The Software Developer’s Guide to Getting a Job

The Software Developer’s Guide to Getting a Job

The following is an excerpt from The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide by John Sonmez. To get the entire book delivered to your inbox, go here.

Every week, I get emails or comments on my YouTube videos from software developers — some of them quite experienced — who can’t seem to find a job.

I have heard every kind of excuse or reason why they can’t get one. Some developers complain that the older developers have made it too difficult for younger developers to have a chance — that we’ve taken up all the good jobs. Meanwhile, some developers complain that no one wants to hire older developers and everyone is ageist. Others complain that it has to do with their race, religion, or political affiliation. Still others complain that their skill set is useless, and no one wants to hire a developer who doesn’t have experience with the latest and greatest technology.

While some of these arguments may be true — and, yes, discrimination occurs — the underlying cause is that these software developers don’t know how to get a job. As I’m writing this post, there is a huge demand for software developers. So many positions go unfilled. Yet, many software developers complain about not being able to land a job.

How can this be? How can it be that there are so many vacancies in our industry, yet frequently developers will tell me they have applied for hundreds of jobs and have been rejected by all of them?

The problem lies in not knowing the right way to find a programming job, and I think it’s an easy one to solve. In this post, I’m going to give you the best tips and tricks I’ve learned on how to help software developers get jobs.

First let’s look at the traditional approach to finding a job, which I call “the Cookie-Cutter approach”.

The Cookie-Cutter Approach

I’ll be upfront with you on this one: I really don’t like the normal way of finding a job, because it requires so much wasted effort, and it rarely leads to the best results.

However, rather than just skipping to my preferred way of finding a job, I’m going to go over the standard approach of creating a resume, filling out an online application, and submitting your resume that most software developers — and most professionals in general — do.

The reason I’m going to start here is that so many software developers are doing this so wrong.

I’ve heard countless stories of developers blasting out hundreds of resumes in a single day to every single job posting they could find on and wondering why they aren’t getting any results.

If you are going to take the standard, cookie-cutter approach, you should at least be doing it right. I’m going to show you how.

It’s a Numbers Game

First of all, you have to understand that the whole process of blindly applying for jobs, the way most people do, is purely a numbers game. It’s just like sales. In fact, you should really treat the whole thing like a sales process.

Create a sales pipeline, and perhaps even use a CRM system like many sales organizations do, to track your prospects through the pipeline. You’ll have something that looks like this:

Jobs applied for > Responses received > Telephone screens > Interviews > Offers.

At each stage of the pipe, you should expect only a small number of prospects to make it to the next stage.

For example, suppose you apply for 100 jobs. Perhaps you’ll get 30 responses following up with you in some way. Out of those 30, perhaps seven will ask you to do a telephone screen. Out of those seven, perhaps two or three will ask you to come in to do an actual interview. And perhaps you’ll get one job offer out of all that work.

If you want more job offers, you can essentially do two things:

  1. Put more prospects into the pipe (apply for more jobs).
  2. Increase the percentage of prospects that make it from one stage of the pipeline to the other.

In other words, you could apply for 1,000 jobs and then get 10 offers, or you could apply for the same 100 jobs and perform better along each step of the way that you also get 10 offers out of it.

To recap, it’s either more prospects in the pipe or better flow through the pipe. That’s it.

If you want the best results, you do both.

How is it, then, that so many developers tell me they’ve applied for hundreds or thousands of jobs and still received zero offers? Well, there is some luck involved, but most likely it’s one of two things:

  • They are lying, or rather, grossly overestimating the actual number of jobs they applied for.
  • They really suck at applying for jobs. Their percentages of prospects moving from each segment of the pipe is really, really low.

Most likely, it’s both. But have no fear. I’m going to show you how to increase both effectively.

Have a Good Resume

First of all, if you are going to be playing the numbers game, you want to have the highest number of prospects making it to the next level of the pipe as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to have a really good resume.

If your resume is crap and you get filtered out at the first step, you are going to be wasting a large amount of time, and your overall pipeline is going to be extremely inefficient.

Yes, a really crappy resume might eventually get you a job, but the worse your resume is, the more jobs you are going to have to apply for in order for the numbers game to work out. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather apply for 50 jobs than 5,000 jobs.

One of the first things you should do is to get your resume as polished and effective as possible. I know some people still disagree with me on this topic, but I’m 100 percent convinced the best way to do this is by hiring a professional resume writer who specializes in technology industry resumes.

Yes, a professional resume writing service might cost you $500 or more, but in the end, that is going to be a small investment for the benefit you are going to get.

One of the best ways you can increase the effectiveness of your resume is to have it professionally written and formatted by an experienced resume writer who knows how to write resumes for software developers.

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