Stand-out in your job application

Mohsin Hayat,remote work

Educational background is not important

Whether you are from LUMS, FAST, GIKI, or whichever university in Pakistan, it doesn't matter to a person living in the US or Europe. You're all equal. Some don't even consider your CGPA or even if you don't have a bachelor's degree. So don't get intimidated by the fact that you didn't score well or you're not from a premium university.

Living your passion

One of the most important things to stand out is your passion for the work you do. If you do it by your heart, no one in the world can stop you from getting your dream job. Objectively speaking, if you can tirelessly work on some problem without exhaustion or getting bored, you have passion for it. If you can spend 10 hours on a problem and you are willing to spend 2 more hours and still, you aren't satisfied. Then there's a high chance you have passion for it. Your excitement and willingness to complete something is the most valuable skill the recruiters look for.

Getting exhausted or bored of working is not a bad thing, but it only happens when your brain doesn't want more of it. I never noticed this quality in myself but my family started to recognize that when I was working 10-12 hours without getting bored or tired. I never felt sleepy too. This was because I get too excited when I see a challenging problem.

How is that related to your job application? It just becomes easily evident in your resume and interviews whether you have a passion or not. If you live for your passion, your resume will have more side-projects, certifications, open-source contributions, etc.

If you see people who developed React, Vue, NodeJS, etc. you'll notice this quality in them. They work really hard to solve problems that they like and you can feel the excitement and their depth of knowledge when they speak at conferences. They should be the benchmarks for you.

Build a rockstar project

Having passion is great, but proving it to someone is very hard. Telling someone that you have passion demands evidence. And this evidence comes from the projects you work on. Not just projects like a Weather report, Tic-tac-toe, or a Blog website, it must be something that you take pride in. You can brag about it for hours.

I got this suggestion from some random youtube video in my early days at the university and I started to shortlist some ideas. I came up with Taskbarter (opens in a new tab) and immediately started working on it. I built it in less than 2 months and made it public as an open-source project. You can see the post here (opens in a new tab).

I bragged about it and I felt very proud of the outcome. And this project was the main reason why I got the remote job. The recruiter kept asking questions about the challenges I had to face to build this project and asked different scenarios where I could improve the project if I had more time.

This project made my job application from zero to hero in 2 months. And I was just a junior who just graduated from university.

Highlight your urge to have an impact

Becoming a software engineer and knowing 5 different programming languages, 10 side projects, and 100 certifications is not as important as highlighting how you want to shape the world. Having a huge dream that keeps you awake at night is the most valuable thing startups look for in you these days. And you have to show this in your job application. If you are applying to some Gaming Startup, don't just say
"I'm applying because I'm confident about my skills, blah blah..". Instead, change it the other way around by saying
" I'm applying because I want to disrupt the gaming industry. The world is quickly inclining towards the meta-verse and I want to become part of it as soon as possible".
This shows how you see the world from a bird-eye. You just don't want to grow yourself, you want the company to grow.

Be company-centric, not self-centric

I made this mistake in one of my job applications that I described myself too much in the cover letter and I didn't describe how my skills would impact the company I'm applying to. It became a reason for my rejection for that position and I was given feedback from them. The exact feedback is the following:

"Thanks so much for your work on our questions. We reviewed them and, after internal discussions, we've decided to leave things here.

We really enjoyed that you took the time to provide long answers and that you shown a strong desire to growth & learn.

However, we feel that for the role that we had imagined for you, we will need someone with a stronger alignment with our culture. In particular: we would have expected you to talk more about the product you want to build and how you can have an impact (with a team) on that product (not only by technical expertise). For some questions (like the first one), we would have expected you to develop what you want to do at *** instead of giving examples of what you used to do.

This is quite unique to *** and the specific way we choose to do things so I'd like to encourage you to not take these as anything other than an observation based on some signals we have gathered.

We know our process requires some personal investment, thank you for that."


© Mohsin Hayat.