Coding interview books have been pretty popular lately.
In fact, one of the best-selling programming books right now is Gayle McDowell’s “Cracking the Coding Interview”—which is a great book that I highly recommend.
But, there is a little bit too much emphasis put on interviews—coding interviews in particular—when interviews make up a very small portion of the overall hiring process.
If you like memorizing a bunch of coding interview questions, sweating nervously in front of a blackboard and feeling like you are being judged by everyone in the room, go right ahead and spend your time focusing on those kinds of things, but…
... what if I could show you something much more valuable?
… something that is much more likely to land you your dream job, than knowing how to write an algorithm to reverse a linked-list?
Skeptical? You should be.
But, what I am about to tell you has worked for thousands of software engineers—myself included—and it will work for you as well—I guarantee it.
But, first, let me tell you a little story.
How I landed my last 6-figure job, working from home
Back when I was still in the regular work force—before I figured out how to retire early and work for myself (read about it in chapter 55 of my book, Soft Skills)—I really wanted to get a good job for a good company, working from home.
I was tired of commuting and I wanted to be able to have the option of travelling.
The only problem was, it was difficult to get a job at a company that allowed you to work from home. As you can imagine, there is quite a bit of competition for those kinds of jobs.
So, what was I to do?
How could I crack the coding interview, before I even got a chance to have a coding interview?
The answer right in front of me was: through personal referrals.
According to this New York Times article, “Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants, according to a new study of one large company by three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”
The only problem was: how was I going to get a personal referral?
I didn’t know anyone, personally, who worked at a company with remote developers.
I started off by coming up with a short list of companies that I knew had mostly remote or entirely remote teams and fit the kind of software development work that I wanted to do.
Then, I found the blogs for any developers that worked at those companies and I started reading and commenting on their blogs.
I didn’t just put mindless comments on their blogs, but I tried to give thoughtful commentary and show that I had read their articles and genuinely appreciated the information they provided.
I kept at this for a few months, until one of those companies announced a job opening. (Which I, of course learned about from one of their developer’s blogs.)
Well, can you guess what happened when I emailed one of the developers whose blog I had been following and commenting on, saying that I was interested in the job?
Yes. That’s right, he not only was very excited at the prospect of working with me—since I had become one of his biggest fans—but, he gave me a personal referral.
Not only did he give me a personal referral, but just about all the other developers working at the company knew who I was because I was actively commenting on their blogs as well.
Yes, I did still have to do some “cracking of the coding interview” once I was actually interviewed for the job, but I was already way ahead of the other candidates who applied for the job, because the developers interviewing me were actually rooting for me to do well.
Don’t apply for another programming job without a personal referral
Having personally coached thousands of software developers through my book, blog, courses and videos, I can tell you for certain that the number one thing that still influences whether or not a software engineer gets a job, is not how good they are at interviewing, how skillfully they can write an algorithm on the spot, or even how sharply they dress—although that certainly can’t hurt—no, it’s whether or not they got a personal referral.
If you really want to get the highest paying, most satisfying dream job you are after, you need to learn how to get personal referrals.
Commenting on other software developer’s blogs is just one of the ways I talk about how to get personal referrals in my book “Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual,” but there are a whole bunch of other techniques you can use (most of which you can learn about in detail in my book.)
- Start your own blog—I’ve gotten direct job offers from my blog. It was one of the best things I did to boost my software development career. (For a free 3-week email course on how to start yours, sign up here.)
- Join user groups—Local user groups in your area provide a great way to network and meet software developers working at different companies that you might someday want to apply at.
- Teach—One of the best ways to get noticed and to have employers absolutely lining up to hire you is to establish yourself as someone who will make their employees better. Write articles, give presentations, speak at events, make tutorials and put them on YouTube. All of these things will help you build a reputation as a teacher.
- Ask to be connected—You might not know any software engineers at companies you want to work for, but there is a good chance someone you know does. Ask around. Utilize social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to get introduced to people who might be able to get your personal referrals.
So, although cracking the coding interview may be a part of getting your dream job, your efforts will be better spent working on the soft skills that allow you to get a personal referral first.
And don’t forget the all-so-important, golden rule of hiring: We hire who we like.
John Sonmez is the author of Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual.
He's published over 50 courses on topics such as iOS, Android, .NET, Java, and game development for the online developer training resource, Pluralsight.
John a life coach for software developers, and helps software engineers, programmers and other technical professionals boost their careers and live a more fulfilled life.
He empowers them to accomplish their goals by making the complex simple.