This was originally posted on September 4th, 2012.
Occasionally, I forget that requirements are only guidelines.
I think other people forget this too, so let me remind you.
To get hired, most companies require you to fill out their job application and send them your resume.
But, that isn’t ideal. You must stand out amongst giant stacks of paper before you can find out if you and the company are a cultural fit. One way to stand out is by making a more colorful, better formatted resume but, then you’re just a slightly prettier piece of paper.
You could also just skip the resume and go straight to the interview. How? Emphasize your humanity.
If you’re an engineer, go to meetups hosted or attended by employees of the company you want to work for. In the Bay Area, there’s SFRuby, AirBnB Tech Talks, GitHub Drinkups, and numerous more. Usually, several technical recruiters attend who really want to hire engineers. Talk to them as a human being, and they’ll treat you like one.
If you’re not an engineer, get coffee with someone who has the job you want. They usually have a powerful say in who also gets their job.
As someone who graduated high school two years early with a 2.6 average GPA, here’s my soon-to-be-tested advice.
Top universities require exceptional academics, exceptional athletics or both. Conventionally, students get in to a top university by having a 4.0 GPA and being class president. Or, by excelling at a sport. However, both are saturated markets. Many students optimize for high SAT scores and many athletes try to be the captain of the football team.
In reality, top universities want exceptional people. You could do it the conventional route, but many people are also trying to get in that way. You’ve got to compete with everyone else who has a 4.0 GPA and scored highly on their SATs. Instead, do something different you love, and you’ll probably get in.
In my case, I graduated high school early so I could do what I already spent my time outside of school doing: working on startup-related things. Right now, I work for Lockitron, mostly on the iPhone app, but wherever else I’m needed as well. While my knowledge is lacking in some important areas, my knowledge elsewhere is far greater.What I’m doing right now works better for me than staying in school.
Thinking of requirements as guidelines makes them something you can work around, rather than something you must conform to. Also, show people you’re a human being, and process will matter much less.