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I'm a recent CS graduate. I have some work experience outside the software industry, and a few personal software projects, but no internships or other work experience in software. I'm trying to get a job in software, but have so far failed.

Lacking connections, I've been searching for a job by responding to ads and applying directly to companies, and have tried to improve my skills by making contributions to open source (mostly very small ones), and doing more personal projects and self-study. I've had a few interviews, but always got passed over. A relative of mine, who has never worked in software or any other professional, corporate, or white-collar type job, says I'm taking the wrong approach. His advice was to visit the headquarters of companies I'm interested, grab someone in the lobby, and try to talk them into offering me a job. He claims he's gotten several jobs like this.

An approach like this may have worked at some time for certain kinds of blue-collar job, but I have severe doubts that it could work in the software industry. Has anyone ever heard of something like this working? Keep in mind, these are not companies where I know anyone; I would essentially be some random schmo walking in off the street and asking to work at Google. If anything, I would expect to be escorted off the premises by security rather than offered a job. But as I said, I have no experience. Could an approach like this work?

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    People will believe the strangest things if they are desperate enough. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 12 '15 at 2:39
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    Do you have friends from back in your CS classes? Where do they work? Ask them whether they could introduce you to their manager, or whether they could pass your CV to him. – Alexander Apr 12 '15 at 15:48
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    Closest thing to this I can think of is checking out local software user-groups. They're often hosted at a company you might be interested in working for and you'll get to meet people employed nearby. – Rob P. Apr 12 '15 at 16:01
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    That is strange advice, Most large corporations will not let you come in and try to talk to employees...we'd think that was pretty strange. – JonH Apr 13 '15 at 0:06
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    As a life lesson, be incredibly wary of advice from relatives. They're weird. All of them. – corsiKa Apr 13 '15 at 7:18
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His advice was to visit the headquarters of companies I'm interested, grab someone in the lobby, and try to talk them into offering me a job.

Woah. No, I wouldn't go there.

Mileage will inevitably vary - but I've worked in large companies with high security and neither the employees nor our security guards will be OK with someone randomly showing up and asking around.

However - an equivalent that's likely to work better is to focus your open source/volunteer/learning work on areas where employees from companies you are interested in are likely to be found. I think you can create the same effect with a more strategic approach:

  1. Learn enough about the companies in your area to know which ones are likely to be large enough to be hiring a LOT - this trick will work better the more people in the company and the more openings in the company.
  2. Go on Linked in or other networking sites and search for the company - find people who work in areas close to your interests - for example if you are interested in UI development in your location, find employees with Software Development, front end product work, or UI development who work for the company.
  3. See what non-work projects they may contribute to - you may find that many of them participate in the same open source project or other community activity (like meetups).
  4. Get involved there. Don't just poke the employees of the company (that's a bit stalker-ish) - get really involved. Show that you are smart and interested and make some connections. After a bit of involvement, mention that you are looking. Maybe you have made friends with an employee from your target, maybe not, but either way, you've enhanced your network.

You're a lot better off in technical stuff like open source and meet-ups. I highly advise against showing up at someone's religious meeting, *-anonymous meeting, or non-work meetup. Not only is it is a less high-quality connection (I recommend people I've worked with much more often than I recommend people I happen to know are just nice people) - but people can be very defensive about the mix of their private and professional lives - whether or not they've put the info on their Linked In.

My basic thought is that if you have done small open source projects, you probably haven't extended your networking pool as much as a larger project may have. Open source work can be interesting no matter the size, but where you are trying to get a connection that will lead to a recommendation within a company, you may want to focus your energy on getting to know a broader base of people. Even without researching employees, you may want to hunt around for ways that larger groups of engineers connect.

I will say that "cold-calling" - submitting resumes to ads and websites - is the least effective way to show your interest. Many high profile companies get deluged through these channels and it's the last place that recruiters actually go to get decent candidates because the quality of the pool relative to the number of applicants is so low. Working through a channel that can elevate you above the herd can be very useful - school websites/connections, recruiters, and persona references are all good ways to do that.

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    This answer was actually the most helpful to me. I ramped up my efforts to establish an online presence on LinkedIn, GitHub, and Stack Exchange, and in the end I was discovered and offered a job--with a company that makes a product to help recruiters discover good candidates by crawling LinkedIn, GitHub, Stack Exchange, and other sites. They were hiring and used their own software to turn me up. I've been there about three months now and very happy with it. – Torisuda Dec 19 '15 at 5:08
  • So cool! Congratulations! – bethlakshmi Jan 12 '16 at 15:33
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No, that's a terrible idea and doesn't work. It'd probably work for some manual labour job in a warehouse or something. For one thing, what are the chances you "grab" a manager or something? And supposing you do, that's a terrible way to meet someone to try and get a job.

Why would they even post a job if any random schmuck can "persuade" their way into a job? It makes you look desperate and stalkerish too.

And most managers probably don't take kindly to people trying to circumvent the process.

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    Your answer covers pretty much every objection that I had when I heard the idea. I thought it couldn't possibly work, but I wanted to hear what some people with actual experience thought before dismissing it. – Torisuda Apr 12 '15 at 2:24
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    This answer would be better if it didn't distort the issue with charged phrases like "grab a manger" or "circumvent the process". I think the original idea of the acquaintance of the OP is more to establish an organic, natural communication with a hiring manager or team lead in the company where you want to work and establish yourself as a professional, not as a "random schmuck". If we spin back the clock to before e-mail communication was common, this may indeed have been a sound approach. IMO the real heart of this question is whether it's (still) a good approach, e.g. in 2015. – Brandin Apr 12 '15 at 11:04
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    @Brandin Distort what issues? He specifically said grab someone in the lobby, and try to talk them into offering me a job – Jack Apr 12 '15 at 22:26
  • @Brandin No I think that's the serious issue. Consider a typical average team size of 4-5, only 1/5 people would be able to offer a job. And in a professional environment, you can't just pick out the guy in a collared shirt as being the manager - any one of them could be. So you really have terrible luck trying to hold the door open for someone hoping they're in a capacity to hire you. – corsiKa Apr 13 '15 at 7:17
  • I'm with jack. I have gotten jobs this way, but they weren't professional white collar jobs. As a hiring manager, if someone approached me like this I'd just tell them to talk to HR. – NotMe Apr 13 '15 at 13:59
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and try to talk them into offering me a job. He claims he's gotten several jobs like this.

This might work if the job was in sales/marketing, where knowing how to make a good sales pitch would be very valuable. In the world of software development, it would probably be a good way to get yourself escorted off the premises by security, very quickly...

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    ... possibly with an order never to come back onto the property, if they feel like asing the police to escort you out. Your relative is confusing dramatic fantasy with reality. – keshlam Apr 12 '15 at 4:05
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    I hope the police wouldn't waste their time coming out for someone who says, "there's someone in our lobby we'd like to leave.... No, not violent or threatening... No, we haven't asked them to leave, why would we do that, that's your job isn't it?" ;-) – Steve Jessop Apr 13 '15 at 11:03
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    Depending on what part of the software development world is in question, you might not be escorted off the premises immediately... you might end up having a nice long chat with some unpleasant fellows in dark suits first. This would be the outcome for uninvited guests at a couple of the places I've been, for instance. They get very touchy about people barging their way into facilities with classified material for some reason. – reirab Apr 13 '15 at 15:05
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In addition to the fact that it's unlikely to work, building security is probably not going to take kindly to a random person hanging out in the lobby and soliciting employees.

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I work out of a small office (~20 people) for a larger engineering company. Several of my coworkers were eventually hired after having dropped off their resumes in person. They had just moved here from different states, and also didn't know anyone at the office. They made a good impression with the receptionist, and I think my boss appreciated the slightly more personal nature of their approach - but we were actively hiring, and it's a smaller office.

There's something to be said for that - it's a good way to stand out from the pack, and if you're tactful and professional (including reasonably well-dressed) it shouldn't come off as desperate. I wouldn't ask to speak to employees, or the manager for that matter. But be friendly and brief with the receptionist, ask if you can leave a resume, and there's a good chance the boss will take a look at it.

It's been said but it bears repeating - do your research on the company and position you're applying for, and take the extra step to cater each resume to that specific position. Ten good resumes to ten different jobs will work better than one generic resume to a hundred positions.

Unfortunately, with larger companies, this approach may be more difficult if not impossible for the reasons already mentioned, but with smaller offices it can be very effective to get a foot in the door.

Edit: In this situation I would strongly recommend tempering the desire to "sell yourself" to the receptionist - it may fall on deaf ears if they don't know the ins and outs of the trade to the extent of the rest of the office.

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    In larger company the reception desk is likely to be staffed by an external security company, they will have small to no relation to the company. Moreover they are likely to be forbidden to accept any document for legal reasons. – WoJ Apr 12 '15 at 21:02
  • Why would they be forbidden to accept documents? Postal systems still exist. – bdsl May 22 '16 at 11:59
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I've been searching for a job by responding to ads and applying directly to companies, and have tried to improve my skills by making contributions to open source (mostly very small ones),

In sales/marketing jobs, a way to impress possible employers is to be very convincing, which is why in some cases this sort of strategy might work. It demonstrates your skill to the employer.

In programming, contributing to open source code pretty much has that same byproduct. By making significant contributions to non-trivial and large open source projects you are demonstrating initiative, ability to learn a stack yourself, coding ability and professionalism. These are all desirable properties in software development.

So while I agree with the existing answers that it's a terrible idea to approach random people and ask for a job, what you're doing for open source projects is pretty much the same thing and it's not uncommon for large companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter etc) to hire from within the contributor pool for their open source projects.

  • But unless you are a major contributor to a bigger open-source project, this won't really help you to land a job IMO. It's not like Google calls people who submitted a few thousand LOC to $project and asks them if they need a job. If you apply for a job, it is always good to mention projects you contribute(d). Also, like others mentioned, user groups/meetups are great. But if random companies started to send me job offers because I contribute to OS, I would be annoyed (and possibly sue them). – Josef Jan 12 '16 at 15:49
  • @Josef I know multiple people who got called by Google and offered a job because I submitted a few thousand LOC to $project - Google are not alone in this game. As a side note it really is pretty darn annoying to get these blanket emails that address all contributors to a specific project - sometimes by multiple "Sourcers" from the same company. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jan 12 '16 at 16:14
  • Wow, this never happened to anyone I know. Thanks for sharing. Have the people called made clear somehow they are searching for a job (Mail signature/Linked-In/Xing profile) or did the companies just call them out of the blue? – Josef Jan 12 '16 at 16:24
  • @Josef typically - the companies invited them to meetups, conferences and workshops regarding $project where they brought the possibility up. Companies typically bring that up as a possibility and offer you to explore it. I've rarely seen a case where a company called a collaborator directly and offered them a job out of the blue (I heard of cases of recruiters calling but that's different since it means they still undergo the strict interview process). – Benjamin Gruenbaum Dec 31 '16 at 16:29
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This is not a definitive recommendation, more something that can potentially happen, and it goes against the other answers here which is why I thought it was worth mentioning.

There are some software companies that run developer events (or usergroup meetings) for outside parties (occasionally free of charge and on their own premises) which will be worth attending. They are opportunities to network with permanent employees at these companies and also other companies that attend and get yourself known. If you join the right conversations at the right points you can use them to show off your knowledge and abilities and then casually mention (maybe with a business card) that you're looking for opportunities.

In summary, I think you're along the right lines but you can't just turn up unannounced, you have to be invited and then work to stand out. I'm happy to provide some examples of this (that I'm unaffiliated to) if required, but the ones I'm aware of are very location specific so not really part of the answer.

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While I agree with the other posters that this is not a good approach for a large company, for a small(er) company it can work. I would not suggest grabbing someone at random though. Let me offer you an account from my personal experience, when I was in your position:

I went to the office of a local software company (small: ~20-30 ppl) I was interested in, walked in, and spoke to the receptionist. I said that I really liked the company, and was interested in working for them. I asked if they were hiring at the moment. The receptionist said that they were not currently hiring, but that she knew the hiring manager had some time free that afternoon, and if I was willing to wait an hour I might be able to speak to them. I did, and had a nice conversation with them.

They weren't hiring, and I didn't end up working for them, but if they had been looking for someone I think I would have had a good chance, simply because I had - effectively - skipped to the interview.

The point is, it is entirely possible (if improbable) to wander into a company and talk your way into a job. It is unlikely, but the job of a hiring manager is to find people to hire, and they are usually happy to spend 5-10 minutes chatting to someone in the lobby, as long as you present yourself well and they are not too busy. Remember that recruiters usually charge a significant amount, which is money saved if they hire you directly, and of course people like to be helpful even if all they can do is say "try again in a month".

The most important thing, is to be casual, and respect their time. Don't be demanding, don't ask for a job directly. Ask if they can spare five minutes for a quick chat about possible future roles, and most importantly, be polite while doing it.

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I wouldn't say approaching someone in a lobby could never get you a job in the software industry, but it is unlikely to be an efficient or reliable way of doing so.

First you have to realize that a great deal of work in the "software industry" is not actually in companies that produce software -- instead the organization need internal applications that are specific to their needs. Which means that the majority of people in the organization may not even know they have anything more than a help desk.

Even in companies that are focused on software development, many employees will not be working on a development team -- they will be sales or office staff, accounting and so forth.

So, no matter how you look at it, your random person in the lobby is probably not in a position to help you...

While the best way to get a job is to have someone on the inside that wants you for the position, for software that means someone either on the team, involved with the hiring process or a project sponsor.

Even if you luck out and get someone related to the position, you still haven't achieved much...HR and the sponsor may not know the details, they do know that it is a technical position and are unlikely to put themselves out to recommend you for a position they do not understand. For members of the team, the situation is actually worse -- they do understand the demands of the position, and know that you can't really proce your skills in just a few minutes of casual talk.

In short, while anyone is probably willing to point you towards an opening if one is available, they aren't going to be willing to go so far as to recommend you.

It's not impossible, you might impress a sponsor with your enthusiasm, a few minutes of conversation might convince someone on the team that you both know enough and will fit in well with the team. But it's a long shot. You would almost certainly better spend your time and energy filling out online applications, or seeing if there isn't something you can do on a volunteer basis (church or charity).

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