Are you looking for your first or next software development job? Since it can be hard to know from a developer’s perspective what companies are looking for, we thought it might be helpful to let you know the top things we look for when evaluating candidates.
We first look at your education and field of study for relevance to the job posting. We want to see a bachelor’s degree or 2 years of experience. If your degree is in another field, we want to see some other form of technical experience. This can include “boot camps” and demonstrated self-learning. In other words, we likely won’t write you off for a position based solely on lacking a degree. Technical expertise weighs heavily in the hire decision.
Therefore, technical knowledge may be more important than education level. Like many companies, after an initial phone interview we conduct technical phone screenings. These consist of questions relating to the technologies required for the position, tend to focus on language knowledge, object-oriented programming, and may include some programming questions. One example for a junior position might be, “What is an object? ” Make sure to know object-oriented principles when preparing for interviews.
Tech screeners would rather hear, “I don’t know,” than listen to you fumble through an answer. Even worse is doing a quick Google search and replying with the first result— we can tell! A willingness to admit your limitations is far more impressive. It shows a level of humility which is likely to lead to a willingness to learn new technologies and strengthen existing skills , both of which are crucial for success in this career path.
For entry-level positions, employers are often willing to hire candidates for positions in a new language. A willingness to learn is key here. Having a solid understanding of object-oriented programming and development “best practices” is more important than the language specifics. After all, if you know one language, learning another should be easy. Most developers are multilingual and often work with many languages in a single coding session. Once programming skills are competent, the rest is mostly a matter of learning syntax.
More important than the overall GPA, companies in technical fields tend to value how well candidates perform in their field. This is not to say that required general education courses should be neglected. Obviously, a higher overall GPA is preferred and is icing on the cake. Regardless, major performance tends to be a key measure of technical knowledge.
Since most new grads lack professional experience in software development, listing notable projects and accomplishments during studies is crucial. This list doesn’t need to be comprehensive, but it should include one or two projects that you’re proud of. These projects should be senior projects and any others relevant to the posting. For instance, if you’re applying for a Java developer position, you can save resume space by focusing on projects that reflect skills useful for developing in that language.
These should be senior projects and any others relevant to the posting. For instance, if a candidate is applying for a Java developer position, they should not to “waste” resume space on describing a VHDL or other irrelevant project if they have others that are more relevant.
Listing extracurricular coding projects can help you stand out among the competition. These show creativity and passion for programming beyond academics and suggest interest in a career rather than merely a job in software development. They can also indicate your willingness and aptitude for learning new technologies and methodologies which will apply to developing cutting-edge software.
Highlight some projects using web app technologies such as Node.js, Angular, or React, or scripting languages like Python and Ruby. Showcasing these technologies demonstrates technical aptitude and versatility—both crucial to software development. Do you have a GitHub account where some of your personal projects are public? Include it! Managers love to see code examples!
Again, since new grads typically do not have much work experience, it’s important to keep your resume short and sweet. Recruiters must often sift through hundreds of resumes and may not be willing to read through three-pages of irrelevant experience. The KISS method—keep it short and simple—is a sound resume strategy.
It goes without saying that a resume should be free from grammatical and typographical errors. The resume is your first impression and should exhibit the professionalism and attention to detail that your career will require.
Perhaps more important than the resume is a demonstrated capacity for effective communication. This includes written, verbal, body language, attitude, timeliness, and politeness. The decision between two good candidates tends to favor the one who exhibits these qualities. Throughout the hiring process—including resume, phone interviews, and in-person interviews—recruiters are evaluating these key qualities. Effective communication suggests that you will be an effective “team player” and work efficiently with others.
Most employers will require at least three references, and some require more. It’s important to have a mix of professional and personal references, but don’t include family members. As a new grad, professional references will typically be college professors or from previous or current employment not related to tech. Personal references might include colleagues from volunteering, church, or other organizations.
For a new grad seeking your first position in software development, these steps will help you stand out from the crowd of applicants and land your first job to start your career.