How to find a Data Science job at a Start-Up

Getting a job interview for a Data Science role at a Start-Up is challenging: since Start-Up’s are relatively small, their job postings are harder to find, and their processes are less formal than more established companies.

In my own experience applying to Start-Ups, I was eventually able to figure out a system that worked very well for me personally. The system itself is pretty simple: use Google to search the HR sites that start-ups use, like jobs.lever.co or greenhouse.io, then find the email address of the recruiter or manager using a free service like Clearbit, and then use a templated email to contact the recruiter directly and ask for an interview.

I've outlined the process in more details below, including the exact searches you can use on Google, how to find the recruiter's email, and a template you can try for yourself.

Using this system, I was able to solicit multiple Data Science interviews with Start-Up companies in San Francisco that I was genuinely interested in. Best of all, it was much more effective than submitting my resume through online job boards like Indeed or Monster. If you're finding that applying through job boards isn't working, try giving this system a shot. It only takes an hour or so to try it out.

Step 1: Build a list of prospective job openings

The most effective way I’ve discovered to do this is to use google to search specific sites, using a query like the following.site:jobs.lever.co data scientist San Francisco

Note how the use of site:jobs.lever.co filters Google’s results to only the pages on that site, which happens to be all of the job postings on Lever.

Note: Lever is a candidate tracking system that’s popular among SF tech companies. Lever is very different than sites like Monster or Indeed because it isn’t a listing site. I’ve also had good results using the site boards.greenhouse.io.

You can also use Google’s search tools to only show new listings from the last month, which helps ensure the postings aren’t “stale.”

Each result will take you to a job description, and they’ll include the company’s logo with a link to the company’s website.

You should be able to find 10–20 interesting startups in about an hour or so by using this method and adjusting the titles you use.

The postings on Lever allow you to apply directly, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, you should find the email address of the Start Up’s recruiter and contact them directly.

Step 2: email the start up’s recruiter directly

My experience has been that direct emails to a recruiter work much more effectively than submitting to the job posting.

It’s also pretty easy to find the recruiter’s email once you know the company’s domain name.

First, use LinkedIn to look up the list of that company’s employees. Search for someone that has “recruiter” or a similar title.

Their email is almost always the following: firstname@domain.com.

Ie if the company’s site was polleverywhere.com and the recruiter was named Tom Waterman, you can just try tom@polleverywhere.com. (If you’re applying to bigger companies, this method is less likely to work).

To validate the email address, you can use http://clearbit.com. Their free product allows you to “enrich” an email address, and it also works for checking that the email address you’re using is the right one. (Note: I am not affiliated with Clearbit in any way).

But what should you do if the company doesn’t have a recruiter? That’s not uncommon at Start Ups.

The next best person to look for is a manager on the team you’re applying to, or even a founder. You might feel nervous about emailing the founders directly, but I promise they won’t find it rude. If anything, they tend to appreciate the initiative.

Now that you’ve got the recruiter’s email, you guessed it — you’re going to have to email them.

Step 3: explicitly ask the recruiter for a phone call

You might not be sure how to email the recruiter to ask for a phone call.

In my experience, the best way is to keep the email extremely brief, attach your resume, and include an explicit request for a phone call.

Do not include a wall of text explaining why you’re applying, your professional history, or anything else. Do not address the recruiter as “sir.” Just state the reason for your email and the action you’re asking them to take.

Here’s a template that has worked well for me.

Hi [Recruiter first name],

I’m reaching out about the Data Science job posting I found on [Company’s website].

Are you free for a short call to discuss whether the role could be a good fit?

I’m hoping to learn more about the team’s current projects, and whether my skills and experience could be a good match.

About me:

  • Currently a data scientist at Facebook
  • Previously the sole product analyst for a ~50 person SaaS company
  • Previously an analyst for consulting company doing mainly analytics projects
  • I’ve also attached a resume with more details of my project experience and relevant skills

Thanks for your time!

Tom

Step 3.5: follow up if you don’t get a response

It sucks to have your email ignored, but it will happen. Sometimes the recruiter is ignoring you because the role has been filled, or they don’t think you’re a good candidate, or maybe they were just on vacation.

Don’t take it personally — I’m sure you’ve also not replied to emails, too. Whatever the reason for not getting an email back, sending a follow up email is guaranteed to increase your response rates. I always send a follow up, even if it hurts my pride to revisit the fact that I got ignored in the first place.


This system has worked really well for me. I've been able to find about 20 Start Up job postings and email their recruiters in about two hours. Your response rates will vary, but I've seen >50% replies to my emails, ie 10 potential interviews from just a few hours of work.