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How I landed a job, and what I learned

crenshaw_dev profile image Michael Crenshaw ・3 min read

What I had to sell

I have a B.S. in Computer Science and have 2.25yr experience as a full stack web developer for an online electronics retailer. I've worked with C#, MS SQL, JavaScript, and TypeScript. Non-language tools included Visual Studio, TFS, SSMS, Bootstrap, jQuery, Knockout, and Webpack.

The numbers

I applied to 23 positions. I was rejected by three with no interview, and twelve failed to respond.

Of the eight with which I interviewed, I was rejected by three. I received three offers. After accepting one, I discontinued the interview process with the remaining two companies.

Seven companies required coding challenges. Four of them were live (via video call), and two of those were in person. The three non-live challenges took anywhere from two to five hours a piece (a lot of that time was just setting up tooling).

I was rejected by three of the companies for which I did coding challenges. In no case was code quality offered as a reason for rejection. Two of the offers were from companies which did not require coding challenges. The offer I accepted was from a company with which I did a coding challenge.

Of the eleven companies which responded to my applications, one came from a personal referral, three came from LinkedIn recruiters, one came from a tweet, four came from StackOverflow listings, and two came from Glassdoor listings.

Two offers came from companies that reached out via LinkedIn. One came from a personal referral.

What I learned

Applying and interviewing are exhausting. Pace yourself. Reward yourself for putting in the effort by taking time to relax, eating a cookie, watching a movie... anything that helps you forget the hunt for a while.

Applying with a few years' experience is much easier than doing so as an entry-level applicant. After 2.25yr experience, I received the same number of offers with one-quarter as many applications.

Referrals and recruiters are fantastic ways to find job openings that are likely to turn into job offers. I've heard from companies on StackOverflow, but LinkedIn is by far the most fruitful source of recruiting in my experience. Andrew Brown's post about LinkedIn was instrumental in my profile design (feedback welcome!).

It's worth learning "interview trivia" and common coding challenges, but don't spend disproportionate time on it. A better use of your time is practicing selling the skills you already have. (Remember, I'm applying on the east coast - Silicon Valley may place a higher emphasis on canned interview questions).

Keep up with the people involved in your interview processes. Recruiters are almost always willing to accept a LinkedIn connection request. And many technical interviewers are worth connecting with just because they're interesting people, and it's great to keep in touch.

Don't accept any offer too quickly. If you're getting interviews, you will eventually get offers. If there's a tight deadline to respond to an offer, and you're not feeling awesome about it, wait (if you financially can). There's a good chance a better offer will come along.

What's next

I'm transitioning from junior Full Stack Developer to mid-level Software Engineer, a more backend-focused role. I'll be transitioning from waterfall to agile and from a testless environment to a heavily unit-tested environment. Both of those skillsets are important for my long-term career development.

Questions?

If there's anything you'd like to know about my job hunt strategy or experiences, I'd love to help in any way possible!

Discussion (3)

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dana94 profile image
Dana Ottaviani • Edited

How much do you consider the company's purpose when going through the job hunt? I constantly analyze each company, but I feel that makes it harder to write a cover letter or even spend the time applying to companies if I feel the slightest hesitation about working there. I wouldn't be okay with applying to 30+ companies where I feel eh about but less than 10 that I actually anticipate getting a reply back from doesn't make the odds in my favor either.

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Henry Quinn

I actually focused my entire last job hunt around this. After four years of working for the feds, I wanted my next job to actually be fulfilling (both from a work and social responsibility perspective).

Interviewed a few recruiters, picked one who knew what they were talking about, and told her exactly what I wanted. She found me a few great options and the interviews I took with them told me everything I needed to know about their cultures.

Applied to a few, got offers from a couple, and chose one.

Definitely narrowed the field but that can be a good thing.

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Michael Crenshaw Author

I love this question.

I optimize for my needs first. My most potent mechanism for doing good in the world is personal power (approximated by possession of money, goods, and relationships).

For many job descriptions, it is exceedingly difficult to determine the ethical impact of one's career work. If I write a chunk of software today, its effect on the world lies on the other side of business decisions, interactions among corporations, a significant amount of time, and a great deal of random chance (to name just a few variables). Contrast this to the ethical impact of pocketing an extra $10k so that I have the flexibility to help a friend in need, or take a week off to volunteer. Even if my career work has a greater impact, I have no way of knowing that.

Obviously the degree of certainty about a job's affect on the world varies. Helping build an app that enables stalking is clearly bad. Tweaking a web page to increase checkout conversion by 0.05% is less ethically stark.

The personal impact of how I feel about the company's mission is important. Henry commented that he sought greater fulfillment by changing jobs. A feeling of fulfillment is important to me for two reasons: 1) that feeling increases energy, productivity, and thus personal power; and 2) that feeling is itself good and valuable. But I have to keep in mind that a bigger paycheck can create a sense of fulfillment if I use it for good ends - that must be weighed against the fulfillment of the work itself.

The word "power" carries strong negative connotations, probably because we hear it so often alongside "abuse," "corruption," and "oppression." But for those reading this comment, I think power is a good thing. We obviously have a desire to live ethically and at least a few tools to determine what is and is not ethical: why not accumulate the ability to act on those good intentions?