Exelaration

Seven Tips for Getting Hired in the Tech Industry

Technology is always changing, and will always be booming. That’s because it represents whatever’s new. Across all tech areas and geographies, the world needs more tech workers, so it’s a great field to base your career on. With all this change, the tech industry can seem intimidating to set your sights on. The reality is […]

by | Jan 22, 2020

Technology is always changing, and will always be booming. That’s because it represents whatever’s new. Across all tech areas and geographies, the world needs more tech workers, so it’s a great field to base your career on. With all this change, the tech industry can seem intimidating to set your sights on. The reality is that perpetual change means that tomorrow’s experts are today’s newbies. There is no such thing as a blockchain expert with 20 years of experience. Microsoft’s answer to the cloud (Azure) is one of the hottest skillsets in the tech world, and it just went live in 2010.

Throughout the course of my three startups, I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates for technology jobs. Based on that track record, I’ve compiled seven things successful candidates did to increase their hiring prospects. Keep in mind: this list works best if you’ve already got a base of some technology skills. If you don’t have that base yet, don’t give up; we’ve got some tips for you at the end of the list.

  1. Be open to all options (even those you haven’t considered).

Being too prescriptive about the role you want can limit you from enriching possibilities. Tech careers exist in virtually every domain, but many early technologists dream of jobs at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. The reality is that leaders in hospitality, finance, healthcare, and education are also building world-changing solutions in technology. Plus, they offer thriving career opportunities to developers, designers, and analysts. Better yet, their offices aren’t concentrated in only a few metropolitan areas. These organizations have headquarters and tech centers around the globe. Another way early technologists limit their future is by demanding they work with a certain tech stack, language, or tool suite. Most employers want to hire problem-solvers, not just people who can write code in one language. If you want to maximize your hirability, be less dogmatic about the domains and skills you seek.

  1. Be prepared for a tech skills test.

It’s safe to assume that your interview process will include a coding or database exercise of some sort. Organizations have engineered many ways to test your development skills. Examples include a code fragment you need to analyze or debug, a white-board session with a senior architect, or a homework assignment where you’re given a specification to develop code for. In our own company, we’ve used logic problems like “What code would you write to reverse a string of characters?” Don’t be too intimidated! Hiring professionals know you’ll be nervous, so they aren’t throwing their most vexing puzzles at you; they want to see how you think more than anything else.

  1. Get an apprenticeship, paid or unpaid.

Experiential learning beyond the classroom is becoming a prerequisite for getting hired. The line between college and career has blurred such that academic offerings don’t include everything needed to prepare for launching your career. It’s assumed you’ve learned certain concepts in a real work environment, like the basics of DevOps, how an Agile team functions, and stakeholder priority-setting. Internship details like industry and pay rate aren’t nearly as important as whether you’ve built production components in an authentic team setting.

  1. Prepare for questions about people-oriented issues.

It’s a mistake if you assume your interview process will cover only tech-related topics. Employers with the best company cultures care about how you handle conflict, and how you’ll deal with customers and stakeholders. Let’s face it: the biggest complaints we all have with any company almost always involve people-oriented issues. Show your future employer that you can play well with others, and you’ll set yourself apart.

  1. Be Agile.

Agile/Scrum isn’t typically covered in-depth in academic settings or even at bootcamps. The two surefire steps you can take to make yourself a Scrum professional are 1) take training and 2) play a role on a real Scrum team. The Scrum Alliance provides two 101-level classes for Scrum professionals in the form of Certified Scrum Professional and Certified Scrum Product Owner. Even though Agile is now the predominant technology delivery methodology, you’d be surprised how many organizations and professionals still lack certifications and hands-on experience. That’s why Exelaration interns earn their Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certificate prior to graduation. Being comfortable with the Agile mindset can be a difference-maker.

  1. Prepare examples.

Nothing makes you stand out more than real-world stories of how you work.  Start with how your classmates and colleagues would describe you, then work backwards to determine why they describe you that way. Simply describing yourself as “dependable” or “creative” doesn’t hold water unless you can back it up with a track record of behavior that vividly illustrates your claims.

  1. Have someone carefully proofread your resume.

Like it or not, the resume is still the passport to a job. Sure, your Git posts, references, and interview performance are important, but those won’t see the light of day unless your resume gets you past the initial filter. You’d be surprised how many resumes contain sentence fragments, misspellings, and incomplete messages. I’ve been in the room when a candidate’s resume sloppiness has denied them a callback. Let’s be honest: when our primary skill is writing code, we may benefit from a little help with our English deliverables. Best practices like code reviews and pair programming work because they provide external perspective; why should you leave your resume to only one set of eyeballs?

All the tips above presume that you have some technology experience to start with. If you don’t, consider this: a career in technology isn’t as elusive or as complicated as it appears to be from the outside. To be gainfully employed as a tech professional, you don’t need to know every technology domain. You only need skills in one component such as a language, database, business analysis, project management, or interface design to get started.

The best way to gain software development skills is to learn programming, which is one of the many goals of Exelaration’s internship programs. For those not near an Exelaration Center, free sites like Codecademy provide a good way to get started if you aren’t already in a bootcamp program or pursuing a technology major at college. Beyond software development, there are myriad tech jobs that are in high demand, including analysts, system administrators, network engineers, and user experience specialists to name a few. These jobs all have their own pathways to qualification, and an easy way to start is scouring your area for a local Meetup in that field. The journey of a thousand lines of code begins with a single click.

Steve Cooper

steve.cooper@exelaration.com

With over 30 years’ experience in technology consulting, Steve Cooper has founded three successful companies whose clients include Fortune 100 companies, leading federal agencies, and world-class non-profit organizations. Starting his career as one of the first relational database experts, Steve’s focus is helping individuals achieve exceptional careers, and helping leaders build organizations around them. He founded NextUp Solutions to focus on transformative learning for teams and individuals. Steve is a vocal leader in the effort to invite more diverse and abundant participants to the technology workplace through internships and experiential learning.

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