I recently spent a month looking for a new job before deciding to join Lyft. Here’s what I learned.
What to do before you get started
Write a “How to be a great X” document, where X is your job function. In my case, this meant collecting all of my notes about being a great product manager and organizing it into a bunch of topics that were relevant. After sketching an outline I then filled in the details. This was super helpful because when a topic came up during an interview, I already had a condensed 30 second blurb prepared and fresh in my mind.
Read The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired about performance-based hiring. It is the playbook used by many companies and once you know the playbook it becomes much easier to interview.
Create an organizational system that lets you keep track of your interviewing like you might track sales pitches. I used Trello with lists for each stage and a card for each company (see this example). I kept all of my notes about that company inside the card. I can’t stress how important this was to stay on top of everything.
Finding companies to interview at
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, that’s no problem. Write down a few different types of things you might be looking for, and start taking coffee chats and phone interviews at companies with roles that fit those things. I did this with engineering and product roles, and very quickly realized I wanted to go back to product versus engineering.
Tell everyone you can that you’re looking for something new. It’s amazing how many interesting companies other people know about.
How to learn about companies
Ask questions in your phone chat, there’s no substitution for hearing about a company from someone who works there.
Only do an all-day interview if you’re pretty sure you want to work there. You can have 10 initial phone chats in the time it takes to do a single all-day interview. If you’re not sure, ask for more chats with the hiring manager or team members, or do more research. You can claim that you’re just looking and aren’t really actively interviewing.
Reach out to employees and ex-employees and ask them to get coffee. Ask them how they feel about the company. In one case an ex-employee revealed to me major cultural issues that I missed during the interviews.
How to choose between offers
This one is hard, but important. Go somewhere where you can learn (and do) a lot rather than where you can maximize your income. I’m bad at this. It’s so easy to look at the compensation today, when really the point is to plan for the compensation in your next job.
Prepare for a conversation by writing down your acceptable curve of salary + equity tradeoff. This makes it really easy to negotiate.
After an offer was given and before I negotiated salary I asked to meet more people. Companies let me talk to future coworkers, founders, and even their VCs. This was super useful.
Preparing for day 1
People say that the first few weeks on the job are critical, but that advice doesn’t tell you how to use that time successfully. The First 90 Days is a great overview to how you should be structuring the start of any new job. It frames this as a learning experience with a sense of urgency.
It’s never too early to ask for feedback from your manager and teammates. If your manager doesn’t seem to be giving you critical feedback, ask how she or he imagines your next month should go. Most companies have structured time for feedback only every 6 or 12 months, which is terrible for helping you improve quickly. Feedback should be immediate and and frequent.