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Developer interview tips that will put you ahead

kylemcd profile image Kyle McDonald Originally published at kylemcd.com ・3 min read

So you've either completed your Computer Science degree, finished a boot camp, or have been learning about the development world for a long time, and its time to find your first job—a big undertaking.

While many resources encourage candidates to rehearse anticipated questions, dress to impress, or master whiteboard problems, there are several facets of the interview process unique to the development world that are often overlooked.

As someone who has found themselves on both sides of the interviewing table, I can share that there are several invaluable, dev-specific practices that can set candidates apart. These practices are not always captured in the blanketed "best interview" paradigm and are often neglected by people searching for interview best practices online. Here are some things you might be missing!

Do what you're best at

A long list of desired skills are often outlined in posted job descriptions, and many people find themselves eager to show the interviewer that they can check all of the boxes. Unfortunately, it is easy for a candidate to become forgettable when they fail to dive deep into the experiences and skill sets that make them unique. Target those skills where your strengths lie. Show expertise. Do what makes you excited.

I used this very strategy during my take-home assignment from my last interview. I pride myself on working very closely with designers to create beautiful products, so I made the intentional decision to spend most of my time focusing on layout, micro-animations, and other design elements that would set me apart.

This approach can indicate that the company and candidate share common goals. Likewise, as an interviewer, knowing someone has a real passion in specific parts of the stack makes it easy to preemptively decide where they might fit into the team.

Highlight soft skills

Obviously, technical skills are an integral part of the developer job description, but they are not the sole factor influencing the candidate picked. In my book, non-technical skills can outweigh some technical pitfalls—especially in an entry-level candidate. Showing that a candidate is an excellent communicator, an avid learner, and a malleable team member puts them ahead of candidates who lack those skills.

Technical skills can be learned over time, but skills like these can't be taught. Soft skills can shine a light on the potential developers have to succeed in the workplace— despite their lack of experience. Companies seeking entry-level developers are particularly interested in the potential for growth for their employees.

As stated before, when the opportunity arises to show off the skills you are strongest in, don't shy away. If technical gaps exist, be sure to fill in the gaps with examples of experiences like working in a group, leading a project, or navigating obstacles. Offsetting any doubts there might be surrounding a lack of experience will put you ahead when searching for your first gig.

Have an informative personal site

When viewing someone's resumé, the first thing I tend to get excited about is if the candidate has a personal site, and more importantly, how it looks. It's pretty easy to conclude that candidates with creative sites will stand out from the rest, bonus points if the code is available on GitHub. You can use your site to play into your strengths. So from the get-go, the interviewer is already aware of how your strengths differ from others.

How do you make your site creative, though? Here are some great ones I've found, but search around for inspiration. (If you have sites that you think should be on this list Tweet at me)

In conclusion

Though your first position you accept may not be your "dream job" per se, making sure that you have a great place to grow your skills is paramount. If this means taking a lower salary to work at a company that fosters growth, I would recommend doing so. Doing so will pay dividends in the future for you.

If you've gotten this far in your career, you more than likely have built a solid network. Utilize that. You'd be surprised how willing people are to help out, or even better, hire you.

Remember, the people interviewing you are people. So talk to them, use them as a resource. Though they are sitting on the other side of the table, demonstrating that you are not above asking for help will put you ahead. Most importantly, though, do what's right for you.

Note: This article was originally written for my personal blog. I am republishing it here for the amazing DEV community.

Posted on Feb 19 by:

kylemcd profile

Kyle McDonald

@kylemcd

Software Engineer specializing in the front-end. Loves React, CSS-in-JS, and a strong cold brew.

Discussion

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Thanks for the article!

Perhaps it really depends on one's areas of focus, but I've consistently found that the developers I admire most have the barest personal sites. A few links to other profiles, a resume, and that's often it. I've always found that interesting, given the ubiquitous advice about wowing potential employers with your personal website.
Of course all of the examples I have in mind do have publically visible work, it's just in a different form (open source projects for example).