Want to work in product or software development when you graduate? Here are some tips and resources to help you in your job search and interview process.
As a recent college graduate, finding a position can feel like searching for the needle in the haystack of three- to five-year experience jobs. There are, however, some simple strategies that can make the process a lot more manageable.
Most job boards, like Indeed.com, allow you to set up instant alerts that'll immediately email you when a position is posted with specific keywords in your chosen area. Twitter is another option for monitoring job listings in real time. Get yourself in the habit of searching for specific keywords like "product manager" or "software engineer." As you find specific companies or job sites tweeting about positions regularly, you can add them to a public or private Twitter List to make monitoring easier.
If job boards are not returning the results you’d like, opt instead for targeted, personalized emails to either members of your address book, second or third connections on LinkedIn, or companies of interest who may not have current open job listings. Don’t be afraid to send direct messages to developers or managers, admiring a specific aspect of their work and asking for their creative expertise over a cup of coffee. Best practices are to attach your CV, shorten your recent experiences to a few quick bullet points in the body of the email, include your ideal job titles and companies, and of course thank them graciously for their support.
Once you’ve done some initial digging and perhaps a few informal chats, your goal should be to narrow down and strategically focus on a dream list of ~10-12 companies. Glassdoor can be an amazing resource to get an insider’s view on what it’s like to be an employee at X company and read up on missions, policies, and perks. Following companies’ blogs and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat) can also help you research the most up-to-date news on the company, its performance, and its people. After compiling your list, staying organized is crucial; we recommend keeping a job application tracking template with key information such as the title of the position you’re applying for, the location, the type of company, the date you applied, who you included as your references, and the name and email of the hiring manager, for starters. The more detail the better.
The first question you should ask is what tech stack the company’s development team uses. Are they using the latest and greatest technologies and coding languages? Or are they stuck on an old stack? Tech moves extremely fast, so you don’t want to get stuck in the past. If the company hasn’t upgraded recently, you should inquire whether they have plans to do so in the near future or if they are open to stack suggestions. The best development teams will be open to your input. To get familiar, learn more about HubSpot's tech stack.
For your first job out of university, you want to be learning, but you want to make sure you are also at a company where you can have impact. If you have the talent, there is no way you should be spending the formative year(s) of your career in testing or just fixing bugs. You want to have work on real problems and make sure you are quickly given the chance to develop code and deliver features that will give you the foundational experience you need to grow your career in the coming years.
There is nothing more frustrating than spending loads of time writing software that takes months to see the light of day. At most corporations, sometimes it can take over a year to release your code, depending on the time between test cycles. That’s why it’s critical to ask potential employers how often their development team pushes code live, what is the average time it takes for a product to go from conception to launch, and how long is the deployment process (ideally, it should be short, like five minutes or less). At HubSpot, our development team pushes code live weekly, if not daily. We ship fast and iterate often.
Lastly, make sure to inquire about the caliber of the engineers you will be working with. Are they influencing the software industry as a whole as well as building great product? A great indication of this is their contributions to open source projects.
The best advice we can give is make sure you tailor your CV for the specific company and role you are applying for. CVs should not be “one-size-fits-all.” Some ways to tailor your resume include scanning the job description for technical terms you can repeat in your own writing to make the connection between your experience and the job’s requirements extremely clear for the recruiter. It’s also important to take notice of culture clues. For instance, if “collaboration” and “teamwork” appear multiple times in a job posting, refer to the company’s culture code to inform your language choice and tone as you aim to show you have these qualities.
Your CV should tell a cohesive story. Beyond your basic contact information, you want to illustrate clear career progression and highlight your unique value proposition as a potential hire Make sure to include both your responsibilities and accomplishments under each previous job and to use metrics whenever possible to better illustrate your success. Recruiters often have very limited time to read CVs, so properly formatting your CV and making it easy to scan can increase your chances of getting noticed.
Also, don’t be afraid to spin odd jobs you held in university into legitimate work experiences on your CV. All of your responsibilities at miscellaneous jobs, like those in restaurants, retail, child care, or administration, taught you noteworthy professional skills like teamwork adaptability, multitasking, and conflict resolution that every employer and hiring manager want. Share them loud and proud.
When it comes to interviewing, the cliches are simply true: practice makes perfect and presentation is everything. There are often many steps in the interviewing process, from initial phone or video interview to final round face to face interview. And preparation is crucial at every step.
For phone or video interviews, it’s important to make sure you study the job description, prepare thoughtful questions for the recruiter, and, perhaps most importantly, make sure you are in a quiet place ready to receive the call when it comes.
For face-to-face interviews, don’t forget to partner with your recruiter (they want to hire you!), research your interviewers on LinkedIn before you arrive, learn about the company’s culture, and prepare your answers to possible questions. Our Director of Recruiting at HubSpot, Becky McCullough, gives this advice to candidates: “Review the job description and come up with specific examples of how you've demonstrated the required skills in your past experience. Dig into our Glassdoor page - there's a wealth of insights on our interviews there.” One framework that can help you prepare answers to potential interview questions is the STAR technique, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Essentially, describe a specific situation you were in, explain the task you had to complete, describe the actions you took to complete the task, and conclude with the results of your efforts, using figures to quantify whenever possible.
For any role you interview for, it is vital to ask the recruiters thoughtful questions throughout the interview process to demonstrate both your curiosity and the research you’ve done. And of course, for all interview types, don’t skimp on the practice! Pull some of the questions you find on Glassdoor, grab a buddy, and conduct a mock interview, either personal or technical. It will give you the preparation and confidence you need to perform your best on the big day and stand out to hiring managers.
Final note, however: the content of your answers and the questions you ask are just one part of the interview. Be conscious of your timing, your use of filler words (such as “like,” “uh,” and “um”), and your non-verbal communication. Dress for success, and be thoughtful about choosing an outfit that aligns with your recruiter’s guidance and is something you'll feel comfortable and confident in. Once the interview is over don’t forget to follow-up! Sending a well-crafted follow-up note that not only expresses your gratitude for the opportunity, but also reinforces why you are the right person for the job can truly create a lasting impression.
Whether technical tests are given online or done on a whiteboard, the most important advice from product recruiters is don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ and ask for clarification. Interviewers know that you aren’t going to know everything, and they don’t want to see you fail. Being able to ask the right questions and respond accordingly with some prompting is an important skill for them to evaluate. Furthermore, interviewers aren’t mind-readers and can’t automatically infer what you are intending to achieve with a solution. Over-communicate and make sure they know “why” you are doing something; this ensures that you get full credit for the ideas and concepts you identify and that the interviewer can help stop you from going down dead-ends. If you focus on explaining things explicitly, you will force yourself to produce a stronger and more robust solution.
Want to get a feel for the kind of questions you may be asked in a technical interview? Check out websites like Project Euler, TopCoder, Hackerrank, and many more! Then, grab a friend and practice working through some sample problems. And if you want to dig deeper, check out these book recommendations from HubSpot's engineering team:
70% of jobs are found through personal relationships, according to John Bennett, director of the Master of Science at the McColl School of Business. When you're trying to develop your career, making personal connections, both on- and off-line, is critical. So, how can start growing your network? One great way can be to attend events hosted by companies you are potentially interested in working for or industry-specific events in your area. Scouring Eventbrite can be a great place to start, or even Facebook has a robust “Events Discovery” section where you can browse events by date and location.
To get the most out of these experiences, it can be helpful to ask yourself in advance, “Who do I want to meet, and why?” Certain event registration platforms show the event's attendee list on the registration page. If a guest list like this is available, take a moment to scan it. See a person or company on the list you’ve been hoping to connect with? Look up the guest's LinkedIn profile to learn a little bit more about them so you can specifically seek them out to have a conversation. And, then, just be fearless. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. The reward will certainly outweigh the risk.
Additionally, modern networking takes place largely online. If you are trying to break into the tech industry in particular, it’s crucial that you push everything you write and create, no matter how big or small, to the public. Sharing your work can allow you to connect with others online who are solving similar problems, and it will give you something to talk about in interviews, regardless of your formal education, previous internships, or professional experience in the field. For example, if a potential employer asks “What’s the toughest coding problem you’ve worked on,” or “What’s the top performing piece of content you’ve ever written,” you’ll have real examples you can point to. If you want to be a designer, start sharing your work to Behance or Dribbble; if you want to be a developer, push everything to either GitHub or CodePen; and if you want to do content creation, publish a LinkedIn Pulse post or create your own Medium account. You’ll never know who you’ll meet or how their network may help you continue to grow yours.
There's no such thing as being "too prepared". If you want to learn more about interviews, networking, and the tech job search, here are some additional resources to dive into.