How to get a job as a software engineer.

By the latest estimates, there are currently over 21 million software developers in the world. Yet, 62% of them are open to new job opportunities with another 13% actively looking for a job, according to the annual StackOverflow survey. What’s more, the interview process and writing/updating a CV top the list of challenges software developers find most annoying.

Annoying aspects of the job search for software engineers.
Source: The 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Hiring Landscape

As an IT staffing agency with 18 years experience in the field, we have organized thousands of interviews helping developers find a perfect job. Thanks to the role we play in the hiring process, we know firsthand the questions CTOs and CEOs ask at the interview and the answers they are looking to hear, specific requirements and the proven tactics to get that offer you are looking for.

Which soft skills can help you win the job? How to prepare for the interview if you are non-native English speaker? In this article we have condensed our knowledge of the sphere to give you actionable insights on how to get the job you deserve.

The Basics: Qualities that Make a Strong Professional Profile

Communication skills

The ability to communicate your thoughts and present your vision is vital aspect of any job. This includes English proficiency (both written and spoken). Most companies won’t even consider you as a candidate if you don’t speak English or cannot put two words together at the interview. A good addition to your CV would be your own tech-related blog or guest posts for specialized web resources.

Case in point: Working with clients from the US and the UK as well as the Netherlands, Germany, a few other European countries and Israel, we often get requests for developers with the knowledge of other foreign languages. Outside of English (which is a kind of industry standard), our clients are often looking for developers with knowledge of German.

Ability and willingness to learn

One of the basic requirements in such a dynamic field as software engineering is to stay up to date with the latest technologies and constantly improve the existing skills. The master’s degree you received 10 years ago won’t impress anyone (although, it is often a must-have), but a constantly growing list of trainings, certifications, and courses in different fields will.

Case in point: One of the clients was looking for a developer with PhD in software engineering because the rest of the team members had such degrees.

Solid portfolio

Even if all of the projects you have worked on are under NDA (or if it’s your first job), you can contribute to open source or create your own pet project. These might also serve as code samples you can show to potential employers. After all, maintaining an active GitHub profile is a must-have. So, make your accomplishments visible.

Specific business domain expertise

Aside from strong tech skills, companies often prefer developers with relevant domain experience. For example, background in banking or medtech might give you a competitive benefit if the client is looking to build a product in one of these spheres.

Case in point: Among the most interesting examples of such requests was the job that required a software developer with background in Forex trading.

Personal qualities and interests

While such requests are not a common practice, some CTOs/CEOs prefer hiring like-minded people. This might include hobbies or sports. Bringing up hobbies can be a great way to connect with your potential employer.

Case in point: One of our clients was looking for a software developer who can play some musical instrument (this was caused by the specifics of a project).

Enthusiasm and networking skills

Being an active member of the local or global tech community is a great way to profile yourself in a certain sphere. Moreover, meetups, hackathons, developer conferences are a good place to exchange knowledge and network. This can potentially add value to you as a professional. If you participate as a speaker or organize any event, this would be an even bigger advantage.

How to Prepare for an Interview?

Do the homework

Your potential employer will appreciate it if you come to the interview prepared. Read the job descriptions carefully and do some research on the company you apply to.

Pro tip: Prepare several questions that would show your familiarity with the company’s history and business model.

Be ready to get into details

Re-read your CV before the interview. Most interviews will include the questions about your previous employment, your responsibilities and accomplishments there, and why you left.

Pro tip: Don’t ever lie in your CV. The chances are your employer will eventually find out which might lead to disastrous consequences.

Provide supportive evidence

Besides the CV, you might also need some additional materials, including relevant links, code samples, presentations, references. Thus, you need to review the information and make it easily accessible during the interview.

Interviews and Negotiations: Doing It Right

Be proactive

Ask questions and show that you really care, not just about your responsibilities or salary, but about the client’s business as well. The company will appreciate your initiative and attention to details. Once again, strong communication skills might be one of your most powerful weapons at an interview.

Refrain from criticism

If there is something that you don’t like — such as the tech stack or management approaches — don’t tell your interviewer directly. Ask about the reasons for such a choice and whether they are planning to change anything soon.

Forget about simple yes/no answers

One of the specifics of the language is that it heavily relies on context. So, simply answering yes/no to a question might be not enough for an interviewer to understand what you mean. This is especially important to consider if you are non-native English speaker.

Better show than tell

If you feel that you might not meet all of the requirements for the job but still believe you can be a right candidate, ask for a test assignment. Tell them you’d rather show them what a great specialist you are than talk about it.

Be friendly and polite

Smile! You will be surprised to know how much the first impression you make at the interview will influence the eventual offer. Even if you don’t get the job, you can get a valuable personal reference from the company.

Conclusion

While solid programming skills and relevant experience are included in the job descriptions by default, strong communication skills, proactive approach, and positive mindset are also highly valued by the business owners.

In this regard it is interesting to consider the developers’ views on the most important aspects of the candidate assessment process. Namely, communication and ability to get things done top the list of the qualities that business owners should prioritize, according to the StackOverflow survey.

Yet, job requirements might vary depending on the situation and the priorities might change several times during the evaluation stage. There is no way to cover all aspects of the tech hiring process in one article. But if you are good at your job and love what you are doing, every business will be happy to have you as a part of the team.

Valeriya is a marketer at Daxx, a company that connects businesses from all over the world with talented developers. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

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