You don’t need a technical degree, work experience, or even a University diploma to land a high-paying job in tech. I’m going to walk you through, step-by-step, how you can get a job in tech, without experience. The following is an outline of everything you need to do to make yourself a standout candidate and ensure that you are picking a company that is going to be a good fit for you as well.
Interviews go both ways, and if you vet a company in the beginning, you can save yourself the stress of working somewhere you hate.
I’ve been where you are, and I know what it’s like to go through this process. I started my career in high tech with no technical degree whatsoever. With some due diligence and preparation, I was able to secure a job at twice the salary of most of my peers. I’ve held just about every non-engineering or design role at startups and large corporations. And, I’ve been on both sides of the interviewing table.
I’m going to take you through, step by step, what I would do if I was looking for a job in tech today, with no experience. Keep in mind that while this is written for people looking to get into tech, many of these steps are good practices for interviewing in any industry. That’s because the techniques that I recommend below aren’t based on the industry as much as they are on human nature, professionalism, and interpersonal communication.
11 steps to getting a job in tech, with no experience
1. Identify your ideal role
If you have absolutely zero work experience, you are going to want to focus on entry-level roles. Most of the easiest entry-level roles to target, that don’t require technical background, are sales focused. These roles are the most abundant because companies always need someone to sell their product. If sales isn’t your thing, there are some non-sales roles that you can apply for (see list below). Keep in mind that you won’t be stuck in this position forever. It’s a lot easier to move around laterally into a non-sales role, once you have proven yourself at a company.
Entry-level non-technical roles in tech
- Sales Development Representative (SDR) (also called Business Development Representative BDR)
- Community Manager
- Social Media Manager
- Associate Customer Success Manager
- Associate Marketing Manager
- Customer Support Representative
2. Find companies that you would like to work for
Look at tech news publications like TechCrunch to see what startups peak your interest. Check out the company’s website, their product, and their career page. Often, companies will list their values and perks on their career page. This will give you an idea of what the company stands for and what sorts of benefits they offer to employees. This is also where you can view open roles, to see if they have anything available that you can apply for.
Important: Whether you take the time to look for companies that peak your interest, or you skip straight to the job listings, it’s crucial that you vet out the company to make sure that it is culturally a good fit for you. You can start to get a sense of whether you will make a good match by what they value as important on their careers page. I also highly recommend checking out Glassdoor.com. That’s where you can find reviews of employees and ex-employees, salary ranges, and even interview questions. Just like a career page, you’ll want to take these reviews with a grain of salt, because there will likely be some accounts from disgruntled ex-employees. Look for patterns in the reviews, you should get a sense of what the culture is like in the company.
3. Review job listings
Glassdoor and LinkedIn are my two favorite websites for job listings. AngelList is another good option for earlier stage startups. Modify your settings for entry level positions, and see what comes up. Use the tactics listed in step two to vet out the companies that look interesting. Bookmark the openings that are the most appealing to you.
3. Update your resume, LinkedIn, and clean up your online presence
It’s not time to apply just yet. First, you need to update your online presence (including LinkedIn) and your resume. It’s good to wait to do this until you have a few different roles in mind, because you are going to tailor your resume to suit the roles and companies that you want most. Make sure this is done, before applying.
Clean up online presence
Potential employers will look at your social media accounts. US-based tech companies usually aren’t very conservative, so they probably won’t mind your bikini Tik Toks, but if you have anything too provocative or inflammatory, er on the side of caution and delete it.
Update your resume
Even if you don’t have a background in tech, or even real-world work experience, you still have something you can put on your resume. Include internships, projects, clubs you’ve been in, any positions of leadership. If you’ve been working in bars/restaurants/retail, you can tailor that to highlight skills that apply to the new role. You had to upsell specials as a server? Team lead at the bar? Relied on your people skills? Round up your highlights and include them.
TIP: Be sure to look at the language that your potential employers use in there job reqs. This will help you translate your skills directly into what they are looking for. Make it easy for them to see why you are a good fit.
Update your LinkedIn
A good LinkedIn profile is key to getting noticed by employers. Make sure your LinkedIn experience matches your resume. Use a good profile photo. Update school experience.
If you can, see if you can have someone that you’ve worked with give you a LinkedIn recommendation. A LinkedIn recommendation is a short personal review from someone else that sits on your profile, and a great way to amp up your credibility.
What makes a good LinkedIn photo?
Choose a photo in which you are alone. I cannot tell you the number of LinkedIn photos I’ve seen with a phantom arm draped over the person’s shoulder (usually in low bar lighting with a flash). No matter how amazing you looked in that photo, don’t do it. Take a photo with good lighting, a work-appropriate top, and a friendly facial expression.
Want more LinkedIn tips?
Get the guide: 6 ways to stand out on LinkedIn.
Now that your LinkedIn is ready to go and your resume is up to date, it’s time to submit those applications! Some companies may give you the opportunity to include a cover letter. If it’s an option, it’s important that you do it. It will humanize you to the company and give you an opportunity to stand out. This will make it more likely that you will be chosen over someone with the same or even more experience than you.
6. Make connections and look for alternate ways in
This step is what is going to set you apart from other candidates. Once you’ve applied, it’s time to get creative.
See if you have any connections at the company
LinkedIn will be able to tell you if anyone in your network works at the company. You may also want to see if you have any fellow alumni from your university. Reach out to these people, let them know that you’ve applied to a role at their company and ask if they’d be willing to have a chat with you so that you can learn more. If you do get an opportunity to chat with them, you can use that time to get a sense of what the company is like, as well as to see if they might know anyone who could help boost your application to the top of the review stack.
Reach out to people in your target role
I’ve seen this tactic work time and time again. Look for people who are in your target role or better yet, a step up. If you are going to apply to an Associate Marketing Manager position, look for Marketing Managers at your target company. If possible, find their email address, if not, use LinkedIn to send them a message. In the message, tell them that their role seems super interesting, and you’d like to know more about what it’s like to work at their company. Ask them if they have 15 minutes for a short chat.
People at this level don’t get a lot of requests like this, and will likely be flattered by your request. When you get on the call, respect their time and ask genuine questions about the role. This call has the potential to do 3 things for you:
- It gives you an inside perspective of what the company and role is like.
- You have the opportunity to ask questions that can make you better prepared for the interview.
- If you make a good impression (and this person has any input in the hiring decision), this could put you a step above comparable candidates. They could also pull your resume to the top of the list, and secure you an interview faster.
Send a note to the hiring manager
Yes, this is a semi-bold move, but when done respectfully, it can put you at an advantage over other candidates. Especially, if you are applying to a sales role. If you can, find the email address of the hiring manager (this is easier if it’s a smaller startup).
Send them a succinct and complimentary email or a LinkedIn message. Say something that shows your interest in the company or give a specific compliment about the person’s professional experience. A quick news search about their company or a review of their LinkedIn profile should give you something to comment on.
Let them know that you applied to the position, and what makes you excited about it.
This extra effort will catch the hiring manager’s eye, and could be just the thing to secure you an interview.
7. Prepare for your interview
Your interview is your time to shine. This is the final stretch. Make sure that you take time to prepare, before the big day.
Do your research
- Google the company and look for any recent news.
- Read up on the product. Sign up for a free trial and play around with it (if it’s a consumer-facing product).
- Research competitors. Try and understand what sets this company apart from their competitors.
Prepare answers to common interview questions
Some questions that are commonly asked in interviews are:
- What would make you good for this role?
- Tell me about a time when something went wrong, and you had to fix it.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths/weaknesses
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- Why this company?
Bonus: Look the company up on Glassdoor.com to see examples of questions that this company has asked during interviews, how other candidates have answered, and whether or not they were hired.
Prepare your questions
A lot of people prepare answers to questions that they might be asked in an interview, but just as important is what you will ask. You want to ask questions that show that you are intelligent, informed, and genuinely interested in the company.
8. Ace the Interview
If you’ve done all the previous steps, you are well prepared for this interview. Trust yourself. The best thing that you can do now is be present and put your best foot forward.
Dress the part
Wear something that looks professional but also fits the vibe of the company you are interviewing for. You can look at the careers page of the company to get a sense of what people wear. Know that salespeople always dress more formally than other departments, and it’s okay to overdress some in your interview.
Remote video interview checklist:
- Make sure you have a quiet space
- Test your internet connectivity by doing a test call (if you will be interviewing via video)
- Use a pair of headphones with a mic (the ones that come with your phone should work)
- Make sure you have proper lighting. Your face should be lit and you should avoid sitting with your back to a window to avoid becoming a sillouhette.
Give yourself enough time to get there
This goes for in-person and virtual interviews. You never know if you are going to hit traffic, get lost, or have a technical issue. Giving yourself ample time will also give you time to center yourself before you go in.
9. Don’t forget to close
Interviews are an opportunity to show off your sales and people skills. This is especially important when you are interviewing for a sales role. In an interview, you are the product and the hiring manager is assessing how well you sell yourself. There are a few questions that you can ask at the end of an interview that will help you to close the deal with finesse.
- Based on what you’ve heard today, do you think I would make a good fit for this role?
- Do you have any hesitations or anything that makes you question my fit in this role?
- How soon are you looking to fill the role and what stage are you in this process?
- What are the next steps from here?
10. Follow up
Send thank you notes.
These can be via email or snail mail. It may seem old-fashioned but this can set you apart because not everyone does it. Even if you don’t get the job, you never know how this can pay off for you.
When I was in university, I interviewed for an internship at a large PR agency in San Francisco and sent thank you notes to everyone afterward. I didn’t get the internship, but, a few weeks later I received a phone call from a well-known apparel brand offering me a marketing role (no interview required), based on a recommendation from the company that I interviewed with. When you go out of your way to treat people with kindness and respect, they will remember you.
Check-in via email
If it’s been over a week and you haven’t heard back from the company, feel free to send an email to your contact to check in. You can say that you wanted to touch base and see if there is anything they need from your end.
Maybe you are starting to stress, because you haven’t heard back and you are beginning to make progress in interviews with other companies. First off, good for you, it’s a wonderful problem to have!
You can politely let them know by saying something along the lines of:
Hope all is well.
I wanted to check in and see how the interviews are progressing.
I’m currently in final stages with a couple of other companies. I’m still very interested in the role we discussed. Do you have an idea of when you will have a decision ready?
Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!
Always be gracious when you receive and offer, but never accept it as is.
This deserves a whole article in and of itself. Just know that when you receive an offer from a company, there is always wriggle room. They are never going to present you with the absolute top amount that they can pay you.
If negotiation makes you uncomfortable, look at it this way: if you are going out for a sales position, negotiating your salary, is just another way you are showing them that you are a star sales professional, and worth every penny.
Starting a new career can feel overwhelming. Even if you are completely inexperienced, professionally, there is absolutely a role for you in tech. If you use the above steps, you will be on a clear path to starting yours.
Do your research, put your best foot forward, be persistent, and have confidence.
For more tips on how to create a standout LinkedIn Profile, you can get my LinkedIn checklist here.
When you do land that job, please come back and let me know all about it. I’m rooting for you!