Programming Interviews For Dummies
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If you’re applying for a software development job, always presume that many of your fellow programmers will apply for that job, too. Here are ten ways you, and not just your résumé and cover letter, can stand out to your potential employer and get you an interview.

Have a professional headshot

Use a professional headshot, taken by a professional photographer, as your profile picture on all of your social media profiles. Don’t use a good selfie you took of yourself while you were on vacation. Instead, get some recommendations for a photographer from friends, colleagues, and even your social media connections.

Then dress professionally (at least from the waist up), get well-groomed, go to the photography studio, and get headshots that will show you’re a professional. Once you get the photos and you’ve decided on the ones you want to use, put that headshot on all your social media profiles to create a consistent brand for yourself.

If you already use a professional photographer to take family portraits on occasion, here’s a tip on how to save some money on a professional headshot. Gather the family to get some pictures done for relatives and ask the photographer if you could get a couple of headshots for yourself as well.

You should already be professionally dressed and groomed, so an additional headshot or two of yourself will cost you little to nothing extra — probably the latter if you’ve been using your family photographer for a while.

Establish a GitHub profile to showcase your programming skills

If you don’t have a GitHub profile to interact with other software developers, sign up for free on the GitHub website.

Github Source:
GitHub makes it easy for you to sign up for free.

A GitHub profile not only gets you access to other developers, it also affords you the opportunity to demonstrate your programming abilities. If one or more people who work at an employer can find your GitHub profile and can see the type of code you’ve written as well as the projects you’ve contributed to, they’ll have much more confidence that:

  • You can write code.
  • You are a good coder.
  • You can actually do what you say you can do on your résumé.

If you have a GitHub profile but you haven’t worked on any projects there in a while, now is a good time to get more involved so you can make it as impressive to prospective employers (and other programmers) as you can.

Get plenty of referrals

One big benefit of LinkedIn is that you can get and ask for plenty of online referrals, which LinkedIn calls recommendations, and post them on your LinkedIn profile for anyone to see. But you shouldn’t just rely on people to give you recommendations on LinkedIn — you should already have plenty of people you could ask who would be happy to recommend you for a programming job.

So, ask those people if one or more people will write you a recommendation letter to send with your cover letter and résumé. The hiring manager or team manager may be a bit confused at first with all the papers included in your envelope, but then realize that you have plenty of people who are happy to recommend you and talk with company management about you.

That added proof that you’re well-regarded in the industry will get your résumé and cover letter noticed. Referrals are not a panacea because you still have to make sure your résumé and cover letter look great, but including referral letters will make it much more likely that whoever is reviewing résumés looks at yours.

You can show your appreciation by writing a recommendation letter of your own and send those to your friends and colleagues who recommend you. After all, your friends and colleagues may need recommendations for a job or other position they want.

Have a video résumé on social networking sites

We live in an age where it’s easy to make videos and post them online, so it’s a good idea to post a video résumé starring you on all your social media websites.

You can hire a videographer to professionally produce your video résumé, but you can probably do it yourself using your webcam. Just be sure to practice talking naturally into the camera so you come off as authentic and genuine. When you’re ready to record, it’s a good idea to wear at least a shirt and tie (if you’re just sitting down) and groom yourself so you look professional.

You can put a link to your video résumé in your printed one. When people reviewing your résumé type in the link, they should see a brief video that not only features you talking about who you are as a programmer and your experience, but also shows some of your personality so the viewer can get to know you a little bit.

If potential interviewers feel like you’re someone they want to work with after they watch your video résumé, don’t be surprised if you get a phone call or email message asking to set up a phone screen or an in-person interview.

You should shorten the link to your video résumé so people don’t have to type in a long and complicated URL in their browser’s address bar. One popular site for shortening a URL is Bitly.

Create your own YouTube channel to show off your programming prowess

If you want to go one step further with your videos and stand out not just to potential interviewers but to the software developer community at large, include your video résumé on your YouTube channel. This channel should also include several videos that show off your personality and expertise.

Simpleprogrammer YourTube channel Source: Simple Programmer
The Simple Programmer website has numerous videos about a variety of programming topics.

A YouTube channel that you promote regularly on your other social media and software developer websites like GitHub will start to get you followers.

What’s more, people at your prospective employer will look at your YouTube channel and think, “Wow, this person is teaching hundreds of developers on YouTube, so this is a good person to have on our team. This is someone who not only knows their stuff but will help our other programmers learn and grow.”

Your YouTube channel may not only attract followers but may also prompt people to send comments asking if you’re looking for a job. If you decide to start looking for employment, you can create a video that says you’re looking for a job and feature that video on your channel so you can generate leads.

Have a good blog to show your programming expertise

Programming requires you to type code, so you should have a good blog that shows your coding expertise either in your preferred programming language and/or a variety of programming languages. A blog, such as the Simple Programmer blog you see below, can
  • include instructional articles about how to perform a task in a specific language;
  • discuss tips, tricks, techniques, and trends in software development; and
  • include articles from guest authors who talk about their areas of expertise.
Simple Programmer blog Source: Simple Programmer
The Simple Programmer website has a blog with a number of articles written by different authors.

If you design your blog so you feature your desired search keywords prominently and frequently, Google will have an easy time finding your blog when people search for those keywords. Don’t forget to promote your latest blog posts on your social media and software developer websites, too.

You may find that during the interview, one or more interviewers will ask you about the blog because they’ve been reading articles on it. So, the blog acts as an extended interview that shows people at your prospective employer that you write well, can articulate your points, and that you’re an influencer and leader in the programming community.

Update your blog regularly with new articles. If you haven’t updated your blog even in a couple of months, your articles will start to look stale, and you’ll give the impression to your interviewers that you’re inattentive and don’t follow through.

Produce a podcast and/or vlog

If you want to go all-out to promote your expertise and personality, then add an audio podcast or its video equivalent, the vlog (short for video log), to your blog and YouTube channel offerings.

The vlog can be posted to both your social media websites, your blog itself, and/or your YouTube channel. You may also want to have your podcast on sites that host podcasts such as Libsyn.

Libsyn Source: Libsyn
Libsyn is one solution for posting podcasts.

If you’re the host of a podcast, it’s likely you won’t talk during the entirety of each podcast. (The length of a podcast will vary depending on the topic.) Instead, you’ll be talking with other people and creating a lot of connections. You’ll also show that you’re involved in the developer community.

As you build influence and a loyal listenership and/or viewership, you may become a celebrity among developers. Your popularity will make it easier for you to get the job you want because companies want to hire a famous software developer to work on their teams.

Point to mobile apps you’ve already developed in app stores

If you’ve published one or more apps in an iOS or Android app store, don’t forget to include this information in your résumé and cover letter, and ensure that any interviewers can easily find a link to the app on your social media profiles, blog, and YouTube channel.

Showing that you’ve developed one or more apps gives interviewers proof that:

  • You can write code just like your résumé says.
  • You can develop software through the entire life cycle from design to publication, which shows you can contribute to the programming team and the company.
  • You’re a winner. (So go get a chicken dinner.)
If you haven’t built an app before, there are plenty of tutorials online — all you have to do is type build ios app or build android app in Google and you’ll get a results page full of tutorial links so you can get started.

After you create and publish an app, produce a “making of” video on your YouTube channel. This video should tell viewers about the app, how you developed it, the discoveries and drawbacks you had during development, and what your plans are for the future of the app. That last part will show potential employers that you take care of your customers and keep thinking of ways to make the app better for them.

Write and self-publish a book

The one tangible thing you can bring with you to your interview, other than copies of your résumé, is a copy of a self-published book. It can be difficult to write books for major publishers unless you already have experience with them as a technical editor, you coauthor a book with a lead author, or if you’ve self-published a book.

It’s easier than ever to publish and distribute a self-published book. You can sell your book as an ebook on websites including Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as publish printed copies to give to people and sell on Amazon. The wikiHow website shown below gives you step-by-step instructions about how to write and publish your own book.

wikihow Source: wikihow
Scroll down the wikiHow webpage to view all the steps you need to take to self-publish a book.

A book can make you a little bit of money, especially if you take the time to study successful self-published authors — for example, look at Andy Weir, who self-published the novel The Martian. More important, the book serves as an advertisement for your services that shows interviewers that:

  • You committed the time, money, and effort to write and publish a book.
  • You’re a published authority on a given topic because not very many developers have self-published a book (though one coauthor of this book has).
  • You have writing skills, which could help you make more money in your new job if you’re a technical writer as well as a programmer.

After you publish the book, don’t forget to promote it not only in your cover letter and list it in your résumé, but also on all your online media and social networking websites. What’s more, if you have the book listed on Amazon, then include a shortened URL link to the book page so interviewers can see it; the interviewers will appreciate a short URL to type because Amazon page URLs are almost as long as lines to get on popular Disneyland rides.

Speak at developer and business events

You may not have thought about speaking at events, or maybe you don’t want to think of it because the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is considered by some (perhaps including you) to be worse than death.

If you want to get up the courage to speak but don’t know where to get training, go to the Toastmasters International website and find a club in your area by clicking the Find a Club button in the upper-right corner of the screen. Then search for your nearest club in the Find a Club webpage.

Toastmasters Source: Toastmasters
The Toastmasters website finds clubs in your area based on your geographic location.

Toastmasters International is considered the premier organization for professionals to learn how to speak effectively and become better leaders. After you select your club, you can attend a meeting for free if there are no current restrictions to joining a club. (Some clubs have restrictions and the website will tell you if that’s so.)

Once you decide to join, you can sign up as a new member for only $65 (this is subject to change); renewals cost $45 per year.

It may take you some time to get yourself where you want to be as a speaker, but once you gain enough confidence, you can start looking for speaking opportunities at local or regional events.

Check with Meetup events for software developers in your local area and ask the event coordinator about speaking opportunities. The same goes for local chamber of commerce and/or Rotary club meetings, though you’ll probably have to produce a different presentation for those business-oriented audiences.

No matter where you speak, you’ll likely have members of companies in the audience who may be impressed with you. After your presentation, one or more people may ask for your card so you can speak to their employees and/or recommend you as a speaker for a large developer conference (so make sure you have business cards with you!). Some people may be so impressed with your leadership abilities that they’ll ask you if you’re looking for a job.

Before your speaking engagement, ask the event coordinator if you can record your presentation on video. Then you can make that video available for wider viewing later on your social media and/or online media websites. A large developer conference may record all speakers on video and give you the URL to the conference website so you can include a link to your presentation online as well as in your résumé and cover letter.

Your future employer wants to see how you’re unique so don’t be afraid to show off your programming skills in a way that highlights your abilities.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

John Sonmez is a software developer and the author of two best-selling books, The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide and Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual. He is also the founder of the Simple Programmer blog and YouTube channel. Eric Butow is the owner of Butow Communications Group (BCG), which offers website design, online marketing, and technical documentation services for businesses. He is the author of 32 computer and user experience books.

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