We’re in an age where technological, software, and web development jobs are at an all-time high, and with remote offices becoming more popular, it only increases the competitiveness of landing said jobs. If you’re looking for your first entry-level web development job, there are a few things you can do to stand out from the crowd. This becomes even more important as college grads are now looking to enter the so-called, “real world.”
With that being said, a college senior minoring in computer science (CS) recently reached out to us inquiring about a web development career. She had excellent grades and a solid set of completed CS coursework, but she wanted to know what else she could do to improve her chances of being hired as a developer here at CQL.
This article seeks to answer that question, but if you already think you have what it takes, check out our careers page now!
What Computer Science Programs Miss
CS programs each have different priorities and offerings, but we tend to see a number of common deficiencies in job candidates who are just completing their degrees.
Hands down the biggest omission in most CS programs is coursework that emphasizes web technologies. The web is a rapidly evolving space with an extremely diverse set of challenges. Having first-hand experience solving some of the unique problems that the web presents is an absolute must to begin a career as a web developer.
Another technology that tends to be glossed over in colleges is source control. Some students do have experience dealing with Git in their group work. However, we often hear reports of complications caused by everyone in the group freely pushing and pulling from the same branch, which indicates a misunderstanding of how to correctly use source control. A proper understanding of branching, committing, and pull-request strategies goes a long way in making a candidate look like a more appealing teammate.
A final pair of skills that can go overlooked during college is critical thinking and technical communication. In a service-oriented company like CQL, being able to easily communicate complex technical ideas with non-technical clients and colleagues is highly useful. Conversely, hearing a client’s requirements and translating them into a technical solution is an incredibly valuable skill, especially if you can recognize hidden pitfalls or complexities that the requirements do not make clear. In an interview setting, candidates who can clearly and easily talk through technical details tend to make significantly better overall impressions.
How to Build Web Development Experiences and Stand Out
In an ideal world, entry-level web development candidates will have had the opportunity to pick up some or all of these skills during multiple internships. That said, we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes, getting an internship opportunity is simply not possible because of circumstances like a change in major or a change in career. I fell into this latter group, myself.
So, how do you build experience? Unsurprisingly, it comes down to building apps and sites! If you are a relative beginner, you can easily wade into the waters of HTML/CSS/JS at CodePen, a web app that provides an easy-to-use sandbox for experimentation and learning.
After sharpening your fundamentals, you should consider moving on to building web apps. Front-end JS libraries, such as React and Vue, are continuing to grow in popularity and are both in high demand. Utilities like Create React App and Vue CLI enable you to easily spin up new front-end apps and start writing. For a full-stack app, you should consider .NET Core, which allows for a very easy setup.
For all of your apps, you should utilize source control with a remote. GitHub is, by far, the most popular version control host. Doing so allows you to share your GitHub profile and demonstrate your skills to potential employers, while also giving you the chance to learn and use source control best practices. You can even go a step further and host your apps for free on services like GitHub Pages, Netlify, Heroku, or Azure, depending on your tech stack of choice. Being able to point employers to your live apps can absolutely help you stand out.
Handling the Interview and Coding Test
Here at CQL, we love interviewing passionate candidates who are able to talk in-depth about the details of projects they have worked on. Problem solving is at the core of any development role, and being able to explain the most challenging and interesting problems you have tackled illustrates your experience much more effectively than a resume ever could. Having a diverse portfolio of apps and projects on GitHub can provide plenty of topics for discussion here.
Like many software agencies, CQL also likes to see a candidate do some live problem solving during an interview. The coding test questions we ask vary, but they tend to be along the lines of “Given requirements X, Y, and Z, write a function that satisfies the requirements,” or, “Given this screenshot, write the HTML, CSS, and JS needed to replicate what you see.”
During the test, asking questions and speaking your thought process out loud can help the interviewers understand your solution method and can help them guide you if you misunderstand part of the test. Also, consider writing a simple functional solution first and worry about optimization afterward.
Ready to Join Our Development Team?
I hope this article has given some insight into how relative newcomers to the web development industry can bolster their resume and stand out from the crowd. CQL is always looking to hire talented and passionate developers who love solving challenging problems. Check out our careers page now to see what roles we are looking to fill! Have more questions or want more information on web development opportunities at CQL? Fill out the form below and one of our talented team members will be in touch.