e-Manual by Emmanuel: Part 1

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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  • If you’re nervous about searching for a job, it’s okay to be stressed!
  • Finding a job is a job in itself, but it doesn’t have to be as unnerving as you think.
  • I’m about to graduate from a coding bootcamp in a few weeks, and as I start focusing on the job search, I’ve collected nuggets of knowledge from instructors, alumni, workforce/training professionals, and Google.
  • In this e-Manual: Part 1, the focus will be on the value of soft skills and non-technical job interview questions.
  • Disclaimer: There won’t be much on whiteboard/technical interviews.
  • Keep an eye out for e-Manual: Part 2, which will cover networking and tips on how to enhance your LinkedIn and social media presence.

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  • As a developer, you work with people.
  • As a developer, you create for people.
  • A program can have perfect functionality, but no program is complete without the user.

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  • If I were in their position, what would I be thinking right now?
  • How am I affecting their feelings and experience?
  • How can I help?

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  • Speak clearly and with confidence.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Don’t memorize vocabulary, be able to understand the concepts instead.
  • Communicate with verbal and non-verbal cues.

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“Do I want to work with myself?”

  • Ask for feedback often (if you are in contact with your cohort and instructors, ask them! Your family and friends will also be brutally honest).
  • Be open.
  • Don’t assume.
  • Expand your perspective.

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  • Define the problem. Break it down objectively and into smaller parts.
  • Ideate. Brainstorm all possible solutions and ask for help. Fresh eyes are critical to view problems and solutions from different angles.
  • Decide on a solution. Evaluate, assess, and keep an open mind. Consider all factors such as implementation, resources, and time. How does the solution meets all objectives and deliverables and how does it fit with policies and procedures?
  • Implement the solution. Develop an action plan and clearly communicate directives and feedback channels.
  • Monitor Progress and Make Adjustments. Continually measure progress and review data and feedback from others. Implement new or alternative solutions if needed.

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  • Learn a new language. Branch out and learn new skills.
  • Start from the ground up. Square One is your friend. We all have to begin from somewhere.
  • Question everything. Tear down any assumptions.
  • Do it for Fun. Build numerous and small personal projects.
  • Never Stop Testing Ideas. Ideas change over time, and refinement brings improvement.
  • Find a Passion. It’s not about “how,” it’s about knowing your “Why.”
  • Master Your Tools. Practice, play, experiment, break, and test.
  • Make Abstract Associations. How would you design a container for bubbles? How do I turn a fridge into a bike? The more absurd, the better.
  • Think of structures as tools, not limitations. Necessity is the mother of invention.
  • Don’t Knock It till You Try It. There are no stupid questions or ideas. Never assume anything until you’ve tried and tested it.
  • Remember to KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Laziness is a virtue of programmers.
  • Build off the Code of Others. Code is open source, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A great idea is sometimes just modifying what’s already been done.
  • Collaborate. Be inspired by others, and let a shared goal fuel a brilliant flow of ideas.
  • From the Basic, Create the Beautiful. Like Legos, programmers can take very basic code to build beautiful programs. Marvel in the possibilities and be mindful of the big picture.
  • Fantasize and Daydream. All. The. Time.

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  • Make a To-Do List. It sounds so simple, but this will help to prioritize everything you want to accomplish.
  • Learn to use Calendars. You can’t remember everything, calendars are your friends!
  • Avoid Multi-Tasking. Your attention will be divided and you’ll be less productive than if you just focus on one task at a time.
  • Limit interruptions. If possible, create a calm workspace environment for yourself. Turn off non-essential notifications, and cut down on constantly checking your phone.
  • Set Goals. No matter how big or small, work on accomplishing short and long-term goals on firm deadlines, and remember to reward yourself!
  • Learn to say “No.” By staying on track, you earn the respect of yourself and everyone around you.
  • Stay Organized. Clutter will only cloud your progress. Organize your workspace, your desktop, your bookmarks, your files. Clean it all up!
  • Apply the Pomodoro Technique. Embrace the power of the tomato.
  • Create a Kanban Board to visualize workflow. Buy a lot of Post-it Notes.
  • Take Care of Yourself. Self-care, de-stress, eat well, and get enough sleep.

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“Do I want to work with you?”

“Will you fit in with the company?”

“Will you thrive in our environment?”

In any interview (virtual or in person) remember to:

  • Breathe, exhale, and slow down.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Showcase your personality and soft skills.
  • Speak clearly and with conviction.
  • Maintain eye contact and engage.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Be mindful of your body language.
  • Wear professional or business attire, and have great hygiene.
  • Tell your inner saboteur and imposter syndrome to shut up!
  • Recognize that you bring immense value outside of the scope of your technical skills and expertise.
  • Don’t speak ill of previous employers, colleagues, or yourself.
  • Keep in mind that it comes down to the human connection. Programming is about people.
  • Be Genuine. Be Yourself.

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  • Find a quiet, private, well-lit location, free of distractions.
  • Ensure your computer is fully charged.
  • Test and ensure your internet connection is stable and strong.
  • Test and ensure your computer audio and webcam are working.
  • Test and ensure any supplemental light sources are working.
  • If you’re interviewing from home, communicate with your household ahead of time about minimizing distractions and noise.
  • Clear unnecessary web browser tabs and applications, and have appropriate desktop wallpaper. You may be asked to screen-share if you showcase projects or answer technical questions.
  • If you’re asked to share projects on Github, Heroku, or other servers, have them available and ready to launch.
  • Dress professionally, and avoid bright colors that may affect the lighting.
  • Have a pen, notepad, and a copy of your resume on your desk.
  • Use appropriate body language and hand gestures.
  • Practice looking into the camera of your computer (or webcam) instead of looking at your monitor. Eye contact is critical.
  • Silence any computer or phone notifications for the duration of the interview.
  • If you know the time of the interview well in advance, practice your virtual interview at that designated time for a few days. For example, if you have a Zoom interview on Tuesday at 2:00 pm, ask your family and friends to rehearse mock interviews with you on Zoom at 2 pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. This way, you’ll get a sense of how to properly set up your environment and lighting. You’ll also be able to mentally prepare for the time of the interview.

Setting up for a virtual interview

In-depth preparation for a virtual interview

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  • Tell me about yourself. This is the “30-second pitch” or “elevator pitch,” and it’s the most crucial question to prepare for. Master your answer to this, and it will successfully set the tone and foundation for all other questions to follow.
  • Why do you want to be a [your intended profession]?
  • Why are you interested in [coding / software engineering / programming / front-end / back-end / field of study]?
  • What are you looking for [in a job / in your next step]?
  • Walk me through your career history and background.
  • What have you built/created? (Be prepared to show projects, see section on Virtual Interviews)
  • What intrigued you about this role or company?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your salary expectations? (See section on Salary Negotiations)
  • What did you learn in the [coding bootcamp] program?
  • How was your experience in the [coding bootcamp] program?
  • What is one thing you like most about your current manager, and what is one thing you would change?
  • Give me an example of someone that you coached and developed and were able to promote. What did you work on with them to make it happen? (This question applies if a company is hiring for a managerial role)
  • Can you share a story (about anything) that speaks to who you are from a values perspective?
  • What is your perfect job?
  • How would you describe yourself in one word? (Don’t just blurt something out. Think and take time to reflect before answering)
  • Give me an example of a time that you lost your temper. Tell me what happened. What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. What did you do to fix it?
  • Why do you think we should hire you over other qualified candidates?
  • How long are you willing to fail at this job before you succeed?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What was the reason for leaving your last position?
  • What questions do you have for me?

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  • What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
  • Tell me about a time in the last [week / month / year] when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?
  • What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
  • What would make you choose our company over others?
  • What’s the biggest misconception your [family / friends / coworkers / classmates / teachers] have about you and why do they think that?
  • Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy.
  • What are the characteristics exhibited by the best boss you have ever had — or wish that you have had?
  • In your experience, how does an organization encourage your use of discretionary energy and effort to get the job done? Discretionary energy is the willingness each employee has to go the extra mile, push harder, spend more time, and do whatever is necessary (or lack thereof).
  • Describe the management style that will bring forth your best work and efforts.
  • Describe what you believe are the most effective roles that a good manager plays in his or her relationship with reporting staff members.
  • Do you have a best friend at work? How do you feel about becoming friends with your coworkers? Is this a wise practice?
  • What are the positive aspects of your current job and work environment, or the last position you held before coming to this interview?
  • What is the single most important factor that must be present in your work environment for you to be successfully and happily employed? Now that you have answered that question, what were two others that you debated about responding before you gave the response that you chose?
  • What is your preferred work style? Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team? What percentage of your time would you allocate to each, given a choice?
  • How would your co-workers describe your work style and contributions in your former job?
  • What are the three to five expectations that you have of senior leaders in an organization where you will work successfully?
  • Tell us about an occasion when you believe that you delighted a customer, either an internal or an external customer.
  • When you work with a team, describe the role that you are most likely to play on the team.
  • How would co-workers describe the role that you play on a team?
  • When working with people, in general, describe your preferred relationship with them.
  • How would reporting staff members describe their relationship with you? What would they like to see you do more of, less of, start, and stop?
  • Provide an example of a time when you went out of your way and jumped through hoops to delight a customer.
  • Tell us about a decision that you made that was made based primarily on customer needs and input.

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  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
  • Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
  • Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you adapt to that change?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives?

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  • Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
  • Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?
  • Tell me about one of your favorite experiences working with a team and your contribution?
  • Describe the best partner or supervisor with whom you’ve worked. What part of their managing style appealed to you?
  • Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted directions at the last minute? What did you do?

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  • Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
  • Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?
  • Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
  • Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your coworkers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?

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  • Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?
  • Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so?
  • What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?
  • When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
  • What’s the biggest career goal you’ve ever achieved?

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  • Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
  • Tell me about a project that you planned? How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
  • Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a time when you delegated an important task successfully.
  • How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?

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  • Why should I not hire you?
  • How would your manager describe you? Now tell me, how would your best friend describe you?
  • It’s 12 p.m. one year from now. What are you doing?
  • Is it better to submit a project that’s perfect and late, or one that’s good and on time?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?

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  • What’s the biggest opportunity for this role?
  • What’s the most challenging element about this role?
  • What does success look like in this position?
  • If you could describe your team in 3 words, what would they be and why?
  • What type of person works well with this team?
  • How did the company determine its mission?
  • Why do people say [ ___ ] about your company?

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  • If you know what companies you’ll be interviewing for, check out their Github.com accounts. Often, tech companies will post their job interview questions and any take-home tasks on their Github.

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  • Tell me about a…
  • Describe a situation…
  • What do you do when…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Have you ever…
  • S (SITUATION) = Set the scene and describe the SITUATION in which the example took place. Explain the context of the situation and why it connects to the interview question.
  • T (TASK) = Describe the TASK at hand, and the role and responsibility you had. Describe the problem or issue to be resolved in relation to the task. Avoid negative judgmental statements and stick to the facts.
  • A (ACTION) = Explain the specific ACTION you took to address the situation. In what way did you resolve, complete, or overcome the challenge? A great answer will highlight how you added value to the situation and made logical decisions.
  • R (RESULT) = Explain the RESULT and outcome of the situation. A great answer includes concrete examples and quantifiable achievements, and you should explain the direct effects of your actions. If your actions did not result in success for the team or company, focus on what you learned and gained from the experience.

Examples of STAR format answers from Indeed.com:

Question: Tell me about a time you overcame a challenging situation at work.

Question: Describe a situation when you had to work with a difficult customer.

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  • Stay Calm and Composed. Consider saying “That’s a great question, can I take some time to consider it and get back to you later?” or “Great question! I can answer it in part but would like to consider it further and get back to you.”
  • Buy Some Time. Rephrase the question or ask for clarification. Consider saying “That question is a bit of a stumper! Can I think about it, and come back to it at the end of our conversation?” This will also allow you to follow up in your thank-you note.
  • Try to Clarify. If you did not understand the question, or if you’re not sure what the interviewer wants to know, it’s okay to ask to define or explain their question. Try to identify what you found confusing, and you can say, “I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. Can you explain it in greater detail?”
  • Don’t Fake It. It’s better to admit that you don’t know the answer than to make something up. Honesty is respected, and to admit that you don’t know the answer highlights your humanity, and it makes you relatable.
  • When a question stumps you, you can also say that you’ll be thinking about the question after the interview, and that you hope to learn more about the topic or concept if hired. If you give this as a response, relate to another time when you were unfamiliar with a concept and were then able to master it.

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Why Send a Thank-You Note?

  • It’s good manners, and it’s expected behavior.
  • It leaves a positive, lasting impression.
  • It continues to sell you as a candidate. The note is a great way for you reference specific instances that came up in the interview, such as questions you wanted to follow up on.
  • Send your thank-you note no later than 24 hours after your interview.

Job Interview Thank You Letter Examples:

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A Preview of e-Manual: Part 2..

  • Capitalize on the recruiter’s incentive to hire you. If the company has a recruiter, use them as a resource as much as you can. Like a real estate agent, the recruiter is your best friend during your salary negotiations. It’s in their best interest to get you to say yes to the offer. Do all negotiations through the recruiter, even if the hiring manager was the one to send you the offer.
  • Know Your True Market Value. Do your homework and reach out to other hiring managers and recruiters who are familiar with the position you’re applying for. Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn who work in the same company or the industry you’re applying for. “The best way to know what people make for a certain kind of job is to ask the people with similar qualifications who have that kind of job in your location.”
  • If you’re going to negotiate, do it early. Not only does early negotiation show enthusiasm for the position, but it avoids making the employer delay or prolong their decision-making timeline that could potentially affect other candidates.
  • Be the First to Say a Number When You’re Working with a Recruiter. Even if the employer doesn’t ask, providing a number anchors the conversation going forward, and it sets the expectations for all discussions moving forward. Even if your range differs from the recruiter’s range, you can figure out how to move forward by clearly defining your expectations.
  • Consider the Value of Benefits. Before negotiating the salary, take a tally of all benefits, including insurance, meals, transportation, and other quantifiable benefits. If you have to relocate, consider the cost of living at your new location and all moving costs. This will give you a more complete picture of the total compensation package before negotiations begin.
  • Be Gracious. At times, an offer can be retracted not because of the negotiation figure, but because of negotiating badly. If you are not cooperative with the recruiter, or your phrasing during negotiating is always in a demanding tone, the employer will lose their initial enthusiasm to hire you. Be appreciative of their offer, and navigate carefully to initiate a positive tone for the salary negotiations.
  • Use Negotiations As a Chance to Get to Know the Company. Look for red flags, such as the company not giving you the courtesy of talking to a manager or a recruiter.“If you say you have concerns about the offer and they don’t give you a chance to discuss it, what does that mean for your future at the company?” Pay attention to what they’re offering, and how they offer it.
  • Practice Makes Perfect. Recruiters appreciate confidence. To gain confidence, reach out to contacts who are (or may know) recruiters and hiring managers, even if they’re not in the tech industry. Just like mock job interviews, ask to practice talking with them, and in doing so, you will sharpen your skills in selling yourself when it comes time to making salary negotiations.

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Artist turned Coder. Dog Dad. 🏳️‍🌈 https://www.emmanuel-jose.com/

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Emmanuel Jose (he/him)

Emmanuel Jose (he/him)

Artist turned Coder. Dog Dad. 🏳️‍🌈 https://www.emmanuel-jose.com/