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Tom Gets a Software Job, 2K20

In 2019 I made a visualization showing my process of applying to a new job as a Web Developer. I wanted to show just how long it took, how many applications I made, and how many places simply never responded.

Well in May of 2020 at the height of the covid pandemic in the U.S. I was laid off from that new 2019 job, along with around 40% of the company, so back on that search I went!


Application Sent
Company Reaches Out
Coding Interview
Code Test
Offer Made
Phone Screen/Interview
Virtual Onsite Interview
Take Home Assignment
I Rejected
Offer Accepted

Job applications change from white to green with each interaction.
However, if a company ended up never responding to me again, their color fades away.
Names in the chart have been renamed after stages from the video game Super Smash Bros.

Tom Lum's Software Job Search 2020

Order by:

( Drag/Scroll ↔ )

As with last year, there are a number of factors to consider with reading this data.

A.) I have about 3 years of relevant experience from 2 full time software jobs at this point
B.) Because we had recently unionized, we had negotiated enough severance for those laid off that I could primarily apply to places I was genuinely interested to work at. (If you're curious how we formed a union and why unions in tech rock, check out the Oral History of Kickstarter United Podcast)
C.) That said, I was still laid off, in need of a job, and we were (and, depending on when you're reading this, are still curently) living in a pandemic, so this definitely affected both my motivations and the motivations of these companies.

Having seen the rate of companies that never respond from last year, I was not surprised much by the ghost rate this year. As well, though there is certainly not enough data to make a definite conclusion, in general smaller companies were more likely to ghost, which is understandable given their team size. I applied to 19 small companies (< 50 people), 26 medium companies (< 500 people) and 30 large companies (> 500 people), and their ghost rates were 84%, 65%, 57% respectively. That said, larger companies usually had longer processes, including the longest application process, which took 4 months just to get to the onsite interview, though I can only imagine covid hiring freezes must have had something to do with it.

Overall, my main takeaways are much the same as last year:

[ Apply, Apply, Apply ] It really is a numbers game, don't be too hard on yourself and don't set your heart on one place. Take your time applying to places you really love, but remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea.
[ Keep Track ] While I was applying I kept a spreadsheet of the places I had applied to and my progress with them. This gave me a realistic sense of how I was doing, and kept me motivated to keep applying if I hadn't applied in a while.
[ Don't Go It Alone ] Whether it be for referrals, resume proofreading, ideas for where to apply, a 3rd opinion vibe check on a sketchy company, or most importantly, offering support and joy, this process is so much easier with other people. From distant, loose connections to best friends, to family, I truly could not have done this without so much help and motivation from so many people.

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