I went to a coding bootcamp, and then I got hired. I want others to be able to do the same thing, so I will illustrate in as much detail as I am comfortable the things I did that I think led to me getting a job in ~1 month after graduating from a coding bootcamp. This will be one part of a many part series going over how I transformed from a Liberal Arts degree holder making 40k/year as a recruiter into a Software Engineer making ~120k/year. Other posts will be linked to in this section later.
In short: I went to Hack Reactor (then Makersquare) in San Francisco, attended the program for 3 months, became a “Fellow” (also known as Hacker in Residence or part time T.A.) for 3 months after that, then graduated. One month after graduating, I was working, making ~120k/year. How?
Finding a job should be treated as a science. People will say, “it’s arbitrary, Joe got hired because he knew Bill at BigCompany,” or “recruiters look at 50 resumes a day, I’m just playing a game of chance!” They’ll argue that this is a random activity. Others will say there is an “art” to writing a cover letter, or drawing up the perfect resume. Maybe true, but I want to take all that randomness and indefinable “artistic qualities” and turn them into a process. Keep that thought in mind: turn the job search into a process. An algorithm, a series of steps, an experiment. Flex your debugger muscles - you don’t change a million things at once before checking results when you’re trying to fix a bug - you change one small thing, test, and if it didn’t work you change it back and test another thing. In other words, Scientific Method.
That means we need an objective. Obviously, this is get a job. Seems trivial, but with a goal, we can break out steps:
The point is, your thinking must adjust to become procedural. You must have our process clearly defined, so that when it’s not working, you can change one thing in it and record results. Furthermore, this removes the burden of decision off yourself for every application. If, for every single application, you need to decide if you care enough to send a cover letter or not, and then decide whether to do a warm lead reach-out, and then decide some other thing, you’re going to make this job search a hell of a lot harder than it needs to be. If you want to succeed, you need to turn into a job-chomping automaton - a lead comes in, a standardized application pops out. You are an API. You are a class with exposed methods. Stop me, I’m going too far.
Consistency does a lot of things. Think of a proper, scientific-method experiment. You don’t change fifty variables at once, you change one, and everything else is kept consistent. This gives you the opportunity to change variables and measure results, and then make an informed decision. Finding that you aren’t getting callbacks? Try changing up the cover letter format, or maybe your resume. External recruiters never calling you? Try changing something on your LinkedIn profile. Never getting past a phone screen? Change your pitch. Measure results.
Consistency also takes off the burden of decision. The job search is hard. I sent off 270 applications. What if, for every application, I needed to
Consistency on externals, such as locations, workouts, etc, can ingrain the right mindset into each of your days. Not only does decision fatigue instantly come into play if you need to decide when you wake up whether you’re going to the library or not that day, there’s about a hundred thousand articles describing how establishing a “work-location” can increase productivity. Anybody that’s worked from home extensively can tell you the importance of having an “office room.” Same concept. Either create a space at home or go somewhere else, always, so that you aren’t tempted to play Overwatch instead of sending off applications.
External Recruiters: The Ultimate Plate-Spinners
Recruiters are great because you don’t have to do anything to make it work. They just call you, and sometimes those calls lead to a phone screen or interview. In my case, they led to 2 of my ~3 offers. Phone screens and interviews mean practice, offers mean leverage. All of it leads to a tremendous confidence boost.
I was a recruiter, so I knew how the recruiter game worked - when they called, I was one of the at least 15 people they called that day, if they’re meeting their KPIs. Chances are your given agency recruiter isn’t the evil snake most people make them out to be - they may even genuinely want to help you get a job. I know I did. But, they have a recruitment manager breathing down their necks, and so they’re going to call you, and then they’re going to call 75 other people that week, and their going to be shotgunning resumes out like a professional. So, take advantage of that. Fully 40% of my interviews, I got through recruiters.
When it comes to an agency recruiter, be polite. Have them put you down at: “whatever max rate you think is best for this role,” or, “you know this client better than I do - what rate do you think I should go forward for?” They’ll say a rate, and you say “That could work, depending on what I learn during the interview and conversations with the team.” There’s always flexibility when it comes to an agency. Help them out. Offer to forward their job descriptions on to your network. They’ll give you preference, your resume will get seen more - all for mere seconds of your time. Someone else spinning plates for you - that’s something you should take full advantage of.
To get a high rate of contact from recruiters, put your resume with contact details on Monster.
270 applications was what it took for me to receive ~3 offers
The way I see it, the more “things” I do, the more practice I get, the more data I get, the more opportunity I get. If I send out 100 resumes and I get no bites, that’s a pretty good sign I need to change something on my resume. If I send out 5 and don’t get a response, well, that’s harder to say - each of those 5 companies could have very good reasons for not seeing my resume, or not caring about it. 100 companies though? That’s something on me. The more resumes I get out, the more calls I get, the more practice I get in calls, the better I get. The more I learn what works in a call and what doesn’t. The more calls I get, the more interviews… see where this is going?
Yes, I shotgunned. I sent out nearly 300 resumes in a month. That’s stupid, right? We should spend HOURS on each application to prove that we are really interested in a company right? You might assume I didn’t even read the job descriptions of the jobs I applied to.
Yup, for the most part, I didn’t. I spent maybe 5-10 minutes on each application with a cover letter. Approximately 5 seconds on “LinkedIn 1 click” applications, including adding to my spreadsheet. Why? Because I knew my response rate wouldn’t be better than 20%. I’m not going to spend more than 10-15 minutes on a company when there’s an 80% chance they won’t even send me a reject email.
I took the same approach to my LinkedIn network. I have 3,600 connections on LinkedIn. Think about what a LinkedIn connection is good for - you can message a LinkedIn connection. They usually respond - I have a very good response rate on LinkedIn. You can’t message someone you find on LinkedIn if you aren’t a connection. You can’t connect with someone on LinkedIn if your degree of separation is too great. So what does 3,600 connections get me? If not the ability to message someone, the ability to click “connect” and probably see them under my “new connections” section the next day… which means I get to message them. So every morning I’d go to LinkedIn, click that little button in the top right corner labeled “grow my network,” and add every single person I saw there. Then, I’d search “software engineer” or “front end developer” or the similar on the “people” search, sort by Bay Area, and add pages of people until LinkedIn rate limited me.
It would be fair to argue that I had the response rate I did because of my methods. Very possible, however as I read back through my cover letters, I don’t think it’s apparent from a recruiter’s standpoint that I spent max 10-15 minutes on a given application.
Also, you probably will see a lot of articles like this. You’ll get a lot of advice. Someone might tell you they got a job because they would always sit down and spend four hours on a cover letter. I bet there are a lot of people who have done just that. So who do you listen to? I don’t know, decide for yourself, or find a happy medium. I’m not going to say other ways are wrong, because I would be stupid to do so. Take my experience as a learning exercise and apply what you like to your own methods.