By Allison Seboldt | 4 min read
If you’re coming into tech from a different industry, or fresh out of college, the process of finding your first job can be painful and frustrating. I’ve seen a lot of new devs struggle with the application process. So, I put together a little guide for using one of the most easily accessible hiring resources: job boards!
Think Indeed, Monster, Career Builder, etc… You’re likely familiar with these kinds of websites and have maybe used them before. They typically consist of creating a profile, then using keywords to search for open positions. There are lots of different kinds of job boards out there for developers. Some are specific to tech (Stack Overflow, Cyber Coders, Dice), certain languages (Vue Jobs, Ruby Jobs), lifestyle (We Work Remotely, Jobspresso), and even values (Diversify Tech). These websites are incredibly helpful because they make applying for many jobs in a short amount of time easy. And because getting an interview is essentially a numbers game, that’s a huge advantage.
Now, some people may be thinking, “I’d be competing against hundreds of applicants for every job. Why on earth would they pick a junior like me?” You’re not wrong. The amount of applicants for a position posted on a job board will be high. You’ll need to be pretty picky to break through the noise. But it’s doable.
Here’s the approach that got me, and others I mentored, interviews from job boards: Refine your search so that you always have jobs to apply to, but not wide enough that there are endless pages. When I started out, I aimed to apply for three jobs a day. So my search was typically wide enough to return only a couple pages of results. I would apply to the top three most relevant to my experience. The next day, I’d apply to the remaining jobs if better positions hadn’t shown up.
Because of this, I was regularly applying to jobs I didn’t feel qualified for. Junior positions aren’t always easy to come by on these websites. Often I was throwing my hat in the ring for postings that asked for 3 - 5 years of experience, and many of these did not result in a call back. But every once in a while, I did get an interview. There are a myriad of reasons for why this worked, but the TL;DR is: Job postings are not a perfect representation of what an employer needs.
So how does one “refine” their search?
The easiest way to refine your search is by picking a niche technology as your “specialty”. Perhaps you’ve heard this advice before. Picking a library or framework to specialize in will help you stand out from the crowd. Job boards are actually a great place to discover which niches are the most viable. The niche I chose when applying was Wordpress since I had studied PHP and saw several PHP positions that involved Wordpress. This approach will likely require some additional learning, but in my opinion, focusing on a niche is the fastest path to breaking into tech as a new dev.
You can also refine the search based on your previous, non-tech work experience. Yep, that’s right: your previous experience as a teacher, nurse, classical musician, or whatever can help your transition into tech. Certain industries, most notably finance and healthcare, actually prefer hiring someone from within the industry over outsiders. Having insider knowledge about regulations, lingo, or processes relevant to the company is a great way to break through noise and one that you can easily promote in a cover letter and resume. Employers will be thrilled to see someone they can easily communicate with and spend less time training.
Of course, results may vary depending on the type of job board you are using. Some are more popular than others. But a job board that has less search results might have less people applying on it. The main take away here is that you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Throwing yourself at every opportunity will leave you exhausted and defeated. Instead, narrow your focus so you can act with pin point precision.