by Kim Desmond, cofounder of CodingNomads

Great news for coding bootcamp students – a recent study found that 72% of hiring managers consider bootcamp grads to be just as prepared as university grads to perform well on the job. Even still, making the leap from a coding bootcamp to a software engineering job can be daunting. Already bursting with the information you learned during the bootcamp, now it’s time to apply your skills to real-world work.

During CodingNomads Java coding bootcamp in Bali, we invited guest speaker David Ladanyi to chat with our class on job searching, interviewing, and life as a software engineer. Currently a senior software engineer for solar power financing firm Mosaic, David draws from 16 years’ experience in the field. He plays a key role in company hiring processes, and has interviewed and hired several coding bootcamp grads.

David joined us in the classroom, as well as on a weekend class trip to the Gili Islands. Graciously answering our students’ questions formally on the whiteboard, and informally on the beach, David shed a wealth of valuable insight. Combined with CodingNomads’ best practices for how to find a job after a coding bootcamp, here are 7 critical steps to looking for work, preparing for the interview, and succeeding on the job.

If you are interested in how to find remote work after a coding bootcamp, check out our How to Find Remote Developer Jobs blog on Course Report.

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Informal learning on the beach at Gili Air Island

1. Start with your network

Personal network

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” The best place to start looking for work is with people you already know – friends, family, professional contacts, and of course, your coding bootcamp network. You now possess skills that are in high demand, so it’s very possible that someone you know (or someone they know) is looking for software engineering help. Your network knows you personally, can vouch for you, and can be a great resource to connect you with industry contacts.

Bootcamp network

Your bootcamp can also help introduce you to potential employers to boost your search. At CodingNomads, our instructors continue working with students well beyond our 12 week courses as they transition into their job search and career. We continue to help our students refine their skills, polish their materials, nail the interview, and speak to prospective employers as a reference on their behalf. We don’t succeed until our students succeed.

Growing your professional network

In addition to your personal and bootcamp networks, this is also a great time for you to build your professional tech network. Attend local meetups, join a hackathon, or volunteer at a tech event to meet other people in the field. Every job I’ve ever had I’ve gotten through networking. The more people you talk to, the more contacts, ideas and avenues to explore will open up. Networking can fast-track your job search by a long shot. It should not be overlooked, nor underestimated.

2. Showcase your bootcamp experience

When hiring entry-level software engineers, employers understand your experience will be limited. Therefore it’s important to communicate the technical skills gained during your coding bootcamp on all your job searching collateral with the tips below. CodingNomads assists our students in building their resumes, cover letter, online profiles and any other collateral needed, ensuring pertinent technical information is effectively conveyed.

    • Feature your bootcamp experience on your resume, LinkedIn, AngelList, and other online/social media profiles so your skills are visible and searchable.
    • Include the programming languages, frameworks, databases, project management tools, and other applicable technologies you learned.
    • Detail your bootcamp projects. Highlight the roles you played and project outcomes to demonstrate how your new skills can benefit your future employer.
    • Include links to your projects, portfolio website, and/or your GitHub repository.
  • Remember to always add value to the prospective employer by conveying how your skills and interests can directly benefit the company. It’s not as much about what you can do, but what you can do for them.

Ideas for bolstering your project experience

To boost your project experience, consider looking for contract work, or even pick up a side project for free. An employer doesn’t need to know how much you got paid, but what you achieved. This helps build your experience while providing valuable services. It might even help get your foot in the door for a full-time job. Other ideas for bolstering resume projects and experience include:

    • Ongoing development of personal projects
    • Participate in hackathons like HackerRank, CodeFights or Google Code Jam.
    • Fix bugs on open source projects on GitHub.
  • Contribute to ACM-ICPC problems.

3. Showcase your personality value-adds

Given your limited experience, your next best selling point is to stand out as someone people want to work with. Soft skills like communication, culture fit, friendliness, adaptability, determination and passion are very important to prospective employers. These traits show that even with limited experience, you can immediately add value to the company as someone willing to work hard with a good attitude.

Utilize your resume objective statement and cover letter / email to communicate your personal mission and values alongside your technical skills. Spend time building your LinkedIn and AngelList profiles to let employers know who you are, in addition to what you can do. Show that you have more dimensions beyond work.

Personality matters in a software engineering team!

4. Seek out companies you want to work for

At CodingNomads we encourage students to seek companies and projects that excite them and align with their personal values. If you are passionate about a company’s product or culture, you’ll want to work harder and longer, and everyone wins.

Entry-level jobs are not always advertised, but oftentimes companies need the help. Even if a job posting says 1-2 years experience or a degree required, it’s worth the outreach – especially when you can convey your excitement and passion for the company.

How to find the best companies to work for after a coding bootcamp:

    • Determine what’s important to you: the product/mission, size of company/team, diversity, perks, vacation time, salary, remote work options, etc.
    • Research companies by their tech stacks and types of projects through LinkedIn, AngelList, the company career page and blog.
    • Reach out to current employees through LinkedIn to get a sense of company culture, and potentially a foot in the door.
    • Look for companies that provide mentorship for new engineers.
  • Research the founders, senior leaders and technology leaders. Company culture often starts at the top, so look for inspiring, experienced leaders.

5. Customize your outreach

Now that you’ve found the types of companies you want to work for, present yourself as the employee they want to hire. Companies hire engineers to help the company succeed. In every communication outreach, convey how your skills, practical knowledge and attitude can quickly generate value for the company.

Tailor your outreach message / email / cover letter, as well as your resume objective statement for each company to show your genuine interest and relevant qualifications. Make your application more about them than you, and you’ll get better results.

6. Prepare for the interview

There is a clear distinction between candidates who have (or have not) prepared for the interview. Personality, attitude, and technical skills are the main gating criteria for junior engineers, so be prepared to bring your A-game in all these respects.

Phone interview

The interview process typically starts with a phone screen with a mid-level manager or human resources. Sometimes they will ask technical questions, but typically the first conversation helps employers determine if you’re a good culture fit. This is also your opportunity to determine whether this is a company you want to work for. Be prepared with specific questions about the work environment and culture to understand if they fit with your values, and support you as a learning engineer.

In-person / technical interview

Next comes the in-person interview, which can last from 2-4+ hours and include multiple peers and managers. Be prepared to answer logic / problem solving questions, and whiteboard algorithmic problems. Try to relax, as interviewers don’t want to stump you! Technical questions should be catered to your level of experience.

Employers seek candidates that will work the problem. They look at how you take instruction, and how you act under pressure. Even if you don’t get the answer, employers can distinguish between candidates who eventually will get there through persistence and a positive attitude, vs. candidates who get frustrated or give up.

It is better to try and say or write something than to simply say you don’t know. If you don’t know, ask for a prompt. It’s ok to be honest about your limitations as long as you show the eagerness to learn. Likewise, it’s important to not pretend like you know something you don’t. Confidence is a green light. Arrogance is a red flag.

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Sample questions in a software engineering technical interview

As CodingNomads and David specialize in server-side Java engineering, the following examples and resources relate to server-side software engineering interviews. If you’d like more practice on software engineering interview questions, Cracking the Code is a great book with tons of examples.

  • Practical questions/prompts:
      • Write code to perform the FizzBuzz game.
      • Write code to print the contents of a String backwards.
      • Pick a searching or sorting algorithm and please demonstrate it in pseudocode.
      • How efficient is this algorithm, using Big O analysis?
      • How can you make this code sample more efficient?
      • How would you explain a database transaction? In what use cases are transactions important?
    • Model a rule based game like poker, blackjack or battleship. How would you break it down into classes, methods variables?

7. Succeeding on the job

At CodingNomads we teach students how to learn like an engineer, think like an engineer, and act like an engineer, so each student is prepared to be an engineer.

David explained that in the field, a major defining characteristic between junior and senior engineers is judgement. Junior engineers may lack thoroughness in testing code and thinking in deep detail, resulting in more mistakes. To think like an engineer, define every possible scenario where code can go wrong. Hit every line of code in your testing to ensure it’s doing what you want it to do, so your submission doesn’t come back with bugs.

Also be careful about copying and pasting existing code – DRY – don’t repeat yourself! Lastly, remember that software engineering is often a team sport. Help your peers, and learn from them as well. The learning never stops.

By following these steps and demonstrating your motivation to work hard, keep a positive attitude, and contribute value to the company, you will stand out as a qualified desirable software engineering candidate. You’ve already proved you can work hard and learn fast through your coding bootcamp. Now you are prepared to transition into the workforce. Go get ‘em!