The Most Powerful Principle I Know For Landing A Job

Robert Cialdini is the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of persuasion.

One of his principles is reciprocity. It is the most powerful principle I know for landing a job.

And yet no one seems to use it.


Reciprocity is the principle that if I give you something, you’ll want to do something for me.

Ever wonder why sales people like to send you free stuff? This is why.

The average person will email their resume and attach a generic message like:

Hey, this is my resume - please give me a job.

Instead, use the power of reciprocity to offer value first. This could mean offering a feature idea or finding a bug. Maybe even using some of their public datasets to crunch some numbers.

I did this in 2017 when I was looking for my first ever internship by emailing the CEO and attaching a slide deck on how I’d expand into one of their competitor verticals.

This is the reply I got from the startup CEO:

Skylights CEO Response

Here are some ideas for five popular companies you could use:

  1. AngelList
  2. TikTok
  3. Spotify
  4. Airbnb
  5. Coinbase


I have a personal example for this one :)

AngelList had a competitive new grad program.

I knew that if I simply applied through the regular job portal, I would never get an interview.

I created a keynote presentation outlining steps I would take to improve one of AngellList’s verticals (in this case, it was their job vertical).

AngelList Presentation Cover

I sent an email to the hiring manager with this presentation attached. 30min later, I had an interview scheduled.

AngelList Reply

And in case you want to check out the presentation I sent: here it is. Disclaimer: this is 21 year old Shikhar Sachdev's thinking :)


TikTok is working pretty heavily on creator monetization. I noticed this because of all the job postings they have that reference this, like this one.

If I was applying to TikTok, I would write 2 pages on how Facebook and Youtube tackled this and how TikTok can execute it better.

I’d do my research through TechCrunch articles like this.

And then I’d cold email their head of creator monetization.


If I was applying for a Data Scientist position at Spotify, I would export all my own spotify data and do some analysis on top of it. Something like this is a good example.

Or if I was applying for an engineering role, I’d leverage their API to build a project. Some examples:

More examples here.

I’d write up a quick, 1 page report, push it all on a Github repository, then send a link to the repository to their director of data science or the Engineering hiring manager (depending on what position you’re applying to).


Here’s a good example if you want a technical role, say like a Senior Developer position.

Airbnb has a wonderful technical blog. They just published an article on rebuilding payment orchestration.

Two technical concepts relevant here are service oriented architecture and idempotency.

I would work backwards and write a robust blog post demonstrating your knowledge of these two topics.

I’d really flesh out the tradeoffs, compare the architecture to other platforms, and also provide examples of similar projects I might have worked on in the past.


Let’s assume I wanted a Product role at Coinbase. I’d use their app, go on Reddit and Twitter to find pain points, spend maybe an hour looking at their competitors, and then I’d come up with a feature idea.

I would then create a PRD (Product Requirements Document) to flesh up the feature idea.

Here’s an example.

I typed the query “coinbase improve” into Twitter search.

Found this thread:

Coinbase Feature

Read the replies, picked one I liked:

Coinbase Feature Pick

And started drafting a PRD:

Coinbase PRD

I would email this to Max Brangburg, Coinbase’s VP of Product.

If you wanted to even go a step further, you could record a 90 second Loom video explaining your doc, and include it in the cold email you sent to a VP of Product.


So do any of these things. And then send your resume.

It will go straight to the top of the pile.

In my next post, I'll teach you how to send a great cold email.

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