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Have you ever wanted to get a job in one of those big companies? Maybe you are aiming on some smaller startup instead. Anyway, getting a job as a developer is not about having the hard skills necessary to produce good and clean code. There is much more that comes to applying for a job and also getting it. In this post, you will find couple tips to increase your chances to become the rockstar developer in company you always wanted to work in.
Do the research
The first thing you should do, before taking any other steps, is thorough research on the company you want to work. When doing this research, your goal is not focus just on what you can gain, but how you can benefit the company. You should find as many areas you can be helpful at as possible and write them down. You can and should use this list later on to show the company why they should be interested in hiring you instead of anyone else.
If you would do just one thing, it should be doing this research and proving your value. Think about it from perspective of the person interviewing you for that developer job position. She will have to talk with dozens of applicants trying to convince her about their skills and experiences. In other words, the same pitch on dozens of variations. This would annoy anyone. It will also cause the pitches and applicants blend together.
When doing the research, you should explore all areas related to the company, not just the ones about developer position. Learn about company’s history, mission, goals, current team members, practices, previous projects. Since you are applying for a developer position, make sure to also check out some of the code they created. Maybe they even have some public repository on GitHub or elsewhere. In case you are about to apply for a front-end developer position, take a look under the hood of their website.
Are there any errors or flaws that can be fixed? Address them during the interview as well. It will show that you did your research about the company and you really want to get that job. However, when talking about what can be fixed, don’t make yourself sound arrogant or like a jerk. Show you expertise, but stay humble and grounded. Remember, nobody likes smart-asses so don’t behave like one.
The takeaway: Do the research to find where you can add value to the company.
Punctuality is for kings … And you too!
The best way to screw up the first moment, no matter if you are applying for a developer position or having a date, is to be late. Being punctual is not just about behaving like a professional, it also shows a lot about the person and his values. Think about it … Would you consider someone who never arrives on time as a trustworthy? Do you think you can trust such a person that he will do the job you asked for or keep his word? Probably not.
There is a type of people who talk, sometimes even brag, about how they don’t care about meeting deadlines and schedules. They consider those things as another numbers and that are not important enough. Interestingly, they never use this shit talk when talking with their clients or bosses. If you want to build a successful career or even a brand, deadlines should be adamant for you. I used to be that guy too, thinking about deadlines as something bad and hurting person’s creativity. Such a bullshit!
Now, I make sure to deliver on every deadline I set and every promise I give. Also, I make sure to make this as a standard for people around me and people I do business with. I advise you to do the same thing. As the saying goes: ”Treat others like you would want to be treated.” Meaning, if I set a meeting and one of us will not arrive on time, the other one should not wait. The time and date were crispy clear. If you fucked it up, it’s now your problem. The same if I have a delay. You should think about deadlines in this way … When deadline passes and you are not done, you are dead. End of story.
The only excuse is having an accident and ending up in hospital. Anyway, you should still make sure to contact your partner about you not being able to make it. Sending a message or an email after the appointment can sometimes make things even worse. If you are in doubt on being on time, send the message upfront. It is better to prepare other participants for arriving late and then being on time than otherwise, also I would not consider this as a maintainable strategy.
One more thing about being late … Never come up with excuse as first. You arrived late, period. Don’t make it worse by talking about the reason(s) leading to your delay. In the majority of cases, nobody gives a shit about it. As soon as you arrive, apologize for being late and go right to the main subject of the meeting, this case the job interview. If you consider this rude, think about it from another angle. You already cost the other person time she had to wait, don’t add up more time by talking about it.
Back to getting that cool developer position you always wanted … The message is simple … When you have a job interview set to specific time and date (as you will), do everything you can to be on time. If you have any doubts about making it, arrive sooner. For the situation when shit hits the fan and you will not be able to arrive on time or at all, contact the interviewer before the time of appointment. This way, you will at least show your respect.
The takeaway: Show your professionalism and your care by being on time or coming sooner.
Prepare your pitch
In order to be different, you should deviate from this approach and step out from the crowd. Instead of focusing on your skills and how many experiences you have at first, talk about the way you can help the company. Talk about the value you can bring to the team. Don’t be another so-called expert developer with knowledge of tens of programming languages. Most people, when applying for a job, do this mistake of focusing on themselves.
If you want to stand out, take the opposite approach and talk more about the company. Address all the things mentioned by company on their website or brochure that are interesting to you and you want to learn about. Show you enthusiasm for the position and the company itself. Don’t worry about over-doing it. It is better if the interviewer will interrupt you because you talk too much than trying to get a single word from your mouth.
From what I said it might look like you are preparing for an hour long interview. That’s completely wrong. Your pitch should follow these tips and remain short and straightforward. Think about it like an entrepreneur wanting to pitch his company to investors. Meaning, instead of putting together speech, aim for creating an elevator pitch. Your pitch should fit into thirty seconds. Address the what, how and why and shut up.
A more extreme example can be a twitter pitch–140 characters or less. You can use this approach to create some kinds of summary or introductory “headline” to describe yourself. Also, keep in mind that you are the one wanting to be a developer, not the interviewer. So leave the slang at the door. Use plain English while avoiding rude terms and even a jargon. The jargon rule can be broken if you are talking another developer and he will use it first.
The takeaway: Make your pitch short. Use the elevator pitch and fit it into thirty seconds. Also, avoid slang, rude words and even jargon depending on whom you are talking with.
Dress to it
When you are about to apply for a job, be it a developer, designer or a janitor, dress yourself appropriately. Meaning, if you can, wear a suit. Choose a suit that looks great and fits you perfectly. I understand that not everyone has the resources to afford a tailored suit. I don’t have it either. Anyway, I will still make sure the suit fits me perfectly no matter how much or little it costs. Do the same thing. Check the length of pants and sleeves.
Also, make sure the shirt you will take under it has longer sleeves than the suit. A bit of sleeves of the shirt should be always visible. If you have doubts about choosing the best color for the suit, go with dark blue. For the color of tie you can either conventional and pick neutral colors or fit it to your personality. Visible and distinct tie can give you more attention and build stronger connection in memory of interviewer. So decide for yourself.
Even though it is more common among designers, choosing more rebellious outfit can fit applying developer position as well. Meaning, nothing against the conventions (you are right, I don’t like to follow them at all) but I would always prefer showing your true personality and taste through your clothes. Some people might not like when you arrive in jeans, colorful shirt and hoodie, but you are at least honest and confident in your skin.
The takeaway: Dress accordingly to importance of the appointment, but have the courage to show your true self.
Leave the doubts at the door
One mistake many people do is not being confident in their skills or themselves. Imagine you are interviewing some young developer applying for a job in your company. Your goal is to find someone with skill set necessary to do described job. The last thing you want to is to be a cheerleader encouraging him to be more confident in himself. Do you get it? It is one thing to know your skills while another one to have the courage to stand for them. You are a job-ready skilled developer have the courage to show it (in humble way).
The takeaway: Be confident in yourself and your skills, but stay humble.
Show your best … Code
Since you are applying for a job as a developer, having some code example to show is necessary. There is no way around that. You can fill your CV with tons of cool stuff and buzzwords, but sample of your code will always beat it. In other words, always bring the sample of your code to the table. In most cases, there will be someone with coding skills present and having a sample of your work can be a huge plus.
Do you remember the part about doubts? Keep it in mind when presenting and talking about your code samples. Meaning, never ever say that you know the code is not at the best condition, have some errors or even it is horrible. Hearing this from a developer, no matter how skilled you are, is always a bad sign. Why? If you know the code is a crap or can be done better, why you made no effort to improve it? Is your style of work doing only what you have, making sure it just works, and nothing more?
If you really care and love your craft, you should always give it one hundred percent. In other words, the code you created mirrors your skills at their highest level, not less. I will repeat that for one more time. Every developer with passion for his craft makes sure to fix any flaws in the code he knows about. Job half-done is not good enough for him and worth spending his time and effort. However, asking for feedback is something whole different.
During your presentation or discussion about your code, don’t be afraid to ask the developer present for his feedback and advice on improving it. This will not lower your chances or say anything bad about you, rather the opposite. You will show willingness to learn more, improve your skills and quality of your code. This is what interviewer is looking for in a person applying for a job. You will also show you are humble and know there are still things to learn, not to mention showing respect to the other developer and his skills.
The takeaway: You coded it. Bring it, show it and ask for feedback.
Relax and show enthusiasm
OK. This moment is very important for you. You worked your ass of to be as prepared as you can. Now it is time acknowledge it by yourself and relax a bit. Being nervous and stretched will only hurt you and lower your chances to get the job. After you take the seat in front of interviewer, relax, don’t rush and use proper eye contact. Speak clearly so people in the room can understand your words and you don’t have to repeat it. This way, you will also look more confident and less nervous.
However, don’t take these words to far. Meaning, don’t be like an emotionless robot giving short answers and not blinking. Smiling is not dangerous and will not hurt you. Attention! Brush your teeth before the appointment and make sure to remove any crap left from food. Remember, you are a living human being with feelings and deep love for his craft. So have the courage to show it. Everyone likes to see and hire people passionate about their work.
The takeaway: When your preparation is over give yourself the permission to relax.
When in doubt, just ask
Nobody is perfect and sometimes even the most prepared individuals will make a mistake or forget something. If this happens to you during the job interview, don’t get discouraged by it. Acknowledge it and admit it. I mean say it out loud so the interviewer can actually hear it. If you have no idea what to answer, you just say it. You don’t have to pretend thinking about it or fake anything. The same with doubts. If you are not sure about something, admit it. Also, in both situations, make sure to follow up with asking for the right answer.
Show you are willing to admit you don’t know something and want to fix it. Remember, it is not a bad thing to lack some knowledge. Bad thing is trying to cover it and look like nothing have happened. It is true that the interviewer want to know have far your knowledge and skills go. However, she also needs to know you are willing to admit you have some weaker spots or gaps in your experiences and want to fill them with new knowledge.
The takeaway: When you don’t know the right answer, ask. Show your willingness to learn.
Job and the question of money
Depending on how experienced you are, the question of money can be either easy or tough. When I was starting in web design and development and applying to various companies for job or at least internship, I hated this question. When there was no initial range set by the company, I never knew how much should I ask for. Most of the time, I was undervaluing and underpricing myself. In short, I was selling myself freaking cheap. Fortunately, things changed. Now, I love this question.
If you are on the same boat with money subject, you are not alone. Many people find themselves in doubt when you ask them for their price. Visit some sites for freelancers at take a look at their rates or budgets per project. Most of them will be very low. This does not mean you should be comfortable setting your price low. If I would tell you anything, you should do the opposite, but don’t go to extremes.
The real reason that people from human resources like to ask this question is to see how confident you are with your skills and knowledge. They don’t care that much if you fit the budget for that specific position. Remember, their goal is to find the most appropriate person, not the cheapest. How else can you uncover person’s real self-confidence than by forcing him to put a price tag on his head (skills)? That is also why I love this question.
However, asking a person on a job interview to tell you his idea of salary is not a bulletproof method to find out the level of her skills. As I mentioned in post about hiring A-players, not everyone is the type of extroverted outspoken person. Unfortunately, many great and skilled programmers are on the other side of the curve … They are often rather quiet even reserved and humble. These people are not used to bragging about their skills, not that the rest of people is. This, quiet type, is more likely to undervalue themselves than otherwise.
There is nothing wrong about being humble and not to brag about yourself. I actually think that those two attributes can increase the chance of being hired. However, for average headhunter looking for skilled person confident in herself, quiet person is easy to overlook no matter how skilled he or she is. So what can you do? First, believe in yourself. Second, it is better to ask for higher salary and negotiate than otherwise. Third, do your homework–take a look at the average salary for the job you want in area the company is and use it as a solid point for orientation.
The takeaway: Believe in yourself, ask for more, be willing to negotiate and cover yourself by doing a research.
Closing thoughts on getting the job you want
There you have it. Now you are ready to send that mail and wait for getting invited to job interview. Even though you might not be interested in a full-time work, you can apply the tips above to part-time and internship as well. By the way, you can use these tips in more situations life … Think about applying to University, course, asking for promotion or having a date … I wish you success, achieving all your career goals and dreams and getting the job you want. Remember, you will get only what you ask AND work for.
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