Technical Job Search Checklist: 7 Steps to Prepare for Your Tech Job Search

Ready to find a new job?

One that actually excites you while also meeting your practical needs?

The idea of a fresh start is exhilarating. But going through the job application process is another matter.

There are a million places to look for jobs online. How exactly do you get started? And which ones should you even apply to?

We get it.

Interviews and job applications aren’t exactly fun.

The process can be daunting. So you need a game plan. One with clear goals to guide you each step of the way.

The good news? A little upfront effort will allow for smooth sailing.

Here are 7 steps to kick off your job search.


1. Identify Your Ideal Role.

It’s time to do some dreaming.

Ask yourself what kind of role you want to be in and what type of company you would thrive in. Consider where your skill and passion could be utilized.

Starting a new role can open the opportunity to be challenged, to grow, and to take a leap forward in your career. You’ll want to consider: What skills do you have? What experiences do you want to gain in your next role? What kind of company are you most interested in? The answers to these questions will anchor your job search.

You’ll also want to decide what your greatest priorities are for your next role – Salary? Equity? A mission-driven company? A diverse team?

Making note of your priorities is important since they’ll act as a filter during the interview process and help you sort through the noise of jobs that aren’t ideal.


Your Next Step:

Take some time to think through the following questions. As you answer, your ideal position will start to take shape.

  • What’s your ideal role?
  • What size company would you prefer? How about the team size?
  • What kind of company are you most interested in working for? (Think: startup or established corporation, new technology or well-known product?)
  • Are there any industries that you’d prefer to work in?
  • Is there a certain tech stack you’d like to build with?
  • What are your biggest priorities in your next position?


2. Establish Your Deal Breakers.

Think of these as make or break it parameters.

Do you have a minimum salary requirement? Are there certain benefits that you consider to be must-haves? Are you only open to a company that is fully remote? Are you looking for an offer that includes equity or stock options?

Be completely honest with yourself. If a job description doesn’t line up with these requirements, move along.

By defining your deal breakers before delving into the job search, you’ll save a lot of time by only applying to jobs that meet your needs. If the job description doesn’t contain information about every requirement, then address them during the early stages of the interview process. The answer they provide will tell you whether or not you want to continue interviewing.

For example, if you have a minimum salary in mind then you could ask the hiring manager during one of the earlier interviews what their salary range is for this position. If their range is way too low, you probably don’t need to continue through the interview process.

(Women in tech: If the idea of asking about salary makes you nervous, then check out these tips on how to approach the salary negotiation.)


Your Next Step:

Take a few minutes to write down your deal breakers so they’re top-of-mind during the job search and interview process.

You can even reverse engineer this by thinking about jobs where you had a negative experience. For example, did your old job require a long commute? If you’re not willing or able to commute for your next position, then make note of it.

As you search for that dream job, it’s very easy to get lost in the details. You don’t want to start applying for a role when it doesn’t meet your basic requirements. This list will help you quickly vet out irrelevant ones.


3. Level Up Your Skills.

You’ve identified your ideal role. But are you the right fit?

To find out, search for job openings that describe your dream job. Read through the job descriptions and note the key requirements.

Once you know what skills are essential, consider your own background. Does your resume match the company’s key skills and requirements?

If you encounter skills or experiences that you don’t possess, jot them down. If you’re not in a rush to step into a new role and are willing to wait before starting the application process, take some time to get those skills. Over time, your resume will start to line up with the job description of your dream job.

Note: Most companies don’t expect candidates to perfectly match their job description. Instead, pay attention to the things they consider to be critical and show that you’ve got the necessary experience. For example, if a company requires live production experience using Golang, they may still consider you a viable option if you prove you’ve programmed with Go in a side project or coding challenge.


Your Next Step:

Look through your target roles and determine a few skills that seem to be most important.

Come up with a plan for how you’re going to get the experience you need. You could sign up for a training, complete a certification, participate in a hackathon or coding challenge, or contribute to an open-source project. Once you accomplish the training or activity, be sure to add that to your resume and LinkedIn skills!

While you won’t necessarily check off every requirement in the job description (and most companies don’t expect you to), you’ll be far more competitive for this role and will be more likely to stand out during the interview process. Instead, focus on communicating how your experience is relevant and how you’ll be able to accomplish what they need.

If the job description includes a language or technology that you haven’t used in a while, this is a great time to brush up on those skills. Don’t just trust that you’ll remember everything you used to know. The reason? You’ll do much better on the technical assessment (if there is one) and will be more knowledgeable during the interviews.


4. Polish Your Resume.

You probably sighed when you read this one.

But don’t stop now.

Dusting off the old resume and adding your most recent work experience isn’t exactly how you want to spend a free evening, but it pays dividends in the future.

After all, you want your dream company (and potential employer) to see that you really are a great fit for the job. Your resume is the best way to showcase your abilities and experience, letting them know you’re worth interviewing.

This step is also helpful for another reason: the process of reviewing and updating your resume will spark your memory. It’s a chance to walk through your professional timeline and recollect the experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve gained. When the hiring manager refers to your resume and asks a question during the interview, you’ll be able to answer immediately since it’s top of mind.

Keep your ideal job in mind as you update. For example, if you want a job that heavily uses Go, then be sure to showcase your Golang projects and work experience more prominently.

This step goes beyond your resume. Think about all the sites where your projects are stored. Do an “audit” of the professional sites you’re on that are relevant to your job search.

For most techies that includes LinkedIn, GitHub, and a technical portfolio.

Note: When updating your technical list of skills, it’s a good idea to also incorporate those technologies and languages into your experience section. After all, employers will want to know that you’ve used these technologies in a real-world scenario. This is your chance to prove that you’ve actually worked with that tech stack.


Your Next Step:

Once you’ve listed out all the sites or documents that you need to update, get to work one at a time.

Do your best to make sure these sites are consistent. You don’t want your resume to say one thing and LinkedIn to say another.

As you think about what new items to add, consider any new work experience, side projects you’ve worked on, relevant volunteer work, new technologies you’ve learned, certifications you’ve obtained, and coding challenges you’ve participated in. Your resume should be concise, so you don’t need to add every single one of these things. Choose the ones that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

As you update LinkedIn, check out these tips on how software engineers can make their LinkedIn profile standout.

If you’re daunted by the technical portfolio, check out this guide where Ali Spittel breaks apart the process and makes it approachable – whether you’re creating one for the first time or updating an outdated one.


5. Grow Your Network.

As you prepare to start looking for a new role, this is a great time to expand that network, or reconnect with those who are already in it.

For starters, you could join a few technical communities and reach out to people who have similar interests and work experience as you. If you’re looking to pivot into a new role, try connecting with groups that are working in the space that you want to get into.

You can also start following aspirational thought leaders who do what you want to do. You’ll learn a lot from these people if you pay attention to what they post. Many of them will share industry trends and expose you to hot topics in the space.

Don’t forget to lean into your existing network. Do you know any old coworkers, college friends, or family members who work in the same space that you want to be in? Reach out and ask them questions about the work they do.

Lastly, connect with a recruiter. It’s their job to help candidates find a new career opportunity, so they can be a great resource to alert you to trends in the job market, give you tips on how to stand out to future employers, and keep an eye out for any relevant opportunities.

As you take these steps, you’ll start to surround yourself with people who can empower you to get into your dream job. Before you know it, you’ll pick up the lingo and expressions they use, you’ll hear about events and growth opportunities that will give you a leg up, and you’ll also likely be the first to identify any job openings at their companies. If a relevant role opens, you’ll have the advantage of going directly to the person who posted the opening and likely get a referral when you apply.


Your Next Step:

Challenge yourself to do one networking activity every week.

Start by signing up to get alerts from the hatchpad team about relevant opportunities. We’ll keep you informed when we find something that’s a great fit for you.

Then take your next step. Join a technical community that’s related to your interests. Follow one new aspirational thought leader who is in your ideal industry or role. Reconnect with an old coworker who is well networked in the tech space. Attend an event that’s related to the job you want (preferably one that allows for networking).

Already found your ideal company? Start following them on social to get updates. Connect with a few employees on LinkedIn and request informational interviews to learn more about the company from an insider’s perspective.

Before you know it, you’ll start to see your network mushroom and you just might get your foot in the door at the right time.


6. Prepare for Interviews.

While every company has a different interview process, there are certain hoops you’ll likely have to jump through. Taking a few steps to prepare now will reap a huge reward.

What interviews should you expect to see? Depending on the role you’re interviewing for, the interview process will look different. But there are common ones you can expect to see.

The phone screen. Typically the first step in the interview process, this interview is a great way to learn about the company, the role, and if you’d want to continue interviewing with them.

The technical assessment. This could be a quiz, a project you have to build, or a link to solve algorithms. These challenges look different at every company, but the main goal is to gauge whether you have the necessary technical skills for the job.

If you want a deep dive on the types of technical interviews and how to prepare for them, check out these interview tips from Ali Spittel.


Your Next Step:

To make the interview process go more smoothly you can take these steps in advance.

Prepare for the phone screen. Do some research on the company ahead of time. Get a feel for the product they build, the target customer, and the key problems they’re solving. Knowing this information ahead of time is a great way to set yourself up for success during the interview. You’ll be able to prove you’re interested in the role by displaying a solid understanding of the company.

Prepare for the technical assessment. You can find challenges on sites like Project Euler, HackerRank, Code Wars, or LeetCode to practice different types of technical assessments. If the interview style is whiteboarding, you can pull up a Google Doc and do a practice test on your own.

If you’re interviewing at a startup, check out Shawn Vo’s advice on how to stand out during the interview.


7. Decide When to Leave Your Job.

This last one might seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to get overlooked.

The following questions will help you evaluate the best time to leave your company so you can avoid any glitches.

Do you have any non-compete limitations? Your company might have a non-compete agreement with other companies, which would mean that you aren’t free to go work at those companies (at least for a certain amount of time).

Do you have any bonuses coming up soon? If your company offers bonuses, you might want to take that into consideration when you think about the timing of when you leave.

Do you have any personal life events that would conflict with a start date? Looking ahead at the calendar will help you know if there are any timeframes you want to avoid starting a new job.

Do you have equity at your current company? When a company gives you equity as part of your compensation package, they’re offering you partial ownership of the company. But you typically need to work for the company for a period of time to earn your shares. Make sure you know what that vesting schedule is.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to find out how long after leaving the company you get to exercise your shares. Once you leave the company, you might only have a certain period of time to purchase your options. 90 days is a common amount of time at most startups. If you leave the company, you’ll want to make sure you exercise those options before you hit that date.


Your Next Step:

With the above questions as a starting point, you can think through whether there are any mile markers coming up. Once you’ve identified them, you’ll know if there are any time constraints that impact when you might want to leave.

You can also consider reaching out to any former coworkers who have left your company. They’ll be able to clue you into any milestones you should be aware of. Hearing about their exit process will help you choose the ideal timing to plan your departure.



You’re excited for a fresh start and can’t wait to find that new role. Don’t let the job application process intimidate you. Walking through it will actually empower you to be a better employee and will boost your professional skills.

And don’t forget you can tailor these steps to your own needs based on the stage you’re in.

With your game plan in hand, it’s time to dive in.

Happy job searching!

Author: Lauren Alexander

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