Some people have problems landing a suitable job in tech. Again and again, they meet the requirements of a particular position, and say all the right things during the interview, only to receive a rejection email a few days later (if they hear anything at all). They can’t figure out what’s wrong.
If you’re doing everything right, then you should persevere—sometimes it can take many months to land a new job, even if you have the right combination of skills. But if any of the scenarios below apply to you, it may be time to change your job-hunting approach.
Even if you demonstrate mastery of an in-demand programming language such as Java, Scala or Python, employers are looking to hire software engineers and programmers who possess the ability to master the algorithms that power evolving technologies such as machine learning. So unless you’re able to solve a series of difficult algorithmic problems, most firms are unlikely to give you an offer.
“Most companies view a solid foundation in data structures and algorithms as a sign of intelligence and a fundamental requirement for learning new languages or adding a new skill to your toolbox,” explained Gayle Laakmann McDowell, founder and CEO of CareerCup.com and author of the “Cracking the Coding Interview.”
As McDowell pointed out, even tech pros without CS degrees can usually master algorithmic concepts and enhance their marketability with a few weeks of intensive study and practice. So that’s good news.
Do you market yourself as a generalist who knows multiple programming languages? Painting your abilities with a broad brush can backfire, noted John Sonmez, founder and CEO of Simple Programmer and author of “The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide.”
“Most managers want to hire a specialist who knows the lead programming language or framework inside and out,” Sonmez explained. “Knowing other languages is a plus, but you’ll open more doors and land more offers by positioning yourself as an expert [in a select number of things].”
Being a resourceful, creative problem-solver is a plus. But unless you also demonstrate a penchant for precision and the fundamentals of writing clean code during interviews, you risk coming across as a “MacGyver-like” programmer who focuses more on the end results than how the code works.
In other words, if you unintentionally convey the attitude that “any old thing will do,” you’ll keep getting the boot.
If you disagree with the opinions of the interviewer, it’s certainly okay to speak up and express yourself—politely but confidently. Just remember to pick your battles and fight for what matters. After all, you could be right as rain from a technical standpoint, but what does it matter if you don’t have a steady paycheck?
Many tech pros, especially newbies, convey a lack of confidence during interviews. They incorrectly assume that others are more competent, when that’s not necessarily the case.
McDowell suggests, for instance, that insecure programmers often give up too quickly on difficult problems during whiteboard exams. If you run into an unexpected challenge, don’t throw in the proverbial towel; ask for feedback and keep going. Remember, confidence is a skill that can be learned and nurtured over time.
Aside from technical skills, passion is the top attribute that employers look for when they hire tech pros. To prove that you don’t have a “nine-to-five mentality,” point to side projects and examples of your work that illustrate your drive and willingness to go above and beyond.
Maybe you didn’t come across as someone who would fit in with the team, or perhaps the hiring manager wasn’t exactly blown away by your coding abilities during a test. Hey, it happens.
Many tech pros are experiencing a market where companies complain about the talent shortage; but at the same time, they’re being very selective. “Everyone’s looking to hire the top 20 percent,” Sonmez noted.
What’s the solution? Research shows that being referred for an open position by a current employee can eliminate internal doubt and tip the scales in your favor. Sometimes, a little nudge like that is all it takes to land the position you want.