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The Ultimate Guide on how to land a role at a top Silicon Valley Tech Startup

Sebastian Krestin

As a leading Silicon Valley-based tech startup with $5 Million raised and backed by Y Combinator, we have reviewed hundreds of thousands of applications for positions at VOIQ and successfully built a highly-curated team of top technical and business talent. In that process we found that the best candidates for each position had multiple traits in common that made them standout.

To better prepare talented hopefuls looking to work at Silicon Valley tech companies, we put together this guide on how we measure success and identify exceptional candidates from the applicant pool. This guide is the ultimate playbook on how to set yourself apart from thousands of other skilled candidates and land a position at a top Silicon Valley Tech Company. We’ve broken it down into 4 sections:

  • Brand: Build a Complete LinkedIn Profile that sells you as the right candidate for the opportunity.
  • Effort: Go the extra mile and study/pre-prepare for any tests.
  • Confidence: Come to the interview with questions and knowledge of the company prepared.
  • Own the Process: Proactively reach out and keep the hiring manager updated on your progress.

Every step of the application process sheds light on who you are as a person. In other words, it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your “soft skills,” such as good communication, attention to detail, ability to receive and act on feedback, humbleness, etc. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to leverage each interaction, both direct and indirect, with recruiters as a way to portray yourself in the best light possible.

Keep in mind that if you’re applying to an early-stage startup with less than 10 employees, that startup isn’t looking for someone to come in to fix a few bugs. They’re looking for someone that can be part of the core team who will work together for the next 5-10 years to build a Billion dollar company.


Build a Complete LinkedIn Profile that sells you as the right candidate for the job
A strong professional profile is essential when applying to highly-competitive positions in a Silicon Valley tech company. This will be the first impression you leave on the hiring manager, thus you’ll want to make it an impressive one that provides as much detail and color as possible about your experience and aptitudes. Below we outline how you should complete each section of your profile, with examples included.

Description & Headline
This is an opportunity to provide a summary of your personal story and abilities. For engineers, this is the place to put the technologies you're familiar with or any important projects you want to highlight. If you are applying to a US company, your LinkedIn profile should be in English.

Example Headline: Full Stack Software Engineer | Javascript, PHP, CSS, Ruby  

Example Description: Samuel is a full stack software engineer with a degree in computer science from Acme University. He has 3 years of experience working primarily in Javascript to create browser-based games, with 2 years intensively working on developing a photo editing web application using Ruby. Samuel has high attention to detail, loves to receive feedback, grow as a professional, and works best when part of a team. Samuel was ranked top 3 in the Cloudfight Coding Content in 2019.

Job Experience
Explain each job you’ve held with as much detail as possible. The job title should be as descriptive as possible, and under each job position you should include the projects you have worked on or led, your core responsibilities, and any ways in which you have personally contributed to the company.

Ex. Junior Marketer at ACME
  • Developed written content for +15 social media posts a day (Linkedin, Facebook, & Twitter)
  • Leveraged Hootsuite to manage and schedule social media content
  • Worked directly with the Head of Marketing for ACME to develop the marketing strategy for their new product, ACMEX, for which I lead the process for defining our target market through industry research.

Profile photo
Your photo should be professional, but also represent your personality. The photo should be high quality, show your face clearly, and you should look clean and presentable. This means no group photos and preferably no sunglasses.

Example Photo

Other key sections
  • Make sure your education section is complete. Include your graduation year, the degree you received, any awards you received, and any societies that you were part of.
  • Include any additional classes you’ve taken and/or certificates you’ve received.
  • Include the languages you speak and the levels of proficiency.
  • While it’s important to keep your Linkedin profile professional, include a flavor of your personality! Being a cultural fit is a very important part of the hiring process, thus including any hobbies, passions, volunteer efforts, or extra details about yourself in your LinkedIn that can give the hiring manager a better sense of who you are can be a big factor in your continuation in the selection process.

Go the extra mile and study/pre-prepare for any tests
If you’ve been invited to take an exam or prepare a piece of work for an interview, congrats! That means you’re moving forward in their recruitment pipeline. Giving applicants tests/projects is not only a way for companies to evaluate your skills in a given subject, but also their way of seeing how you approach your work.

Study and prepare for any written or coding assignments to help you put yourself in the best possible light to recruiters when given an assignment. This should sound obvious to you, but you will be surprised how many fellow applicants think that this is something “optional”. Below are two examples of assessments along with tips on how to succeed.

Example 1: You’re applying for an engineering position and the company sends you a coding assessment.
Make sure to take the test in the given time limits and review or ask in what areas/languages you will be tested on in order to learn/review those languages in advance. If they send you a test using a platform, know that they are able to see your process. This includes how long you took on each question and the steps you took. Not using the entire allotted time for a question combined with not answering a question correctly, is an incredibly poor reflection on you. On the other hand, not being able to answer a question correctly, but spending the entire allotted time shows that you are resilient and truly care about the position you are applying for. Lastly, ask questions if something on the test is not clear. It is not a sign of weakness to ask questions! On the contrary, asking questions proves that you are proactive, concerned about doing well on the exam, and a good communicator.

Example 2 - You’re applying for a marketing position and the company asks you to provide a writing sample.
Look at the company’s published blogs (particularly if any are written by the CEO) in order to adapt your voice to adhere to their preferred writing style. Also, do research on the industry and the company itself to make sure you sound knowledgeable when writing about that particular subject. This could include using the appropriate vocabulary and terms as well as referencing up to date information.

Come to the Interview with questions and knowledge of the company prepared
Recruiters appreciate candidates who demonstrate interest in the company’s product/services, values and mission. This means that before the interview, visit the company’s website to learn about the company you’re applying to and what products/services they sell. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with (minimum) the CEO and the person who will be interviewing you.

Moreover, you should come to the interview with questions prepared. Having questions prepared demonstrates your interest in the company, and more importantly, these questions can help you evaluate how to navigate the interview process. Below are some example questions you can ask:

  • What is your ideal candidate profile for this position?
  • Is there anything about my resume that gives you pause that I can address now?
  • What would be my core responsibilities?
  • Who would I be working with closely on the team, who will I be interacting with daily?
  • What are my opportunities for growth within the company, once I am able to prove myself in this role?
  • Is there something I can start learning right away to better prepare myself for this position?

Proactively reach out and keep the hiring manager updated on your progress
Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to the hiring manager at any point in the process to ask quality, well-thought out questions. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness. It shows your interest in better understanding the process, the role, and the opportunity at hand.

For example:
  • Can you please let me know how I could have done a better job in my interview?
  • I noticed that there might have been an error in the coding assessment, and I’m not sure if it was the test or something that I did incorrectly. Can you please confirm that this was the correct information that’s needed to complete the exam?
  • What languages will be tested on the coding assessment?
  • I don’t think I did very well on the Ruby portion of the coding assessment because I’ve never coded in Ruby. Can I have 1 week to learn the basics and take the Ruby portion of the exam again?
  • Thank you for the chance to interview! Would you like me to provide a sample of my writing?

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