can legibly prove your experience and value, organizations are willing to open up spots to qualified candidates. I talk about beefing up your portfolio in the section below.

If Nothing Works Out, Build Up Your Portfolio

Tech experience is very legible. A big essay on legibility’s impact on careers is soon to come - subscribe to know when that happens

But in short, between Github, StackOverflow, Kaggle, Topcoder, Behance, and Dirbbble, it’s easy to publicly prove your coding, data science, and design skills. This is great for self-motivated ambitious people looking to prove themselves, and terrible for folks hiding behind big brand names or insider connections. 

So if you are a summer intern and have given up on finding something this summer, you can still use this time productively to get a leg-up before the fall recruiting season comes up. You don’t have to rely on a formal internship to create and demonstrate value.

Ways To Kick-Start Your Technical Portfolio:

HelpWithCovid - Volunteer to work on COVID-19 related projects. Over 650+ projects listed - many which need software engineering or design help. You don’t have to be a front-line medical worker to make a difference!

Build A Kick Ass Data Science or Machine Learning Portfolio Project - This guide I co-wrote with 3 other smart data scientists / quants, talks about crafting data-science or machine learning portfolio projects that get recruiters HOOKED. We’re helping you position, market, & sell your data science project.

How to create data science portfolios and land jobs at top tech companies.

Awesome For Beginners - Contribute To Open Source - Committing to an open source project may seem intimidating, but the community has made great strides to make the process easier in recent years. This resource has a list of 90+ open source projects which have tickets labeled specifically for first timers and newbs. FirstTimersOnly also has some great advice on getting involved. From my experience being on the hiring panel at SafeGraph for several Software Engineers, you get major bonus points for having open source contributions.

Good Luck - This Is Not Going To Be Easy

I know this is not going to be easy. My heart goes out to those facing health and economic crises. I hope the resources above, along with the framework to chase down and find opportunity, are useful. 

Feel free to email me feedback and let me know if this guide was able to help you out. And feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Instagram. For more long-form guides like this one, join my monthly newsletter below so you don't miss anything. It's just one email a month!