Getting Hired after Bootcamp Takes More Than Just Knowing How to Code
Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager at a fast-growing startup who is in charge of hiring a new software engineer. You finally whittle down your long list of candidates to just two people: Candidate X and Candidate Y. Candidate X is clearly qualified — they aced their technical interview — but they didn’t seem very excited about the opportunity. Candidate Y, on the other hand, is a recent graduate from a coding Bootcamp. Despite not performing as well during the technical part of the interview as Candidate X, Candidate Y demonstrated passion for coding, provided great character references, and even sent a thank you email after the interview to show their interest in the opportunity.
As a hiring manager, you’d probably lean towards candidate Y. After all, this person will be working with you, so you might as well enjoy working with them.
Many Bootcamp graduates infer that, because they have new technical skills, they are bound to get a great job. However, those skills will get you nowhere if you are not also developing professional aptitude. In addition, hiring managers are likely to reach out to Bootcamp administrators to inquire about your skills and work ethic. If you are not “referable” (see the diagram below) all your hard work may fall short. Here are some of the non-technical skills and behaviors you should be striving for throughout Bootcamp and all throughout your professional career.
Negative attitudes about the company, the industry, or even the job search as a whole will follow you right into your interview. This fact alone leaves many career seekers puzzled as to why they get interviews but no subsequent offers.
In an interview, a negative attitude can manifest itself in small ways: complaining about your last role, frowning, etc. Even though these might seem like obvious no’s during an interview, if you are jaded by the job search or about working in tech, you might find yourself unconsciously doing these. Additionally, even if you’re not saying anything negative, the interviewer might be able to hear it in your tone or sense it with your body language.
However, a positive, can-do attitude will not only help you land a job quicker, but also take you miles farther once you’re in that role. This doesn’t mean you’re always the most happy-go-lucky version of yourself — it’s okay to have bad days. Having a positive attitude means you’re willing to lend a helping hand to another, open to trying new ideas and learning from mistakes if those ideas fail, and show gratitude to others.
There is no clearer sign of unprofessionalism than bad communication — whether it’s a lack of responsiveness, overly complicated emails, or just plain rudeness. Keep in mind that no one knows or will cut you slack for doing those things unintentionally. If you want to be referred to potential hiring opportunities, communication is one of the most critical factors that the referrer will take into consideration.
Email and messaging communication is particularly important, as this is how the instructors, TAs, and other support persons in the program will get to know you (particularly if the Bootcamp is virtual).
At some point, you’ll need to send emails to people outside of Bootcamp as well. That very first person might be a hiring manager or potential mentor about scheduling a meeting. The interview process is the first place you’ll demonstrate your communication etiquette. Your hiring manager is not just evaluating your technical skills during this process, but also your ability to work within a team; thus, your emails should be concise, gracious, and professional. Here’s a template:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for [position] at [company]!
I am available to meet via Zoom at:
- Monday, after 1 PM
- Tuesday, from 12 PM — 3 PM
- Thursday, before 11 AM
Please let me know when you are available to meet this week. I look forward to meeting you.
Tip: After each interview, send the hiring manager an email thanking them for their time and recapping what you enjoyed about the conversation. You’d have no idea how far this goes!
Employers are always looking for someone willing to go above and beyond— but what does that mean?
The easiest way to do that is to be proactive — if you see something, say something. As a new employee, it can be easy to adopt the mentality of “I will do things this way because they’ve always been done this way at the company.” Although that should be the case in some circumstances, if you see an opportunity to improve on a business process, bring that up to your manager! Additionally, if you find yourself having extra time at the end of the day, see how you can help out others. If the role involves a project, how can you contribute? For example, start working on open tickets if the project is managed with a platform like Trello or Github Boards. In short, be active and engaged — instead of sitting idly.
Likewise, while in boot camp, rather than struggling with something and wishing something was different, contact the proper person — or fill out the suggestion form, and take action. Beyond that, if there’s a solution you can start that would help others go for it.
Learning technical skills is only half the battle when breaking into the tech industry. Anyone can keep their head down, do their work, and clock out at 5 o’clock sharp, like Candidate X. But learning these vital soft skills and developing a professional aptitude will help transform you into Candidate Y.
Lastly, I’d like to give a shoutout to La’Tonia Mertica who role modeled all of the characteristics and behaviors one should adopt while completing a hardcore, fast-paced coding Bootcamp. It was a conversation with her that inspired this article.