Over the past 10 years, I had the chance to look at dozens of job applications from Junior developers and I interviewed some of them.
Some applications instantly caught my attention while others looked almost entirely the same.
In this post, I'm going to give you 5 tips and a bonus tip to stand out with your next job application.
If you prefer to watch this, I also made a video. You can see it here:
It might seem difficult to land a job in tech, but why is that?
Courses are convenient, easily accessible to anyone.
As a result of this lots of people are doing them.
If you didn't drop out, you're in the same place as everyone else who did the same thing. How do I know this?
You've got that Pokedex or weather app repo under your GitHub profile.
So how we stand out and what interviewers (like me) are looking for?
1. Create something unique
There's a repo with a list of free APIs: https://github.com/public-apis/public-apis, add a bit of imagination and you already have my attention.
Going the non-standard route will tell me several things about you.
You did some research, found a list of free APIs, and added some twists to this whole app exercise thing at the end of a course.
Think like this: 1500 people are going to implement the same app from the course and call it a day.
You love expanding on ideas and do research.
Both are important qualities of a software developer.
2. Version control (Git)
Imagine me, opening up that sweet Pokedex repository, and trying to figure out if it's the same thing I looked at already or you changed something?
9/10 candidates will have a single commit in the GitHub repositories:
that tells me absolutely nothing. If you further tweak a default app just give meaningful messages to your commits like:
changed button to green
made it pop
Now I see that you cared about this app and tweaked things a bit.
This will also help you to build a good habit of using version control.
Even professional developers sometimes neglect writing tests for no reason. Not that they don't cover a feature or two, but they just... don't write tests.
Learning at least one testing framework is a great investment of your time if you consider becoming a professional developer.
Adding some tests to your portfolio project will definitely make the project stand out and engineers who do the interview later will remember this.
Instead of just lurking on StackOverflow, Hashnode, or other online communities, open a profile, join a discussion, try to help people.
I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge simply by trying to figure what's wrong with other people's code on StackOverflow.
Show me that you're in the loop by using some tools that are well known in the industry.
These can be libraries, practices, you can leave a comment in your code that you read this and that in an article.
Show curiosity, by using quality resources that are well-known in the industry.
For example, if you use React, pick something in your project from useHooks.
When you go beyond the subject of a specific course it'll immediately catch your interviewer's attention.
I think it's also just really important to craft an online presence these days.
Not just to showcase some of your work, but it's something you can take with you when you change companies.
5. Quality > Quantity
At the end of the day, taking care of your projects is much like gardening.
Just as there is work for every season in gardening there are different phases in your career.
Each will have its own specific conclusions. If it's something technical, make sure you implement it in your portfolio project.
It's better to have one or two pieces of work that reflect your best knowledge than having 20 repositories laying around. Of course, now don't go and delete all your prior work, just make sure that when you apply somewhere, send a link to your best work.
6. Contributing to Open-Source
I started contributing to open-source during my University years. When I got to the point where I was able to apply for a job I already knew:
- how to work in a team
- what's a PR review
- how issue tracking systems like Redmine or Jira work
You can experience the same by making contributions to open-source projects. The best thing is: you can start right from your browser, without any setup.
If you don't know how to start, I made a video for you:
Attention to detail is one of the superpowers of developers.
Don't think that a side project that's a little bit different, a boring app that you made more interesting, or that module you added test coverage for goes unnoticed!
I can't wait to check out someone's blog, StackOverflow profile, or open-source contribution when I'm looking at developer portfolios.
Good luck with your next job application!
I write and make videos about software development and career.
If you'd like to get updates when I publish something new, consider subscribing to my mailing list at the top of the page and also following me on Twitter @akoskm.