How to get hired: Insights from an Engineering Manager

RMAG news

I’m an Engineering manager, and I DID use ChatGPT to help me write this article 😅. Let’s just be honest and get that out of the way up front.

In this article I’ll talk about what you can do to stand out as a candidate when looking for job as a software engineer. I’ll tell you some of the things I look out for that might just help you.

Where we’re at 🗺️
The job market is quite unique at the moment. The last few years have seen a lot of uncertainty. Economic downturn, mass layoffs, high inflation, uncertainty over the impact of AI. Compared to the last decade or so, the job market today can be quite challenging. There are a lot of great engineers available and still a lot of uncertainty. The supply and demand equation is tilted in the wrong direction.

It starts with your presence 🏁
Whether its a resume, or a LinkedIn profile, a potential employers first impression of you will come from one of these places, so make sure you’ve spent the time to prepare.

Cover letters 📨
Honestly, I barely ever read cover letters. They’re always very generic, and don’t usually offer me much insight into the candidate. Unless you make yours short, snappy and unique, I’ll probably eyeball it and move on quickly.

The resumé 🗂️
In many ways cover letters and resumés feel antiquated. Do managers actually read them? I do read them, but I prefer resumés that are short, sharp and to the point. I want to know:

When and where you worked
What you did
Why it matters

What I usually look for when scanning resumés is the name or types of company the person has worked for. If you’ve worked at FAANG, I’ll pay attention. If you’ve worked companies that are known to have excellence in software engineering, I’ll pay attention. If you’ve only worked at agencies, that will stand out to me (because I hire for product engineering teams).

The more specific you can be about what you did in your role at the company, the more I’ll consider it. Just mentioning broad keywords is a lot less effective than telling me about a specific project you worked on.

Your LinkedIn profile 🔗
There are some basics in your LinkedIn profile that nearly seem like common sense but you would be surprised how often are missed.

Make sure you:

Have a decent profile photo – I’d like to see who I’m going to meet
Your work history with at minimum the same detail as a resume – Where, when, why

To add some credibility to your profile:

Recommendations from past colleagues
Posts around relevant topics
Connections or following of industry or domain experts

A GitHub profile ⚙️
If you’re trying to land a job as a software engineer, I’d expect to see some kind of public GitHub profile. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have released your own OSS library, but anything you can show in your profile lends to your credibility.

The interview 👩‍💻
The most critical component (to me anyway) of any candidate is their ability to communicate. For software engineers, the ability to communicate complex concepts and ideas is as important as breathing. If you can’t communicate well, it doesn’t matter how good of an engineer you are.

Depending on the interview stage and format, I’ll also be watching how you approach problems or situations you might be presented with. The first sign for me of a good engineer, is someone that asks a lot of questions. In some interviews I will present a hypothetical scenario and ask the candidate to assist in designing a solution. If the candidate doesn’t start with asking clarifying questions then they’re off to a bad start. Following this I’ll be looking for fundamentals – software design patterns, system design principles, etc.

Summary of what I look for 🔎

Strong communication, particularly of technical concepts
Structured and fastidious problem solving
Technical skills and experience
Credibility – Working at well-known companies, OSS contributions, articles

As both an engineer, and a manager, I’ve been on both ends of the process and have had equal frustration on both sides. This is partly what has driven me to develop a new platform for connecting developers with employers and recruiters – DevBuilt –

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