Things I wish I knew before I started the job search

Fast and detailed tips for job hunting.

Lisa Olson
8 min readFeb 15, 2019

Apply for multiple titles. Don’t get stuck to one.

In the front-end realm, this meant applying for Developer Advocate, Product Design, UI Engineer, UI Developer, JavaScript Developer, Jr. Developer, Web Developer, Jr. Engineer, Front-end Engineer, Front-end Developer, Customer Service Engineer, UX Designer, UX Engineer, UX/UI Developer, Sales Engineer. That’s a LOT of titles and a lot of traction to find jobs I might be more qualified for and happier in than the stagnant and exclusive ‘Front-end Engineer’.

Take screenshots of job postings

I can’t tell you how many times I finally hear back from the company I applied to, click on the link I saved (which I thought should be enough tracking-wise) and the link is dead, or the job posting has been taken down. I’ve spent many panicked minutes trying to remember what the exact job title was, what the requirements/responsibilities section said, how everything was worded, what the job title was I applied for, etc. Just take a screenshot.

Take detailed notes during phone screens

Seriously. Okay you’re nervous, you’ve been preparing, you’ve been practicing, you’re waiting with bated breath as the clock ticks down to your scheduled phone interview time. You get the call, you jump slightly in your chair, swallow, take a breath, say hello. And BAM. They start talking for 10 minutes straight about the role, the company, what they do, what they’re looking for, what to expect, etc. You’re just trying to catch your breath when they ask, ‘Do you have any questions so far?’. Crap.

This was me my first few interviews. Take notes. This is when you find out a TON about the company, arguably more than at any other stage in the interview. This is when the interviewee (you) gets to find out if you are a good fit for them and what they’re looking for. After the initial phone call, it becomes a lot more about your skillset and what you can bring and a lot less about them and what they do.

Organize your job search.

In any way that makes sense to you. For me, this meant the built-in notes app on my laptop and just a massive list with dates, job title, company, and whether I followed up or not. I would’ve added screenshots and links if I was a smarter job searcher. :)

Have tons of questions ready. Tons. Write them down. Have them ready in front of you.

I thought I was okay when I had 10–15 questions written down. A LOT of them will get answered. Have open-ended questions ready in case the detailed nitty-gritty ones about the job get answered. Be aware too that if you’re doing a phone interview through your computer, you don’t want noise of you typing or clicking around your screen that will interfere with the call. I used a small whiteboard next to my laptop that I would jot notes down with.

Open-ended question samples:

‘What brought you to this specific role?’

‘What would be an ideal candidate for this position?’

‘What’s your favorite part about working for X company?’

Be as honest as possible

Don’t spend 15 hours on the coding challenge and get help from tech mentors and code reviews when they told you to spend 4–5 hours and to not use help. You want to find the right job for YOU and they need to find the right role for THEM. This is weird right? Because you want to sell yourself. But that doesn’t mean stretching too far what you do/don’t know. That being said…

Avoid saying I’ve never done [x].

I have a specific example for this one. I was asked in an interview if I’ve used Vue.js which I haven’t at all. My response was:

‘I learn whatever Front-end framework I need to learn for the task at hand. I’ve worked a little bit in Django, React, Ruby on Rails, etc. The front-end landscape is changing every year, so I’m happy to jump into a framework and implement as I go to get the job done.’

I never admitted that I’d never used it. I instead changed the framing of the response to portray myself in a positive light.

Pay attention to every piece of the interview.

Their tone in emails, the way they handle your mistakes, the kind of coding challenge they gave you, the way they speak to you, everything. Every piece of it is important and should be noted as you decide where you want to work as much as they’re deciding who they want to hire.

Continue studying, applying, and scheduling phone calls until you have an offer.

I spent 4–5 days trying to prep for a coding challenge for a company I was over the moon stoked about. It was a dream company and I basically put everything else on hold trying to prepare. Well, it was a 60-minute HackerRank challenge that I didn’t do very well at and it took days after to try to regain my momentum. Always factor in applications into your day until you’ve signed an offer. It’s not official until it’s official.

Numbers game is not a bad idea.

Every person I asked for job advice told me, ‘You need a referral’. This just isn’t true. You don’t NEED a referral. Send out applications, make adjustments as needed to your portfolio, resume, cover letter. Get feedback, practice your responses. Numbers game eventually gets people work a lot of the time. It’s not impossible.

Also, if you’re just generally not as much of an extrovert, a social mingling hour situation may not be the best way for you to shine and sell yourself. It certainly isn’t for me.

Study/Practice/Create projects for what is relevant for you. Be wary of all the noise and blogs.

You could spend years of your life ‘never being ready’ because by the time you master something, there’s a new way of doing it, a new popular framework or tool, or it’s all completely changed. It’s really depressing and can feel overwhelming. Choose a direction (Dev-Ops, Front-End, Particular framework/language/specialty), start building stuff with it, and forge ahead. If you spend hours researching or trying to stay relevant, in my opinion, it’s a pretty impossible task. Employers are hiring you for how you can learn and progress through the job, not for your current skillset. If you stayed stagnant over a year in a specific skillset, you’d be a terrible hire, no matter how ‘expert’ you are in it.

Write thank you letters. Always.

Thank you letters are key. I usually always heard back within an hour if I sent a follow-up, sometimes not at all if I didn’t. Write them for every interaction you have with employers. It shows gratitude and focus. Along those lines, be professional in every email, message, phone call, and video call. They’re gauging you just as you’re gauging them. Beware of your social media too, they could be checking that out as an initial/final step to see if you are who you say you are.

Expect and Anticipate a lot of rejection

Don’t stress over every single interview/rejection. Even if it’s not true, a healthy mindset is that they’ll end up with the hire they need, and you’ll end up with the job you need.

Don’t get lost in the sea of ‘things to study’.

Choose something and go for it. Look at the actual job postings and learn those using Udemy, online videos, official docs, etc. Do one video, mess with a bunch of stuff and create it on your own to actually solidify and learn it. If it’s tedious and you hate it, you’re probably not in the right thing. Maybe try a different area of software engineering and see if you enjoy it more.

An example for me would be Adobe Illustrator. The ‘Adobe Creative Suite’ was on almost every job I was applying for so I bought a $10 Udemy course and started playing with it and found out I absolutely loved it. If I hated using it and it was on every single job posting, I’d consider maybe switching my direction slightly.

Go directly to the company site always.

If I didn’t see the job title listed on the company site, I would drop the whole application. It’s probably an outdated post, or the company has already begun to move ahead with candidates. I would avoid the ‘one-click applications’ if I were you. The only responses I got from an application like that was a one-person, unpaid ‘internship’ at a startup. Not really what I was hoping for.

Use multiple platforms

LinkedIn, AngelList, GlassDoor, Indeed. Use any/all of them. I also recommend finding companies that you’re generally interested in and see if they may be hiring or reaching out directly to someone on the team. There’s something to say for someone who’s just genuinely stoked about the company itself and would be excited to work there. Along those lines…

Excitement goes a long way.

Companies love employees who love to show up to work. If you can demonstrate that, you’ve demonstrated worth. I’ve seen posts about burned-out engineers who just show up and go home. As a new hire, you have an excitement that you can bring that can lift up the whole team and make you stand out.

Have fun with it

It’s tough to remember when you’re nervous and put on the spot, but smile, laugh and try to have fun interviewing. Even if you fail, it’s honestly more practice for you and ultimately it doesn’t matter. It makes a good story that you can pass on and you can do better for the future. It also goes along with what I was talking about earlier that you’re testing the type of people you want to work with on the job.

If you get stuck, do they let you sit in silence for 10 minutes before guiding you in the right direction? Do they seem like they can work with other engineers? Are they rude or condescending? Do they seem like they value Jr. level engineers or mentorship? If it was an awful interview, it could be that it’s not a place you’d feel comfortable with anyways to work for long-term.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck on your job search! ❤



Lisa Olson

Front End Developer. Passionate about everything I do. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.