The hiring landscape in tech isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Here’s what you need to know to get hired now, no matter who you are
Regardless of the stage of your career you’re in, trying to land a solid job in tech can be stressful.
And the hiring landscape isn't what it was 10 years ago — lots of advice is outdated, or doesn't take into account the needs of underrepresented folks in the industry.
I help diverse groups of people land jobs in tech. Here's what you need to know in 2021.
#10: Be aware of and prepare for these industry secrets
Many job listings are fake
Many companies say they're hiring when they aren't, to signal to their customers that they're growing and in demand. It's tacky, but fairly common.
This one is hard to prepare for — you can never really know whether or not a listing is fake, right?
But if you ever get 0 response to your application, it may very well be the case that the job wasn't even real to begin with. So take a breath and let it go. On to the next one.
Most interviewers aren't prepared
Most small- to mid-sized tech companies have no clue how to interview. They pick a manager and a developer and tell them to interview candidates in between their other responsibilities.
So your potential employer may not ask you the right questions, the ones that will give them a sense of who you are and how you work.
Figure out what you want to emphasize about yourself beforehand, and make sure you bring that up in your interview if it doesn't come up naturally.
#9: Schedule your interviews wisely
Don't interview at your dream job(s) first
Interviewing is a skill. You get better as you go. The first interviews usually don't go as well for beginners. Don't jump straight into interviews for your dream job — interview at the places which you don't mind missing out on first.
At first, space out your initial interviews
Give yourself time to learn and grow after each interview. Missed specific technical questions? First interview didn't go so well? Use the break to prepare better for the next interview.
Once you feel ready, do multiple interviews in quick succession
After a handful of interviews, you'll feel confident that you know what kind of questions to expect, and what kind of answers you want to give.
Once you get in that groove, don't space out your interviews too much. Employers usually give you around a week to respond to their offer.
Aim to receive all offers at the same time, so you can compare them and feel sure that it's the best fit for you.
#8: Redirect questions you can't answer
Before you panic, consider why they're asking
Even if you don't know the answer to a specific question, you can still give a good answer if you can figure out why it was asked. Here's an example:
Interviewer: "How do you use useContext?
You, in your head: I don't know. But let's see, they must want to know if I understand hooks.
You, out loud: "I haven't needed that. But I'm very comfortable with hooks. I utilize useEffect to run some code action after the render has taken place."
Interviewer, in their head: They might not know how to use useContext, but clearly they understand hooks, so they could learn how pretty easily.
If you really don't know something, show that you’re eager to learn it
If you truly have no idea how to answer a question, it's not the end of the world. Just say, "I don't know but I'd love to learn more about it! I'll check it out."
And then actually go check it out. If you get a follow-up interview, you can show that you're a proactive, fast learner.
#7: Improve every week
No one ever "finishes" learning web development
Even when you're ready for your interviews, keep practicing.
If you keep at it, you will be a more senior developer during later interviews than you were on your first day of interviewing. Be someone who wants to keep learning and growing, always, and opportunity will come knocking.
#6: Communicate your skills with your resume and portfolio
Beginners may not have relevant work experience — and that's okay
Transferable skills are your friends. On your resume and in your interview, talk about the skills that would be useful in the job you're applying to.
For example, if you worked at McDonalds, you can say...
- "I have experience in a customer-facing role."
- "I'm proactive and self-directed."
- "I excel in a highly productive, fast-paced environment."
- "I'm comfortable working on a small team."
Interviewers don’t always ask the right questions, so make sure you stand out on paper too
Make your resume an easy to read, simple, true reflection of your experiences.
Don't have a portfolio you're proud of yet? Create a website for an imaginary business. Or better yet, build one for a friend's business, even if they don't end up using it. Do whatever you need to do to create a portfolio you're excited to share.
#5: Create your own opening
To create your own opening, find small companies you’d like to work for and find out whether or not they have a need for your skills
Small companies are too busy to review 100 resumes, especially when they need help. So they often don't list jobs, even if they're hiring.
DM an employee who's directly related to the role you want to fill, explain how you could help, and ask them what they need. If your skills could be useful to them, offer to start on a part-time trial.
Make the process easy, and they might just hire you.
#4: Remember why they're hiring
Unless you're applying for an internship, your goal is to convince them that you'll make their lives easier
Keep that in mind throughout the process. Be creative, helpful, and flexible (within reason).
Yes, you want this job, but you also want them to have a reason to hire you. Demonstrate that you want to make their lives easier, and they'll feel like they really have a reason to hire you.
#3: Clean up (or make private) those social media accounts
Social media is the new minimal background check
Employers glance at public social media profiles before hiring. Your social media posts can help, hurt, or have no impact on your hiring chances.
Make your profile private or curate your feed while you're job hunting.
#2: If you're an underrepresented person in tech, seek out inclusive companies
Look for allies
Before and during interviews, look for people who are welcoming and understand you. Ask those people to refer you to their companies or to point you to inclusive companies.
Veni Kunche's Diversify Tech job board is a great place to start. She aims to limit her job board to only inclusive companies, and her newsletter is full of resources and job postings too. Her platform helps underrepresented people in tech get awareness and access to opportunities in our industry.
Know that your first job may be toxic
Startups often don't have a "code of conduct" or a quality HR team. The founders may be unaware of issues others face. It's usually easier to get hired at companies like that.
Saying no to those job offers and toxic cultures is a privilege not everybody can afford.
So if you find yourself in that spot, think of that first job as a springboard. Learn everything you can, and make a plan to move on as soon as you're able, because sooner or later you will want to be in a more inclusive workplace.
Early on, remember that job hopping is OK
Don't feel obligated to stick around at your first job for a year — especially if you're underpaid or have a toxic colleague(s).
Being employed while interviewing actually makes you a more desirable candidate. If you’re in a toxic workplace, realize that 1-3 months of employment lends sufficient credibility to find a job elsewhere.
#1: Be kind to yourself
You can only do your best, at your best
Landing a job is time-consuming. It's part art, and part luck. You're competing against the whole world for remote jobs, and it's not a level playing field.
Yes, follow these tips. Yes, continue learning and growing.
But resting and looking after your health is just as important, if not more so. No one can give from an empty well. Take care of yourself, and take every misstep, every rejection, as an opportunity to reflect, grow, and rest.
Continue the conversation
I've got a lot more to say on this topic, but these are the basics. If this resonated with you, or if you have any questions, please share on Twitter and tag me (@ashabed) so we can continue the conversation.
I'm a web developer with over 15 years of experience in the industry, a Drupal Grand Master, ReactJS developer, entrepreneur, and founder of Debug Academy.
I help diverse groups of people land jobs in tech. Sign up for my newsletter (below) if you want access to more resources and opportunities.
Happy job hunting!