December 3rd, 2007 - by ses5909

I can ‘t count the number of times I have seen job-seekers post in webmaster forums asking for advice on getting a web development/design job. We all know you are a l33t geek with mad coding skills, but getting a job takes more than technical skills. This post will assume you meet the qualifications for the job and give you some tips to help you stand out from the crowd and get you that job! I’ve been on both the applying and more recently the hiring side of things so these tips will be related to what has worked for me.

Finding the Jobs

There are so many places you can look for jobs in your local community. If you don’t have ties to your local community, consider relocation, as that will only expand the number of opportunities. Here are some of the top sites for web development: DevBistro,, Authentic Jobs, HotJobs and there are some specific language job sites such as: PHP Jobs, Just Java Jobs, and Rails Jobs. Don’t forget classified sites such as Craig’s List and your local newspapers!

The Application Process

Now that you have a list of jobs you want to apply for, the first step to landing the job is getting the interview; this is where a solid resume and cover letter come in. You should already have a resume with all of your experience in it in two formats: a formatted document as well as a non-formatted for companies who scan them. In general, resumes shouldn’t be longer than one page but if you have to go over, don’t let it be more than two pages unless the job calls for it. There will be plenty of resumes for the hiring managers to go through so you don’t want to give them any more to peruse than necessary. The resume should be tailored for each job you are applying for. If you want to be a PHP developer, there is really no need to include that you were the towel boy for your college’s swimming team.

Something a lot of people don’t include, but should, is a cover letter. A cover letter is your chance to illustrate that you did in fact read the job requirements and that you are a good fit for the job. Below is a template I’ve used when applying for jobs:

James Smith
Technical Director
Some Company
123 their street
city, state zip

Dear Mr. Smith,

I typically start here by identifying the position I am applying for and express my interest in it.

In the next paragraph I discuss how my technical skills match what they are looking for. I use examples to support my information.

In the third paragraph, I discuss other skills that I could bring to the team, i.e., project management, working well with others, leadership abilities, etc.

In the last paragraph I reiterate my interest in the position and assure them I am a good match for their organization. Often I will look up the company’s website and if they have a mission statement online, I look it up and try and tie what I say here to that.Then I thank them for their time and consideration and close it by saying I look forward to speaking with them soon.

Respectfully Submitted,

Your Name

I always try to find the name of the person the resume is going to but if I can’t, I simply put “Human Resources” as the recipient and in my salutation say, “Dear Sir or Ma’am”. This cover letter should be tailored to every job and I would never send in my resume without a cover letter attached. I know some employers won’t consider an applicant without it and even if they do, this will make you stick out from the crowd.

If you are sending your resume by email, in your correspondence you can simply say:

I have attached my cover letter and resume for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully Submitted,

Your name

Preparing for the Interview

Now that your awesome cover letter and resume got you the interview, you need to do a little preparation.

  • Research the company – You really need to know a thing or two about the company before you head in there asking for a job. Find out what their mission statement is and learn how the company started.
  • Put together a portfolio – Put together a portfolio of some of your best work! If you are a designer, obviously put examples of your designs on good quality paper. If you are a developer, write a list of URLs of sites you have worked on with descriptions of your work on each. You can include screenshots to illustrate the functionality you created. In addition, be sure to include well-commented code samples. This will give the person(s) you are meeting with an idea of how you code.
  • Prepare for technical questions – If this is a developer position, you should be prepared for technical questions. Study up on modern programming practices and object-oriented techniques. A great website to help you get prepared is Ace The Interview.
  • Write a list of questions to ask them – You’re not the only one being interviewed here; you need to make sure the company is right for you. Having a list of questions to ask the employer will also show that you are genuinely interested in the position at the company, rather than just any job. You’ve already done your research, so there is no need to ask questions that you should have already found the answers to. Here are a couple of good questions you can ask:
    1. What can I expect a typical workday to be like?
    2. Will I work in a small team or in a larger team?
    3. Are there opportunities for advancement in this position?
    4. Why are you hiring for this position? Is the company growing or did the person who held it before leave?

During the Interview

The day has come to have your interview! Shower, shave, and dress nice. Yes, most web development jobs are pretty casual and laid back, but you haven’t earned that right yet. Show up in your nice threads and save the jeans and t-shirts for when you actually have the job. Arrive at the job 15-30 minutes early and review your notes before you go in.

Once you’re in the interview, it’s showtime. Own your experience and be confident in your conversation. Try and control the conversation as much as possible and guide it where you want it to go. If you are asked about a skill that you don’t have experience with, don’t sit there with a dumbfounded look on your face. Instead, make the most of the opportunity:

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with said technology, but I am a fast learner and am confident I could pick it up quickly.

Interviews can be very nerve wracking so it’s good to have a way to guide the interview and take all of the focus off of you. Remember that portfolio you created when you were preparing for this interview? This is a great way to bring the attention to your work. You will have the opportunity to go into detail about the various projects and everyone is focused on the portfolio rather than you! At the end of the interview, be sure to ask how soon they plan on making a decision and if they will let everyone know the results of their interview.

After the Interview

After your interview, you should immediately send a thank you email to the interviewers. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and reiterate your interest in the position. This will be yet another way to set yourself apart from your competitors.

The key to getting a job quite often comes down to the little things you do and your people skills. I personally would rather hire someone with decent coding skills and good people skills than someone who is a killer programmer but can’t interact with their team members. Do you have any job-seeking tips or any interview stories you can share?

12 Responses to “Getting the Job”

1 Golgotha

Since I’m currently looking for a job I can tell you that a lot has changed since the last time I looked for a job; seven years ago.

Seems like you almost have to go through a technical recruiter – which I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I feel like they are pimping me out…

It also seems like 80% of the jobs are contract or at least contract to hire. Which again, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not yet.

I can tell you that there are a lot more opportunities for ASP.NET than there are for PHP. At least in Denver.

If you work in Denver and want to hire a strong web developer, let me know.


2 Patrick Burt

It’s also worthwhile noting that occasionally, it’s not technical skills that will get you the job, but how agreeable, friendly, social and comprehensible you are.

3 Hal

A question or comment sometimes asked during an interview is: “Tell me about a special circumstance that has occurred during a previous employment and how you handled it on that occasion?”

It pays be ready for that one.

4 ses5909

@Patrick – I agree that it’s not all about the technical skills. Technical skills can prove that you can do the technical job. A lot more goes into a job than just technical skills though.

@Hal – That is a good one. They may also ask why YOU are looking for a job.

5 James McQuarrie

Having had to sit and read through hundreds of CVs from aspiring web designs in the past my top three tips when writing them would be:

1) Get someone else to read it through. Preferably, someone who is good at reading and writing. It doesn’t matter how technically amazing you are, if you can’t write a one / two page CV that makes sense, reads well and is spelled [sic] correctly I’m not going hire you.

2) Write something original. I’m always shocked by how many CVs are obviously based on a standard template that the candidate has sent to every hiring company in the country without making any effort to edit it for the role in question.

3) If the application process requires you to answer some questions in addition to supplying your CV (as many online applications do), don’t just copy and paste sections of your CV into the answers. Write something new.

6 Jack @ The Tech Teapot

@golgotha – the recruiters *are* pimping you out. I always got the impression that the recruiter’s couldn’t care less whether you were happy with the position, just that they got paid. In fact they get quite upset when you don’t want to go for an interview with a potential client of theirs.

7 Eric Kramer

Check out – it is a unique new interview preparation and interview presentation development tool. It will help a job candidate prepare for the interview and develop a professional presentation they take with them to the interview. Hiring Managers are very impressed by the level of preparation and they hear the information they need to know in order to make a hiring decision. In addition, job candidates have a much higher level of interest.

8 Dustin Brewer

Great article, I like the tips. Interview preparation is always an important topic to master.

9 trademark registration

I agree with everything in this post, except for the thank-you e-mail after the interview. I think that may be too much too soon, and it may actually make you look a little desperate and overbearing. I would not recommend it.

10 Eric Kramer

Research by Accountempts a recruiting and placement company discovered that only 50% of all candidates send “thank-you” notes and 90% of all hiring managers said notes are helpful. I suggest always sending a follow up within 24 hours.

I do not suggest sending ‘thank-you” notes I suggest sending “Follow-through” letters. An interview is a sales call and a follow-through letter continues the sales process. In the letter identify the critical position requirements and state why you are a good fit with the requirements. Also, addrsss any objections you may have heard in the interview.

Also- here is a somewhat novel idea, if you get rejected send a follow-through letter letting the hiring manager know you are still interested and that if the person they hired does not work out you would like to be contacted. You would be surprised how often candidates get a second chance!

11 moderowany katalog

There’s no one universla way to prepare for an interview. It helps if your spontanious, sincere and relaxed.

12 mobiles

and you gotta really go fot it!

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