How to Stand Out at your Next Job Application

It’s 2023 and getting a job in IT is as difficult as ever. Gone are the days when the job was waiting for you just as you finished a boot camp or got a degree. These are some tips that will help you get your foot through the door.

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Be Adaptable to Changes

Without going into too much detail here, one of the things companies really appreciate are applicants who are willing to make a sacrifice for the team. This can be either to:

  • Adapt to the company technology stack
  • Be able to learn and improve quickly
  • To try different positions (Frontend, Backend, DevOps, QA, etc.)
  • To have the initiative to accept an important role

And the reason I’m saying this is that even though IT is everywhere and the opportunities are nearly limitless, things change almost day by day.

Programming languages change, your team changes and if you make a statement from the get-go that you’re fine with trying new things, and that you’re ready to face different challenges, even if you don’t know the language, it will play a big part in the interview as well as your IT career.

No one is looking for a person who knows everything, but everybody appreciates the effort you put in.

Get a Degree (if you can)

This is not a mandatory step and a lot of IT companies will say that a CS degree does not matter, but you will definitely stand out if you have a diploma.

And if you don’t have one, look for an academy or a boot camp. Having a piece of paper or an online certificate that says that you have a specific skill set is a powerful boost.

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Study Hard

I’ve seen a lot of developers that come to an interview that lack basic knowledge of programming concepts or have a half-baked understanding of the technology they’re using or that they just read about something and have not taken a step further.

Job application is like a competition. If there’s an opening, you’re not just competing against the job requirements, but you’re also competing against everyone else who applied. Usually, the company picks the best candidate or best-fitting candidate.

If you want to be in the top tier, you need to study like a top tier.
Study whatever is required in a job application and then study a bit beyond that. That of course takes a lot of effort and it a lot of takes time.
That also means that you should apply for a position of your level. Don’t start with seeking out senior positions, with 5+ years of experience in a certain technology.

Also (this is very important), it’s good to know the theory, but it’s a lot better to have an example of where and how you used something. For that you need a lot of practice, you need to see different examples online, maybe consult with someone and you need to build things yourself.

Follow tech trends. Don’t study ancient old tech that no one uses.

Prepare for an Interview

Now that you have the skills, it’s time to prepare for an interview.

  • Consult with someone within the company and ask what is it that they’re looking for
  • Study algorithms, data structures, design patterns, databases, APIs, and other job-related responsibilities
  • Look for common interview questions, try out quizzes, problem-solving exams, and test yourself in different ways
  • Work on your soft skills. Be open to talking about yourself, past experiences, plans, motivation, etc.
  • Be there on time and dress to impress.
  • Ask them questions you’re interested in, about the job position and your duties, what they expect from you, what tools they use, do they have any programs to educate their employees, what’s the company culture, etc.
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Have interesting Projects to Showcase

If you built something, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, even if it’s built with a different technology than what you’re applying for, don’t feel discouraged to show it to others.

This shows that you’re invested in improving, creative, motivated, and determined to get things done. This can be any to-do or shopping application or portfolio project.
It’s also a perfect opportunity to show everyone what you can do when you work by yourself and how you can present personal work.

If you have an interesting project to showcase it will definitely put you in a better position than the applicants who don’t have a project like that or don’t have anything to show.

And if can’t show your project publicly, you can talk about the architecture behind it, your experience, your duties, some of the difficulties you faced and how you overcame them, etc.

Work on Social Presence

Social presence is super important. You can be the most skilled developer in your area, but it’s almost worthless if no one knows who you are.

One way to get noticed is to be present at important events, e.g. meetups, to have an online profile, and to engage with people in the industry in real life or online.

Contribute to Community

Another great way to stand out is to be part of the community. Here are some examples:

  • Engage on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)
  • Reply to questions (Reddit, Stackoverflow)
  • Create tutorials (Youtube)
  • Blog about IT (Medium, Dev.to)
  • Speak on meetups
  • Contribute to public GitHub repositories (Any open-source project, Hacktoberfest)
  • Compete against developers (Hackathon)
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Be Ambitious

You need to engage with the company in a positive manner.
Show them that you’re looking forward to working for them, that you’re curious to learn things, to evolve, to be part of the community, that you’re willing to push yourself to meet their expectations, etc.

Even if you’re motivated by something else, e.g. money, try to focus on your goals and motivations within the company or the project you‘d be working on.

Apply Everywhere

The best way to find a job is to look for one. Especially today with plenty of opportunities, both remote and not. You can apply for one-time projects or fixed jobs at startups or large companies.
When you feel confident, just write an email or apply for a position or general application.

And even if you don’t, apply anyway. A lot of developers, myself included, suffer from Imposter Syndrome and sometimes the best way to beat your fears is to face them.

Even if you fail you’ll learn something new, but you also might get in on your first try.

Seek Internship program

A lot of companies only hire medior or senior developers and if that’s not you, ask to volunteer in the company or search for an internship/boot camp program. If you get in, you’ll have a chance to evolve in many ways, meet new people, learn new things, and maybe even get a job.

Stay Motivated

I got rejected a number of times before landing my first job. Even those times when I was certain to be the ideal candidate I got rejected, but I didn’t give up.

It’s a leap of faith, but it’s also a Snowball Effect.

  • Learning gets you Knowledge.
  • Knowledge brings you Experience.
  • Experience gives you Confidence.
  • Confidence gets you better Opportunities.

My piece of advice for you is, at whichever stage you are in, keep learning and improving yourself and be passionate about the work you do.

And when you get your foot through the door, that’s the moment you need to push yourself harder, build your reputation and prove your worth to the company.

If you’re into web development, frontend, backend, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Angular, React, C#, .NET, or Node.js and seeking help, feel free to reach out to me on Discord or Twitter, and I’ll recommend some courses I took and try to point you to the right direction.

That’s it for today.
If you have anything to add, feel free to write in the comments.
See you in the next one!

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Mirza Leka

IT enthusiast. I Blog about JavaScript, Node.js and Software Development