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How To Stand Out & Land A Software Developer Role: 6 Tips from Actual Software Developers

How To Stand Out & Land A Software Developer Role: 6 Tips from Actual Software Developers

If it wasn’t already difficult to land a job as a software developer, the layoffs in the tech sector over the past year are making the competition even tougher for the current openings. In January 2024 alone, we had a staggering 1,192 candidates applying for software developer roles at our company. Only about 5% progressed to the assessment stage, with even fewer reaching the interview round. 

At Frogslayer, we’ve built our reputation on our thorough hiring process and unwavering commitment to high standards for software developers. To get insights on how candidates can distinguish themselves during the software developer application and interview process, I spoke with a few of my software development colleagues about their tips and tricks for landing the role.  

1) Reimagine Your Resume 

When you’re competing with such a large pool of applicants, make sure your resume doesn’t fall into the abyss. Remember that hiring managers might be scanning 20+ resumes a day.  

“Think about how unique the items on your resume are, and make sure you have something early on that will catch our eye,” suggests Andrew Mauney, a senior software developer at Frogslayer. “We receive a large number of applications, and it takes a lot of hours to filter through them. When we look at a resume and see a pattern we have rejected many times before, it’s easy to reject it again without looking too closely.” 

Lead with your skills and relevant experience or projects right at the top of your resume. A quick, concise summary highlighting key projects and achievements, followed by a bullet-point list of your technical capabilities, is a good starting point. That is what hiring managers are looking for on your resume. Don’t make them dig for it. 

Also, don’t underestimate the power of a cover letter with your resume as long as it’s short and sweet. No one wants to read a novel. Call out anything that may need to be explained on your resume, such as if you didn’t take a traditional educational route to software development or if your resume has gaps. Pitch why you would be a good fit for the company and role versus other candidates. Whatever you do, don’t drop in a templated cover letter. Those are obvious and usually get passed over. Show a bit of your personality — for example, I once read a cover letter with some pretty clever frog puns related to the role. It caught my eye and it was relevant to our company and the role. Whatever you do, don’t drop in a templated cover letter or ask ChatGPT to write it for you. Those are obvious and usually get passed over quickly. 

2) Know Where You’re Applying  

“Interviews are a two-sided meeting. You should evaluate the company at least as much as they evaluate you,” says Austin Elsik, an associate software developer at Frogslayer. “Figure out what’s important to you in a job and make sure you ask about those things. It also looks good to the interviewer that you came prepared or even did a bit of research on the company to ask some more direct questions.” 

It should go without saying, but before you interview with a company, do some research up front and prepare thoughtful questions. Read the role requirements completely, review the main pages of the company’s website, and scroll through its social media channels. While you’re doing your research, write out any questions that come to mind.  

The better you understand the role and company, the more prepared you will be for the interview. As a hiring manager myself, I can tell the difference between someone who is really trying to dig deeper into Frogslayer and the role they applied for versus someone who is asking generic questions they found on a listicle online. 

3) Embrace Your Soft Skills 

As a software developer, we already know that you are technically smart. However, during our interviews, we evaluate more than your technical ability. We also look at your thought processes, communication skills, and ability to work well with others.  

Technical ability is important, but a candidate could be a genius, and we might still not hire them,” states Justin Matthews, a senior software developer and training lead at Frogslayer. “We ask the question ‘Would you want to be on a team with this person?’ after every interview, and the answer is not always yes, even for people who demonstrate strong ability.” 

Austin Elsik added, “Be honest and speak your mind. Some of the bigger items being looked for in interviews are thought process, communication skills (including asking questions and being honest when you don’t know something), and a continued evaluation of cultural fit—on top of what you know technically. We can’t know what isn’t being said out loud.” 

4) Be Able to Explain How You Solve Problems 

Don’t embrace the fake it till you make it attitude for software developer interviews. If you can’t explain how you solve technical problems, it will become clear quickly. As I said above, we’re evaluating your thought process and communication skills, and explaining how you solve technical issues is a big part of that. 

Show you are capable of solving complex problems by explaining in detail how you solved the most complex problem you’ve had to deal with previously,” says Andrew Mauney. This is especially important if you’re applying to senior developer roles. “We get a lot of people who talk big but are really riding the coattails of others. If you don’t clearly convince me that you’re the one actually solving the problems, I’m going to be on the ‘No’ side of hiring you.” 

5) Understand Your Limitations 

“Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know,” says Koby Bailey, an Associate Software Developer at Frogslayer. “It shows that you have integrity with your capabilities and can be trusted.” 

In my early days at Frogslayer, a developer once told me that it is important to know what you know and know what you don’t know. When you’re working on projects, you are bound to run into something you don’t know how to fix or can’t see the solution right away. Your team needs to be able to trust that you’re going to speak up and say that.  

If you’re in an interview and face a problem or question you don’t know the answer to, it’s okay to say so. It’s not a strike against you. Admitting what you don’t know can be as important as showcasing what you do. Frame any limitations as areas for growth and talk about how you can improve instead.  

6) Don’t Rush 

Whether you’re doing a technical assessment or solving a problem during a live interview, it’s important to take your time. If you’re in an interview, it’s okay to ask for a few minutes to think through something so that you can provide a fully thought-out answer. 

“It can be tempting to move quickly through an interview, especially if you are nervous,” says Mikey Roush, a senior software developer at Frogslayer. “It’s important to slow down at times to be self-reflective throughout the process.”  

He suggests stopping and asking yourself some of these questions while working through a problem:  

  • “Have I made any poor assumptions here?”  
  • “Did I introduce a bug somewhere?”  
  • “Is there a more elegant way of doing this?” 

Remember your fundamentals. The goal of the interviewer isn’t to stump you. They want to see you succeed, so it’s okay to take your time so that you can do your best.

Closing Thoughts 

Securing your dream job in software development is about more than technical capabilities. It’s about showcasing who you are as a professional and as a person. By refining your approach with these tips and tricks, you’ll emerge as a standout candidate among the crowd of applicants.

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