10X your programming job application effectiveness

man wearing white top using MacBook
Photo by Tim Gouw / Unsplash

This one's for you who have submitted so many job applications that you feel physically sick of looking at your own cover letter.

You keep telling yourself,

Submitting my resume to as many companies as I can will increase my chances of getting hired because it is simply a "numbers game."

Every day you try to convince yourself that this will only go on for a couple more weeks max, according to other people's experiences shared online.

But after a few months, instead of getting brag-worthy job offers, you get one (or all) of these:

  • crickets
  • recruiters ghosting you
  • embarrassing or straight up humiliating interviews
  • "we'll give you a call [and never do]"
  • "sorry, position already filled" and other excuses
  • more crickets

Your patience starts wearing thin.

You start questioning your choice to get into programming.

Worse, you start doubting yourself:

"Am I not good enough?"
"Am I just not cut out for this?"

You are inches away from ending up with a completely shattered self-confidence and self-worth.

Your strategy is not working

If the above sounds like you — and you are absolutely sick and tired of feeling like nobody wants you, then hopefully you recognize that your current job application strategy is not working and it's time for a change.

B-but I have already tried other things like personalizing my cover letter to the companies — that didn't work either!

In theory, personalizing your cover letter does sound like a winning strategy that helps you stand out among those who simply blanket-spam their resumes to job sites as if electricity costs nothing. So what is wrong there?

Let's be real for a second: if a company has an open position that is at all decent, you should expect at least 5 other applicants competing for it.

In this day and age, most company's information is readily available from a few clicks away.

Personalizing cover letters is hardly a job-seeking secret now.

While mentioning the company's product line and expressing your admiration for the company's contribution to the society does make you sound slightly less like a robotic asshole, it really doesn't demonstrate that you have put in any efforts.

Overall, it's not a great experience for you or the person on the receiving end.

Applying for programming jobs should be fun!

The programming field (and most tech jobs) is highly creative. A large part of it comprises of creative problem-solving. The process of figuring out the solution is usually fun and rewarding.

So what if applying for programming jobs is the same way?

The good news is, it absolutely is!

Imagine feeling excited when you apply for jobs!

Imagine having confidence that your application will get the employer's attention.

Imagine getting a job offer not because your resume looks slightly better than other applicants', but because "you are exactly the perfect candidate we are looking for."

That's what happened to me.

After being ghosted by many recruiters, failing many interviews, and getting many "we'll get back to you [never]", I decided, "fuck it, I'm finding another way."

Well, over the years, I have found a few ways to get employers' attention and demonstrate my skills before I even get to talk with them.

One of my colleagues who interviewed me told me straight up:

Your submission was different than everybody else's, and you stood out immediately; hiring you was a no-brainer.

Naturally, I was flattered!

But this is all due to a few mindset changes I've had.

No secret mind-control tricks, and definitely no AI machine learning algorithms that figures out what buzzwords will impress interviewers the most (don't get any ideas)!

Sure, I approach job-seeking differently than most people I know, but in order to get your dream job, mindset changes will help you much more than tactics.

Here are the 3 main mindset changes I had undergone that helped me get interviews and job offers I wouldn't even dream of getting before.

1. Getting value right

Understanding value is the crucial first step.

Regardless of your skill level, whenever you provide value to someone, you will get value in return.

In our case, the value we get in return are usually in the form of pay cheques.

This is the so-called value exchange.

The problem job-seekers have, especially those new to the industry, is they lack the experience and confidence to justify to potential employers that they can provide enough value that warrants the amount of salary (monetary value) offered or more.

In other words, many junior and intern developers subconsciously think employers hire them out of pity, otherwise "which company in their right mind would hire a newbie straight out of college/coding bootcamp?". As such, most are not confident about their newly-acquired skills (perhaps this earlier post can help).

This is why a lot of times, simply demonstrating that you are passionate and willing to learn is not enough.

What you need to understand is:

You are there to trade your skillset with their money.

There is no reason to think about companies or interviewers as the high king.

You are simply equals doing a value exchange.

And of course, the same applies in reverse: be humble; don't be full of yourself simply because you possess abilities to provide value.

Once you understand this, the next step is to demonstrate that you are valuable.

2. Show, don't tell

You might have heard of the saying "show, don't tell."

It's a powerful way to quickly and directly get your point across to others.

In the case of applying for a programming job, you absolutely have the upper hand.

As I mentioned before, programming is one of the highly creative field. This is your opportunity to shine.

Instead of saying you are "a quick learner; team player; passionate about programming and design," you get to show all that in a demo project — how fun is that!

The best part is, your demo project can be scoped to a specific company you are applying for! How's that for personalization?

Imagine when the recruiter asks you "could you send me a few portfolio pieces?" and your response is

I'm glad you asked! I actually built a complete demo project that solves a problem I think your company would be facing at this stage.


What's better than a resume, a portfolio and a case study combined?

A portfolio piece that's built just for the company that acts as an extremely customized case study.

It doesn't even need to be a huge full-blown project. Just something to demonstrate your organization skills, technical proficiency, as well as adaptability all in one!

Once you realize the value you can provide, then demonstrate it with a company-specific demo project, the recruiter or hiring manager would have been so impressed by you that they would want to rush to the next steps of the interviewing process!

Why? Because no one else puts in this much effort. Many other applicants probably didn't even bother personalizing their cover letters.

So you must be all set, right?

Not so fast...

Turns out there could still be several other reasons a company would reject an applicant, namely the "fit" that everybody in the industry seems to be talking about.

3. What is "fit" anyway?

Way too often, candidates get rejected not because of their performance, but because of the so-called "fit", or lack thereof.

Many people think it's simply an excuse companies use to reject people because it's such a vague term.

In some cases, that might be true, but in many others "fit" can be a legitimate dealbreaker.

In fact, the interviewing process is not about trying to qualify yourself to be worthy enough to work for the company; it is instead about finding out whether you and the company are a good fit.

In my experience, "fit" can mean any number of the following:

Job requirement match. The company needs help in completing a project that requires in depth knowledge in a certain language or framework. This usually means the project has a tight deadline and that there is no time to train an individual to be ramp up to it. Therefore, companies usually hire an intermediate to senior level person who is easily adaptable or maybe even have done something similar before.

Many junior people get stuck on this: they think being a beginner means they are worthless to a company. Therefore, during interview, they feel like they are begging. They basically are relying on the interviewer’s generosity and sympathy (this is not a healthy mindset as explained above).

People get too caught up on these hard requirements such as seniority, location, etc.

Team personality match. Are their team members playful? Are they all die-hard Star Wars fans? Or are they completely foreign to pop cultures? Personality match can sometimes play a big part in the hiring decision, too. But don’t worry if you are shy or introverted, just strive to be a generally good human being, you should be find on this point.

Be a team player, talk about how you help other team mates in previous projects or any work whatsoever and why. Talk about being humble, and how you handle advice from other members with grace (instead of treating advice as attacks on ego and self-esteem). Show that you understand the power of a team is greater than that of an individual. Show that even if you are introverted, you get along with most people because you are considerate. The keyword here is again "show." Use examples, and don’t just say "I’m very considerate."

Belief. "I believe in helping other succeed", "I believe software should be easy to use and at the same time functional." These are all beliefs you may have. When you have different beliefs than the company, it may turn out to be a big problem for you and the company later down the road. Whether your beliefs align with the company's is a matter of choice. You may decide that some of your beliefs are not as important as others. Whatever is the case, know that misaligned beliefs can cause major problems later on.

Try to extract as much information as you can from in-depth research about the company. Sometimes companies literally spell out their beliefs for you in their mission statements, while other times you need to read between the lines and see the big picture in order to find out.

To re-emphasize, finding the right fit is not the sole job of the hiring party. You yourself is also responsible in making sure the company is a good fit for you!

There you have it, the secret to 10x your job application effectiveness!

Hopefully this article can help you reduce the stress associated with job applications and start approaching it as a more fun and rewarding process.

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