Jay McGavren's Journal


How to Hunt for a Development Job

Update 2019-07-02: I’ve taken an offer! Huge thanks to everyone who got in touch and/or shared that I was looking!

I was laid off from my job a week ago, along with many of my colleagues. Luckily for us, the friendly Twitter developer community has turned out in droves to help us. It’s generated a lot of leads.

I’ve noticed that my communications with contacts at these companies tend to fall into certain patterns. I ask many of the same questions of each. But I also find that I sometimes forget to ask certain details. Or worse, I ask questions in the wrong order, getting a bunch of details about the tech stack but then discovering the position isn’t remote-friendly, for example.

So I’m writing this post to help other job hunters avoid the same pitfalls. I mean for this to be a living document. If you have comments or suggestions, please get in touch!

Vetting the Company

The first step is to find a contact at the company you’re interested in. Ideally, this will be someone on the development team, not a recruiter. Developers can give you insight into the tech stack, the interview process, and the day-to-day duties of the job. They also tend to be more honest about the company’s shortcomings.

Your contact has limited time (and perhaps limited willingness to help you). Don’t waste it! Before reaching out, check resources like Glassdoor, which can give you info about the company culture and the hiring process.

Here are some questions to ask. Look up as many of the answers as you can on your own, and then let your contact fill in the blanks or provide context.

  • Is this the right URL for the job posting? [Paste the URL you’ve found in. You need to ensure you’re both talking about the same position.]
  • Is the position remote-friendly?
  • Is it contract or full-time?
  • Anything you can tell me about the app architecture?
    • Monolith or microservices?
    • Backend language?
    • JS framework?
  • Anything you can tell me about the day-to-day routine on the job?
  • How big is the team I’d be joining?
  • What’s the hiring process like?
    • On-site interviews or video conference?
    • Algorithmic problems or practical knowledge?
    • Whiteboarding, automated code challenge, pair programming session, or take-home problem?
  • Can I mention I heard about the position from you? How do I do that?
    • Is there an application form with an appropriate field?
    • Do I mention you in my cover letter?

Getting Things Done

You’ll have a lot of contacts to keep track of, so you’ll need a simplified “CRM” setup. I’ve been using a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • Act by: This is the date you (think that you) next need to take action on this lead. When is the application due? When is your contact expecting a follow-up e-mail by?
  • Company name.
  • Position: I usually make it a link to the job posting, with the job title as the link text.
  • Company rating: I usually make it a link to the company reviews on Glassdoor, with the star rating as the link text.
  • Interview process: I usually make it a link to the company’s interview summaries on Glassdoor, with a quick summary of my research using the above questions as the link text.
  • Contact name(s): person or people who referred you, or who you’ve spoken with at the company.
  • Contact medium: Email/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.
  • Notes: What’s the status of this application? Is there a next step you need to take? Are you awaiting a response from someone?

Hope this helps everyone! Drop me a line if you have suggestions for things to add!

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