Your first developer job search can be intimidating, even more so when the hiring market favours senior developers and those with degrees. Whether you’re about to graduate from a coding bootcamp or are thinking of joining one, it’s a good time to think about how you can make yourself stand out to land your first developer job. Here are some tips to do that.
OfferZen is a developer job marketplace where developers are paired with career coaches like me, who lead them through their job search. My team and I help candidates with anything job search-related, such as:
- Creating a profile that stands out,
- Preparing for interviews and assessments, and
- Helping them with any roadblocks along the way to finding the best fit.
Every day, I see first-hand what makes developers successful in their job search. The accelerated shift to remote hasn’t been helpful for job-seeking juniors. More juniors are entering the job market, and companies can be warier of what they perceive to be lower competency levels. Companies are reluctant to take on juniors because it’s harder and feels riskier to hire, onboard and train remotely.
The hiring market is highly competitive for graduate developers seeking a job right now. As a coding bootcamp graduate, you have to invest especially hard in making your skills stand out because of the perceived skills gap between university and bootcamp graduates. Hiring managers are looking for:
- Broad technical knowledge that indicates a drive and passion for continuously learning and improvement,
- Professional, or “soft”, skills that show if you’ll be a good fit for the team and company, and
- Preparation lets hiring managers know you’re serious about the role and organisation.
Here are some tips to help you secure an interview and prepare to stand out during the hiring process.
Create a CV that’s passionate and full of personality
One of the biggest challenges bootcamp developers face when job searching is clinching an interview. Your CV or profile needs to set you apart from the start and show hiring managers that you’re just as good as their degreed counterparts.
Your CV should stand out as it’s the first impression hiring managers have of you. You don’t need to wait until the technical interview stage to show off your coding skills: You could, for example, create a coded online CV that showcases your technical chops!
Add any personal development projects you’ve worked on, or share the link to your blog where you’ve written about your learnings. Display them in clever ways that illustrate your coding skills! This shows your passion and personality, which is especially important for graduate and junior positions when you don’t have extensive work experience.
Do a SWOT analysis
Today, developers seeking their first jobs are required to have a larger breadth of technical skills than ever before. Coding bootcamps teach highly focused content in a short time frame, while universities equip students with broader technical knowledge over a longer period. To mitigate this knowledge gap, coding bootcamp developers need to look for opportunities to expand their skill sets.
To figure out where you can improve and what learning path to follow, do a “self-review”. A SWOT analysis helps you understand where you can improve and provides a basis to set your career goals.
Set SMART goals for yourself
Use the insights from your SWOT analysis to inform the goals you set. Goals are essential to give your career path focus. They also enable you to track your progress and hold yourself accountable.
When setting goals, they should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. While big career goals may be admirable, they can be unrealistic or difficult to achieve. Break your big goals down into a series of smaller ones. Small, attainable goals that keep you moving towards your big goal help you stay motivated because they’re easier to achieve while still keeping you on track for your major career goals.
Once you’ve set up your goals, you can develop a personal learning plan to structure how you will reach them. A systematic levelling up plan doesn’t only help you sharpen your skills and create a more impressive portfolio, but it’s also a great talking point for interviews!
Continuous learning continues to be relevant at any stage of your career. It shows hiring managers that you can keep up in a constantly changing industry and are self-motivated when it comes to upskilling.
Once you reach your milestone, continue setting small goals while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Establish clear-cut objectives and action steps and set deadlines for accomplishing them.
Find a mentor
Goal-setting and charting a career plan for yourself can be daunting on your own. Mentors can provide ongoing support, objective feedback, real-world insights and tips on who to network with. This support can speed up the levelling up process considerably.
Join a formal mentoring program or reach out to a member of your professional network whose opinions you trust.
During the hiring process, mention your mentoring relationship and that you have career goals and a learning plan based on identified strengths and weaknesses. This shows initiative, self-improvement and that you’re part of the developer community.
Prepare thoroughly for interviews
Once you bag that interview, don’t underestimate the importance of preparation! It shows you’re serious and well-informed. It doesn’t matter how technically brilliant you are; demonstrating knowledge of the company and showing how you’d make a great addition to the team are requirements to proceed in the interview process.
Bootcamps, unlike universities, don’t provide job search skills support. Luckily, the abundance of information online makes this an easy gap to bridge. Here are some tips:
- Use the company website to do your research on the company’s vision, mission and product. Reflect on your goals, skills and experience and how they align with the role and company you are interviewing for. This will help highlight what makes you a good fit.
- Find out what the interview process looks like: Some companies include their interview process and tips for successful interviewing on their website. Getting familiar with the process and expectations will put you at ease and eliminate any chance of surprises, allowing you to appear confident, calm and knowledgeable in your interview. Check out Glassdoor, where individuals post their interviewing experiences with specific companies and what questions they were asked.
- Prepare and ask great questions about the company: Of course, the interviewer shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. This shows you did your homework and are interested in the company.
- Make sure you have a working internet connection: Don’t forget that virtual interviews need additional preparation. It sounds simple, but it’s crucial. The last thing you want while trying to convince hiring managers of what you can do is a robot voice or to constantly have to ask them to repeat things.
When you get to the interview, remember that remote hiring makes it harder to get across personality and enthusiasm due to the lack of body language and interaction. Show this virtually through friendly, professional, and clear communication.
Those “easy” introductory questions are more important than they seem: They’re a way to get across who you are. You can make sure you do this by going into detail and giving examples when the hiring manager asks you about yourself and why you chose this career path. Many bootcamp developers have experience in other fields and careers. If this applies to you, recount your experiences and why they played a part in your career choices. This gives the interviewer insight into your thinking around your career path.
Make sure your communication is clear at all times. For example, if you’re working on a technical assessment, figure out how long it will take you to complete and communicate this with the hiring manager. If anything changes, explain the delay and ask for an extension. This shows that you can communicate clearly and transparently, even in the case of unexpected setbacks.
Send a thank you message after every interview, and let them know that you enjoyed the chat and are keen to hear back from them. This shows initiative and appreciation.
If you haven’t heard back by the given deadline, follow up in a friendly manner. It indicates you’re interested and on the ball.
These are some of the ways I’ve seen bootcamp graduates win at their job hunt, and I hope they help you to do the same!
Sandrika is a University of Cape Town Psychology graduate, who has followed her passion of uplifting people and society. She started her career as a Project Coordinator at the Reach For A Dream Foundation, where she helped children with life-threatening illnesses live out their dreams. She then joined OfferZen as a Talent Advisor, where she coaches, advises and supports tech talent to find their dream job. Outside of the office you can find Sandrika on her yoga mat, meditating and practicing yoga.