Insider advice to land a job in Denver tech

I’ve been an intern at Code Talent for a little less than a year now. Before becoming part of the team, my knowledge about technology, the Denver startup community, and recruiting, barely scratched the surface. From my time at one of Denver’s top technical recruiting firms, not only have I gained insight about one of the coolest and fastest growing communities in the country, but I also got an inside look at the job process.

Though I am not a recruiter, I am constantly surrounded by highly specialized and experienced recruiters. In our open office space, this means that I get to hear all the conversations they have with each other, candidates, and companies. I can say with confidence that our recruiters know Denver’s tech community inside-out, and know what it takes to land a job in the industry.

Here are some of the most common mistakes discussed in the office everyday:

Not doing your research

I cannot emphasize this one enough. “Do your research,” is one of the most common phrases I hear recruiters say to candidates pre-interview. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first interview or fourth: researching the company shows the interviewer that you care about the position and demonstrates your passion for the work they’re doing.

Go beyond the company’s homepage, investigate their latest product launch or most recent news releases. Do your research on the person who’s interviewing you, too — know their background, check out their latest projects, and understand where they stand at the company. A good general understanding of the organization and the person you’re talking to allows you to provide better answers, demonstrate passion, and foster more meaningful conversations throughout the interview.

“If you walk in and don’t know anything other than the homepage of the website, it’s a huge turnoff to clients. I push my candidates to do as much research into the company as they can before they interview. Knowing a little background on who you’re meeting with always helps, too,” ~Tyler.

Not asking questions

This goes along with doing your research. If you did your research, asking relevant and thoughtful questions will come naturally and demonstrate your passion. Asking 2–3 relevant questions about the position and the company speaks volumes about your interest in the job and excitement about the opportunity.

Co-founder and Senior Recruiter at Code Talent, Kevin Doran, stresses the importance of asking relevant technical questions to his candidates:

“For example, if the company has millions of users, how is their application architecture set up to scale effectively with that many users? If they are in the medical industry, what security standards and authorizations are in place to insure confidential client information stays safe?”

Ask thoughtful questions that can’t be answered by looking through the companies website, you want to demonstrate the time investment you made in researching the company and role! Other great questions to ask could be:

“What do you need from this person on day one?”

“How do you see this position evolving?”

“How do you see this position contributing directly to your company goals?”

Lack of passion & a bad attitude

Companies can sense when candidates are just not passionate about the work they’re doing, and it’s an instant turn off. This is especially important for small/startup sized companies, where the hiring managers are typically deeply involved and invested in their product. I’ve heard stories of candidates being rejected simply because the company didn’t feel they were excited — or even interested — about the technology or company. Showing your drive is an easy way to stand out from other interviewees and give yourself an edge.

“Feeling passionate about a company’s product goes a long way, especially when you’re up against other developers with similar skills and career objectives. Showing up knowing nothing about what you’re interviewing for doesn’t work — they want passion to drive you to them.” ~Tara

Bad mouthing previous employers or coworkers

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. When asked, “why did you leave your last job?” bad-mouthing should never be the answer. Though you may have left due to bad company culture or a psycho boss, cut the gossip.

Co-founder and Senior Recruiter at Code Talent, Nick Gasparro, cited this as the number one mistake he sees candidates make, as it says more about you than the company:

“When you bad-mouth your old boss or company, it reflects poorly on yourself as not being able to work well with others or resolve conflicts in a professional manner.”

If the reason you left was due to a bad environment, try to frame the truth positively. If you can’t do that, pick one of the other reasons you left the position.

The tech scene in Denver may be growing, but it’s still a tightly knit community. Don’t ruin your chances for a future position by trashing another company’s team: you never know who knows who.

Unclear salary expectations

This mistake is something I hear recruiters dealing with pretty frequently (and before I was at Code, I knew nothing about salary negotiations or even salaries, to be honest). Constantly changing your mind about what you’ll accept works against yourself: find your base and stick with it. If you’re clear about your expectations from the start, you can focus your energy on these positions that meet your expectations and avoid wasting your time — and other’s time — interviewing for a job you most likely won’t be satisfied with.

“Be clear and upfront with what are deal breakers for you. It’s never too early to tell your recruiter that you need a specific base. Also, don’t take it personally when a company comes in low. You never know what they’ve budgeted specifically for the project or role,” ~Riley.

Exaggerating your abilities

Be honest with yourself and potential employers about your skills and experience. This starts with your resume and continues throughout the process. You should be prepared for questions about any and all skills, languages, and tools you put on your resume; if you claim to be an expert in something, expect expert-level questions.

“If you did ReactJS for a small side project, don’t claim to be an expert. It’s infinitely better to claim to be mid-level and tech-out at mid-level (or higher), than it is to be an expert and tech-out at mid-level,” ~Bret.

Dressing incorrectly

This is one lesson I learned through Code Talent before I even worked here. When interviewing to be the intern at Code, I dressed professionally — the way my university taught me to dress for practically any and all interviews. However, Code is a casual company, and I felt completely out of place in slacks and heels.

With the traditional workplace changing, dressing professionally isn’t appropriate for every interview, especially in the tech and startup worlds. Still put an effort into your appearance, but think about the company culture before grabbing for that suit and tie. Wearing the wrong attire can tell the company that you aren’t the cultural fit they’re looking for — even if you’ve got all the qualifications.

For 90% of jobs in the Denver tech/startup world, you can’t go wrong with jeans, a button down, and a nice pair of shoes:

As usual, interview outfits for women are a little more complicated than a button-down and jeans. Striking the right balance between casual and professional can be tough. Luckily, Riley put together three example interview outfits that are great for almost any company:

Finally, make sure you don’t go too casual. Wearing a suit and tie might make you seem a bit uptight, but too casual says you don’t care about the company or the position. We’ll leave you with an example from Bret of what not to wear:

Read more blog posts from Code Talent here.