How I got a job at Shopify (TL;DR warning)

Apr 12, 2012

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is from 2012.  Shopify has grown and changed drastically since I applied, and anything you read here probably isn’t applicable anymore.  If you’re looking to apply to Shopify now, just know that everything in this post is outdated.


I started my summer job search in January when I got back to Ottawa from winter break.  I applied to a lot of different places, but I haven’t heard back from any of them.  I think part of that is, I really didn’t want those jobs in the first place.  Sure they were in my field, and were paid, but I really didn’t try very hard for the internships/jobs they had available. I basically just filled out the applicable forms, attached my resumé, and called it a day. I didn’t even hand in cover letters.

However, during my job search I decided that I wanted to work for Shopify.  Everything I read about them seemed incredibly awesome, and I thought it would be a great place to learn more about the web industry.  The problem was the only internship they posted on their website was for a Software Developer, and I am not a programmer. I decided to just drop a general application to them, not thinking I’d get anything.

So I actually wrote a cover letter for them, but before I sent in the general application, I read the job descriptions for every other open position they had posted.  In one of the job descriptions, it said one of the ways impress them is to make a cover letter web page. So I scrapped my standard cover letter, and did that:

A few days after I sent this off, I got contacted for an interview, which stunned me.  I ended up having a week to prep for that interview and that involved watching the Landing Your Dream Job 2.0 OCRI talk from last year (which actually featured the person who was interviewing me).  Basically what I got from that talk is, if you’re a student and don’t have a network or a connection to “de-risk” the hire, if you want the job show that you want it.  I figured I could show that I wanted to work for them by taking the time to make a Shopify theme.

I actually had a lot of fun making this theme, and it allowed me to get familiar with the service Shopify provides, as well as get a handle on the Liquid syntax they use.

I showed this theme in my interview and it impressed the interviewer (he said it was impressive anyway). The interview was pretty smooth otherwise too.  We talked about anime and Pixar films, as well as the requisite “what did you do at your past job?” jabber.  A few days after that interview, I was asked to come back for a meeting with the Chief Design Officer.

That meeting was two days ago, and I got a more specific job description of what I could be doing.  Remember, I sent in a general application, so I didn’t really have an idea of what I was being interviewed for.  The CDO described two different internships to me to get an idea of what I’d be more interested in.  He also introduced me to a few employees, a few of which were actually graduates from the university program I’m in.

Then I got a few phone calls in the days after that meeting, and today I signed the papers that say I will be a “Design Guru intern” for the summer.  The process of going from application to being hired at Shopify was the most intense process I’ve ever been through (it may be hard to believe, but I went through much less when I got my Oilers internship!), but I’m really proud of myself for being able to get a job that wasn’t actually posted.

This entire experience has taught me a lot.  The biggest thing being, if you want something badly enough, and put it in enough effort, you will get it.  I wanted to work at Shopify more than any other place in Ottawa (no joke), and all the effort I put into getting a job there paid off.  I spent maybe 20-25 hours working on everything I made for my Shopify application, whereas I spent maybe 3 hours on all the other jobs I applied for, combined.  Which just goes to show that maybe you should think outside the box and put all your eggs in one basket if you want to work at a specific place.

So that’s pretty much what I did and the process of how I got an unposted position at Shopify.  If I can do it, you can as well.

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  • Dylan Blanchard

    Hey Karmela!

    Looking forward to working along side you! Welcome to the team!

    • karocena

      Thanks Dylan!

  • Rufino

    This is a pretty genius way to apply for a job. I will be keeping this in mind!

    • karocena

      You should also watch the Landing Your Dream Job 2.0 video (it’s posted somewhere in that blog post).  There are some good tips in there, especially for people who want to get into the tech industry.

  • Tetchi

    Glad to have you on board!! :)

  • Pan

    Thanks Karmela for writing this. I’ve been really bummed out about my job situation and this gave me a lot of hope!

    • karocena

      No problem! I’ve been in the “no job everything sucks” position before, but this just goes to show how much things can change with a bit of effort.

  • Emily

    Karmela, I really appreciate this post, I’ve read it too many times and even blogged about it too!

  • Chantal Catherine Penrose

    Karmela: Great post! 

    I totally agree. One of the best ways to be successful in job hunting is to set yourself apart; be unique and sell yourself using an-out-of-the-box approach. You have to virtually (or physically) march up to a company, lay down your cards and show them how awesome you are. With the sheer volumes of competition in the job market, the only way to be successful is to  stand out and shine bright! 

    As an avid TV watcher I kept seeing these cool commercials on TV for a company called Shopify. I was like, “what is this company, I have to know what this company does!!!” I did some research and had the chance to see a TV profile on the company’s growth and culture, and was instantly excited. 

    That being said, after lots of giddiness, and excitement over wanting to apply, I’ll be sending an email to Doug T. (Head of Talent Acquisition) about the possibility of coming up to Ottawa for an informational interview. I look forward to finding out more about the company and gaining a more in-depth understanding of what the company does, the culture and the fit they are looking for when hiring. 

    Again, awesome post! It’s great to get insight from another fellow, job-seeker (well I guess ‘ex’ job-seeker)! :)

  • Mandy

    Hi Karmela! Good job! I was just wondering, when you signed up for the intern, is it a paid intern or unpaid? I just want some feedback, thanks a lot!

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  • SQ

    Thanks for the post Karmela. Curious, did Michael interview you?

    • Karmela Arocena

      Michael actually got hired almost a year after I did. I was interviewed by Doug (1st interview) and Daniel Weinand (2nd interview).

  • Em

    Hey was this a paid or unpaid internship?

    • Karmela Arocena

      Shopify’s internships are always paid.

  • Ndoogie

    Hey Karmela! Great job! I know what you meant when you said it was the only place you wanted to work. People will often say to take any job you can get; much like you, I disagree. I am also in Ottawa and I keep checking Shopify for postings. Cheers, Nick