I was recently involved in a conversation on the Learn Build Teach Discord run by James Q Quick about how to getting a job and it got me thinking. I've done a lot of research on this topic over the years and figured it'd be nice to dump my strategy in an article. Obviously nothing can guarantee you'll get the job, but hopefully some of these tips will position you better than your competition.
I feel like this should go without saying, but ultimately, your career is your responsibility. It doesn't matter if some recruiter or your college or bootcamp said they will be getting you the job, you shouldn't wait on them to try and land your shiny new dev job.
In the end, all of these parties are out for themselves. Recruiters specifically get a nice fat commission for every job they land. If they don't feel you're marketable, they aren't going to waste their time with you. That's the honest truth. But notice the verbiage I used; "If they don't think you're marketable...". A lot of job hunting is about perception. That's why undeserving candidates get good jobs while devs that bust their butts get left behind. This leads to my next point:
Hunting for a job is a sales job all in itself. You have to give the perception that you are the ideal candidate for the position you're after, even if you aren't. You have to sell yourself in every step of the process;
- Your Resume
- Your Portfolio
- The way you speak to the recruiter/employer
- Your presentation and demeanor during the interview
- How you handle yourself after the interview
Its all about making yourself attractive to the person (not even necessarily the company) looking to hire you.
Hiring companies are looking to fill a spot with a specific kind of person, and if you really want that gig, you have to BE that person. And they are looking for a person that solves a problem within their company, so everything you do has to revolve around the benefit of the employer.
I'm not a hiring manager, but I've often been involved in the process before and a lot of resumes I've reviewed usually showcase their projects like this;
- "I built an application that does the thing using technologies A, B, and C."
A list of cool, new, hip tech you worked with might sound cool, but it doesn't convey value to that cool employer. Instead, I recommend rewriting your resume to follow something like this;
- "I built an application that does X, using technologies Y, and it solved problem Z in the company.
Z is the important piece here. Employers hire people to solve problems, and Z conveys the value that you can provide to the employer. The three most common ways a company gets value are;
- Save Time
- Save Money
- Make Money
Putting your projects & experience in these terms will do wonders for your chances of landing that job.
If you have past experience, ask former employers to write a quick one or two sentences about you to put on your resume or website. This shows well in multiple ways. First and most obviously, it shows that people you've worked under in the past valued you at their company. Secondly, it shows that you took the initiative to even ask for testimonials, which many candidates wont do.
So you've had the interview already and you're playing the waiting game to hear back from the people you spoke with. Within 24 hours, I always send a thank you note to everyone I met with. Busy people rightfully value their time and they've carved some of it out to spend it with you, so telling them you appreciate that is a great gesture that will put you above others.
This also echos from the section above about it being your responsibility, but if you are waiting for a recruiter to get back to you, get back to them first. Find out if it went well (or not) and figure out whats next. If the recruiter wont give you the employers info, see if you can get the contact info of the people you interviewed with and ask them for feedback directly. Just be careful with that last one, you might burn a bridge with the recruiter, so that's a decision you'd have to make yourself.
If you went through the interview process and know for a fact that you didn't make the cut, ask for constructive feedback from the folks you interviewed with. You can use the following questions to guide this discussion;
- What did you like about me as a candidate? What didn't you like?
- Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve?
- After taking these suggestions and improving, would I be eligible to re-interview? And if so, when would that be?
If you can get to this point, you might even change the mind of the person you're speaking with because it shows that you can take criticism and work on yourself to better yourself.
Many times when landing a job, it isn't what you know but who you know. Story time, my first gig in the tech industry was as a support rep for a big box retailer repairing computers. I was pretty fresh out of high school and had applied for the position several times without ever hearing back. So a few years down the road, I'm in a college calculus class and the class was assigned a team project. Turns out one of my team members was a manager at that store. I told him I had applied there a number of times. He told me to re-apply. Two days later, I got that job.
Now of course it is total luck (or divine intervention, depending on your beliefs) that I was paired with this individual, but it taught me the valuable lesson of networking with others.
This one is HARD for introverts, of which many tech professionals naturally are. I actually used to be pretty heavily introverted myself (ask my wife, I used to have social anxiety when we'd go to parties and would want to leave as soon as we got there), but I decided that my drive to be successful in the industry was more important about my being nervous talking with others.
Being extroverted is like a muscle, the more you use it the better it gets. Or to get more techie, the more you practice a specific language or framework, the more natural it becomes to write. After a few years of pushing myself to interact more with others, I can interview well with pretty much anyone because I've been practicing for so long. Here are a few tips;
- Join active Discords, specifically ones with voice chats
- Attend meetups (even virtual ones) and make sure to at least introduce yourself to those around you
- Livestream on Twitch or YouTube and interact with the chat
Now my anxiety wasn't so intense that I wasn't able to work through it, so I cant give advice to those who are in that position, but perhaps a quick discussion with your doctor might put you in the right direction.
I know this was a lot to digest (more than I actually intended on writing) but its all stuff that takes time and practice, like anything else. Hopefully you got something out of this.
If you are interested in contacting me, I run the fullstack.chat Discord group where we discuss various dev-related (and sometimes not) stuff. Its a friendly environment where all devs are welcome, regardless of background or time in the industry.
As always, happy coding! 😎