Applying to your first technical role (or your second!) can be a long and intimidating process, especially when you're not sure how to stand out. What do tech companies really care about? What should you put on your resume? What should you leave out? We talk to in-house recruiter, Eddie Washington, to give you the scoop on how companies evaluate your application and what you can do to increase your chances of getting that first interview.
[00:00:00.00] SY: We are launching a brand new show! It's called the base.cs podcast, and I'm so excited about it. We're teaming up with Vaidehi Joshi, developer and creator of the base.cs blog series, to bring you a fun, beginner-friendly podcast on computer science topics. The first episode drops November 8 - that's this Wednesday - so make sure to subscribe, and tell all your friends about it. Link is in the show notes. (Music). Welcome to the CodeNewbie podcast, where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I'm your host Saron, and today we're talking about getting a tech job. (Music). If you've ever looked for a tech job, you've probably heard a lot of the same advice. Network, do your portfolio, contribute to open source, etc., etc. But how much of that really matters? And if you don't have a CS degree from a top ten school, or a ton of experience because after all you're a code "newbie," what can you do that will actually help you stand out? We talked to in-house recruiter, Eddie Washington, to get some answers.
[00:01:03.08] EW: I am the recruiting lead at Genius.com, a Brooklyn-based music tech start-up.
[00:01:10.04] SY: So if you're looking for a tech job, or about to look for a tech job, this episode is for you. After this.
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[00:01:52.03] When I first learned to code, all I wanted was to be a developer. But then I actually learned to code and realized that you don't become a developer. You become a front-end developer, or a Rails developer, or a full-stack engineer, or a back-end engineer, or the million other job titles that involve coding. So how do you pick? And once you get that first job, how do you turn it into a career? You can use the Dice Careers mobile app. This is the tool I wish I had when I first started. You pick the tech skills you either have or hope to have in the future, you type in your designer job title, and Dice helps you find other job titles you might also be interested in and maybe didn't know about. But they take it a step further, by telling you what skills these job titles require, how much they pay, and based on your profile, they tell you what skills you might want to learn so you can one day apply for those jobs. They simplify a lot of the chaos of job-hunting, and it's totally free. So check out the Dice Careers mobile app. Go to dice.com/CodeNewbie for more info. That's dice.com/CodeNewbie.
[00:02:50.12] And genius used to be called Rap Genius - now it's just Genius.
[00:02:56.00] EW: That is correct - the name change happened in 2014.
[00:02:58.09] SY: And Rap Genius was known for annotating rap lyrics - now you all annotate basically anything.
[00:03:06.10] EW: Yeah, Rap Genius is getting a lot of buzz. People like this whole metadata thing on top of text, especially for cryptic rap lyrics, we can pretty much just apply this to everything, and be the Rap Genius of everything. So that was the idea initially, but we've kind of since dialed back doing alt-text - we dabbled in poetry, law documents, political speeches, and articles. But now we're very focused on music media.
[00:03:29.12] SY: So, how technical is Genius? Like when I think about annotations, initially I'm thinking about writing and editors and content creation. But Genius is at its core, a very technical company. How technical is it?
[00:03:44.27] EW: Yeah, Genius was started in 2009 by three buddies that came out of Yale together. But it was all technical - it's a straight software play. It was created in Rails 2 - shout-out to Rails 2 -
[00:03:57.24] SY: I did not know that!
[00:04:00.22] EW: Yeah, it was Rails 2 and I forget which version of Ruby, but it was sort of built by one of the co-founders who was technical enough, he knew enough coding to get it off the ground, but it was really just a fun side-project that he shared with his friends, and it kind of took of from there in popularity. But basically it's tech in that it's very similar to Wikipedia - all of the content is crowd-sourced, so the platform itself has to support lots of contributors to get the content on there for everybody to enjoy.
[00:04:28.13] SY: Is it still a Rails app?
[00:04:30.08] EW: It is still a Rails app.
[00:04:31.21] SY: Yesss!! That makes me very happy, Rails being the only framework that I know. It makes me happy, gives me hope.
[00:04:37.29] EW: Ditto!
[00:04:38.19] SY: And that's what I love about having you on the show, is you are not only a recruiter for a tech company, but you're also a coder yourself. You know how to code, you've built things, and didn't you teach code at some point?
[00:04:51.03] EW: Yes, so I learned how to code, probably like 2013. I was literally in the class with one of your other podcast guests -
[00:04:59.01] SY: Who?
[00:04:59.06] EW: Jamal.
[00:05:01.13] SY: Oh, very cool, yeah he was like episode three I think, of the podcast. Very cool.
[00:05:07.14] EW: Yeah, we learned Rails in the same class, it was introductory, but we kind of continued to pair program together on our own. I helped him build some of his stuff, he helped me build some of my stuff. But I became enough of a hobbyist, or enough to become dangerous enough to teach, so I kind of enjoyed the instructional team at General Assembly, which I worked and I learned to code at, for the introduction of Rails part-time program. So I actually assisted that, and co-instructed that, four times in total. And teaching really helped me, really helped solidify me knowing it myself. So having to articulate it in plain language to a true newbie really helped, as well.
[00:05:45.14] SY: So that must give you so much perspective as a recruiter, because you understand what it's like to build apps, you understand the coding side of things, you understand what it's like to be new and trying to get in the door and get that first job. And, as a recruiting lead, you not only recruit for tech positions, but for positions throughout the company.
[00:06:03.05] EW: Yes, yes, so I came on initially as a recruiting engineer. It's basically a contractor at the very beginning, just to focus on tech recruiting, because I could speak the language, assess whether they really knew what they were talking about, and ask technical questions. But then through the necessity of a growing start-up, they needed me to recruit across departments, so I started recruiting for sales, video, just admin roles in general, editorial roles. So then my responsibilities extended beyond tech to do other things. And then my title kind of caught up to me to what I was actually doing, which was leading recruiting across departments.
[00:06:42.21] SY: Well, congratulations on that promotion.
[00:06:43.29] EW: Thank you, thank you.
[00:06:45.22] SY: So, the reality is - you all, as recruiters, you all have a pretty bad reputation in tech. Like in tech, developers specifically notoriously hate recruiters. Why is that?
[00:06:58.23] EW: Number one, I just gotta clarify - a lot of times, recruiters is this big, broad statement. Like, let me just say - no shade to agency recruiters, but don't conflate me with them - I'm not talking to you, Saron, I'm talking to these engineers out here. Our in-house recruiters - we're friendlier, we know more about the company, the role, we can speak to it, we actually care about filling the role in a more - this does sound shady, but like give more to our company versus the agency recruiters, that take on lots of clients and maybe are not so informative to the role they're speaking about or the company they're speaking on behalf. So there's that - in-house recruiters and agency recruiters are different. But you know - it's tough kind of just being wanted. There's no mistake that this is the time developers are amongst the most wanted employees across industry, as tech extends. But there's just a huge shortage of qualified engineers to build software products. And every company needs software products, and every company needs engineers, but there just aren't enough. It's a special time where engineers are just being really sought after and being hounded.
[00:08:06.21] SY: And also, when you made the distinction between agency recruiters and in-house recruiters, I think that a lot of the approach of agency recruiters has not necessarily been the most tactful or the most considerate. And I think that, when you're an agency recruiter, my guess is because you're serving so many clients, and there's so much need, it becomes a numbers game, and you're just kind of throwing out as many requests and emails as you can, hoping someone bites. Whereas if you're an in-house recruiter, I'm assuming you're maybe a little bit more particular and it's more of a longer game for you.
[00:08:41.24] EW: It is a longer game, absolutely. What agency recruiters don't really have to worry about, well to an extent, is retention. It is a numbers game - so, by sheer volume, can you get more candidates in play to then present to the clients that you sign on and promise candidates to, especially if you're working on contingency. You don't get paid until somebody gets placed. So you're basically working for free until they actually hire an engineer, and then you get that commission, which is what, twenty-five, thirty percent of the engineer's first year salary. So you're doing all of this free work up front to then hopefully get a pay-off, which doesn't always come. And I think most of them, the contracts, the company has to retain them for at least ninety days until they get paid I think, and then they're sort of off the hook from there.
[00:09:30.09] SY: That's not that long.
[00:09:31.24] EW: It's not that long, it flies by, but after that they're kind of good. Versus an in-house recruiter, you have to work with this person, you can't - in your first impression, you being the face of the company in that context, cannot be sleazy, can't be boring. It has to be put a good foot forward, because hopefully you want to bring this person on to be working. So it's a bit different in that way. And I think that that informs the approach for me, versus an agency recruiter.
[00:09:58.02] SY: So, what does it look like for you, Eddie, to approach a developer that you think might be a good fit, a good addition to the Genius team. What does that look like?
[00:10:08.04] EW: It's kind of like these people are getting just hounded, and they're getting hit with messages through their LinkedIn's, through their actual emails. We have ways of finding your email - like we have Chrome extensions, we've got all that. So we're going to get your personal email, we're going to get your work email. And then you receive all of these messages from all of these different channels. So for me, trying to avoid being just another message, just another face in the crowd, I kind of have to draw a distinction between my email - its language - and my approach around that. So I guess how I try and do that, to make it more unique, make it a little more playful, less serious, avoid jargon, avoid dry regurgitation of buzzwords and email copy and try to be unique in that, but also learn a little bit something about them. For engineers, they like what they like, they're opinionated about the tech that they use, the languages that they use whether on the job or recreationally. Sometimes they blog about it, sometimes they go to conferences and they speak about it, and they want - they put content out there that they want people to consume and see, and maybe I'll read it or I'll watch it, and I'll make a comment about it, oh, this was really interesting, you know. In that way I can draw a distinction between myself and other recruiters. Being able to speak about some tech that they're talking about, substantively, like I know what you're talking about. I know tech, I can speak to it intelligently, let's talk about that. Or I can make a comment in that way, so I'll include that in the email to hopefully, that will catch their eye and I can get them on the phone from there to then continue to try and sell them, to be interested in Genius number one, number two to be interested in an interview process, and if all goes well there, number three, get them interested in accepting an offer.
[00:11:45.07] SY: So what do you look for in talent? Are there common characteristics or values, besides generally being interested in Genius are there other things that you look for in developers?
[00:11:55.29] EW: Yeah, that depends on the kind of developer. If you're more junior, whether you're coming out of a comp-sci program from a university, or you're coming out of a boot camp, the commonality across you and all the other candidates that are junior is it's going to be a lack of experience, right. Because with more experience, then you'll kind of delineate myself as, I'm this kind of engineer that's worked on this kind of product that has this kind of coding production for this company. That's going to be different for you versus somebody else that's five, seven, ten years in the game. The distinction there is quite easy, because you're, you have just more time in the field to draw that distinction. When you're coming out, it's kind of hard to differentiate yourself. I guess the way that you do make yourself different is, everybody has side projects and stuff, which is really cool. Oh, I had this side project, I built this cool thing, and there is good time spent on building some things than others. Just don't, definitely don't just build clones of everything, like oh, I got an Airbnb clone, I got a so-and-so clone - that's not exciting to a recruiter for a junior role. You want us to think that you're thinking about something creatively and specific to you. Like, why did you build this, was this a convenient app? Whatever is cool that you can speak to that you've done that nobody else has done, and why it makes you excited, and just being curious and passionate about it. But when I say convey passion, don't just be like, oh, I love your company and I've always wanted to work here. Don't turn it into some weird, emotional plea. We love that you love the company, but we're not going to hire you because you love the company. And just get busy networking. I know everybody tells you network, you should go to a coding meet-up, you should go to this - easier said than done, right? But the more that you expose yourself to serendipitous encounters, the better your chance to meet somebody, have a chance encounter with someone that works at a company that can give you an internal referral. That's great, that's not totally in your control, obviously. Or just be proactive in finding the emails of the recruiters, or the hiring managers of the company that you're going for, make sure there's an opening job, number one. Hit them up, be deliberate, be short, be concise, get in front of them and talk about why you'd be good for the role, rather than again, emotionally pleaing that you'd just be great for the company and great for the culture, or something.
[00:14:16.23] SY: So where do you look for people? You mentioned that you can get all of our email addresses with Chrome extensions and a bunch of tools that you have, but you have to first know who we are and be interested in us to begin with. So where do you begin even finding people that you want to recruit?
[00:14:32.04] EW: LinkedIn, number one.
[00:14:34.10] SY: Really?
[00:14:35.17] EW: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. But in-house recruiters, we all have LinkedIn Recruiter Seats - our productivity is very dependent on LinkedIn, everybody's on LinkedIn, if you're not on LinkedIn, you should get on LinkedIn, especially if want just exposure to recruiters who are constantly on LinkedIn. We build these big search strings with parameters for what we're looking for. We want an engineer and/or developer, we want Ruby, we want Angular, we want somebody who has experience with SQL or maybe know SQL. We build these big search strings, we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, working to get the search results that we want. We put them in a spreadsheet, almost like a hit list, then we find their emails, and if we can't find their emails, we hit them on LinkedIn inmail, and hope for the best. What I describe is sourcing, right, it's out-bound, that's what recruiters do, especially for senior roles. For more junior roles, we kind of field all of the in-bound applications that come from our careers page. So half the time on LinkedIn, half the time on our ATS, our applicant tracking system, kind of honestly swiping left or right on applications that come in.
[00:15:38.26] SY: Ok, so let's dig into the LinkedIn part a little bit. One of the things that's really hard, especially for people who are transitioning into a technical job search, is figuring out what to put on your resume, how do you describe the thing that you did, even if you aren't fresh out of boot camp, but if you were freelancing for a while, and you did a number of different projects and a number of different technologies. How to structure that, how to present that, how to explain that in a resume can be just a new thing you have to figure out. How can we optimize for being found?
[00:16:13.01] EW: Prioritize work that you got paid for. If I understand that anybody's paid you to code, that's going to be more interesting than you building an Airbnb clone. I'm like shading Airbnb right now - I love Airbnb! But yeah, has anybody ever paid you for any work? Put that at the top and describe exactly what it was. You have your work experience, whether it's on your resume or the experience section on your LinkedIn, and the first occupation or job that you have on your experience - that's got to be the punchiest, most convincing display of your demonstrated ability to do the thing that I'm looking for you to do. So you have the company, the title, "Software Engineer," but the bullet points are the meat of the thing. The bullet points need to read like they're done accomplishments, rather than passive responsibilities. So for example, I wrote this feature in React, on this project for a three-month timeline, shipped it to this app that gets a hundred thousand uniques a month or something like that. Number one, it feels like an accomplishment, number two it feels like it's done - you did it, number three it's quantitative, versus just passive responsibilities - was responsible for writing Ruby on a team of four. Make it done accomplishments and prioritize your paid work over just projects.
[00:17:37.00] SY: So, when you are new and you don't really have a lot of paid work, and it's mostly student projects or clones or side-projects, or just free projects that you do for people just to get some practice, how can we best position that and explain that on LinkedIn?
[00:17:55.15] EW: Yeah, that's tough, that's tough. If you're fresh out of a program, whether it's a university program or a coding school program, you kind of want to make that clear first - I'm fresh out this program, so this is why I have not had paid work. So it's like, how do you put your projects? I guess, you've got to put your projects, right, 'cause that's your only evidence that you can actually code. So you can link, I guess, section each project to where you think it's the coolest and most interesting at the top, probably the stuff that has a nice, meaty code base to where you've contributed the most to that code base. It's a chance to brag. You have to brag, it's part of the sales process of you selling yourself as a candidate. So you really have to punctuate your experience with you bragging about things that you've done, accomplishments that you feel are important, are excited to talk about, make that the first thing that the resume reader sees, or the LinkedIn reader sees. Yeah, I guess Hackathons are cool, put Hackathon projects up there - that's kind of like street cred, you're building something cool under pressure and you're learning a lot in the process. It's definitely more compelling to me to see a Hackathon project versus just something that you did on your own. That's just a cool factor kind of thing. Yeah I would definitely prioritize by your biggest contributions as far as big, meaty code bases and be willing to talk at length about those things and what you learned and why you made the decisions that you did, and in that instance, you can't just let the resume do the work for you. You don't have too much stuff to brag about, since you have no paid work, so then you have to caveat that with you being active and getting out there. The more you do the less you kind of have to hustle and we come to you. So that's the spectrum of the recruiter and the engineer relationship.
[00:19:47.29] SY: So I've seen on some LinkedIn profiles, they'll have this - I don't know what to call it, I guess it's just a summary. It's basically just a word salad, where they'll have every technology they've ever touched or ever known right at the very top, and I assume that's so they can get some better hits, with recruiters. Does that help at all?
[00:20:08.21] EW: Resume, no. LinkedIn, yes, because LinkedIn literally works as SEO, so then you come up in my search results and I can look at you. So, in that context, yes. For resumes, kind of like no, because you've got this grocery list of all of these technologies and frameworks, that are just sitting in isolation with no context. And I don't know which one you actually did, I don't know where each of these things falls on that spectrum, so I need you to put them in context for me. So put those technologies in context so that you're accomplishing something in context with that technology, versus the grocery list thing.
[00:20:43.16] SY: Ok, so you mentioned you have two different strategies for inbound and outbound. Outbound is a lot of LinkedIn, but for more junior roles you're more likely to just review the applications that just come in. So you said that you look at it and do a swipe left, swipe right situation. What are the things that - and I assume when you said this, you were talking about the resume?
[00:21:06.01] EW: Yeah, I use Greenhouse, yeah, I use Greenhouse in the way that it sets it up. It just gives me this interface to where I'm literally pressing pass or decline kind of thing - paraphrasing it, but it will show me field entries that you've given me for fields in LinkedIn, a link for GitHub, a link for a cool side project that you want to highlight, and it will show me your attached resume. I tend to click on the LinkedIn profiles first, I look at the company first. That's first in your experience, so I can kind of click it and oh, look at the company page, and oh, I look to see who else is there, who else works at the company, how big the company is. That'll give me more of an understanding of your lead whatever title, your senior whatever title, whatever the title is, how much that holds weight at the actual company. If it's a company of one to ten and you're the CTO, it's different than if you're the CTO at MongoDB or something. The reason I will click pass or click decline on it - and the reality of the thing is - that you're going for a role at a company. They're never going to look at you in isolation. They're always going to measure you against other candidates that they're looking at for the same role. We - especially the hiring managers - they have a very idealistic way of thinking about the role and the candidate they want for it. They've got all these boxes they want to check - this is the ideal candidate for me, Eddie, go get them. This creates a spectrum of how many degrees you are away from the thing or close to the thing, and every candidate falls on that spectrum, and depending on who I've looked at before you, or who I'm looking at after you, you're going to fall on that spectrum, and if you're one of ten, I'm going to go to the person that fits that thing just a little bit closer. And that's a big decision to how I'm looking at candidates, right.
[00:22:54.19] SY: Yeah, and that's really good perspective, because a lot of the times when we decide whether or not to even apply to the job and we think, what are the chances of us getting it, we compare ourselves to the job description. And the job description is kind of the ideal, but really, we're competing against the pool of candidates. And if the best person on there fits seven out of ten of those buckets, and we don't apply and we have eight, we probably could've gotten that job 'cause we're the best that you all have.
[00:23:25.23] EW: And if you do fit the job description to a T, you're over-qualified for that job.
[00:23:32.05] SY: Coming up - we talk about one of the most important parts of the job - it might be actually the most important part of getting the job - the money. Eddie gives us a breakdown of the salary negotiation and what you can do to get as many coins as you can. After this.
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[00:25:07.03] (Music) So I think I've heard that people that look at your resume spend - what is it - ten seconds, thirty seconds looking at your resume or your application in general. Is that about right, or how much time do you spend looking at someone's application?
[00:25:20.12] EW: Yeah, I've never timed it, but I think it's probably ten or less -
[00:25:28.04] SY: Wow...
[00:25:28.18] EW: Because you've got to consider the recruiter that may be overextended, or maybe they're just jaded for searching for the thing for so long, and you're number resume 77 of one hundred that they'll see that day, and they're coming ready to make decisions because they're moving through those resumes and they know what they're looking for. That can help you understand - your resume, it should be one page. Honestly, because I'm not even getting to your second page, no matter what's on there. And if it's really good what's on there, put it at the top of the first page. Number two is, there are a lot of recruiters who are not technical, at all. And they're in charge of technical roles, and they are literally just searching keywords, and if they don't see a keyword on your thing, they might pass on you, so that plays against you as well, but that's like - honestly, just as there's a shortage of actual engineers, there's definitely a shortage of actual technical recruiters.
[00:26:20.19] SY: So how long does it generally take to fill a developer role?
[00:26:26.21] EW: Oh boy, if I had that down to a predictable science, I would be a billionaire. It's tough, right, 'cause start-ups, there's not a lot of predictability around what their headcount will be, they don't plan years in advance, maybe even quarters in advance, sometimes. So from the recruiter's stance, it's very unpredictable and can take a long time. From the job seeker - is that basically what you're asking, about the job seeker?
[00:26:53.18] SY: Mm-hm, yeah.
[00:26:54.12] EW: Well, it really all depends on how well you're targeting yourself as a candidate. If you are coming out of a coding program, and you spend a month applying for senior roles, you're not going to get those roles, right. It's going to take much longer. So it goes into, you're targeting what's realistic for you, all of these things have to be considered in how you spend your time. Are you spending your time writing extremely useless cover letters, which I don't ever read - I just don't read -
[00:27:27.13] SY: Really??
[00:27:27.13] EW: Yeah, it's just like, maybe Google, for example, reads cover letters because they can just employ one person to read cover letters for a year. I'm a recruiter, one of two at a company that's 70 people and we've got lots of roles and I'm not reading cover letters because they all sound the same. In that context, you applying to Genius or a company like Genius and writing a cover letter is a superfluous use of your time, and that is going to extend your job search. So all of these things play into the timeline of your job search. It could be ten weeks, it could be six months. It's very hard to tell.
[00:28:02.23] SY: Mm-hm, especially if you are coming from a different industry, I think tech is one of those things, where even though there's a lot of demand and everyone wants the developer, my feeling is that companies are still willing to wait a little bit longer for the right person, I assume because hiring an engineer is a bigger investment. It's a bigger salary, you're touching the product, you're building the product, so I think that the fact that they're willing to wait a little bit longer and hold off on a better person means that it might take a little bit longer than you're used to, to find that job.
[00:28:38.01] EW: Yes, absolutely. It's very costly to make a bad hire, because of that, even though there is a big shortage of engineers, it's not to the extent where we'll literally hire anybody that can fire up a Rails console. It's more like, they're still going to look at you the way they would any other candidate, because they have to protect themselves against bad hires. That is something that a company thinks about.
[00:29:00.27] SY: So we talked about things to include on your resume and on your LinkedIn. Are there any automatic disqualifiers? Anything that you see and you go, no, not going to work.
[00:29:10.00] EW: Yeah, absolutely. If you're junior, or if you're making a career transition, and your resume and your LinkedIn, you're highlighting irrelevant experience that has nothing to do with coding, I'm like no. Like, I understand why people do that, it's like, yes, I'm a working professional, I'm competent, I've had a job before, but again, for a recruiter that's very scoped-in and know what they need to see, they're automatically like, you're not ready so I'm declining you, respectfully. You're not even ready to talk about yourself the way you need to, in terms of positioning yourself as a coder. Which you are, if you came out of these programs. You are a software engineer. Your title needs to be software engineer on your LinkedIn, it needs to be - anything, all the code things that you've done needs to be up front on your resume, and you have to at least make it look like it has something to do with coding, even if you have nothing. You have to make an effort. You're disqualifying yourself immediately by doing that, even if you don't mean to, but that's just the reality of how we're looking at you as a candidate.
[00:30:09.02] SY: Well, what if the job that you had that's not coding is related to the company. So, for example, Genius is all about music, if I used to work at Atlantic Records and had a really great job there that's relevant to understanding the context of Genius and the business of Genius and that kind of thing, is that something that you might want to see near the top-ish?
[00:30:33.04] EW: If that's all you've got to offer, no, it's not going to do it for you, unfortunately. Those are more like accompanying intangibles that are nice, but I need to see the hard skills first. And then we can talk about the other things, like oh, cool, you've done some things that are similar to us, but the hard skills have got to come first. Non-negotiable.
[00:30:51.10] SY: So, we talk a lot about how important it is to blog and speak and contribute to open source and do all these other public code-related things - does that matter to you as much as, frankly, we make it sound like it does?
[00:31:07.03] EW: Yes. Say you do have some paid experience. Besides that, what I want to see - you love, you like to code. If I bring you here, it's not like some grunty chore for you. I have to see that you love coding. This shows me that you like coding - you're probably going to be fun to mentor on the job. You'll be fun to have on the team, because you like doing the thing that I'm hiring you for. That's good, just have that, because it only helps it doesn't hurt.
[00:31:36.03] SY: So at what point does that come in? Because I assume, when you're doing that very first scan when you're trying to figure out, is this person worth a phone screen, I assume you don't have time to go to YouTube, watch my forty-minute talk, and then decide at that point, right? So when does the speaking and the blogging and that extra stuff, when does that become relevant?
[00:31:54.12] EW: I might skim through it, maybe I'll bring it up in the phone screen, it definitely helps your candidacy, right. But you have to distinguish yourself in the best way you know how, and I encourage that that be around coding and having opinions around coding and passion for the MEAN Stack specifically, that I think, going around that approach can get you above the bigger pool of seemingly equal candidates. In terms of experience, right.
[00:32:24.10] SY: So, what about things like references? How big of a factor is that in your application?
[00:32:29.10] EW: Well, for us, with LinkedIn's, you've got those recommendations. Those are good - get those.
[00:32:37.05] SY: Those actually matter?
[00:32:37.17] EW: They're good. I like seeing those. You know, they can't just be of your classmates that were in your coding bootcamp with you, that's not - you can't. No. But as far as references for us, they don't happen until we're ready to make the offer or really close to it. And then it's like, at that point, you've got to like find the right people who can speak good things about you.
[00:33:05.12] SY: What about knowing someone at the company, getting a referral, like an internal referral? How valuable is that?
[00:33:09.00] EW: That's super valuable. That's like jumping to the top of the pile. You're going to get a genuine look in that scenario. In referring, referrals, that just goes to nepotism, right. Nepotism is a powerful force to get things done. It just is. We're humans. Don't be modest, get that intro, brag about yourself. That is the thing - maybe it feels unnatural to sell yourself in that way, but don't be humble when it comes to the job search.
[00:33:36.02] SY: So is that the kind of thing that if I know somebody at the company, I go up to them and literally say, hey, can you refer me to this job?
[00:33:44.29] EW: Key word - this job. It has to be an opening. But if there's a job, yeah, just ask your contact - if it's cool, could you refer me to whoever I need to talk to, the hiring manager, give them a shout for me. Here's my resume and LinkedIn, whatever. And they'll do that.
[00:34:01.26] SY: So, the next big topic is money. If I want to get as much money as I possibly can, how do I do that? Tell us all the secrets!
[00:34:13.17] EW: All the secrets. Just lie, just lie, lie, lie. No, ok, kind of not really, but hold on, let me get into that. So, most recruiters know to kind of get the comp up front, in the very first phone call. You've got to know whether you can afford this person, number one, if you can't, then there's no use in moving forward in the process. Because of that, you feel compelled to give an actual number. I'm speculating here, but I don't think companies do that maliciously. If I'm a company, and we have a person that we want to offer, and we have a budget - I have a budget that's been approved by the higher-ups, I don't necessarily want to give you all of my budget. I do want to give you a bump, because I want to close you at that point. I want to try not to give you all of my budget because I might need that leftover money for another role that I have that I need to hire - hiring managers have to keep in mind. It's not necessarily that they want to shortchange you, but we want to pay you what you're worth, with that being said I'll ask the range that they're looking to fall into, and you know what you're looking for, hopefully you've done your research, and looking at market rates and so forth. But they're going to get the number from you first, they're not going to give you a number. So do your best to do the research about what people are getting paid. And even if it's a little ambitious, you don't know what their budget is. Give them what you want to be making, find out what's market, don't get outrageous, but be kind of aggressive about the range that you want to fall into, and use that language. These are all things to think about.
[00:35:43.27] SY: You mentioned that you have a budget - what is it, like an annual budget, a quarterly budget - how does that work?
[00:35:49.07] EW: It depends on the company. But sometimes you'll get a budget per role, sometimes you'll get a budget per department, sometimes they'll give it to you quarterly, sometimes they'll give it to you annually. How the budget is allocated is probably different with every company - obviously it's different with every company, with different sizes. Some startups have funding, bigger budgets, some start-ups don't. Some startups are bootstrap, budgets will be different there, and hopefully they'll be transparent about that, and you'll have to take that into account with your salary expectations as well, with those different companies.
[00:36:16.26] SY: Even though you aren't going to give up your number, and the candidate will unfortunately end up giving up theirs first, you don't have a number in mind, right?
[00:36:25.14] EW: Yep. I literally know the budget, so. And I'm hoping you're going to fall short of that. If you're falling very close to the top of that, I'm not going to rule out that we can't afford you yet, but I have to go back to the hiring manager and maybe they saved some budget from another role that they saved some money from, they can put it to your role. We can give them ten more from this other role, where we saved some money - that's kind of how it goes.
[00:36:48.29] SY: And so if you come back and you go, we can't do that, but we can do this, and I'm not happy with that, and I want to push back and negotiate and suggest something else, how is the best way to approach that?
[00:37:02.25] EW: What you're not going to do is start negotiating before you have an offer. That's definitely not what you're going to do. But when you finally do have an offer, it is not unreasonable to counter once. If you counter once, it's not like, you know what, ok, now we're taking it back now. You just messed this up by even countering once. Companies are not going to be unreasonable in that way. You counter once, be like, listen - and have good reasoning for it. Another thing is like, listen I have another offer, if you could do your best to match this, or if you can beat this, depending on what your relationship is with the company, how much can you push back, or - and this happens sometimes too - if your company finds out about your offer, they counter, and like listen, we'll give you a raise, and you take the counter back to them. Companies anticipate that, they're ready to come to the table with something else, they're ready to step up in that situation. If you don't have those things, depending on how personal you want to get about finances, or just listen - I really want to make this work. Just reiterate - I really like your company and want to make this work, but if you could do this for me, I would really - countering once is not offensive. If your range is cemented in reality, you're worth that range.
[00:38:12.05] SY: That is so, so helpful. Because I think that, in general, whether you're a newbie or not, I think the idea of negotiating just sounds confrontational. It sounds like I'm pushing back, and up to this point, my whole role has been to try to convince you to like me, and approve of me, and then the moment you agree to like me, it's like, mm, I don't know about that.
[00:38:32.27] EW: Right, the power shifts.
[00:38:34.14] SY: Yeah, yeah, it just feels so weird. So it's reassuring to know that we are allowed to negotiate, and allowed to fight for ourselves.
[00:38:40.10] EW: Absolutely. This is a tough market for employers, don't forget that. You're still, even though you are interviewing for a job you might not get, you still - you have the upper hand, because it's such a strapped market for talent.
[00:38:53.18] SY: And one of the things that we struggled with in our community is figuring out what jobs we should be applying for, especially in the first few years when you've already had that first job, you have some real-world experience, you've shipped real code, you've worked on a team and all that, but a few years in you still kind of feel like you're a junior. At what point, from a recruiter's perspective, have you graduated out of a junior role, and can apply for something with hopefully a little bit of a higher salary?
[00:39:23.12] EW: It's not always just a matter of years. It's kind of like the work that you've done, have you had meaningful impact on a big feature for a product? For somebody that's been in the game for two years, versus somebody that's been doing it for six, there could be a situation where the person with two years has had more exposure to that thing, maybe because they were on a smaller team at a growing company, and they can speak to those things. They just had a rapid, accelerated learning experience.
[00:40:01.13] SY: So, we talked a lot about having a computer science degree, and being fresh out of school that way, being a graduate from a program - but what about all the people, and I'm going to assume most of the people listening - who are entirely self-taught? How do you evaluate them?
[00:41:29.11] SY: And so, it sounds like if you graduate from a bootcamp, assuming the bootcamp you graduated from has a good reputation, then that rubs off on you and that can be helpful. But how has the fact that two of the biggest bootcamps shut down, how has that affected things, if it has at all? The fact that Dev Bootcamp shut down, or announced that they're shutting down, and so did the Iron Yard - has that changed or tainted the reputation of bootcamp grads at all, from the recruiter perspective?
[00:41:57.24] EW: Not necessarily. The sheer reputation of bootcamp curriculum? Not necessarily. But it does mean that there is a greater pool of bootcamp grads, because that space has obviously become more competitive. When there is greater competition, for me - I worked at General Assembly. I have some sophistication in knowing what goes on in that world, I understand what goes on there. There's still good people coming out of those, so I can think about it that way.
[00:42:29.06] SY: So, for many folks, the job search process is very long and very stressful and very frustrating. And honestly, it just becomes way more of an emotional burden than a lot of people are ready for. What advice do you have for people who are currently on the job hunt, currently looking for the next big thing, and are having a hard time feeling confident and feeling good about their prospects?
[00:42:58.25] EW: It is a process. And this is true for any job search. You apply, and you think it's just you and the company, and they're considering you in isolation, and you don't get it, and you're like wow, I guess I'm not good, or something. It's way more complicated than that. And a lot of those things you can't control. You can control your approach to the company, to the job opening, how you follow-up at the end, all of those things, you can control. All the other things - they could be working for you or against you. So if you just understand that, hopefully you can understand that it's going to be imperfect and sometimes it takes longer than expected. It's not a direct correlation of what you put in to what you get out. Or you are going to get down on yourself. The more roles that you go for, the more targeted that you are, the more thoughtful that you are in your approach to the job search, the more you increase your odds to finding that job. Again, there's a lot of reasons you will not get that dream job. And a good number of those are out of your control.
[00:44:03.24] SY: Absolutely. So, next let's move on to some fill-in-the-blanks. Are you ready?
[00:44:07.04] EW: Let's do it.
[00:44:09.01] SY: Number one. Worst advice I've ever received is?
[00:44:10.11] EW: Anybody that tells you to just like, oh you should really brush up on this technology as well as that one, to where you're feverishly trying to learn all these different frameworks or languages and you're having this very superficial understanding of lots of things.
[00:44:28.11] SY: Number two. My first coding project was about?
[00:44:30.08] EW: So at the time I was working the front desk at General Assembly, one of my responsibilities was to check people in for their classes, and we would have the class up on Eventbrite and there was this interface where you could just check folks in. I thought it was kind of janky, so I went out to build an alternative. And it was so rudimentary and jankier than Eventbrite's solution, obviously. Like, obviously, right. But that was my first coding project.
[00:45:00.29] SY: One thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:45:05.12] EW: This is going to sound generic - it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Presumably you're getting in it for the right reasons, because it is going to be hard, so get into it for the right reasons.
[00:45:15.10] SY: Well, thank you so much Eddie for talking to us and telling us all the recruiting secrets. You want to say goodbye?
[00:45:19.21] EW: It's been fun, even though you've just been listening to me babble. But hopefully this was helpful. It's a tough thing, the job search, it's unnatural, it's unpleasant a lot of the time, but it's necessary, and you can do it in a good way. But it's not impossible.
[00:45:36.08] SY: And that's the end of our third episode of Season Two. So let me know what you think. Tweet us @CodeNewbies, or send me email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're in D.C. or Philly check out our local CodeNewbie meetup groups, we've got community coding sessions and awesome events every month, so if you're looking for real-life human interaction, check us out on meetup.com. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast, and join us for a weekly Twitter chats. We've got our Wednesday chats at 9 PM ET and our weekly coding check-in every Saturday at 2 PM ET. Thanks for listening, see you next week.
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