When I was job searching, there was definitely more to it than just blindly submitting resumes on any company's career page. As an OPT student, I knew that the odds were stacked against me — what if I couldn't find a company that could support OPT employment? What if that company could support OPT employment but not sponsor a visa?

I put all these worries outside, and instead, focused on three things: maximizing the number of applications I sent, crafting outreach messages, and asking for referrals.

Maximizing the number of applications sent

The focus, should actually be on one thing, which is expanding your job funnel. You cannot be picky. The easiest way to increase the likelihood of you getting hired is to send as many applications as humanly possible. Let's take a top-down view at what a job search actually looks like:

  1. You send an application to a company you're interested in
  2. There's a chance that the company schedules a phone screening with you
  3. There's a chance that the company advances you to another phone interview or coding challenge
  4. There's a chance that the company schedules an on-site interview
  5. There's a chance that the company gives you an offer after the on-site

Let's dig into the numbers even more. This is the actual model of how my funnel looked like:

As you can see, my probability of advancing to a phone screen was very small, at 5%. That means that every 5 of 100 applications that I send will result in the company contacting me for a phone screen. You could expend resources like time and effort crafting your resume and cover letter for each job posting, or simply ramp up the number of applications that you send. My case however is very extreme. I had a 1 in 600 chance of getting an offer as an OPT student.

Crafting outreach messages

A strategic job search requires you to do more than going to LinkedIn and applying for open jobs, or going on company's career pages. You can network your way to a job. You can actively find people with the job title of "Recruiter" and actually message these people through LinkedIn InMail, or by guessing their email. If it's a small startup, usually it would be firstname@smallstartup.com

You can then craft a really simple outreach message. Be sure to include as much information as possible:


I’m reaching out because I see you recruit for _COMPANY NAME and I’d love to be considered for _ROLE NAME. 

Would you be willing to review my resume (<http://bit.ly/firstlastresume>) or pass it along to the appropriate recruiter? 


This is just one other channel that you can use to get your resume out there.

Asking for referrals

Lastly, the most powerful way to actually get your resume seen by HR is to be referred by someone in the team you're working in. You can look up engineers in the company you're working with, and ask them about their experience working there at the company. You could get on a call with them and ask them about their work, and at the end of your call, ask them if they could refer you.

Talent within the company would usually be compensated by means of a referral bonus to attract other like-minded talent to the company, so engineers would usually be incentivized to send your resume over to HR.

Here's a cold-email template that one of my mentors liked to use:

I'm trying to reach out to (software engineers | UI/UX professionals) here in (San Francisco | Orange). I'm looking for my first job, and I recently graduated from _SCHOOL. I'd love to learn more about the industry you work in. Just wanted to ask you a few questions.
What's your story? How did you start out? What's your advice for aspiring (designers | software engineers) like me?
Sorry for the sudden questions. I just think that expanding my network with professionals like you would be a great step forward for my learning about _INDUSTRY.
Thank you, looking forward to talking more with you this 2020.
Best regards, _YOURNAME


There are a lot of different ways that you can get yourself out there. Try changing up the channels you present yourself and there will be a company who will get back to you!