Right now landing an entry-level tech job may seem more difficult than a year ago because there are fewer roles available that are hiring entry candidates in tech. But that is not the full picture.
In reality, the tech job market is only a bit more competitive with a greater number of applicants competing for the same role.
If you can stand out from the competition you will have even greater luck getting your next role. And this is very doable if you understand how to be a competitive candidate and use powerful strategies to get a leg up in your tech career hunt.
What will make me a more competitive candidate?
To be a competitive candidate you should build strong technical skills for the role, be a great communicator and be likable. Yes, being likable is important. We’ll dive more into how you can do this and more to impress recruiters.
How do I make myself a standout candidate with little industry experience?
You become the dream candidate for the person hiring, one they just can’t say no to. That means the recruiter, hiring manager, and any else making the hiring decision.
Who is making the hiring decision?
There are usually two people you have to impress to land a tech job: the recruiter and the hiring manager. The hiring manager is usually the manager of the team that is hiring. They set the qualifications and make the final hiring decision. The recruiter is tasked with finding a candidate to fill the role, they look at the incoming resumes and determine the best people to present to the hiring managers for interviews.
How do I prove that I have the right technical skills?
Gaining professional experience from an internship where you were working on industry-level code bases or had a similar experience from projects is usually the best way to prove your technical skills. This gets decision-makers interested when reviewing your resume and gets you a call for an interview.
One powerful strategy is to become strong in a specific technical niche and build a “portfolio” highlighting several projects completed in that area.
Technical experience is important to decision-makers and you will often be asked to explain core concepts within a technical niche in your interview.
What if you have never had an internship?
One route is to get enough project experience to have the equivalent of an internship. This can be done in many ways. You could start finding large projects that already exist and add to them like open-source software development. Doing hackathons is another great way to get smaller projects under your belt and learn new technologies quickly. And working on a project yourself is a great way to deepen your understanding.
Being a self-starter is also helpful, meaning you can start adding value to your team early on. The skills needed to add value early on differ by the role but for an entry-level software engineer, some include being comfortable making code changes to existing code, understanding code reviews, and agile development. These are also topics that can come up in an interview.
How should I go about applying?
During your job hunt your resume is how the recruiter determines your capability. Therefore, your resume should clearly explain your accomplishments, technical experience, and skills related to the role. It should be simple for the recruiter to determine you are a fit and exceed the qualifications for the role.
You don’t only have to apply online. Going to career fairs and conferences is a great way to connect with recruiters and put a face to an application. It can also help you showcase your communication skills and gain likability points. You know you are likable when a recruiter or interviewer feels they would enjoy being around and working with you. It’s a more important factor than most people think.
This is the starting point for becoming a standout candidate in a more competitive market for entry tech roles. You will have success landing your next role if you follow a few of the strategies discussed in the article.
About the Author:
I am a software engineer and the CEO of FYJUMP. I have had the privilege to talk with many hiring managers and recruiters in the past 12 months to become versed in how candidates can become impressive.