e-Manual by Emmanuel: Part 1

Success After Coding Bootcamp: Soft Skills and Interview Questions

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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If you’re about to graduate or have recently graduated from a coding bootcamp program, Congratulations! You’re on your way to the rest of your life — You got this!

  • If you’re nervous about searching for a job, it’s okay to be stressed!

There is a lot of information here, but feel free to read the sections out of order, or read just the ones you’re interested in!

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Click on section banners to return to the Table of Contents at any time.

The TOC and banner links do not work on the mobile app. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Introduction

Soft Skills

The Cultural Fit Interview

Virtual Interviews

Non-Technical Interview Questions

100 More Interview Questions

The STAR Interview Format

If You Don’t Know How to Answer

Thanking Your Interviewer

Whiteboard/Technical Interviews

Salary Negotiation

The Key Takeaway

YouTube Resources

Resources

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Soft Skills are the non-technical attributes you need for success on the job. Soft skills involve your personality, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and how you work with others. Soft skills are people skills.

Programming involves logic, code, and algorithms, but at its heart, Programming is about people.

  • As a developer, you work with people.

Below are a few critical soft skills that employers will always look for.

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Empathy is the capability to put ourselves in the place of another person and experience their feelings. It’s a valuable skill that enables us to interact effectively and harmoniously with everyone. Empathy is the foundation of successful collaboration and for creating a positive user experience.

The first step in developing empathy is to acknowledge that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Pause to consider someone else’s thoughts and perspective:

  • If I were in their position, what would I be thinking right now?

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At a coding bootcamp, you may have disliked having paired programming labs or paired projects. However, as a professional developer, you will continue to have paired or team collaborations, and the value of effective communication cannot be overstated.

As developers, we deal with abstract and confusing vocabulary, and often from multiple programming languages. Remember to simplify and stay on message:

  • Speak clearly and with confidence.

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Empathy and Communication contribute directly to teamwork skills. In this Covid-19 era, many tech companies have shifted to remote work. You may be working from home and perform the bulk of your responsibilities alone. But no person is an island. You will be interacting with others.

Regardless of the changing workplace landscape, “you should be able to think of your work in the context of the company’s broader goals and communicate your accomplishments to other people within the organization.”

There will be times when you disagree with your colleagues, but successful teams thrive from diverse and different points of view. The tricky thing with developing teamwork skills is that they cannot be practiced on your own. It takes time and involves others, but a question to always ask yourself is:

“Do I want to work with myself?”

If the answer is not an enthusiastic “Yes!,” then consider these tips:

  • 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).

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These skills are a two-way street. No matter how independent or self-sufficient you are, you will need help, and it’s okay to ask for help.

If you don’t establish rapport with others, it will be difficult to find help when you need it. When you put people at ease, they’re more likely to help you and trust you.

Being approachable and helpful does not mean you have to be loud, talkative, extra-cheerful, or extroverted. It does, however, involve making the first move to build interaction, but anyone can develop approachability by being present and by being fully engaged when communicating.

You don’t have to put up a front to be approachable or helpful. Put yourself in a position to open up and share a little. By being Real, you will be relatable.

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Just because you’re seeking employment as a developer, it doesn’t mean you’ll only interact with developers on the job. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Your patience will be tested every time you collaborate with colleagues and clients who are not developers. They’ll have many questions, just like you did when you were brand new to programming!

Practice explaining concepts to family and friends who do not have a technical background. You’ll also gain greater clarity on concepts by being able to explain them to someone else.

Your patience will also be tested when you are tasked with something you don’t agree with, or is completely beyond a feasible scope. Take a step back to assess, and do not make rash decisions. Think things through. You will save yourself a lot of frustration by being able to effectively communicate your reservations and by answering your colleagues’ questions.

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Open-mindedness is about being receptive to new ideas, experiences, and ways of living that differ from your own. Tolerance is a huge factor in this, and you’ll be working with people with different life experiences than you.

Take the time to know everyone without judgment and critique. Respect goes a long way, and you’ll be surprised how much you actually have in common with others.

When you’re open-minded with your colleagues, clients, and even yourself, you’ll develop an ability to turn so-called bad ideas into good ideas. Inspiration can strike at any time, so don’t immediately dismiss ideas and practices that initially appear to have no value or use.

Keep your mind open, because the programs you create will leave your hands and enter the hands of users. They’ll have the best insight for what works and what doesn’t work.

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Problem-solving involves many of the soft skills listed here. How you approach problems and how you go about resolving them has a ripple effect on your own personal experience and that of your colleagues and users.

At a coding bootcamp, you were presented with bugs and problems on a regular basis, and that will continue when you’re a working developer. What a coding bootcamp does best is that it teaches you how to think, and that skill can be applied to any problem, even if it’s one you’ve never seen before.

Problem-solving Steps:

  • Define the problem. Break it down objectively and into smaller parts.

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We’re Human. We all make mistakes — Don’t hide or run from them.

No matter how difficult it might be to acknowledge your mistakes, take full ownership of them and admit responsibility.

Don’t make excuses, ignore the issue, or blame others. Own it.

When in doubt, this skill’s all about doing what you say you’re going to do. This is the core of integrity and it builds trust.”

You’ll earn the trust and respect of your colleagues by being forthcoming, and every mistake is an opportunity for growth and learning.

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Whether you know it or not, Programming is an art. As developers, we create all the time, and creativity is crucial for innovation and problem-solving.

Creativity is frame of mind, and it can be developed:

  • Learn a new language. Branch out and learn new skills.

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Time management is a hard skill to master, and it’s crucial for any job. Fortunately, you’ve gotten a good taste of how important it is in your coding bootcamp journey. With every lab and every project, you’ve become project managers in your own right.

Developing better time management skills will require planning and reflection on your part. Adopt these following strategies:

  • Make a To-Do List. It sounds so simple, but this will help to prioritize everything you want to accomplish.

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The previous section was lengthy and covered just a few soft skills for a reason. You’ve put in a lot of hours at coding bootcamp, but the vocational and technical skills you’ve gained do not guarantee you employment.

Ultimately, an employer wants to know the answers to these questions:

“Do I want to work with you?”

“Will you fit in with the company?”

“Will you thrive in our environment?”

Often, the cultural fit interview is the first interview. How you are as a person is more important than your technical prowess. Cultural fit is also crucial for staff retention, engagement, productivity, cohesion, and communication. Now more than ever, there is a greater priority on determining cultural fit before hiring an employee.

In some situations, you may even bypass whiteboard technical interviews by excelling in the cultural fit interview.

Do your homework when you apply for various companies. Know the culture, values, principles, and mission statements of companies you’re interested in. If a company’s culture resonates with you, research further and inquire, but don’t waste anyone’s time if you haven’t done the homework.

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

  • Breathe, exhale, and slow down.

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With more tech companies working remotely due to the pandemic, virtual or video interviews are here to stay. It’s important to implement these tips to show you in the best light (literally and figuratively):

  • Find a quiet, private, well-lit location, free of distractions.

Setting up for a virtual interview

In-depth preparation for a virtual interview

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Always ask family and friends to rehearse mock interviews with you. Mock interviews are an excellent way to practice public-speaking.

It’s also a great idea to have mock interviews with your cohort classmates, and you can take turns with each other asking questions. Your classmates have spent the last 3 to 6 months with you, and they have excellent insight as to how you are over virtual meetings.

If you prepare answers for all the following questions, you’ll be able to anticipate the majority of any non-technical interview questions directed at you.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse.

  • 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.

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  • What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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  • Why should I not hire you?

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  • What’s the biggest opportunity for this role?

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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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This is a technique you can use when answering behavioral interview questions, which often begin with these phrases:

  • Tell me about a…

The STAR format will be your best friend in crafting and articulating answers to interview questions, and it breaks down into:

  • 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.

Practice, practice, practice structuring your answers in the STAR format. With preparation and strategy, your answers will feel natural and comfortable to talk about.

Examples of STAR format answers from Indeed.com:

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

Situation: “At my previous job, our senior graphic designer resigned without any notice. Since she led the graphic design team, we initially didn’t know what to do in her absence.”

Task: “As the junior graphic designer, I decided to take it upon myself to make sure all of her work was completed on time and to the client’s standards.”

Action: “To do this, I met with the creative director, and asked him to train me in the areas of her job I was not familiar with. Then, I worked through my lunch breaks for a week straight to get the work done. I delegated easier tasks to the interns.”

Result: “In the end, the client ended up loving the work. We were actually able to get the work done a day early. The creative director was so impressed by my efforts that he offered me a promotion as the senior graphic designer.”

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

Situation: “When I worked at the garden nursery, one customer was upset that we did not have her favorite tulips in stock.”

Task: “As the customer service representative, it was my responsibility to think of a solution to her problem. A major part of my job was to make sure the customers left the store happy.”

Action: “After checking our inventory, I saw that she was incorrect, so I kindly explained that we moved the tulip display. I guided her to the display. She said that we didn’t have enough for her garden, so I contacted our seller to speed deliver more of the bulbs.”

Result: “Since I took the time to work with this customer, she went from upset to happy during our interaction. Later that evening, I noticed that she left us a 5-star online review and mentioned my name.”

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Alison Doyle from www.thebalancecareers.com writes:

  • 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.”

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No matter how you felt about a job interview, always write a Thank-You note to your interviewer by way of mail or email.

Why Send a Thank-You Note?

Alison Doyle from www.thebalancecareers.com writes:

  • It’s good manners, and it’s expected behavior.

Job Interview Thank You Letter Examples:

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Admittedly, this e-Manual does not focus on whiteboard/technical interviews, but here are excellent articles with resources on how to prepare for them.

Everything You Need to Know to Rock Your Next Whiteboard Test by Debbie Chew

The Best Whiteboard Interview Advice I Ever Received by Nick Scialli

A Preview of e-Manual: Part 2..

This can be an uncomfortable issue for some, but if you’re in a position to negotiate salary, always negotiate.

If you don’t negotiate, you could be costing yourself $1 million, especially if you’re a woman.

Always know your worth, and never under-value yourself.

In this article by Deb Tennen from www.zapier.com, tech recruiters provided these salary negotiation tips.

  • 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.

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Common Interview Questions Require An Uncommon Answer.

Take the time to articulate answers that reflect YOU, your personality, and your experiences.

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The TOC and banner links do not work on the mobile app. Apologies for the inconvenience.

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

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