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What do tech recruiters want? It’s a difficult question for a new coding bootcamp grad to answer, so we asked a former recruiter to give us some insight. TJ Kinion is the Program Manager at LearningFuze coding bootcamp in Southern California, and as a former recruiter, he’s interviewed hundreds of candidates for tech roles. Now he’s tasked with preparing LearningFuze students for the job search when they graduate. TJ explains which technical and soft skills recruiters are looking for, how to approach a recruiter, and how bootcamp grads can prove themselves in the interview.

What makes a coding bootcamp grad employable, from a recruiter’s perspective?

Which technical skills are recruiters looking for in a coding bootcamp graduate?

Language-wise, most of the time it depends on what the client environment is and the market. When I recruited developers in Nashville, companies were more focused on .NET, whereas in Southern California there is more focus on JavaScript and other open source technologies.

The most important thing is to find your specialty:

You want to be able to demonstrate to an employer that you can hit the ground running by showcasing full-scale applications you have built with key languages and technologies. If you try to be a “jack of all trades” you may come across as the master of none and raise questions about your skills. Graduates need to be careful about over claiming the skills they possess.

What soft skills do recruiters look for in a junior software developer?

Communication is key. Today, the typical developer no longer sits in the back room without interacting with anybody. You have to be able to talk to not only your manager and your coworkers on your dev team, but also people from other departments.

Ask the right questions. A lot of companies and hiring managers understand you won’t know everything on Day One. But you also need to make sure that when you ask questions, you ask them from an intelligent and thoughtful standpoint. There are no stupid questions, but there are lazy questions. When you ask somebody a question, talk through your thought process, what you've tried, what you think the issue is, then that person can jump in and help find a solution.

If a junior developer demonstrates those skills, I think a manager will be more willing to take a risk on them, even if the technical skills aren’t completely formed in all areas. Having strong technical skills and real-world project experience is important, but when you're talking about intangibles and less technical skills, clear, thoughtful communication is so important.

How much weight do recruiters put on the pre-bootcamp background of a coding bootcamp graduate?

Usually, it comes down to the position for which the recruiter is hiring. If a client from the finance industry is looking for a developer, then it will be easier to take a chance on a bootcamp grad who has come from a background in finance because they have industry knowledge. Sometimes it’s also easier to get your foot in the door in an industry where you have experience.

Look at your experience and how it can translate into your role as a developer:

A lot of my conversations with LearningFuze students as we go through the mock interview process are about pulling out their transferable skills. There are so many different aspects of a job that can make you a stronger candidate, not only in a web development career, but also in any professional environment.

What are your tips for interviewing with a recruiter?

I’ve sat through thousands of interviews – great ones and horrendous ones. While there's no perfect way to interview, it's more about avoiding certain mistakes.

Starting the interview

Ending the interview

I want LearningFuze students to come out of an interview as the person who the interviewer remembered because they demonstrated passion for their final project or showed more passion for code than other interviewees.

What do recruiters think of the coding bootcamp model?

A coding bootcamp may only be three months, but students spend at least 12 hours a day programming. So when you compare that to a traditional computer science degree, the hours don't add up. Bootcamp students are doing so much more hands-on learning.

The first time I came across the bootcamp model was with Lighthouse Labs in 2014 in Toronto. A local company needed 50 junior developers and was looking for fresh computer science graduates. The first bootcamp graduate I met showed me what he had built, and, I kid you not, it was outstanding, and in many cases far exceeded what others had built with more experience or even a degree. In the end, most companies really are interested in what candidates are able to build and do for the company.

How can bootcamp grads prove themselves to recruiters?

What really helps a manager understand what was taught and learned in a bootcamp is showcasing candidate portfolios and projects. I've talked with a lot of recruiters in the Southern California marketplace and they all realize that it’s about seeing what someone can build. No matter what, get the recruiter to take a look at your projects.

Getting a recruiter or hiring manager to take a leap of faith and poke around somebody's GitHub to see if they can write quality code is where I see the best luck with getting past that bootcamp “stigma.” Recruiters and employers are surprised to see the languages LearningFuze students learn, that we cover the Agile Methodology, and that students work on real-world projects.

How often do recruiters require computer science degrees?

Though I see companies requiring computer science degrees, it really depends on the company and what they're looking for in an employee. If a company is looking for somebody who can speak in detail about the theory behind software engineering and algorithms, then it is understandable that they may need a computer science graduate.

Often when I'm reaching out to hiring managers and talking to them about the requirements, it comes down to, "So if they don't have a computer science degree, what have they done? Let me see some examples of their work." I see hiring managers moving away from that degree requirement. At a coding bootcamp like LearningFuze, we're not teaching systems networking, we're focusing on building products. That's where the difference really lies between a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp curriculum.

How can a bootcamp grad make sure they stand out amongst the competition?

What is the best approach to take when reaching out to a recruiter?

There are two types of recruiters, each of which require a slightly different approach.

Recruiters at a staffing company:

Internal recruiters at a company:

What should coding bootcampers learn about job seeking?

Throughout LearningFuze, I teach a number of topics to students, including:

My goal is to have every one of our graduates be the type of employee that a future manager is excited to bring on board. I don't want LearningFuze graduates sitting in a back room and coding with their heads down. I want them making suggestions and contributing to a dev team.

One of the toughest things for me as a recruiter was talking to junior developers who had just finished a computer science program but didn't know what they wanted in a career. I want LearningFuze students to graduate with a hunger, excited to develop and hit the ground running!


Find out more and read LearningFuze reviews on Course Report. Check out the LearningFuze website.

About The Author

Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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