How to Stand Out in Developer Job Interviews 🎸
A Competitive Landscape
Through our hiring process at Lithios, we interact with a lot of developer candidates. Each candidate brings their own unique blend of skills, experience, and personality to a potential development or engineering role, and we work hard to find the right fit, both for us and the candidate. However, at this scale, we look for our potential developers to stand out among all the candidates we talk to, during both the application and interview processes. With this in mind, our team has poured back over our notes and experiences from our last several hires and gathered together a few tips and tricks we’ve noticed to be a rockstar developer candidate. 🎸
A Note About Resumes & Applications
The first step in 99% of developer hiring processes is an application or résumé. It is the first impression a recruiter, hiring manager, and interviewer has of you as a candidate. At Lithios, we look for candidates with demonstrable skills, demonstrable experience, and the communication skills to effectively present both. Most résumés or applications follow a standard format, with education, technical skills, and project experience front and center. Along with these, it is a good idea to highlight any relevant leadership experience you have had in your project work. This might be a role as a project manager or a time when you started your own company or built your own product. Quite a few companies, including ours, value an entrepreneurial, self-sufficient mindset.
It is also important to focus the descriptions of your project accomplishments on solutions and metrics. How many people use what you’ve made? How has it improved people’s experiences? How has your work solved a pain point? Formatting your work in this way helps you stand out to a company as a developer who has made a concrete, demonstrable impact with their work.
A Portfolio Is Key
Alongside a résumé, the most important thing a developer candidate should have is a well-designed and frequently updated personal website. This is really important. Your personal website should be the cleanest and easiest-to-use project in your portfolio because it directly represents you and your work. It is also a great place to demonstrate your design skills, advanced development techniques, and other unique skills you can bring to the company or position.
An effective personal website should include some basic information about you (we like to be able to get to know you a bit) and details and visuals about the projects in your portfolio. We really like to see live versions of your portfolio projects alongside a link to the actual code, which helps us get a better understanding of your development style and the quality of results we could expect. We also like to see your résumé and links to your Github and LinkedIn if you have these. Bonus points if the portfolio is written in the language(s) you are primarily seeking a position to work with. If you are applying to companies as a React developer, it doesn’t make much sense to build your portfolio in WordPress or Squarespace, and might be a red flag for an interviewer.
A note on your personal GitHub profile: fill this out. For a number of companies, this acts as an extension of your personal portfolio, so it pays to have a detailed profile and up-to-date projects.
What We Look For In An Interview
Here at Lithios, we conduct multiple interviews with our developer candidates, each focused on a specific aspect of the role we are hiring for. This includes interviews based on technical skills, project management, and cultural fit. Throughout each of these interviews, the first and most important skill we look for is effective communication. If you have prepared well as a candidate, we likely already have a good sense of your technical skills and project experience from your other materials, and now we want to hear it directly from you. This is not only to determine if you would be a good fit for our internal team, but also to determine your potential for handling external demos or discussions with non-technical clients or partners.
Along with general communication, it is important to talk through your thought process as you answer questions or solve problems during the interview. This is especially helpful if you feel stuck, as we are rarely looking for a “correct” answer to a difficult question. We want to know how you’d solve such a problem in the real world, and knowing the tools and experiences you are pulling from is very helpful.
Miscellaneous Tips & Tricks
We’ve compiled a few additional tips and tricks from our development team to succeed as a candidate for a developer position. Check them out below:
- Respond to emails or phone calls promptly and efficiently. We are data people, and each interaction is a data point that helps us determine attention to detail and fit.
- Don’t be afraid to tell us what you like to do outside of work. We aren’t machines, and we don’t want our future team members to be either. In fact, we believe our hobbies and passions outside of work build our creativity and make us better problem solvers.
- If you have any design, art, or fabrication experience, highlight this. We are firm believers in creativity being the heart of the best solutions to problems. Plus, our design team loves working with a developer with previous design experience.
- Follow up after the interview. This is old-school interview etiquette at this point, but in a crowded field, it does help you stand out.
These days, getting a job as a software developer is a very competitive task. Each company’s hiring process is a bit different, and each hiring team looks for a unique blend of technical skills and cultural fit in a candidate. With this being said, we believe there are a few simple items a potential candidate should focus on to stand out among the competition. These primarily amount to being detail oriented in your preparation, and especially with your materials. Put your heart into your portfolio, and make it uniquely you.
Here at Lithios, we strive to hire world-class team members to help us build world-class products for our clients. We consult closely with our clients and development teams to add feature flexes throughout the product development process that engage and delight our clients’ users and support future growth. If you have any questions about our hiring process or want to get in touch, drop us a line here.
Brendan Michaelsen is the Director of Technology at Lithios. He enjoys designing and implementing complex technical systems. A fun fact about Brendan, he sleeps on textbooks to absorb knowledge while dormant.