Graduation season is here and as such, many new young coders are making their way through the job market hoping to strike it rich. And the key to success is in the preparation, particularly for those pesky interviews. So follow along with my top 5 interview tips if you are a coder and are currently applying or might be applying to a job in the near future.
5. Build your online presence
And I don't mean take pictures of your laptop in front of a cup of coffee and put then on Instagram. We've all done that. It's a nice shot and all. And it has its time and place, but the job market is not one of them. But a real online presence on relevant websites where you can showcase your work can make you stand above the crowd, particularly when most people skip this step. Websites such as the following are a good place to start:
- Your personal websites
At a minimum you should have these setup with some form of contact information and a decent headshot. If you are still too new and are low on content, then perhaps it is time to start to generate some. Take part in some open source projects or just start to get creative on codepen. Really anything helps when you are early in your career. Just an external project that shows that you are indeed passionate about this field and that you are at least applying it in your day to day life.
4. Have multiple versions your resume
This is a key point that nobody follows, but you should, because it will help you get an advantage over everyone else. Create versions of your resume to target different job titles, different skill levels and even specific jobs. As someone who has spent his fair share of time reviewing candidate resumes for web development positions, I can say this, every resume ends up looking the same. The same languages and frameworks are listed on all of them.
So in the end, it's hard to really pick any one candidate over the other and one results to looking at the "Work Experience" section as the tie breaker. And if you are new to the job market, then you probably won't be on top of the pile in this area. So catching people's attention early on is important. I've read resumes that were word for word exactly what the position was asking for and nothing else. Why continue to read and look further when your skills are already a match.
Note, work experience is sometimes important. Relevant skills will help to add you to the top of the pile and proceed to round 2, but round 2 is its own thing on its own.
3. Work on those soft skills
I get it. We sit behind a screen for a massive part of our lives with this job. And that's normal. It's a 21st century problem and we are the guinea pigs in a sense. But I like it, so I'm going to keep doing it for a bit longer. But this does not come without a cost. While you might think that you are the talk of the town, the truth is you could be the dark clad coder in the corner with a black hoodie listening to 80's synthwave tunes while you blog about interview questions.
Again, all fine and well what you do in your own time. But when you are in front of someone that you haven't met before, and your rent money is sitting just inches behind them, you need to make a personable impression. You need to be human. Make people laugh and tell a joke. If you don't know something, be honest and explain what you do know. If you panic and get flustered and can't speak anymore, that's going to make for one uncomfortable interview for both of you.
This might take practice. Don't practice in front of a mirror. That will just give you a false sense of accomplishment. Practice with a person. There are plenty of coaches that you can find online and book a session or two to give yourself that real-world panicky feel. We are not born with strong social skills. It takes time and effort to cultivate such things, so don't be too tough on yourself, but know where it is that you are lacking.
2. Don't wear a tuxedo
Don't underdress either. But don't wear a 3-piece suit with a lapel to gain some points. Particularly not for this job. It'll just make you feel uncomfortable while you sit there sweating out coding algorithms from college. Not to mention that most programming jobs these days are relatively lax when it comes to work attire. My typical 'work' uniform for many years was a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt and some vans. And while yes it is an interview and professionalism is important (see soft skills above), you also don't want to give out the feeling that you are dressing nicely to overcompensate for your lack of knowledge, which many times is the case.
Interviews are stressful enough as it is. There's a reason why we stopped wearing suits as our daily standard outfits and that's because they are uncomfortable. So be more comfortable and your responses will show for it.
1. Don't take it personal
I've been on both ends of the equation here. I was once a junior developer looking for my big break going from interview to interview. And I was also a senior developer going through candidate resumes and doing interviews day in and day out. For every position that I filled, I probably rejected 10-12 resumes. Some of those are easy to dismiss as they missed the mark in many areas, such as not having any experience the required technologies, while others were tough to say 'no' to as they had the relevant experience and were personable.
But the reality is that there is only 1 position to fill and it has to go to 1 person. So don't take it personal when you don't hear back after a few days. Take it as a learning experience. When the interview is over, make it a point to write down every question, the answer you gave and how you felt about it and continue to tweak and reiterate until you nail that 1 big interview. Because you only really need that 1 to say yes.
For added practice, here are a few interview questions that I personally enjoy asking candidates.
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.