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How to land a job as a developer

A junior developer recently asked about job opportunities on the NYC-rb mailing list. This trigged interesting replies with general advice on the job seeking process. Some of the responses were summarised at the underdog.io blog.

An important part of my role as Technical Director at AlphaSights is to review and interview candidates, so I also replied to share my opinion. In this blog post I'm expanding on that advice. It applies to developers in general, especially junior developers.

Tell us exactly what code to look at. Less is more.

It could be a single class, a pull request or a specific commit. Don't just point us to your github profile or a big Rails project.

We try to hire for strengths, so it is important to give us a something that will make us say "I'm excited at the prospect of working with this person".

Provide a short, standard resume.

You can build a CV website to demonstrate technical ability, but also provide a normal CV that has everything the reviewer needs in one place. I've yet to see a website do this better than a PDF.

Unless you have years of experience, a single page resume is sufficient. We want precisely the information we need to evaluate you, and not a comma more.

Always supply a cover letter

This shows that you actually care about the opportunity and that you are willing to invest time before applying. For us the cover letter is the first thing we see when we look at your application.

Whereas your CV should be as standard as possible, the cover letter is your chance to display personality and ability to communicate.

Demonstrate that our paths align

Once you are onboard, we will make a great effort to make you the most valuable employee you can be. Taking on a new hire is a huge investment in time, money and opportunity cost. We want to know that you see the opportunity in the same way that we do.

In your interview, you must be able to articulate why we would be the right company for you. You can only do this if you've built up a good understanding of what we value and the fundamentals of how our business operates. We're expecting you to quiz us just like we'll quiz you.

Be open about your focus and interests

We hire developers not because of their current skillset, but because we believe in their potential. It is ok that your knowledge and interests are specific, so don't try to hide it.

We're ultimately trying to build up a good picture of what you're good at, what you enjoy and what don't like to do. If we can't get a good read, we're less likely to be interested.

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