Alumni Spotlight

What Hiring Managers Are Looking For in 2024

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Jennifer Inglis

Edited By Jennifer Inglis

Last updated on March 19, 2024

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What does it take to stand out in today’s competitive tech job market? We caught up with recent Codesmith graduate Parker Steinberg for his insights on what hiring managers are actually looking for in new tech hires. Find out how Parker navigated the current tech job market and landed a software engineering position at JPMorgan Chase. Plus, Parker shares his tried-and-true tips on how to make an impression on hiring managers and stay consistent in your job search. 

When you graduated from Codesmith in 2023, how did you feel about the job market? 

The job market was a little bit tough when I graduated. The big tech layoffs caused a paradigm shift in the tech market compared to years past. I headed into the job market optimistic and confident in my skills, but also wary, knowing that I would probably have to put in more work than I might have had to in the past. 

What types of tech jobs were you applying for after graduating from Codesmith?

I was applying to all types of software engineering roles across the stack. I looked at full stack, front end, and back end roles, mostly entry-level and mid-level, and some senior-level roles as well. Since I already had professional experience in marketing and healthcare, I had a leg up because I could share a compelling narrative from those industries. 

Over the course of your tech job search, how many jobs did you apply for and how many did you interview for? 

I applied to 120 jobs and interviewed for 10-15 roles.

How long did it take to get a job after Codesmith?

I landed my job around six months after graduating from Codesmith’s Software Engineering Immersive. I had actually done the Codesmith program while I was living in Los Angeles. I ended up moving right after I graduated, so there was a two-month transition period where I put my job search on hold. I ended up doing three to four months on my job search before I landed my role at JPMorgan. 

What were employers looking for in the technical interview portion? How important was it that you got the problem “right”?

It's totally company-specific! However, I found that most companies were looking to see if you could:

  • Effectively communicate what you were doing
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the problem at hand
  • Be able to work through roadblocks
  • Be able to communicate when you're stuck
  • Be honest
  • Admit what you know and what you don't know

Even if you don't arrive at the most optimal solution, or the “right” answer, you could still demonstrate that you have the problem-solving capabilities that they're looking for!

How did Codesmith prepare and support you in your tech job search?

Codesmith didn’t hand-hold by any means. Codesmith helped with providing the structure for me to be successful after the program. One of the most beneficial parts of Codesmith's support after the program was helping to facilitate these groups where I and other cohortmates would meet on a regular basis to hold each other accountable to provide support. It was invaluable to have other people in the trenches with me to bounce questions off of and have that support system for people who are going through the same thing as you. 

Which tech stack did you find that employers are looking for in new tech hires this year? 

The tech stacks employers look for is definitely dependent on the role. I applied for jobs that had a variety of requirements and skills. The most common front end tech stacks were React and TypeScript, while Python and Java were important for the back end. I work in fintech, which uses a lot of Java. 

I focused on honing my skills within web development, mostly JavaScript and TypeScript. Demonstrating that you're capable in a certain language is often enough to instill confidence in your ability to learn whatever language they're working in. If I'm an expert in JavaScript, but the company I'm applying for is mostly working in Python, often I can do my technical interview and talk about my JavaScript experience and they trust that I'll be able to pick up Python along the way.

Did JPMorgan Chase expect that you knew Python or Java?

They expected me to know both Java and React for the JavaScript front end framework.

I knew zero Java going in, so that interview ended up being pretty interesting! I was very upfront with what I knew and what I didn't, and I think they appreciated that. I gave my best guess at their questions, most of which were pretty conceptual. There was a lot of overlap between what they were asking me in Java and what I knew from my background in JavaScript or Python. One of my technical interviews asked me React-specific questions and expected me to have experience with that framework.

What types of soft skills were employers looking for?

The number one soft skill employers are looking for is communication, both technical and non-technical. In technical interviews, not only should I demonstrate my ability to write code to solve a problem, but I should also be able to effectively communicate what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and share my thoughts while working through the problem. When solving a technical problem, it’s often not black-and-white and you might have to make a decision, so being able to effectively communicate along the way is important. It’s also important to be able to communicate a cohesive narrative about my background and how I got to the point of this interview and hopefully landing this job. Communication was paramount.

Other important soft skills are collaboration and independence, which counter each other but are both equally important. Companies want to see if you’ve worked in a team as well as your ability to be independent, which means your ability to think on your own and teach yourself new skills.

The Codesmith experience helped me develop all of these skills: communication, collaboration, and independence!

With the rise of AI tools, did you find that employers expected you to understand AI tools or skills?

I didn't have many questions about my current usage with AI tools. I think it's important to be up-to-speed on them, and they can also be incredible productivity enhancers, but I didn't get many questions about it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your recent tech job search? 

There were a lot of challenges, but I struggled the most with determining what to spend my time on going through this process, since there are so many different things to work on! I was trying to balance applying for jobs, working on data structures and algorithms to prepare for tech interviews, working on side projects, and reaching out to people in my network to learn more about the field and what type of company would be a good fit for me. There were just so many directions and it was difficult to prioritize and understand what I should be working on at any given time. 

In the end, I realized that any forward progress was valuable. Even if I haven’t perfectly optimized the best thing to work on for any given day, as long as I was working on something toward my goal, it felt like a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s a competitive tech job market out there right now. In your experience, what are the top 3 things employers are looking for in new tech hires?

  1. Communication. As you're working through problems, you need to be able to communicate with people with technical and non-technical perspectives. 
  2. Self-learner. You need to be able to learn new skills to add to your repertoire. Within software engineering, the landscape is changing so quickly. The technologies that you know now may more likely than not may be obsolete or at least will have changed significantly within the next 18-24 months. If you're not ready to constantly learn and teach yourself new skills, you're going to quickly fall behind. Demonstrate your ability to learn new skills and talk through them. 
  3. Technical ability and demonstrated ability to do a certain task, even if it's not in-line with the technology being used at the company. More important than knowing specific technologies, companies are looking for people that can demonstrate their technical capabilities, expertise, and ability to pay attention to detail and go extremely deep in at least one technology.

What makes a great software engineer in 2024?

Technical communication, collaboration, and independence are extremely important. I appreciate working with engineers who are really into the details and drilling down into the specifics for the software. Great engineers have the confidence and ability to acquire new skills, even if they don't have them yet.

Last year, we saw a larger shift among employers towards skills-based hiring. Overall, were employers interested in your Codesmith bootcamp experience?

It definitely depended on the employer. Most employers just wanted to know if I could do the job. It was more important that I could tell a cohesive narrative about how I ended up here today. The projects I worked on at Codesmith definitely garnered a good amount of interest, but the main questions that they were asking themselves (and now I'm asking myself as I interview software engineers for my team!) is: Can this person do the job? Can they communicate effectively?

What weight did your bootcamp project portfolio have during the interview process this year?

It was pretty significant! It gave me a lot of really valuable experience. The projects made me feel equipped to take on any of the tasks that these jobs that I was interviewing for might throw my way. There were questions that I fielded about the project itself and I felt like I was able to speak to that experience. More than anything, it gave me the confidence to go to these hiring managers (who may be software engineers with five years or a decade of experience in the field) and confidently say that because I've done this experience and worked on these things, I can do the job that you're asking me to do. It definitely played a significant role, but it was one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Do you have any tips for bootcamp students on how to differentiate their projects from others when applying for tech roles?

What helped me the most was becoming a subject matter expert on something. Demonstrate that you can go deep into a specific topic. Talk about it confidently and show that you understand a very complex technical problem. Show that you’re able to work in-depth on a project rather than talking about the surface-level knowledge you have of different technologies. Get really deep into one technology and become an expert on that.

With such a competitive job market, what is your advice to those engineers who are applying but haven’t yet nailed down a tech job? Are there any next steps that will keep them growing in the right direction?

  • Stay consistent. That's advice that I received a lot. When I didn't stay consistent, it was really hard to build back up that momentum. If I took a week or two off, getting back into the flow was much more difficult than if I'd continued to put out even one application a day, or do one data structure and algorithm problem a day. Stay as consistent as possible and keep putting in the work because ultimately all it takes is one “yes” to land the job.
  • Be honest about what you do know and what you don't know when you're asked technical questions. It actually shows a level of maturity to be comfortable admitting when you don't know something.
  • Show confidence in yourself that if you don’t know something now, you can learn it and even become an expert in it!

What are your next career goals, Parker? How do you stay current and continuously learning?

I'm always trying to add to my repertoire of skills. I am a full stack software engineer, but most of my day job involves work on the front end. I'm trying to expand my knowledge base and work a little bit in mobile, as I'm currently a web developer and work more on the back end. 

I would also like to move into more senior-level software engineering roles and potentially a management position. I want to keep developing my technical, leadership, and mentorship skills. I loved working in a mentorship capacity when I was in Codesmith to our more junior bootcamp students. I also serve as a mentor to some members of my team now and would love to continue to grow in that direction for my career as well. 

Find out more and read Codesmith reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Codesmith.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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