Programming Interviews For Dummies - John Sonmez - ebook

Programming Interviews For Dummies ebook

John Sonmez

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Opis

Get ready for interview success Programming jobs are on the rise, and the field is predicted to keep growing, fast. Landing one of these lucrative and rewarding jobs requires more than just being a good programmer. Programming Interviews For Dummies explains the skills and knowledge you need to ace the programming interview. Interviews for software development jobs and other programming positions are unique. Not only must candidates demonstrate technical savvy, they must also show that they're equipped to be a productive member of programming teams and ready to start solving problems from day one. This book demystifies both sides of the process, offering tips and techniques to help candidates and interviewers alike. * Prepare for the most common interview questions * Understand what employers are looking for * Develop the skills to impress non-technical interviewers * Learn how to assess candidates for programming roles * Prove that you (or your new hires) can be productive from day one Programming Interviews For Dummies gives readers a clear view of both sides of the process, so prospective coders and interviewers alike will learn to ace the interview.

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Programming Interviews For Dummies®

Published by: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774, www.wiley.com

Copyright © 2020 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey

Published simultaneously in Canada

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the Publisher. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008, or online at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions.

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Library of Congress Control Number: 2019948431

ISBN 978-1-119-56502-4 (pbk); ISBN 978-1-119-56506-2 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-119-56505-5 (ebk)

Programming Interviews For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to www.dummies.com and search for “Programming Interviews For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

Table of Contents

Cover

Introduction

About This Book

How This Book Is Organized

Foolish Assumptions

Icons Used in This Book

Beyond the Book

Where to Go from Here

Part 1: Finding and Hooking Your Next Employer

Chapter 1: What Should You Expect?

Understanding the Interviewing Process Funnel

Finding Companies That Are Hiring

Submitting Your Résumés

A Company Is Interested! Now What?

Dealing with One or (Better Yet) Multiple Offers

Chapter 2: Knowing How the Company Is Preparing

Learning What Each Company Is Doing

Leading Your Interview

Being Prepared Pays Off

Chapter 3: Understanding the Investment a Company Makes

Knowing Why Companies Are Risk-Averse

Discovering What Companies Are Concerned About

Showing How You Can Help the Company

Part 2: Preparing for Your Interview

Chapter 4: Searching High and Low for Companies

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Deciding Where You Want to Work

Figuring out the Size and Type of Company You Want to Work For

What Type of Job Do You Want?

Learning What’s Available

Chapter 5: Shining Up Your Résumé and Social Media Accounts

Finding Out Who You Are Online

Cleaning Up Your Social Networking Profiles

Making Your Résumé Stand Out

Writing a Cover Letter

Chapter 6: How Your Experience Affects Your Interview

Qualifying for Senior Status

Being More than Just a Junior

Playing in the Majors

Chapter 7: Getting Ready for the First Ring

Preparing for Your Phone Screen

Reviewing the Type of Phone Screen You May Get

Acing Your Phone Screen

Part 3: Everyone’s Testing Time

Chapter 8: Testing Strategies for the Interviewee

Preparing for Questions the Company May Ask You

Leveling Up Your Coding Skills

Canvassing Your Network

Getting Feedback after the Interview

Chapter 9: Working with Data Structures: Garbage In Means Garbage Out

Learning the Basics of Data Structures

Showing You Know Data Structures

Finding More Detailed Information

Chapter 10: Identifying Design Patterns and Using Recursion

Recognizing Design Patterns

Knowing What You Need about Recursion

Understanding Your Recursion Test

Chapter 11: Sorting with Sorting Algorithms

Absorbing Common Sorting Algorithms

Solving Two Sorting Examples

Getting More Examples and Researching Resources

Chapter 12: Solving Puzzles Is Fun

Knowing What Kind of Problems an Interviewer Will Ask

Solving a Programming Puzzle

Realizing What Interviewers Want

Getting Better at Solving Puzzles

Part 4: Sealing the Deal

Chapter 13: Closing the Deal

Scheduling Interviews with Multiple Companies

Managing Multiple Interviews with the Same Company

Understanding When a Company May Contact You

Coming Up Snake Eyes

Receiving Your Offer

Being Clear about Your Benefits

Chapter 14: Honing Your Negotiating Skills

Finding Information from Employees Online

Dealing with Company Salary Information and Expectations

Managing the Negotiation Process

Part 5: The Part of Tens

Chapter 15: Ten Ways to Stand Out

Have a Professional Headshot

Establish a GitHub Profile

Get Plenty of Referrals

Have a Video Résumé on Social Networking Sites

Create Your Own YouTube Channel

Have a Good Blog to Show Your Expertise

Produce a Podcast and/or Vlog

Point to Mobile Apps You’ve Already Developed in App Stores

Write and Self-Publish a Book

Speak at Developer and Business Events

Chapter 16: Ten Non-Technical Questions You May Be Asked

What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest weakness?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Why did you leave your last company?

Name a time you got into a conflict with a coworker, and how was that resolved?

What did you like about your last job?

What did you dislike?

Why do you want to work for us (or this company)?

Why should we hire you?

Why are you the best candidate for this job?

Chapter 17: Ten Reasons Your Résumé Will End up in the Round File

Your Résumé Has Typos, Spelling Errors, and Uses Incorrect Grammar

Your Résumé Is Too Long

You Start Your Résumé with an Objective

Your Résumé Layout Looks Sloppy and Is Hard to Read

You Have Inappropriate Material on Social Media

You Lie during the Phone Screen or Interview

You Are Arrogant and/or Argumentative

You Have a Bad Reputation

You Don’t Dress Properly for the Interview

You Give the Impression You’re Hiding Something

Chapter 18: Ten Useful Websites to Check Out

LeetCode

Interview Cake

Reddit Programming Forum

Simple Programmer

Pluralsight Design Patterns Library

Hired.com

142 Resources for Mastering the Coding Interview

Stack Overflow Careers

Interviewing.io

Information Technology Résumé Services

Chapter 19: Ten Great Books to Read

Cracking the Coding Interview

Never Split the Difference

Programming Pearls

Daily Coding Problem

The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide

The Imposter’s Handbook

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Programming Interviews Exposed

The Passionate Programmer

Head First Design Patterns

Index

About the Authors

Advertisement Page

Connect with Dummies

End User License Agreement

List of Illustrations

Chapter 1

FIGURE 1-1: Join LinkedIn by clicking Join Now in the upper-right corner of the...

FIGURE 1-2: Click the Join Meetup button to create an account and find events...

FIGURE 1-3: The VistaPrint website gives you plenty of options to design the right...

Chapter 2

FIGURE 2-1: Scroll down the Explore Tech page on the Meetup website to view all...

Chapter 3

FIGURE 3-1: Scroll down the Wix home page to learn more about Wix and get answer...

FIGURE 3-2: Click the Get Loom for Free button to sign up for a Loom account and...

Chapter 4

FIGURE 4-1: The job you’re searching for is in the intersection of technology,...

FIGURE 4-2: The Indeed home page makes it easy for you to search for a job in a...

Chapter 5

FIGURE 5-1: The results page for author John Sonmez also contains photos and other...

FIGURE 5-2: Create an online portfolio on the Squarespace portfolio webpage.

FIGURE 5-3: The four-step AIDA process starts with Attention and leads the...

Chapter 6

FIGURE 6-1: Click links in the article to view more information about the topic.

FIGURE 6-2: The Programming Leadership website offers podcasts about programming...

Chapter 8

FIGURE 8-1: After you sign up, you can log into your Codility account by clicking...

FIGURE 8-2: The Create an Account button appears in the top section under the...

FIGURE 8-3: You have to sign up for or log into your Stack Overflow account if...

Chapter 11

FIGURE 11-1: Click the sorting algorithm you want more information about in the...

FIGURE 11-2: Click Play All in the upper-left corner of the table to view all...

FIGURE 11-3: The third step on HackerEarth shows the initial array broken into...

Chapter 12

FIGURE 12-1: The CodeKata website contains a list of programming exercises that...

FIGURE 12-2: You can view a list of current or past challenges on the left side...

FIGURE 12-3: Click a category name at the top of the LeetCode web page to view...

FIGURE 12-4: The latest puzzles appear in reverse chronological order on the...

FIGURE 12-5: The most recent challenges appear in the Open for Registration...

FIGURE 12-6: View puzzles in a particular category by clicking a tag button with...

Chapter 14

FIGURE 14-1: The Glassdoor website allows you to log in with your Facebook or Google...

FIGURE 14-2: The aggregate rating is 2.9 out of 5 based on 88 reviews.

FIGURE 14-3: You need to sign up for a Comparably account to use all its feature...

FIGURE 14-4: The Comparably results for Google also show CEO Sundar Pichai has...

FIGURE 14-5: Click one of the black buttons to find jobs, research salaries...

Chapter 15

FIGURE 15-1: GitHub makes it easy for you to sign up for free.

FIGURE 15-2: The Simple Programmer website has numerous videos about a variety...

FIGURE 15-3: The Simple Programmer website has a blog with a number of articles...

FIGURE 15-4: Libsyn is one solution for posting podcasts.

FIGURE 15-5: Scroll down the wikiHow web page to view all the steps you need to...

FIGURE 15-6: The Toastmasters website finds clubs in your area based on your...

Chapter 18

FIGURE 18-1: The LeetCode Questions page shows a list of programming problems...

FIGURE 18-2: The drop-down menu appears underneath the Interview Tips link in...

FIGURE 18-3: Posts on Reddit are listed in reverse chronological order with the...

FIGURE 18-4: The Articles tab is opened automatically so you can read the latest...

FIGURE 18-5: Information about design patterns appears on the right side of the...

FIGURE 18-6: Sign up for Hired.com by clicking the Sign Up for Free button...

FIGURE 18-7: We promise the resource links appear once you scroll down the page...

FIGURE 18-8: A list of the most recent job postings appears in reverse...

FIGURE 18-9: Sign up for a free membership by clicking the Give It a Try button...

FIGURE 18-10: You can read sample résumés by clicking Read More within...

Chapter 19

FIGURE 19-1: A slideshow of pages appears on the Big Machine home page so you...

Guide

Cover

Table of Contents

Begin Reading

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Introduction

Kudos to you for entering the programming job market. Maybe you’re a newly minted programmer looking for your first job, or you’re an experienced programmer who wants (or needs) to find a new job. No matter your situation, this book is here to help you do one thing — find the job where you can work happily ever after … or at least reasonably so.

Having a résumé and cover letter is just the start of your journey. You need to know what kind of job you want, what kind of company you want to work for, and where you want to work. What’s more, these days you may be able to work at home at least part of the time, and you have to take that into consideration, too.

When you’ve finished writing down (or typing) your list of potential companies you hope to work for, you have to tailor your résumé and cover letter to each one. Then, if you’re patient, your journey will start in earnest and the company will ask you for an interview. Though it’s impossible to know your chances for success, you’re reading this book because you want to succeed.

About This Book

The purpose of Programming Interviews For Dummies is straightforward: give you all the information you need so you have the best chance at landing a new programming job. But as you can see from the size of the book, getting your new job is easier said than done.

We help you every step of the way, starting with how to create a résumé and cover letter that stand out, how to network with others, how to ace your tests and interviews, and then how to negotiate effectively so that the company will give you the pay and benefits package you deserve.

This book isn’t about how to pass your coding tests, so you’ll find only a few brief coding examples in this book. Instead, we recommend several books and websites that give you all the coding examples and practice you need to ace that part of your interview. We also provide programming concept examples that you can apply in any programming language, so you don’t have to worry about having to learn a new language to understand what we’re talking about.

You’ll find a couple of conventions in this book that you should be aware of:

Bold text means that you’re meant to type the text just as it appears in the book. The exception is when you’re working through a steps list: Because each step is bold, the text to type is not bold.

Web addresses and programming code appear in

monofont

. If you're reading a digital version of this book on a device connected to the Internet, note that you can click the web address to visit that website, like this:

www.dummies.com

.

How This Book Is Organized

We’ve organized chapters in this book into five parts, and each chapter is arranged into sections that talk about different aspects of the chapter’s main subject. Though this book is written sequentially so you can read it all the way through if you want, you don’t have to. You can flip to the appropriate chapter or section and read what you want to learn.

Here’s what’s in each of the five parts:

Part 1: Finding and Hooking Your Next Employer

This part tells you about how to prepare to interview with employers and also understand what employers are doing to prepare for you. You also learn how being prepared will pay off during your job search. What’s more, we show that how you provide value to a company is key to not only getting an interview but also one or (hopefully) more job offers.

Part 2: Preparing for Your Interview

In this part, we help you perform some introspection and decide where you want to work, the size and type of company you want to work for, and most important, what type of programming job you want. Then you learn how to find out what’s available and where the jobs are so you can shine up your résumé, the accompanying cover letter, and your social networking profiles, as companies look at all of these items closely.

If a company likes what it sees, you’ll get a phone call or an email asking you to answer some questions over the phone. We tell you how to pass this phone screen so you can go to the next level: the in-person interview with one or more company representatives.

Part 3: Everyone’s Testing Time

The chapters in this part discuss not just the interview itself but also the kinds of tests you’ll be asked to perform to show off your programming prowess. If you don’t feel like you’re fully up to speed with answering programming and personal questions, you learn how to level up your skills so that you’ll ace the interview. You also learn about the types of tests you’ll encounter, including data structures, detecting design patterns, sorting algorithms, and solving puzzles.

Part 4: Sealing the Deal

After you’ve had a successful interview, it’s time to play the waiting game. You may or may not get a job offer, and this part tells you how to respond in either case. If you get one or more job offers, you learn how to bring your cards to the table, deal with the company, and negotiate the best deal for you — or walk away if you don’t like your offer.

Part 5: The Part of Tens

This wouldn’t be a For Dummies book if it didn’t include the Part of Tens. The chapters in this part contain a number of interesting and useful snippets to help you land your next job (and avoid losing an opportunity): Ten Ways to Stand Out, Ten Non-Technical Questions You May Be Asked, Ten Reasons Your Résumé Will End Up in the Round File, and Ten Resources for Information and More.

Foolish Assumptions

When we wrote this book, it was easy for us to assume that you’re looking for a job. Beyond that, we assumed the following:

You have at least some programming experience in one or more languages such as C++, Python, or JavaScript.

You’re looking for a new programming job with a company and you don’t want to work as a freelancer or start your own business.

You’ll do whatever it takes to get the skills you need both in programming and human interaction to get the job you want.

Even if you don’t get the job you want, you’ll keep at it until you succeed.

If our assumptions are correct, then this is the book for you. We’re confident that the concepts and tactics used in this book will help you achieve your goals.

Icons Used in This Book

This book is stippled with paragraphs that contain various icons so you know these paragraphs need your attention. Here are what the different icons look like and mean.

The Tip icon marks a small piece of expert advice and/or important details you shouldn’t miss.

Remember icons mark the information that’s especially important for you to know. If you need a refresher about all the good stuff that’s in the chapter, just read through all the Remember paragraphs.

This is a programming book, so you’ll see some paragraphs that contain technical information (without overwhelming you) and come complete with the Technical Stuff icon.

This book does have some warnings for you. When you see the Warning icon, read the warning text carefully so you understand the effect of what we’re saying. The goal of a warning is to save your head from aching.

Beyond the Book

In addition to what you’re reading right now, this book also comes with a free, access-anywhere Cheat Sheet that has all the best tips for getting the interview, acing your phone screen and the interview itself, and what you need to know about data types, design patterns, and sorting algorithms. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to www.dummies.com and type Programming Interviews For Dummies in the Search box.

Where to Go from Here

The first few chapters give you a good overview of what to expect from companies as they look for one or more new programmers to join their teams. We also tell you what to do to make your all-important résumé and cover letter stand out, and also to shape up your social networking profiles to help them shine because interviewers will be looking at them, too.

If the company has contacted you and wants to talk more about the open position over the phone, turn to Chapter 7 to learn what to expect from your phone screen and how to answer questions from the interviewers so they’ll want you to come back in person. After you’ve scheduled your interview, check out Chapter 8 to get ideas about what company interviewers will ask you and how to brush up on your programming and people skills.

Chapters 9 through 12 tell you about the types of problems interviewers ask and how to solve them, but if you’re confident in your abilities then you can skim or even skip these chapters. When you shine so brightly to the interview committee that all its members are wearing shades, you can read Chapter 13 to learn what to expect and do if the company offers you the job … or not.

Once the company offers you a job, and you haven’t negotiated with a company in a long time (or never), read Chapter 14 carefully so you can enter the negotiation meeting at the company with confidence. If you find yourself so popular that you get multiple offers, this chapter tells you how to manage that situation, too.

If you need a checklist of everything you need to have, as well as what you should and shouldn’t do, read Chapters 15 through 19. They tell you everything you must do to give yourself the best chance of receiving a job offer from one or (even better) several companies.

Part 1

Finding and Hooking Your Next Employer

IN THIS PART …

Find companies that are hiring programmers and learn how to show your value to a company.

Know how companies are preparing to hire their new programmers so you can tell the interview team how you’re the right fit.

Understand how to show interviewers that hiring you will make the company more successful.

Chapter 1

What Should You Expect?

IN THIS CHAPTER

Understanding the interviewing process

Tailoring and submitting your résumés and cover letters

Learning what happens after a company expresses interest in you

Dealing with one or more job offers

Congratulations on wading into the river in your knee-high boots to find your awesome programming self a new employer. The river is running fast, so you’ve got to look sharp to find the right catch.

In this chapter, you start your fishing expedition by understanding the process to get an interview. Next, you learn what your potential employer wants so that you can tailor each résumé you send for each position.

Employers are more likely to respond if you have an application and résumé that has what they are looking for. Once you get a nibble, then you’ll start to play the numbers game. That is, it’s rare that you’ll catch your fish on the first line or even the first ten lines you cast. There are a lot of other programmers fishing at the same time you are, even if you can’t see them.

Next, you’ll need to put a lot of applications in the water and see what comes up. Some companies will call you and others will email you. And that could lead to phone screens, interviews, and tests. We give you your fly rod, landing nets, wading boots, and all your other gear that may lead to a catch — a job offer — and we explain why you may not get one.

Understanding the Interviewing Process Funnel

If you’re new to interviewing, or if you haven’t interviewed in a while, you may be surprised to find out what happens during the interviewing process. The more prepared you are before the process starts, the better your chances of success. Yes, it’s trite, but if you understand why, then you’ve already taken the first step toward your new work site.

You can think of the interviewing process as a funnel that both you and companies use to find the best match. (If you need to go to the kitchen and get a funnel as a visual reminder, we’ll wait.) Employers advertise for a programming job, get a lot of résumés stuffed into the funnel, and then respond to the best résumés that come out the bottom of the funnel, enabling worthy candidates to proceed to the next level.

You’re putting a lot of employers at the top of your funnel, too — many are companies you’ve sent résumés to and some may be companies you’ve contacted through friends or colleagues who have referred you for an open position, advertised or not.

Before you start the process, you need to make sure you not only have your ducks (or the waterfowl of your choice) in a row, but also that you are careful as you align each duck. Fortunately, your authors are experts in the duck-alignment business, so we provide guidance on how to get your résumé error-free, how to polish your presentation so you aren’t nervous or unnerved by an unanticipated question, and how to ace your tests.

We’re going to use the funnel concept in this chapter, too. That is, we’ll take all the high-level information you need to know about finding your next employer in this chapter, which is at the top of the funnel. If you want to go down the funnel and concentrate on the topics you need to work on in detail, we tell you which chapters to bookmark for future reading.

Finding Companies That Are Hiring

Searching for companies that are hiring to fill the position you’re looking for isn’t as easy and straightforward as it may seem. You not only have to know which companies are hiring, but also which companies may be relying on their network of employees to find the right candidate. That means you need to network with those employees — yesterday.

As recently as 2017, estimates are that between 70 and 85 percent of open positions are filled through professional networks than through job opening advertisements (www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/04/many-jobs-found-networking).

So, what can you do to improve your chances of hooking the company you want to work for?

Meet online

The best place to start to meet other professionals online is the professional social networking site LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), shown in Figure 1-1. LinkedIn offers the best opportunity for meeting like-minded professionals for two compelling reasons. First, LinkedIn has over 610 million users as of February 8, 2019 (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-few-important-linkedin-stats). That being so, employers look at your LinkedIn profile as well as your résumé as they decide if they want to call or email you to set up a phone screen or interview.

Source: www.linkedin.com

FIGURE 1-1: Join LinkedIn by clicking Join Now in the upper-right corner of the login page, or sign in by clicking the Sign In button.

Second, you can use LinkedIn to search for the companies you want to work for and see the profiles of the people who work for them. You may get lucky and some of the employees’ profiles will include contact information such as an email address you can use to reach out and introduce yourself. If not, then you have two options.

You can send a connection request to the employee. Once connected, members can send and receive messages within LinkedIn for free. When you send a connection request, you should introduce yourself and at least say which LinkedIn user you both have in common to enhance your chances that employee will add you as a connection.

You can also sign up for a LinkedIn Premium account, which is free for 30 days (and $29.99 per month for the Premium Career plan after that). With a LinkedIn Premium account you can send an InMail message to introduce yourself, say what your skills are, and ask for more information about job opportunities.

When you view the employee’s profile, see if the employee belongs to any LinkedIn groups and join those groups. Then you can participate in those groups by starting useful conversations or sending thoughtful responses in other conversations. In time others will respond and the employee will (hopefully) notice that you’re a valuable group member and he or she should get to know you better.

If you already have a LinkedIn profile, then you should do a lot of what we suggest above — now. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, get one set up and start networking! In either case, craft your LinkedIn profile carefully and follow LinkedIn’s suggestions for creating a 100 percent complete profile. Employers will pass you by if they see that your profile isn’t 100 percent complete and/or missing crucial information you need to show to get an interview.

Meet in person

In addition to networking online, another way to help improve your chances of hooking the company you want to work for is to network in person. After all, people tend to remember you longer if they can talk to you face to face. Always be on the lookout for professional meetings that are happening in your area and go to as many as you can.

The latest issue of your local newspaper and/or business journal (if there is one) will have a calendar of upcoming events. Your local chamber of commerce website and social networking groups will likely have event calendars, too. The Meetup website (www.meetup.com) shown in Figure 1-2 is also a popular site for finding a list of in-person events about all sorts of topics.

Source: www.meetup.com

FIGURE 1-2: Click the Join Meetup button to create an account and find events that attract software developers like you.

If you go to any networking event, be sure to have business cards ready to hand out after you shake the person’s hand. The card should include your name and contact information and list your skills on the back side of the card. If you type inexpensive business cards in your favorite search engine, you’ll find websites that let you design and order cards in a jiffy, such as the VistaPrint website (www.vistaprint.com) you see in Figure 1-3.

Source: www.vistaprint.com

FIGURE 1-3: The VistaPrint website gives you plenty of options to design the right business card for you.

Look at company websites

You should look on the websites of companies that you want to work for in your area and see if you know company employees you can contact. For example, the website may include a blog with the names of people who have written the blog, and you may want to contact the author. The company website may also have job opening posted on one of its pages, such as a Careers page.

Applying to the company directly also has another potential advantage: The company may be using a placement agency as a resource to find new hires. If the company hires you directly, it doesn’t have to pay a commission to the placement agency.

Check the company website to see if applications for the open position are only being accepted through a placement agency. If you apply both to the placement agency and to the company directly, it will look to your prospective employer that you’re inattentive at best and spamming them at worst — both reasons to put your résumé in the round file.

We get into more detail about searching high and low for companies you want to work for in Chapter 4.

Submitting Your Résumés

Once you’ve found the companies you want to apply to that have exited the bottom your funnel and landed on your desk, it’s time for you to write your résumé and a cover letter to each company.

Each of your résumés and cover letters has to be different because every job description is different. The cover letter and résumé have to show that you can read the description carefully and you have the skills listed in the job requirements. What’s more, each cover letter should introduce yourself and why you’re a good fit for the position.

Consider adding information about ties you have to the company in your cover letter. For example, you can tell people that you met one of their team members (or even the interviewer) at a local event or that you worked with some of the same technologies the company uses in one of your past jobs. Showing a potential interviewer that you’ve done extra credit work gets you that extra step toward an interview.

It’s perfectly okay to take as much time as you need to get your résumé and cover letter right for the job you’re applying for, from crafting the layout to a last once-over to ensure you haven’t misspelled any words. (You learn more about how to shine up your résumé — and your social media profiles, which are just as important — in Chapter 5.) But what if this extra time getting ready causes you to miss an opportunity, you ask? We cover this eventuality later in this chapter.

If you’re still not confident about your skills, don’t be shy about looking for résumé and cover letter writing firms in your area. Yes, these firms charge you money, but isn’t it worth it to know you have a powerful résumé and cover letter that you can tweak for each job whenever you need them?

If a company is advertising for several jobs that you qualify for, take care to find out if each job is in a different division of the company. In large companies, one division will send out job applications independent of other divisions in the company. If the company website (or better yet, a contact you know at the company) says the company is smaller, then choose the job you’re most interested in because the company will likely consider you for other jobs as well. When you submit multiple résumés and cover letters for different jobs in the same company, that will reek of desperation on your part, and reeking in any situation is a bad thing.

A Company Is Interested! Now What?

With your résumé in the employers’ funnels, now you wait to see if yours comes out of the bottom of their funnels so that they can give you a call to the phone number or send you a message to the email address on your résumé or cover letter.

What are the chances you’re going to get a call back or an email response? We can tell you that the chances are zero if the contact information on your cover letter and résumé are different. We can also tell you the chances of getting a call back aren’t very good if you don’t follow up — even if you submitted your résumé late or think you did.

And by follow up, we mean that you have to follow up often. When should you start following up? This is where you should contact people in your network who work at the company to get an idea. If you’re still not sure, then we recommend waiting one week before calling and/or sending email messages to the human resources (HR) department and/or the manager of the division that’s hiring.

Following up aggressively never loses you a job because the company representatives will sense that you want to work for them. It’s rare if a company will say outright that it doesn’t want to hire you because you’re too pushy, and if it does, then that’s a company you probably don’t want to work for, anyway.

When you get that phone call or email message, the company likely wants to ask you a few follow-up questions to clarify some points or, more likely, wants to schedule a phone screening interview or even an in-person interview. It should go without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that you need to be near your phone and/or your computer so you can take that call or view that email message as quickly as possible so you can respond fast. Companies like that.

The company representative who calls you will suggest some dates and times for an interview. Have your schedule in your head and be ready to give the company an interview date and time right after the company rep stops talking. Don’t pull up the calendar app on your phone while you keep the company rep on the other line waiting while you think about it. If you hem and haw, you’ve lost the job.

Participating in phone screens

If the company has decided to interview you by phone, which is what companies call a phone screen, you need to be aware of what the interviewers may ask of you. For example:

You’ll be asked technical questions to make sure you can do the job you’re applying for.

Your personality needs to mesh with other people in the company, so your interviewers will want to know how you behave. Be nice and stay humble. Cockiness or arrogance will tell the interviewers that you won’t be a good fit in the company culture.

You’ll want to show that you’re a professional, so answer your questions thoughtfully. Don’t lie, don’t say anything derogatory, don’t brag, and don’t try to justify why you don’t know something. Any or all of these red flags will be good cause for the interviewers to keep you from reaching the bottom of the company’s hiring funnel.

Interviewers may also want to have a meeting using Skype or a different instant messaging app so that they can see you in person as well as give you the ability to solve one or more coding problems on the screen. You learn more about what to do, what not to do, and what to expect in your phone screen in Chapter 7.

Going to in-person interviews

A successful phone screen will likely mean you’ll need to schedule an in-person interview. In some cases you’ll have only an in-person interview. For example, a company may either be so small that it doesn’t do phone interviews, or the company prefers in-person interviews to get a better feel for its candidates.

Depending on the size of the company, you may be interviewing with people from HR as well as with at least one member of the team you’d be working for, or you may be interviewing with the founders of a small or startup company.

Prepare properly

If you can, ask your contacts in the company what the interview process is like and what you should look out for in the interview.

What’s more, you may want to ask your friends to participate in mock interview sessions so you can be as ready as possible. Some of those friends can be interviewers and others can be out of view to record your responses so that you can then discuss what to do. These mock sessions may take up part or all of a day, so be sure to stage them where there’s plenty of room to operate and allows you to bring in good food to thank your friends. Depending on how good the food is, your friends may be willing to participate in more than one session, and you may even attract one of your connections either in the company or who has interviewed programmers before to participate.

We talk more about how to set up and conduct a mock interview in Chapter 8.

Dress professionally

In an in-person interview, the perception of you as a person is just as powerful (if not more so) as what you can do as a programmer. So dress professionally when you go to your interview. You should dress professionally no matter if you’re being interviewed by one person or a panel of interviewers.

Even if the interview team tells you that you can dress in a T-shirt and flip-flops for the interview, don’t do it. Dress professionally. When the interviewers comment that you overdressed for the occasion, it’s a perfect opportunity for you to say that you like to present yourself as professionally as possible.

Think about how you treat someone in uniform as opposed to someone else in casual civilian clothing. You’ll treat that person differently even though you may not realize it. If you dress professionally, your interviewers will treat you more professionally and may think you’re a cut above the rest.

What’s your value?

During the interview, you have to do one thing to get to the next level: communicate your value to the company. Dressing professionally helps demonstrate that you’re a professional, but you also need to tell people how you work.

For example, you can talk about a problem you had at a company you worked for and how you worked with other employees both on your team and throughout the company to solve it.

Your interviewers will likely value knowing that you can work independently as well, so let them know you’ll do whatever it takes to create solutions that will profit the company. If you can give your interviewers an example of what you did at a previous job to do this, tell your story. Humans are hardwired to tell and respond to stories, and having stories is more memorable and powerful than just saying you’ve programmed in C++ for ten years.

Being prepared for tests

You may have your programming skills tested during a phone screen, an in-person interview, or both. A company may also schedule you to participate in one or more separate testing sessions after an in-person interview. Testing helps your interviewers understand how you solve programming problems, to wit:

What is your thought process to approaching problems?

How do you break down a problem?

Once you have the problem broken down, how do you craft an elegant solution?

Interviewers don’t want to know how you memorize and practice problems, though practicing them is a good idea and you learn how to approach different types of problems later in this book, including:

Data structures (

Chapter 9

)