Tips from a hiring manager: How developers can set themselves up for success

Navigating your professional career in Tech is a challenge for many developers, as each Tech company has their own hiring system and preferences in place. In this article, Code Sherpas asks StackOverflow´s hiring manager Teresa Dietrich tips on how to set yourself up for success as a developer.

Source: Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

The software engineering field is full of challenges. Learning to code is one challenge. Finding a job in Tech is quite another. So, how do you go from learning to code to getting your first job in Tech without previous job experience?

There are many jobs available in Tech, yet not all jobs will suit all developer candidates. The Stack Overflow Hiring manager warns to avoid unrealistic candidate expectations in Tech:

“I recommend avoiding job postings that have a laundry list of “must have” skills or experience because they likely have unrealistic expectations of candidates.” Teresa Dietrich — Hiring Manager Stack Overflow.

Before you start to apply to any job:

  • Make a selection between realistic and unrealistic job descriptions.

After a first selection of realistic job postings, you should of course meet the technical requirements of a job description: knowing how to code in specific technologies, coding languages and frameworks and having sufficient technical expertise is a good start.

How do you know if you meet the technical job requirements?

  • Job requirements: look at interesting job postings to see what technical knowledge you must have to apply.
  • Create a Spreadsheet of jobs and core technologies required
  • Check what common technologies you should have experience in.
  • Focus on how to acquire the missing experience, in order to be considered as a candidate.

How can you acquire such experience without having a Tech job?

There are many possibilities to gain real-world experience even without a job:

You could apply for an internship, which is invaluable for aspirant Tech employees. They are low risk for a company and a great reward for the interns. Due to Covid, many companies are offering internships as remote work, so even if you do not live close to a Tech Hub you make a change to get a tech internship.

Another way to create demonstrable digital products is to gain valuable experience by volunteering your tech skills to support a non-profit. You not only gain experience, but also create real impact to a cause you deeply care about. Mostly unpaid, it is a great way to further your Tech experience and build your network, while giving back to the community.

You can easily get yourself working experience by trying out new technologies creating your own projects or helping out open source projects.

  • Online services like CodePen or Glitch let you set up a server, write code, deploy it and test it out, all in one day.
  • Share your learnings and work on forums like Dev or Medium
  • Take part on major projects on platforms like GitHub
  • Volunteer on open source projects, to learn and practice with a new technology in a real code base.
  • Share what you are doing and what you learned with the community on Twitter.

You can also make a job change inside your existing company. It is much easier because they already know and trust you. Talk to your boss and HR and find someone at your company to mentor you and give you small assignments. Make your aspirations known to both your manager and the team manager you would like to join. Ask them if they can work with you toward this transition. Once your company knows you, your work ethic, and your aspirations, it is much easier to break into a new discipline.

So, now you have your tech skills covered. One point of caution from the HR manager. Only put technical skills on your resume if you really have experience with them:

“During a phone screen, I commonly dig into the details of the must-have technical skills for the job — it’s a red flag when an applicant stumbles badly to answer these types of questions.” Teresa Dietrich — Hiring Manager Stack Overflow.

So, it is about time to apply. Wait, there is more. Although technical knowledge is key, hiring managers look for far more than just that.

A second point HR managers look for when screening Tech employees, is their attitude. Job interviews mostly start off well with a candidate mostrating confidence and enthusiasm, yet a positive attitude and a real passion for Tech is hard to fake. Being able to articulate why you chose the Tech field and why you are interested in the company you are applying for goes a long way.

But only if it really comes from the inside. Passion can´t be learned. If you are not passionate about the Tech world, then this is not your place.

How to demonstrate your attitude and motivation in Tech?

  • Demonstrate your attitude and motivation with stories online.
  • Post something on Medium about interesting problems you encountered.
  • Comment on other people’s posts and get involved in the Tech community.
  • Connect your motivational stories to your LinkedIn profile
  • Participate in an online or real world community.
  • Help start or organize a meetup in an area related to your work.
  • Speak at meetups or other events.

Passion, motivation and how you handle pressure, that is what attitude is all about and it is equally important to technical skills. To find out about attitude and culture fit, Hiring Managers often ask the candidate the question:

Why do you consider to explore new opportunities?

Knowing your Why is important to see if there is a cultural fit with the company:

  • Before you start interviewing, have a positive, future looking vision of why you are looking and what you are looking for.
  • A negative attitude like speaking ill of your former work can end the chance at the position as fast as lack of relevant experience or skills.
  • Research the company’s website and social media to make sure you are a culture fit and then demonstrate in the interview why you are a cultural fit for the company during the job interview in a positive way.

When you want to thrive in a digital work environment, one thing is sure: you need to be willing to learn new things quickly.

“The only constant is change”.

That is especially true in the Tech industry. Through experimentation, determining how you learn best and having a few examples present on how you have evolved your skills is important to get yourself from the front door to take the first step into the Tech company.

Although it is important to know the current technical knowledge, languages and frameworks you apply for, it is even more important to know what you want to learn and where you want to end up eventually.

This hunger to learn new things, is what makes hiring managers interested in you. As it tells them something about your growth mindset and ability to learn new things and adapt quickly.

  • Give an example of a situation in which you had to learn on the job
  • Explain how you learn new skills best.
  • Join free and low cost online learning options to stay up-to-date in your workfield, such as online courses, bootcamps, tutorials, workshops.
  • Apply to a hackathon to bring your skills to competition level and learn from others around you.
  • Join an online community or find a mentor to partner with you through the job searching process.
  • Keep learning on the job and in your spare time.
  • When an job opportunity comes your way that you do not have experience with, admit it, but commit to figuring it out. People are more impressed by people who admit they don´t know something and then find a solution anyway.
  • Know how you learn: read a book, attend a workshop, take an online course, an in-person training and then acquire the new skills.
  • Get yourself examined and certified.

Knowing how you learn best not only helps you succeed in new challenges but also demonstrates a level of self awareness that is very attractive in candidates.

And last, but not least, as ¾ of the people find their next job via their network, connections and networking are very important. So, if a hiring manager checks your social network profiles, like Github, Linkedin, Twitter among others and sees you are not connected to anyone in the Tech community, it will make a bad impression. Connections are your true asset, so take care of them:

  • Connect with people you work with
  • Connect with other students on online education sites
  • Join online and offline Tech events and talk with the people you meet.
  • Attend conferences
  • Connect to people online.
  • Contribute to open source projects.
  • Set a weekly goal for yourself to add a new person to your Linkedin Contacts
  • Stay engaged with your network. Invest in your personal connections. Schedule regular times in your calendar to connect with people from your network and ask them how you can help them. One day they will help you back with new job opportunities, being a solid supporter, a reference or giving you great advice and knowledge along the way.
  • Grab a coffee to catch up with connections in your neighborhood.
  • Pass along job openings, interesting information and events people in your network might like.
  • Having recommendations and Linkedin Connections is a plus.
  • Choose quality over quantity. A passionate network that supports and recommends you is far more important than a large network of people you hardly know.

Working in Tech and creating digital products are very heavily dependent on good teamwork. So not only to get a new job- as most job opportunities occur via referrals of family and friends, but also to demonstrate you are a people’s person, you need to connect with other like-minded individuals in order to explore and expand your career possibilities.

Now you know how to position yourself for success as a Tech professional. Just remember to follow this four-step-framework:

  • STEP 1: Tech skills. Develop the required Tech skills for the role and demonstrate them to the Company.
  • STEP 2: Attitude, passion and motivation. Demonstrate your positive attitude, passion, and motivation for your chosen field.
  • STEP 3: Aptitude. Through experimentation, determine how you learn best and have examples of how you have evolved your skills.
  • STEP 4: Network. Take care of your network and contact like-minded people to connect, explore and expand your career.

Whether you want to pursue a new role or make progression within your current role at your current company, or apply for a new job in a new company. That is up to you. It is time to get prepared!

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Diana Vilé

Diana Vilé

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A passionate Digital Communication Professional from Barcelona, Spain. Experience: Content, UX-design, Frontend. https://dianavile.github.io/AllDigitalAgency/