Finding a new job in tech isn’t always the most intuitive process. So, we sat down with several recruiters in our community and asked them to share their insights.
In the video above, Madison Olson, Codecademy’s Manager of Technical Recruiting, shares her top tips that'll help you navigate the job-hunting process. Read on (or watch the video) to learn how to find find the perfect position, highlight your strengths during the interview process, and more.
1. Optimize your resume to make it past the bots
"Dig into job descriptions, optimize your resume, and use a fairly consistent resume across the board, but tailor it to specific roles."
— Madison Olson, Codecademy's Manager of Technical Recruiting
It may sound tedious, but tailoring your resume for each job you apply to will maximize your chances of being called in for an interview.
With platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn, applying to jobs has never been easier. This means that recruiters and hiring teams are often inundated with applications. To make their jobs easier, many of them turn to applicant tracking systems (ATS).
In short, ATS screen job candidates and rank them by how well they match the job posting. This is done, in part, by analyzing your resume for keywords included in the job description.
By making sure those keywords are included in your resume, you'll have a much better chance of being marked as a suitable candidate. Otherwise, your application might never even reach the hands of a recruiter.
To learn more, check out our article on how to read a job description.
2. Explore all of your opportunities
You might already have your eyes set on a specific company or industry. But, as Madison points out, there are lots of jobs that could be a great fit for you:
"Cast a wide net at the beginning [of your job search] because you might come across something you end up being excited about. Even if you don't do something you're the most excited about initially, you'll still learn things that'll be valuable in your next role — so think about how you can learn and grow."
During your job search, you may come across a role that you're well-suited for but doesn't quite align with what you had in mind. For example, say you want to be a Full-Stack Developer at Tesla, but they're only hiring Front-End Developers.
In this case, do you apply for the front-end role, or do you wait for a full-stack opportunity? Madison recommends the former. As she explains, it could easily lead to your dream job later — and you could learn some valuable skills along the way:
"Any good company will try to help facilitate a transition for you if you come into one role and decide to pursue another opportunity. Of course, you have to temper your expectations a little. It can take some time to make sure the company can support your professional development and learning, and get you exposure to that type of opportunity and eventually transition into that role."
3. Don't rule yourself out
Too often, job seekers miss out on great opportunities because they think they're underqualified. Maybe you're missing a few of the skills listed in the job description or fall just shy of the required years of experience. While it's great to be selective, don't let this deter you.
"Most job descriptions are split into 'must-haves' and 'nice to haves.' If you meet some of the key must-haves along with some of the nice to haves, it doesn't hurt to apply,” Madison said. Continuing, she explains:
“What I hate seeing candidates get tripped up on — and is super prevalent in the tech industry and beyond — is when you see a position that has four or five years of experience [as a requirement], but someone only has three, so they don't apply. If you're missing one or two years but still have the same general amount of experience, don't let it stop you from applying."
Similarly, don't be intimidated by job titles. While looking for their first job in tech, many people limit their searches to junior or internship positions.
But, as Madison explains, every company has its own naming conventions. Say a company lists an entry-level position as "Software Engineer I." You could miss out on a great opportunity if you're only applying to "Junior Software Engineer" postings.
So, make sure you're paying close attention to the requirements for the role. As long as you hit most of the criteria, there's still a chance you could land the job.
4. Use examples to illustrate your soft skills
While hard skills are usually illustrated in your portfolio and during technical interviews, soft skills are harder to showcase.
The term "soft skills" refers to those you use to handle the less technical aspects of your job, like working with teammates and solving problems. While you can (and should) include them in the skills section of your resume, interviews provide a better opportunity for you to put them in the spotlight.
During the interview process, you'll be asked to speak to your past experiences. This might include times when you've worked as part of a team or a problem you've had to solve last-minute. Generally, you'll want to use examples related to the role you're applying for — but what if you don't have any relevant experience?
In these cases, it's important to remember that soft skills are transferable. It's completely okay to use examples from non-technical positions or even your personal life. As Madison recommends:
"Don't hesitate to utilize experience you think might not be relevant for these questions. If asked about a time you made a mistake, you might struggle to think of a time you made an engineering mistake, but you can talk about something else — even if it's outside of engineering or tech."
Need more help with this one? In another article, we take a closer look at how to showcase your soft skills.
5. Speak to growth opportunities, not bad experiences
If you're switching careers, you'll likely be asked why you're leaving your current position or field. You can almost think of this as a trick question. You might have a long list of complaints about your current or past employer, but that's not what they're looking for.
Instead, discuss what you're looking to gain from your next role. As the saying goes, it's not what you say but how you say it.
Felt micromanaged at your last company? Highlight your excitement for more autonomy. Got passed over for a promotion? Share your excitement for professional development and opportunities for growth. As Madison explains:
"The big thing to do is talk about your experience, what you've learned, and how you've improved and adjusted and will continue to do so going forward. Focus on yourself and your continued growth."
6. Know that it's okay to say "I don't know"
At some point during your interviews, you might face a question that leaves you stumped. It might be about a lesser-known function or your approach to solving a complex problem.
In these situations, many people try to come up with something on the spot. You've finally got your foot in the door, and the last thing you want is to leave them questioning your expertise, right?
But, as Madison points out, it's better to simply admit that you're not sure — as long as you follow up with an explanation of how you'd go about finding the answer.
"It's totally okay to admit what you don't know. You could say, 'I actually haven't had experience with this before, but in a situational sense, this is what I might do.' I think that's a big strength for someone — if they admit what they don't know or are able to talk about a mistake they had — it's all about where you go from there."
7. Feel empowered to ask tough questions
Asking questions is a critical element of the job-hunting process. Accepting a job is a big decision, and you'll need as much information as possible to guide your decision-making.
Imagine coming across a company you'd love to work for. You meet all the requirements, the listed benefits sound promising, and all in all, you think it'd be a great fit. But — you see a few concerning comments on sites like Glassdoor.
Some people may see the bad reviews as a red flag and move on. Others might simply apply and hope for the best. But, as Madison explains, situations like these are great opportunities to find out more about the company.
"Feel confident in asking questions throughout your interview process. [If you find bad reviews on Glassdoor], ask about your concerns — they can address any steps that have been taken to resolve the problem."
Asking questions can also lead to insights that'll help you perform better in future interviews.
Say you made it through a couple rounds of interviews, but the company ultimately decided to go in another direction. It's disappointing, but it happens.
Still, you can use this opportunity to identify your areas of improvement. Try reaching out to a recruiter and asking for feedback. As Madison explains:
"It's totally fair to ask for feedback, [but] you have to be a little lenient and understanding. If it's just an application, it's going to be harder for a recruiter to get back to you. If it's after a phone call [or an in-person interview], they have a little more context. Ask, but temper expectations."
Preparing for your job search
The tips above will go a long way in helping you find your perfect role, but there's more work to be done. Along with optimizing your resume and knowing what to say (and what not to say) during interviews, you'll also need to build a portfolio, prepare for technical interviews, and more.
If you need help preparing for the rest of the process, check out our Career Center. You'll find valuable resources like:
- Portfolio Projects that'll help you illustrate your skills
- Workspaces you can use to build your experience with projects you can share with recruiters
- Code Challenges to help you prepare for technical interviews, and more.
Or, if you're looking for more insights from recruiters about finding jobs in the tech industry, check out the videos below: