How to get a job

A playbook on how to apply to selective SWE iternships

This was copied from an earlier internal document I wrote during my time as a member of Spark SC, a student entreprenourship clup at the University of Southern California.

The first time I considered the possibility of going beyond an online application in the job search process was when I met Dave Fontenot (early hackathon organizer and total weirdo, in the best way possible) He gave a talk at MHacks that fundamentally changed the way I think about getting a job and I have been able to pass on that advice over time to other job hunters.

The way Dave phrased getting a job really resonated with me once he provided an anecdote but his advice boiled down to:

“Start working for the company you want to hire you before they know who they are”

This understanding relies on the idea that every company is looking to hire someone who can can do a job they need to get done. What better way to prove you are the right person who can do the job is to demonstrate that you can do it.

A resume is a snapshot of the work you’ve done and can attest to sort of general understanding that you’re capable of a certain set of work. For example, if you’ve worked on iOS at Facebook a recruiter at Snapchat could likely infer that you’d be able to work on iOS for them.

However, if the application is especially competitive or you don’t have much experience from an institution that can give you a firm seal of approval, you’ll have to try harder to craft a narrative in the mind of the recruiter or founder looking for someone to work for them. To prove that you can do the work, you could simply start doing the work from outside the company. Dave’s talk included a much longer accounting of Dan Friedman’s journey of getting hired at Boosted Boards. The short version of this anecdote is that Dan wanted to work on marketing at Boosted Boards so he concieved of a novel marketing campaign, ran it and annoyed the Boosted Boards team with his results until they finally hired him. I’ll include a hypothetical example to demonstrate how I would go about reproducing his technique.

General Steps

  1. Identify what a company is looking for/what archetypes they want to hire
  2. Identify the right person to talk to recruiter/founder/etc
  3. Start “working for the company”
  4. Try to find a warm lead to your “right person”
  5. Present what you’ve done and build a narrative that showcases you fitting their archetype

Example: I want to work at Buzzfeed in software

I’m not sure but for the sake of argument, let’s assume Buzzfeed is a competitive application and you don’t have a ton of experience.

1. Identify what a company is looking for/what archetypes they want to hire

First let’s do some research:

  • SWE Internship Job Posting Link is dead :/ but it’s not that important
    • Python/Go shop
    • Looking for “hacker mentality”
  • Previous Interns & Projects
    • Aljosa Cucak  - Worked on Tasty iOS app
    • Derek O’Brien - Google Video Intelligence API to make videos searchable by content
    • Noga Raviv - Designed a Tasty Skill for the Amazon Alexa Show device
  • Buzzfeed “about” page
    • “innovation obsessed culture”
    • “We strive to connect deeply with our audience, and give them news and entertainment worth sharing with their friends, family, and the people who matter in their lives.”

From the research we can glean a few insights into what archetypes they want to hire. Based on the explicit calling out of a “hacker mentality” in the job posting and some of the intern projects (many were R&D based, like building an Alexa skill, or moving into new domains like launching a Tasty App or integrating a Google Video Intelligence API), I think the archetype of being a “hacker” is what they are looking for.

2. Identify the right person to talk to recruiter/founder/etc

LinkedIn is your friend and Spark has lots of resources on how to find emails of people you might want to contact.

First, let’s hit LinkedIn and find the recruiters. Any of them will probably do.


Next, we can find their email using a combination of Clearbit Connect,, and To prove that it works, I found “” and verified it would work.

3. Start working for the company

This is the fun part! We get to become the archetype that Buzzfeed identified, a “Buzzfeed hacker”. Pulling from the projects of former interns, we can see a few different types of projects we might find interesting. They are building out an iOS app for one of their brands. They used an ML API to augment some functionality of their site. They built an Alexa skill.

Based on these examples, I can image a few projects that might allow a recruiter to see how well you fit the archetype.

  • See how their site loads content & create a new view of it on a mobile device or via an Alexa skill. I opened the inspector and found some JSON to rip. Wire this up to some novel presentation and you have a cool project.


  • Augment the buzzfeed experience in some way. Build a chrome extension that allows you to create a meme from clicking on any of the images on the page.
  • Build a twitter bot that tweets at the publisher of a story whenever they post congratulating them on a great post. Kinda funny, pointless, but it’ll grab someone’s attention. Call it hire me bot, and have it include a link to your resume. Like, “Beep Boop, I’m the “Getting Brian Hired Bot” I’d like to congratulate you on another great post, I would also like to remind you that Brian still doesn’t have a job.

4. Try to find a warm lead to your “right person”

We already found their email via the tooling discussed above. Now it’s time to form some sort of personal connection. Don’t be afraid to toss a fight on! I kinda cringe reading this back but it got the job done. (This is from my GitHub application)


Now that you’ve connected, hopefully warmly, you can move onto the next step.

5. Present what you’ve done and build a narrative that showcases you fitting their archetype

Here’s an example of how this might go:

Hello {Recuriter Name},

I’m Brian Anglin, a senior at USC studying CS. I’m super interested in Buzzfeed’s SWE Internship position for this coming summer.

I was really interested so I invested some time building a little project on top of Buzzfeed’s technology. I love the work people are doing there and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it so I built (LINK TO PROJECT)

I would love to hop on the phone to ask a few more questions if you have any availability.


Brian Anglin

Next Steps

Congratulations! You’ve now gotten your foot in the door and can start the recruiting process!

  • Study Cracking the Coding Interview
  • Do a few practice interviews with someone (I can help with this)
  • Practice some interviews with easier to get positions to prep