Interviewing for your first engineering job after a bootcamp

You did it! You’re officially an engineering bootcamp graduate. You’ve gone through the courses, learned about for-loops, and built an app…

You did it! You’re officially an engineering bootcamp graduate. You’ve gone through the courses, learned about for-loops, and built an app. Now you’re brushing up your resume and applying for internships, apprenticeships, and jobs.

With more bootcamp grads joining the market every day, nailing the interview and impressing the company is crucial. After interviewing engineering managers and bootcamp grads, we compiled a list of some steps to leave an impression — increasing the likelihood of receiving an offer at a company that will help you grow into the next phase of your engineering career.

Keep your skills fresh

During bootcamp, you learned a whole new set of skills and languages. Don’t let them fade away: keep working on the projects you started in bootcamp or begin new ones! When we spoke with engineering managers, they repeatedly brought up that they like to see interviewees continuing to work on projects and thinking critically about what features to add.

These projects don’t have to be full-blown apps. Recruiters are interviewers are looking to see that you’re pushing yourself to keep learning. Hiring managers want to see that not only are you growing in your technical skills, you’re also thinking beyond just coding. Demonstrate that you can think critically about what you’re building by asking yourself, “How would users want to interact with this feature or application? What can I do to make it easier to use or more valuable?”

“[Applicants who create additional projects] are challenging themselves technically or thinking uniquely from a product perspective, so their trajectory would continue to be high [once hired].” — Dan Ubilla, Senior Engineering Manager at Asana

Add some new skills, too

But it’s not just about strengthening what you’ve already learned: once you start your new job, you’ll most likely need to set up your developer workspace and begin working with a production-level application.

More than one engineering manager we spoke with recommended learning the basics of the command line and how to use Github and Git. There are some great online tutorials for learning the command line, Git, and Github basics.

“The more evergreen [skills] you can come in with, the better, like what a pull request is and how to make one on Github…[be] comfortable with basic commands on the command line and understanding how to install tools, because most engineering tools are installed using a command.” — Alex Kaminsky, Senior Engineering Manager at Google

Ace the interview

Engineering managers highlighted a few key skills they look for when interviewing bootcamp grads:

  • Collaboration and ability to work in a team: Most likely, you’re going to be working with some combination of other engineers, a product manager, and a designer, so interviewers want to know that you can work well with others.
  • Ability to explain your thought process when solving a problem: Interviewers don’t want to just know that you can solve a problem — but also that you can state clearly how you came to a solution. Be sure to show your work and share how you’re thinking. The approach matters as much as the conclusion.
  • Willingness to admit what you don’t know and sharing an eagerness to learn: Interviewers know that you’re very early in your career. They don’t expect you to have all the answers, but they do want to know that you can admit what you don’t know while expressing how much you want to learn. Lean on the research you’ve done about the company and your own experience to say that you don’t know but you’re excited to learn more.
  • Not afraid to ask questions: When you start your job, you’re going to have a ton of questions, so companies will want to make sure you’re able to ask for help when you need it. The last thing you want to do is start a job and get stuck on a problem for weeks on end.

To nail the interview, follow an age-old piece of advice: practice, practice, practice.

Find the right fit

Not every company will be the right fit for you. Your first gig out of bootcamp should help you learn, grow, and be ready for your next job. Make sure that wherever you’re going can offer mentorship and support and that the company has a strong culture.

There are a few questions you can ask to gauge what working there will feel like and what the expectations of you will be.

  • “What does success look like in the first 90 days?” This question can tell you whether the company expects you to be ready to start writing production-ready code in the first week or if you’ll have time to ramp up. Additionally, it’ll also signal if the company has a strong onboarding program and resources dedicated to ensuring you’ll be set up for success.
  • “Who will I be reporting to, and how often do I meet with them?” If the company doesn’t have a clear answer for who your manager is, it’s a red flag that you won’t have a designated person to help you find your footing and navigate starting your first engineering job. If you won’t be meeting with your manager on a regular basis, you may not receive the guidance and advice you’ll need to advance your career.
  • “Do engineers have the opportunity to pair program?” During pair programming, two engineers code on one machine. Pair programming helps engineers share knowledge, develop group ownership of the codebase, focus, build shared context, and reflect on their work. If a company’s engineers don’t pair program regularly, you may be working solo often and won’t have the opportunity to collaborate on writing code as much as you might during pair programming.
  • “Will I be working with experienced engineers or mostly other bootcamp grads and junior engineers?” One of the benefits of working in an engineering team is that you get to learn from others who have more experience. More senior engineers will be able to show you the ropes, help debug, and recommend best practices. If you’ll mostly be working with other early-career engineers, you might not have the benefit of learning from more experienced engineers.

If you’re looking for how to apply these lessons to your job search, you should talk to a mentor. Mentorship platforms like Merit can connect you to experienced engineers who can help you practice interviewing, give advice on job hunting, and provide feedback on your work. Sign up today to schedule a session with a mentor!

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