How (not) to Apply for a New IT Job?

Alex Ilchenko
Jan 21 · 6 min read
Illustration: Adrianna Pisarska

It’s not a secret that the times when a person got a job and stayed there until retirement have passed.

The statistics say that nowadays people change their place of work about 12 times during their active life period. I personally believe this number is even higher in IT, since the possibility of remote work makes a job change more affordable and brings more options to choose from.

However, no matter if you are looking for a remote or office job, there is a recruitment process that you have to go through. The exact approach to this process differs from company to company, but there are some common situations you will find yourself in.

In this article, I’d like to collect some of the observations I made during candidate profile reviews and tech interviews at SwingDev.

Resume

There are tons of advice on how to write a good resume, so I will not repeat them here. Still, there are some important aspects worth mentioning.

Know your audience

This marketing rule also applies to recruitment. Your resume will be read and rated by at least two people: the HR girl and the tech guy (I know this sounds sexist, but that’s how things currently look in most companies). So, every one of them will look for something important to that particular person: while HR may pay more attention to soft skills and the general impression you make, the IT guy will be focused mostly on your skills and tech stack.

Usually, the recruitment process for company members means browsing dozens of resumes, so you have literally seconds to provide information about yourself. The two most important sections are your professional career path and tech stack.

When describing a career, you should provide a list, starting from the most recent place of work, containing:

Example:

2017–2018 / Acme Corporation / Mid Front End developer
Implementing views and architecture of explosive-tennis-balls.com website

2015–2017 / Sirius Cybernetics / Junior Front End developer
Creating Wordpress templates for local business companies

It’s great if the projects you worked on are available online, because exploring them can often tell more about you than just a description. Try to link to them when possible.

Your tech stack is something that both HR and tech people are paying attention to. That’s why you should prepare the list, containing keywords relevant to this particular job offer. That means you don’t include every single tech you used in your life: it’s wonderful that you know assembler and lisp, but who cares if it’s a front-end offer? So, try to filter and sort a list to match expectations.

I also don’t like the technology or skill listed with some kind of grade, because there is no clear way to understand what do you mean by putting two of five stars near Typescript.

Don’t cheat

We often want to introduce ourselves in the best possible way, adding some wannabe skills as the ones we already have. Don’t do so! This would be verified later and you will waste your and the recruiters time. It’s better to honestly admit you don’t know something but are ready to learn than pretend and look stupid later.

Personal information

Remember to include the contact information, because it will make HR’s life easier in companies that don’t use automated recruitment workflows.

It’s up to you whether to put your photo in a resume or not, just remember to avoid making stupid faces. Sounds easy, but you’ll be surprised how many people think that’s funny.

Your age, marital status or the number of kids do not matter a lot in IT, but once I saw a guy who was so proud of having a wife, that he started his resume from “marital status: married”. Same with a hobby: you may mention it, but remember: most companies are not looking for a new basketball team player. A short list is enough.

Social network profiles

Be aware that your profiles in social media will be explored, so turn off public access to pictures of you drawing a dick on a sleeping friend’s face if your potential employer wouldn’t approve. If you have (and you should have) a GitHub profile, provide a link to it in the resume. Nothing could show your professional skills better, than your code and activity. We’ll talk about it in a section below.

Code

Besides resume, you will be probably asked to show a piece of code. It could be a link to your GitHub profile, which is a preferable option, or just an attached archive with some sources. Some companies will require you to solve some test tasks. At SwingDev we value your time and don’t ask for it, because we favor video interviews.

No matter how you show the code, remember:

Don’t rush

Make sure the code you show is not some kind of quickly written prototype: tech people in a company want to see the best you can do. So spend some time on refactoring, optimization and applying best code practices. Use linter and code formatter: even a couple of ugly lines could spoil the overall opinion about your skill level.

Show personal projects

Everybody likes ambitious and active people doing more than others want from them, and the IT industry is not an exception. Just remember, that often projects held by one person tend to use some shortcuts and attempts, understandable only by an author. So ask your buddy to make a code review first. It’s surprising how many improvements can be applied to a perfectly looking code sample.

Keep it fresh

Technologies evolve and some frameworks or techniques become outdated quickly, so make sure you don’t send non-actual code. Our industry requires you to constantly learn and improve your skills, so your code should confirm that about you.

If you don’t have any actual projects, or you are not allowed to share any single line of code you write at work, just spend an evening or two creating a demo project that uses as much as possible current best practices.

Don’t feel sorry

Often people send some piece of code followed with comments like “sorry for the mess, I didn’t have time to fix errors”. Well, I don’t need to say that such candidates are considered as someone looking for excuses and not taking responsibility for what they do.

Interview

Congratulations! Your resume looks promising, and your code made the tech guy drop a tear of happiness. As a result, you are invited to interview, where you will be asked questions.

That is already a success

Really, that means you are better than at least 20 people, who were rejected before the interview stage. I know, easy to say, but don’t be nervous. And even if you are, remember: guys in shirts want to hire you. They spent a lot of time (and money) to find someone like you, so don’t consider the interview as a situation in which everyone is trying to destroy you.

Think loud

You may be asked to solve tasks in the interview or to answer difficult questions. The goal of the interview is to get familiar with your mindset and ability to solve problems, not the solution itself. The worst thing you can do is to give up or sit quietly. So, even if you don’t know the exact solution, keep talking and asking questions. You will receive lots of hints.

Be curious

Ask about company history, team, projects, clients, work process, software — anything related to your future employer, that will allow recruiters to get to know you better, since your questions may tell a lot about you. Also, that’s a great chance to make sure it’s a place where you want to work.

Come classy, leave classy

That’s obvious, but worth to mention: be friendly no matter how the interview has gone. Don’t judge yourself, leave it to the recruiters. People often underestimate themselves, so even if you feel that it wasn’t your best performance, don’t give up: the call with a job offer comes surprisingly often. Just use the moment after the interview to make a good impression: be friendly and thank everybody for their time.

A Fail is a Win

Not every interview in your life will end up with signing a work contract, and that’s totally normal. Remember: even if you didn’t get a job, you gained experience. Nothing can prepare you for future interviews better than… interviews. Just analyze what went wrong and how you may avoid it next time and you’ll see — after several attempts, you will become an interview expert. I hope my advice was useful.

Good luck in obtaining your dream job!

➡️ Oh, and if you want to apply to our company, and create apps for the hottest startups from Silicon Valley, be sure to check our open positions 🙂

SwingDev Insights

We've already made over 80 products for startups.

Alex Ilchenko

Written by

Front End developer at SwingDev. Doing internets since 2005.

SwingDev Insights

We've already made over 80 products for startups. We've gained valuable knowledge and experience… Now it's time to share it!

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