Ready to start applying for tech jobs? After months or years learning how to code, that’s an exciting milestone—but intimidating too!
If it’s been a while since you went through the hiring process (or it’s your first time), you’ll need to know how to job hunt, how to write a job application email/cover letter, how to land an interview, how to accept a job offer, etc.
Or maybe you’ve already started the job hunt, but aren’t having much luck, don’t have a solid job hunt strategy, or feel overwhelmed.
During the pandemic, your job search could be even more challenging. Not only that, but your inner voice may be telling you that there are too many obstacles to overcome (like being an introvert, imposter syndrome, or living in a small town with limited job options).
But even with obstacles in your way, you can land a great job that ticks all your boxes. All it takes is some hard work (finding a job can sometimes feel like a full time job in itself), dedication, and knowledge of a few tips and tricks and you’ll be a no-brainer tech hire!
In this post, I’ll give you an overview of some successful job search strategies to manage the job hunt/application process, plus practical tips to organize job search materials and give you some structure during the tech job search.
Here are nine tips for job searching, including the best ways to apply for jobs, how to organize your job search, and ways for you to stand out from other applicants.
Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!
9 Successful Job Search Strategies
All right, let’s dive in and find out how to get a tech job with the right job search success strategy! 👇
1. Stand out by being specific
If you’re sending out loads of applications to all kinds of companies, just like everyone else, you’ll likely get lost in the crowd.
That’s why it’s important to work out what you’re looking for, then work to align that opportunity as closely as possible with you/your past experience. Instead of applying to every job you see, be more selective.
For example, when I decided to start applying to full-time jobs, I narrowed it down to companies in the education technology (edtech) space, at companies that created online courses in some capacity. The roles that interested me were specific to technical content creation/curriculum development. Even though I hadn’t worked at a tech company before, I had a passion for and relevant experience in tech education.
You may not be familiar with the e-learning landscape, and curriculum developer roles, but let me tell you: this is really niche. So niche, in fact, that I only collected 26 openings in my tracking sheet. Most of which I wasn’t really interested in. I applied at just 3 companies, all online applications without a personal connection to give me an “in.” I heard back from all three within 48 hours for interviews, and ended up accepting the job at Teachable, where I worked for several years!
The more specific you can be in the jobs you apply for, the better your chances. E.g. if your hobbies/portfolio clearly show an interest in fitness, prioritize applying to companies in that industry (fitness tracking, big gym chains, sportswear brands, etc.).
If you have a background in a different industry—let’s say you’ve worked as a server/barista—you could prioritize applying to companies in a similar/related space (hotel chains, food delivery apps, website development for restaurants).
Things to consider
- Type of company (small, startup, etc.)
- Topic (yoga, banking, marketing, etc.)
- Their mission
Make sure to draw attention to these crossovers in your cover letter. How does your background uniquely position you for this role? Do your values align with the company you’re applying for? Value alignment encompasses your personal values, mission, interests, and goals. If you can show evidence that there’s an overlap between you and the company (by showing past experience or projects demonstrating your passions), that’s even better than just saying so in a cover letter!
For me, I am passionate about online education and empowering people to gain digital skills so they can improve their careers and lives. It’s what drives me. It’s what fires me up. And I made sure that shined in all my applications.
This job hunt strategy requires you to be authentic, not to just fake an interest during the job application process. Try to narrow your tech job search down to companies you genuinely support!
2. Create an online presence/portfolio to show your work
Aside from getting your name out there, having online profiles builds legitimacy, and acts as social proof. You’d better believe that if a hiring manager goes to your LinkedIn profile and sees you have over 500 connections, it’ll make them feel better about you than if your only Google result is your high school’s graduation announcement. It makes you more of a known quantity.
A portfolio of your work is something you can also link to in your resume or cover letter to make you stand out to recruiters and hiring managers. You’re not just telling them what you can do, but showing it.
A strong online presence can also show your passion for the industry or type of work, which can sometimes be more impressive than years of experience.
This was the case for me! Showing companies that I’d built the Learn to Code With Me blog and podcast demonstrated my commitment to tech education. When I sent in my job application, and even later in the interviews, I didn’t really need to say a darn word to prove that. The hiring manager could easily take a quick look at my site, or social media profiles, and figure out that that’s where my passions lie.
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3. Remember you don’t have to be a 100% match
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs where you don’t have 100% of the desired skills/experience! Often, job listings are a company’s list of ideals, but as long as you meet most of the requirements, they might consider you.
Research shows that women apply to jobs only when they feel they meet 100% of the criteria, while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.
Again, having a passion for the industry you’re applying for a job in can also go a really long way if you don’t meet all the job requirements.
Going back to my own job hunt, I didn’t check all the boxes during my job application process. There were some listings where I met all, or most, of the requirements. Others had plenty of boxes I didn’t check!
For instance, I landed an interview for a job where the recruiter said that everyone else in the role had master’s degrees or PhDs in computer science or a related topic. There were also some skills on the list I didn’t have yet, like video production experience. But they told me they could overlook the missing skills since I was so enthusiastic about the work!
Your degree and the university you attended really doesn’t matter for most roles, especially when it comes to getting a tech job. Knowledge, experience, passion, value alignment, and cultural fit matter more.
4. Look for jobs in various places
Cast your net wide when looking for a job. Some companies only post their jobs to one site, so it’s worth looking on multiple job search sites and job boards.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should apply to tons of jobs on each tech jobs site/board. It just means search widely and only apply to the jobs that really speak to you.
Remember those three edtech jobs I applied for? None of them were in the place I lived, which was near Boston at the time. I didn’t mind relocating, so they were in various cities around the country. The one I accepted landed me in New York City! But the point is, I was searching for jobs across the entire country, and was still so selective that I only applied to three.
Great places to start your tech job search include Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, and ZipRecruiter, as well as more focused tech job sites like Dice, PowerToFly, and AngelList.
Slack also has tons of tech-related communities with #jobs channels, depending on your niche:
You don’t just have to rely on online job sites for a successful job search, either! Attend meetups, workshops, and other networking events to start making connections. You may hear about job openings that aren’t even listed online yet! Find networking awkward? Check out this post.
5. Ask for job referrals
Yet another reason to be on LinkedIn and build your network is the potential for getting job referrals. Getting someone on the inside to vouch for you can get your resume to the top of the pile!
When you find a job you’re really interested in, see if you know anyone (or if you know someone who knows someone) who works at that company. You can do this by searching LinkedIn by 1st degree connections (people you know directly) who work at the company or 2nd degree connections (i.e., friends of your friends) and sending them a message.
Download the LinkedIn profile checklist
Created with aspiring techies in mind.
6. Create a job search spreadsheet
Having a job search organizer can be a game-changer in your job hunt strategy. Personally, I love to use a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets as a job search tracker.
This will help you remember what you’ve applied for, especially if you’re applying for a lot of jobs at once. This way, if you get a call back, you want all the key info on hand (salary, location, job description, etc). Plus, practicing organized job search management can help you know when and how to follow up on a job application.
What to include in your job search tracker:
- Role title
- Job listing/description URL
- Location of job
- Type of job (e.g., full time, contract, freelance)
- Date applied
- Link to a copy of the cover letter you submitted
- Name of the person who referred you
- Status (e.g., applied, phone screen, interviewing, etc.)
- Contact name
- Date of 1st interview
- Anything else you think is relevant/important to know
Keep your job application tracker updated to track the status of your search. This is exactly what I did in my job search process!
7. Write a new application/cover letter for each position
Blanket, generic applications are a big no-no; in fact they’re one of the best ways to ensure you won’t move on to the next step in the hiring process. You don’t want to present yourself as just another generic applicant, but as a candidate who fits that specific role like a glove.
Some ways to customize your tech resume for each job:
- Work your way down the list of skills, experiences, qualities, etc. in each job description for the jobs you’re interested in, and try to demonstrate/mention how you match each of them.
- Rename your past job titles to fit the job you’re applying for. Make them as descriptive as possible. If you have “Freelancer” as a title, for example, change it to “Freelance Web Developer” if you’re applying for web developer roles (as long as you actually did freelance web development work, of course).
- Incorporate keywords from the job description into your resume, in a natural way of course.
- Every bullet point on your resume should be relevant to the job you’re applying for. Remove any that aren’t relevant to the job.
Beyond your resume, a customized cover letter is another opportunity to stand out. It allows you to speak straight to the hiring manager and make your case (or even explain some resume red flags, like job hopping or gaps in employment). Explain why you’d be a good fit for the specific role and the specific company.
Not sure if you should send a cover letter? If the job listing specifically asks for it, yes! If it says it’s optional, go for it! If it doesn’t mention a cover letter at all, it’s up to you to decide. Cover letters are always a great way to stand out. Plus, if you’re being selective and only applying to a few roles at a time, it shouldn’t be too time-consuming.
🎧 Here are some podcast episodes to check out for additional tips on creating a standout tech resume:
- S1E7: Acing Your Resume and Cover Letter with Jeremy Schifeling
- S7E3: How a Former Squarespace Developer Helps New Coders Build Strong Technical Resumes with Rebecca Garcia (S7E3)
8. Prepare for your phone screen and interviews
A big part of your job search success strategy should be preparing answers to commonly asked questions ahead of the interview.
Another way to think about this is to come prepared with a wide variety of stories and situations to talk about. That way, you’ll be prepared even if you didn’t rehearse the answer to a specific question.
For example, think about real-life examples of:
- A time when you demonstrated teamwork
- Your biggest weakness and your biggest strength
- A time when a project didn’t go the way you expected
- A time when you failed
- Your biggest achievement/success
- A time when you had to handle conflict at work
- A time when you had to deal with change
Additionally, check out these articles to help you prepare for the tech interview:
- Technical Interviewing 101: Ultimate Guide to Acing Your Tech Interview in 2021
- The 22 Best Coding Interview Courses and Books (2021 List)
- Tech Virtual Interviews 101: Process, Best Practices, & Tips for Remote Interviewing
- 7 Easy Ways to Shine in Your Next Coding Interview
🎧 And these podcast interviews can also help:
- S4E6: Interviewing and Interning at Big Tech Companies With Neel Mehta
- S1E8: How to rock your technical interview with Parker Phinney
9. Research the company and interview them back
Prior to an interview, it’s important to research the company to show that you’re interested in them specifically, and aren’t just applying to any job you can find.
Prepare answers for:
- What do you know about our company?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What is your understanding of this position?
Remember, also, that interviews aren’t just meant to be the company learning about you. They’re also the chance for you to learn about the company in a deeper way than you get from a job listing or company website.
Prepare some questions to ask in advance to show that you’re paying attention and interested in the role. This is also key for finding out if the role and company is right for you!
For example, at the end of your interview, you could ask:
- What is the company culture like?
- What do you, personally, like best about working here?
- How do you measure success for this position?
- If I were hired for this role, what would you expect me to accomplish in the first 3-6 months?
- Is there anything about my skills or experience that gives you pause? (great opportunity for you to address any concerns they may have about your application)
Remember to treat your interviewer like a person, not some kind of drill sergeant trying to grill you. Be friendly, open, and honest, and that intimidating interview might just start feeling like a fun conversation.
Time for Your Successful Job Search!
Your tech job hunt doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for your first tech job or the second, third, etc. these job hunt strategy tips can help you organize your job search and get a job you’ll really love.
💸 Once you get that offer, check out these salary negotiation tips to get the salary you’re worth (and maybe even a bit more!).