5 Mistakes Developers Make During the Job Hunt

By Pluralsight    |    August 25, 2015

You’ve studied up, hacked on a few projects, and are ready to jump into the workforce — but did you know certain things can actually make it more difficult for you to land the job you’ve got your eye on? There are a few common ways job seekers can sabotage themselves without even realizing it. So today I want to share 5 ways you can separate yourself from other applicants by avoiding those common mistakes.

1. Thinking the Job Hunt Is a Numbers Game

If you’re a budding developer, you have a lot to prove — yet a lot of people think the best way to get a job is to blindly apply to every company they find. This can also end up backfiring because when companies ask you to do homework on them, you’re likely to already be overwhelmed.

A great thing to keep in mind is you only need 1 good offer, so this approach can be counter-productive. Leave the numbers game approach behind, and focus on the jobs you think will best fit the skill set you have.

2. Spending Little Effort Researching the Company

Companies all differ in their mission and what values they look for when hiring new employees. And because you can’t always get a good grasp of this by simply reading the “Careers” section on their site, your research will yield better results when you’ve absorbed the company’s developer-related content. Need some help on where to look? Check out their company blogs or talks their developers gave at conferences, for example. Even their individual Twitter feeds can clue you in on their actual interests and current challenges, and allow you to talk about topics that resonate with your interviewer, resulting in more meaningful interviews.

3. Copy and Pasting Cover Letters

Applying for jobs can be very time consuming — almost like a job in itself. After applying to a few positions, the process can become tedious and you might be tempted to copy and paste cover letters, while just updating the company information (and sometimes that gets missed, which can be quite embarrassing).

But what you might not realize is the person reading your application receives dozens of the same kind of application every day. Break the monotony and submit something that doesn’t feel like the rest. This tactic usually requires a bit more research (see point 2), but it’s worth it. Need a creative idea? Consider using a line like this in your next cover letter:

“I recently listened to [engineer’s name]’s talk at FooConf. It was interesting hearing the specific challenges the team is tackling in machine learning. I believe I’d be a great fit to help solve these problems because…”

4. Allowing the Hiring Manager to Do All the Work

I used to do this all the time — I would attach my cover letter, share a link to my GitHub portfolio, and hope the hiring manager on the other end would go through everything to get the full picture of myself as a developer. This rarely happens. Hiring managers don’t typically have hours to sift through everything on your website or dig through your LinkedIn profile, so always keep that in the back of your mind.

Keep sending your cover letter, but emphasize which project or experience was the most challenging and what you did to solve it. Send over that GitHub page so they can look around if they have time, but link specific snippets of code that you think are impressive so they stand out more.

5. Assuming the Application and Interview Is Only About You

You want to talk about who you are, of course, but cover letters become more effective when you are only half of the agenda. So instead of focusing solely on yourself and your skills, let’s take a look at a better format:

“Your company does A, B, C, and I’m a huge fan because…,”> Or how about, “Your company needs this, and I can provide it because…,”

In an interview, they’re very common questions. And while they’re questions about you, the effectiveness of those answers depends on how relevant you make them to their company. Here’s an example scenario:

“We’ve been migrating a lot of code over to ES2015. Have you written any JavaScript with it yet?” — Hiring Manager> “I haven’t yet, but hopefully soon!” — Interviewee

This answer doesn’t show any curiosity toward improvement or interest in what the company is doing, so it doesn’t make for a very impressive response.

“We’ve been migrating a lot of code over to ES2015. Have you written any JavaScript with it yet?” — Hiring Manager> “I haven’t yet, but I’m happy to see they’ve standardized ‘promises’ as part of the specification. Which features seem most useful to your team?” — Interviewee

This answer demonstrates some level of awareness and intellectual curiosity, as well as interest in the hiring manager as a person. This is great because the interview can become more of a conversation as opposed to a questionnaire, and you can show off a lot more of your personality this way.

These steps are simple to follow, and they can yield so much — from a higher response rate and more interviews, to even an increase in your confidence applying for positions. Have any success tips or tricks you’ve found during the job process? Let us know in the comments section below (tip: click “View Discussion” below)!

About the author

Pluralsight is the technology skills platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.