Stand out as a great candidate for a software position
I just got back from our first co-op job fair. We’re looking to hire on a handful of intern whizzes and code geniuses. I was there with one of our developers and our feelings are mixed after the five hour event. If you want to stand out as a great candidate for a software position, either here or elsewhere; then actually read this.
There are so many guides and ‘hints & tips’ out there for job fair etiquette that I used to scoff at them as being overly hand-holding and obvious. That was until I attended this fair and found hardly anyone paid any mind to the suggestions. Basic job hunt etiquette went largely unseen.
We were amazed by how few people came prepared. Granted, for many it was their first real exposure to the world of employment, but seriously – arriving without a résumé, in a hoodie, having done no research? Good grief. It felt like some applicants were begging to be turned away. Don’t be that person.
So here I am, making our own guide for young software professionals and computer science students. These tips come hot off the press, completely independent of any outside influence. These things happened to us, at our real-world booth. Real observations that were made today.
- Come prepared. Bring résumés! Dress well. This is a job fair. You’re essentially attending a series of miniature job interviews. Make an impression and show you care enough to come with the job hunt essentials. Only one person wore a suit today. Guess what, he’s getting an interview.
- Don’t be shy. Speak up, it’s really loud in there. Introduce yourself. Nobody will laugh at you, or ridicule your lack of PHP/C#/whatever experience. We’re just people, not some massive corporate monster. Even the corporate monsters (nameless, but they know who they are) send real people to these events – friendly HR, programmers and managers. They only eat their employees once they’ve been hired.
- Tell us that you love code. Tell us you’ve been keen since you first touched a keyboard. It doesn’t do you any good to stare at your shoes and mention you know HTML, CSS, Python, Java… but you’re really not that good and only started last year. Don’t shoot yourself down before you get an interview; let the hiring manager decide whether you’re the kind of talent they want.
- Try to stand out. Even if you’re a bit of an introvert and just getting to these events was a small miracle of willpower – persist a little further and differentiate yourself somehow. After twenty minutes at a job fair, believe me, I know what you and your 399 classmates are capable of. Python, C, some Java. Got it. Now, tell me what else you can do. Me – I draw, and my employers obviously thought that was pretty cool, because now I work here.
Standing out doesn’t need to be a skill
More on standing out – it doesn’t need to be a skill. If you’re eighteen and in your first year of your computer science program, you shouldn’t feel inadequate. Tough curriculum, CS. Good for you in just getting in. But seriously – consider offering something else to a hiring manager. Volunteer work, related hobbies, a project you’ve started. A project you want to start. Anything. We’ll decide whether it’s relevant, you just provide us with some context.
- Don’t ask what we do. Every job fair lists their attendees online or in a brochure. You don’t need to memorize it, but at least brief yourself before going in. You’re almost an immediate disqualification when you come in blind. It shows you don’t give a hoot about what we do. And we’re sort of proud of what we do.
- If you really want a job, it would go like this: wait your turn, then introduce yourself confidently. Shake hands, trade a résumé for our business cards. Smile. Don’t let your nerves show. Tell us you like what we do, and that you’ve been on our website. You don’t need to have researched us heavily. Now mention that you think you’d be a good candidate for a software developer co-op position because you have good grades in your CS classes, you code for fun and have accomplished X, Y and Z in your spare time. Ask a question about what it’s like to work at our company. Thank us for our time, smile, shake hands again and move on.
It may come as a surprise, but only one out of the 400 people we met today did this. It should be no surprise then that I’m calling him right now. Good luck, devs.