12 steps to getting hired as a coder

Need a better job with more pay, more flexibility, more creative content, more self-determination and more upside potential? Who doesn't! Well if you can code, I have good news - the future is bright. I run StartFast Code, a 12-week bootcamp where students learn to be professional web-developers. Here are my best tips for getting hired for the job, gig, or promotion you want:

  1. Becoming a professional web developer takes work, and so does getting hired as one.
  2. Focus on becoming a self-sufficient problem-solver
  3. Clean up your social media
  4. Resume, cover letters, portfolio site, business cards
  5. Use your network
  6. Prepare for the interview
  7. Know the process
  8. Thank you notes
  9. Great things come from humble beginnings
  10. Source opportunities
  11. Keep honing your skills
  12. Stay positive and never give up

1. It takes work to get hired

Becoming a professional web developer takes hard work and commitment. Our 12-week bootcamp comprises 400 hours of project work including up to 180 classroom hours. Getting hired as a developer also takes work, above and beyond the work required to complete the course. The term most commonly used for what it takes is "hustle". If you treat getting hired as a full-time job, then you'll do fine.

2. What employers are looking for

Every employer is different, but one thing that they all have in common - they want you to be a self-sufficient problem solver. That's why StartFast Code focuses on teaching fundamentals. Our curriculum and flipped-classroom approach are designed to help you become a self-sufficient developer who can figure out how to build solutions (simple or complex) to problems. That means you know how to find resources and answers to problems as they come up. Make yourself that person.

3. Clean up your social media

Imagine you're a hiring manager who doesn't want to make a hiring mistake. Now google yourself. Believe it or not, nobody is going to hire you because you're funny or controversial on Facebook or Instagram. See anything that would give a hiring manager pause? Delete it! I highly recommend that you sign up for a free service called Brand Yourself and follow their instructions.

4. Resume, cover letters, portfolio site, business cards

Create draft resume in .pdf form and have a senior developer friend review it. Here's a free tool if you have a Google account. Keep it brief; keep improving it. Keep your LinkedIn profile in sync with your .pdf resume. Write two cover letters: one that's pretty formal and one that describes what you're passionate about. Build a portfolio site and link it to your Github repo. Get business cards printed here or here. Having a business card to hand someone leaves a positive impression and reminds them to call you back for the next step in the hiring process.

5. Use your network

The Internet makes it super easy to blast resumes out to hundreds of prospective employers. And that's why this technique works so poorly. It's easy, so everyone is doing it. How do you stand out? As it turns out, it's both WHAT you know and WHO you know that matters. Ask your classmates and any other developers you know to introduce you to employers they know. Go to meetup groups, OpenHack, and Hack Upstate and hand out your business card. Ask the organizers. They are usually very aware of opportunities. Holiday open-houses are also great mixers. Let people know you're a web developer looking for new opportunities. Once you find a company you're interested in, ask your instructors and the bootcamp staff (e.g. me) who they know at that company. A personal introduction goes a long way to getting you an interview.

6. Prepare for the interview

Get to know the company and interviewers using LinkedIn, Google, and social media. Phone screening is common before an in-person interview. Make sure you take the call in a quiet place with a good signal. The call will usually start out light with questions about your coding background past employment. Then the caller may ask a few technical questions like:

  • What's the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
  • Explain Model View Controller architecture (MVC)?
  • When would you us a database in a web application?

If you're asked a question you don't know the answer to, say, "I don't know the answer to that, but I'm really good in [list of things you're really good at]". For the most part, they'll ask about things you put on your resume.

Once you've passed the phone screen, you may get invited for an in-person interview. If you make it that far, then the company wants to hire you. But they also have to make sure that you're a good candidate. Often the process will include one or more white-board sessions. These allow the interviewers to get an idea of how you think about problems and solutions. Practice explaining your solutions to the class or other students using the white board to get used to this. Definitely don't say, "No." to the white boarding problem. Even if you can't solve the problem, keep trying and don't give up. It will show tenacity and that's generally admired.

At the end of the interview, you'll be asked if you have any questions. The right answer is, "Yes." Here are some good questions for you to ask:

  • I'm interested in learning; how do you handle mentoring?
  • How are sprints planned and managed?
  • How does the team do code reviews?
  • What are the company's growth goals for next year?
  • How soon will I hear back from you regarding this position.

Here's an excellent overview for more information on getting hired.

7. Know the process

Most hiring managers will follow a process like this:

  • Advertise the position
  • Screen resumes
  • Phone Screening
  • 1st Interview - we like this candidate
  • 2nd interview - we really like this candidate
  • 3rd interview - it's down to this person or one or two others
  • Offer
  • Acceptance
  • Starting work

Each time you make it to the next step, you're 2-10x more likely to get the job.

8. Thank you notes

Because it's a lengthy process, one simple thing you can do to stand out is to send a thank you note to everyone you interact with during the interviewing process. An email thank you is much better than nothing. A hand-written thank you note really makes an impression on some people. You might design an HTML email thank you note that shows off your design and development skills if you're thanking a technical person for their time.

9. Great things come from humble beginnings

You may not land that awesome job in one step, but you can add projects to your portfolio, build your resume and network, and continue to learn while earning along the way. Consider interning - which can be like a trial position at a company. You can expect to be paid (but at a lower rate than a full employee), and mentored. It's less risk for the company to "try before they buy". Another way to progress is by taking on freelance projects. Every business has a website, and very few want to manage them in-house. Freelance projects let you earn and build your portfolio, without any long-term risk for the client. Client references are great on your resume.

In addition, try teaching some free intro to web development classes. Your bootcamp may support you doing so and compensate you for referrals. Sharpening your skills is also key to eventually landing the job you want. If you're low on funds, volunteer as a teacher assistant for your bootcamp. It's unpaid, but you'll learn a lot and stay in the mix. FreeCodeCamp.com has a lot of opportunities to code for non-profits to build your resume and skills. If funds are no problem, you can enroll in another class and keep adding to your capabilities.

10. Source opportunities

No question about it: as I said in 5 above, your network is the best source of opportunities. But don't ignore online job sites either. Search Linkedin jobs, Indeed, Hacker New. Network with other coders on GitHub. Join the Hack Upstate Slack group.

11. Keep honing your skills

If you don't use it you lose it! Always be coding. Keep learning and progressing!

12. Stay positive and never give up

Job hunting is hard and can be stressful too. My last tip is the best one. Stay positive. There are lots of studies that show that a positive attitude helps you get hired. Why? Obviously, if there are two equal candidates, the one with the positive attitude is going to get hired over the more negative one. But it goes farther than that. Having an optimistic attitude, you'll discover opportunities that you would have missed otherwise. You'll be better able to ace the interview and you'll be more likeable too. Happy hunting!

Here are a few additional links to help you:

http://www.successconsciousness.com/index_000009.htm

https://skillcrush.com/2015/04/09/land-junior-web-developer-job/

https://www.happybearsoftware.com/how-to-get-a-programmer-job.html