Episode 9 of the Coder's Block podcast out now

Demand for talented web developers is on the rise. And if you are one, then you might not just be waltzing into your next job interview so easily. When demand increases, so does supply. And supply is keeping up with technology demands these days. There are hundreds of online courses popping up daily designed to teach you the basics of front-end development relatively quickly and cheaply. And there are social movements in place to spread technology and STEM as far as they can reach. Needless to say, that somewhat saturates the job markets.

And eventually, we might end up with more web developers than the job market demands. So how can you stand out in the crowd these days and get your next job? As someone who has had the honor of interviewing many potential candidates for various tech jobs in the past, I can safely say that the following few guidelines can definitely make you stand out just enough to land you the job that you are looking for.

Build your own website

I can't count the number of times that someone has come to an interview for a web development job and they have no trace of themselves online in any capacity. You are not required to code outside of work to get a job, I'll say that now. But if you do, you'll probably stand out more. And at the end of the day, it's not about who made you do what. It's about accepting the fact that other people will be applying for the same job you are applying to, and that they might just bring with them more relevant experience.

So build your own website, portfolio, idea, etc. Whatever it is, just build it and purchase a 9.99$ domain and host it on a free server if need be. But the point is, build something that you can link me to so that I can check it out ahead of time before the interview even begins.

Coming from the point of view of someone who has attended many an interview, I can't count the number of times that my own personal projects have become the center of the conversation. This is key for two big reasons. For one, it makes you more memorable off from the start. Now I have more than just a name and email address to go on. And secondly, and more importantly, it allows you more control of how the interview will go. The more the interview steers in the direction of your strengths, the better you will come out.

Be more specialized in a specific area

For the most part, every web developer looking for a job will list the usual technologies in their skillset, which again, makes it really difficult to narrow down at the end. If everyone knows HTML, CSS and JavaScript relatively well, then does it even matter who we hire? So it's always good to bring in your skills that you didn't know were skills.

A big part of being a professional web developer is much more than the coding aspect. Web development can touch any of the following topics usually.

  • SEO / Semantic content
  • Site Performance
  • UI/UX
  • Accessibility

Sometimes expanding your reach outside of the code and more into the usability and standards areas can definitely make you into a more ideal candidate that is more well rounded and can handle more situations. Of course, if you're going to be selling yourself and a site accessibility expert, then be sure to be able to back up your words as well.

Contribute on StackOverflow

Someone who has answered many questions in JavaScript in StackOverflow for example and has a high ranking can show their skill level much faster and simpler than someone who does not. Most of the time, you might even have a higher ranking than the person who is interviewing you, which really is a good sign. Not only will it build up your confidence to some degree, but it is something that will continue to grow with your skillset. When you are looking for more senior level jobs, if you have kept up, your StackOverflow profile will reflect your growing skillset.

It's definitely difficult to rule someone out of a job that has ranked more gold in StackOverflow than Joel Spolsky. I can't ask you to write me a for loop in JavaScript when you have 300+ JavaScript answers on SO. I just can't, and I won't out of respect for you.

Don't act like a robot

Last bit of advice. Be polite and courteous, sure, but don't overdo it. It's very awkward when you ask someone how they are doing and they speak about how great your company is as a response. Some of my best interviews have been with people that casually answer what they know and they casually answer about what they don't know. Laughter is exchanged and stories are told, and in the end, those are the people that stay in memory longer. And believe me, weird as it sounds, memory plays a huge role in hiring people.

If you stand out as a great candidate, you get my thumbs up. It's up to HR then to see if you'll be coming back. If you're questionable, however, then you go into a maybe pile, of which no one will probably ever look at again, as more and more candidates flood through the doors. So do whatever you can to make an impression and don't take it too seriously. No one enjoys serious in all honesty.

Hopefully, these guidelines help some future web developers out there get their first jobs. The first job is the hardest to get, but it's also the most rewarding for that same reason. Once you break in to the field, then you'll have a whole new set of guidelines that you'll probably need to follow.

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