How to Get Hired: From a Developer & Manager Point Of View
You just finished your developer degree (or certification) and you are trying to land your first job. The industry is pretty competitive so how do you stand out and prove yourself to potential clients or employers? I’ve been on both sides of the interview table and from my experience it takes a lot more than a document to prove your skillset. Here are some useful tips and guidelines on how to get a leg up on the competition and make yourself stand out.
Pet Projects on GitHub
Have a pet project that you can show that you’ve created from the ground up by yourself in an interview. This shows that you are actively working on something, even if you aren’t currently employed. As part of this, it also shows that you are continuing to keep up with the technology. Our field changes constantly, so if you stop coding for one moment, technology may pass you up.
This also proves that you can handle the full cycle of development from concept to production, which may not be required for the job but it proves you can think through the process. Bring this up during your phone screening and give the potential client/employer a link to the sample project. This will be an easy topic for you to talk about in the interview, as well as a reference to give examples about when the interviewer asks you experience questions.
Post these projects to GitHub or Bitbucket and make several commits, use feature branches, go through the process that you would on a team. This will be a great indicator that you understand version control and how to use it.
Volunteer to Teach Others
If you are on the job hunt and currently unemployed, then you will likely have some down time between your pet project and coding tests/interviews, so why not volunteer to help teach others? This seems a bit contradictory, especially if you are a Junior Programmer, but there’s always some one that needs help getting their start, even if it’s a kids summer camp.
Having the ability to explain programming concepts to others, will give you a better handle on them. Same with coding, if you can explain to some one else how to code something, then you will have a better grasp of it too. This will also give you confidence in interviews.
Being a volunteer shows that you have the ability to take on more responsibility at a job, maybe even lead developer material. It demonstrates your patience and communication skills as well as proving that you care about the field you chose and that you enjoy helping others. These are all skills that any employer values.
Find your Community
Being a part of a community can be an invaluable tool. You can learn a lot about your field by asking those that work in that same field. This will give you a lot of insight on topics that may be discussed in interviews, open positions or networking events that are happening in your area.
Your community can be your language, your platform or your type of technology. Maybe there’s a Swift, C#, or Python community in your area. It could be for iOS or web, VR or fitness, even your minority group (women programmer groups do exist). Some of these groups are just online, while some are local. Either way, be an active member and look for ways to contribute where you can.
Having face time with these groups is also useful. Go to local meet ups, connect with different people there and follow up afterwards! Not everyone attending is looking for a job, a lot of the attendees work at established companies, some are even hiring managers sent there to connect with potential developers.
Social Media! Social Media! Social Media!
Social media may be the tipping point (in your favor) of getting your foot in the door. This largely depends on how you use it. If you’ve always had accounts for personal use, then lock those down and create a whole new public profile. Create an account on Instagram or Twitter and pick a good handle and use it across all of your accounts. Employers and clients will snoop around and research you before they ever call you for a phone screening, so be cautious of what you post.
Post daily pictures of your code and your projects. Share pictures of yourself either volunteering or hanging out at your local meet up. When you post these be graceful and modest in the caption, using proper grammar and punctuation. Try to hashtag the top three tags relating to the post as well. This will help you gain followers.
Having an active social media account will show that you are 1) Passionate and capable about programming and 2) That you are a good communicator. Again, skills that employers are looking for.
Write Articles and Share Them
Even if you are a junior developer or right out of a boot camp, you have some interesting experiences to write about that may help others whom are just starting their journey. Medium is an incredible avenue for sharing these experiences and it will give an insight on who you are that can’t be expressed over the phone or in an interview.
Here are some topics for ideas:
- A basic tutorial for some one just starting to learn programming
- How you chose your language and platform
- Explain how to write a hello world program even
Use Grammarly for spelling and punctuation and don’t make your article one long paragraph. Break it up into sub topics and add fun pics to explain things. Link your site and social media to your profile too!
Dun. Dun. Dun. LinkedIn
This one is obvious, but create and constantly update your linked in profile! Make sure your descriptions list all of the technologies, languages, frameworks and APIs that you have worked in. Sell yourself in the first sentence and upload a good picture of either yourself or your brand that you’ve created in your social media. For women, sadly, that latter option is sometimes the best but you can experiment and track if you get more recruiters contacting you with both options.
Fill out your profile with as many topics as you can. Ask for recommendations from your professors, fellow students or previous clients. Join communities there too and be active in the community.
Make a Site
LinkedIn isn’t enough, because it’s basically your resume with more detail. Having a site will be the central location for all of your links and social media accounts. Make sure that it shows off your portfolio, with embedded video of your projects, if possible.
Repost articles you’ve written elsewhere on your site as blog posts, to have it in one comprehensive place. Link these articles to the external sites that they are on too. Yes, this is redundant, but you may have more claps or comments on the linked article, than the one on your site. Link your social media accounts as well.
Link your GitHub or BitBucket open source projects on your site and post a quick gif or screen shot of what the project does as well as the description of the project. Make sure you code is up to spec and have a friend review it for you.
Create a business card and spend the $50 bucks to have them professionally printed. You’ve already invested time and probably some money in your coding education, spend a few more bucks and have a nice, quality card that is professionally printed. Make sure it has your name, website, social media handle and your primary skill.
I’ve met some very creative programmers that handed me cards where their info was written in their coding language, so get creative. Most importantly, hand these out to every meet up you go to, leave them with potential clients and at your coffee shop bulletin. These fancy new cards should also be given to your friends, professors or your peers that are in the industry as well so they can pass it on if they happen to know someone in the field.
Applying can be rather intimidating, since you likely will not meet every requirement in the job description, but apply anyways. The leads will review your resume and get back to you if they feel you have potential.
Reach out to local companies on social media to see if they need any temp help or if they hire free lance. Check out this article of how one web developer easily finds clients through social media. There is time involved in this, but it could land you a job.
If you are an introvert, like me, all of this is talking to people is really hard, so simply just keep an eye out on message boards with your local meet up or see if your community has a Slack group.
Look for any opportunity to apply for, whether it be an intern position, temp or maybe you get lucky and find several junior positions. Typically, junior positions require a 4 year degree and even if you don’t have that, still apply! If it doesn’t work out, the experience of going through the motions will help you know what to somewhat expect in the next interview. Most importantly be honest on your applications.
Majority of what I listed here is what I’ve personally looked for in candidates that I’ve hired. Honestly, I’ve passed up hiring graduates with a 4 year degree for some one with a less attractive certification, but had a proven passion for coding. The biggest take away is to put time and effort into proving that you can code and that you love doing it. Pick at least 3 of these and follow through with the most effort and hopefully you’ll find your new job!