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5 simple mistakes that won’t get you the dev job this year

As the owner of a small software business, I’m at the point in my career where I need a junior web developer.

There’s a lot of dev work to be done, deadlines are real and Mrs. McGee has been wondering all week why her website still has a white background when she emphatically requested pink polka dots.

No, but seriously. I need some dev help!

Although I’ve been involved in the interview process while working in enterprise development, I’ve never been the one responsible for hiring developers until now. I knew I’d have to weed out a lot of candidates (it’s just the nature of the business) but as an employer, I thought it would have to do more with lack of certain tech skills.

To my surprise, many of the disqualifiers involve simple stuff. Fortunately, these things are easily fixable. They don’t require building projects or investing in yet another Udemy course. Just a simple behavioral tweak is usually all that’s needed.

Here are 5 simple mistakes job candidates have made that ultimately prevented them from getting the job.

5. No call no show. 

Life happens and sometimes there’s a last minute thing that gets in the way. Kids get sick. Traffic stinks. A JavaScript frog jumped on you and spilled his morning coffee on your best shirt. We’ve all been there and as employers we usually understand. All it takes is a phone call to let us know what’s up.

However, when a candidate is a no call no show it means that person not only failed to show up for the interview –– that person also failed to call and say they were running late or weren’t coming at all.

What the candidate usually doesn’t realize is that this costs the company money. . .Sometimes a lot of money. That hour or two employers spend setting up the meeting, preparing for the meeting and getting your application materials in order costs hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. The No Call No Show candidate has already lost the company money before they even met.

Quick fix:

Always always call and let the employer know if you’re running late or can’t make the interview. It might be embarrassing, it might be unexpected, but it’s the only way you’ll have a chance at getting a second chance at an interview.

4. Sloppy writing.

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter. As a writer and lover of the written word I do enjoy a well-crafted email. But far more importantly, I need to see that you’re capable of writing for business purposes.

For example, you may be tasked with emailing clients, writing documentation, publishing technical blog posts and commenting code. All these things need to be clean and readable.

You don't need to be Hemingway, of course. But if it’s not clean and readable, the company loses money.

Writing can be tedious for a lot of us and we all make mistakes when writing. For example, I often find myself mindlessly using “your” when it should be “you’re” and don’t always catch my mistakes. Additionally, we all have different writing styles and tones. But consistently disregarding basic rules is a red flag for employers. If a candidate can’t be bothered with the small stuff, what can they be bothered with?

Quick fix:

Be mindful of the basics, including grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.

Fix run-on sentences.

Read documents you wrote aloud and listen to confirm that they make sense.

You should also proofread your written work before hitting Send or Publish, and even consider asking a friend to look over your document when it’s an especially important one.

3. Cursing/swearing. 

Devs. Don’t curse or swear at your employer. Even if it’s part of a joke or said in passing. This includes the little ones like hell or damn. Cursing/swearing candidates is something I witnessed multiple times in the enterprise world as well. Employers want you to show them you’re capable of having a professional conversation since you’re going to be talking to clients and other important people.

Quick fix:

Keep your mind and mouth clean throughout the entire interview process. Even if there’s a member of the company in the interview room who’s dropping a few, shall we say “informal” words, avoid engaging in it. All eyes are on you and you want to be perceived as a professional.

2. Applying to jobs unrelated to your skill set. 

Let’s face it: most dev job listings appear to have been written by a gang of wild banshees unleashed somewhere in the inner sanctum of the human resources department. It’s why you hear a lot of people tell you to just apply to the job even if you don’t feel completely qualified.

I also tell people this, but the important difference is to apply to jobs that resemble your skill set rather than just blindly applying to them all. For example, if you’re a new MERN stack dev and a job listing is looking for a MERN stack dev with 2-3 years experience and bonus points for Docker, Kubernetes and whatever else, you have a shot at getting a callback and should apply.

However, if you’re a MERN stack dev and a job listing is looking for a LAMP stack dev, best to skip that one. Employers hire candidates who have experience (even if it’s minimal) with their stack. If neither your portfolio nor personal experience reflect that, you aren’t able to prove to your employer that you can make them money.

Quick fix:

Focus on job openings that resemble your tech stack and skill set. It doesn’t have to be a one-to-one match, but you should have a grasp on the “protein” of what they’re looking for (for example, if they’re looking for a JavaScript developer, your strongest tech skill should be JavaScript).

Avoid applying to jobs where the core requirements are clearly unrelated your primary skill set.

1. Dev modesty.

A few people I’ve interviewed (both in the enterprise world and for my own business) have been really shy about their accomplishments. Believe it or not, I’m a really shy person. So I don’t expect shy people to step on top of the interview table and start dancing to Ke$ha while throwing their best portfolio projects at their interviewers (although I would probably hire them to be my creative director on the spot).

The problem with modesty is that it doesn’t show the employer your capabilities. Why should a company hire someone when that candidate didn’t showcase their capabilities –– and thus income-generating potential?

Quick fix:

Avoid one-word answers during the interview and take the time to expand on your abilities, accomplishments, insights and goals. Show your employer you understand the significance of your portfolio projects if the topic comes up. Show us what you’ve got!

If you really want to impress employers when talking about your portfolio projects, discuss the problems you identified, the action you took to solve those problems, and the results of your actions. This last part is called the PAR method and is something I talk about in detail in my book and Udemy course How to Get a Job in Web Development.

In summary, the five things you should avoid throughout the job search and interview process are no call no shows, sloppy writing, cursing/swearing, applying to jobs unrelated to your skill set, and dev modesty.

Finding the right job is exhausting. It can be really disappointing getting rejection email after rejection email. I was in the same spot starting out as a self-taught web developer. But if you start improving the smaller things like the ones I mentioned, you’re on the right track. Finding employment is a matter of beating the competition, so start small and you’re already putting yourself ahead of many other candidates. I hope this article was helpful!

Be sure to follow me on YouTube where I talk about everything web development!

Top comments (4)

testingtheeventhorizon profile image

Another one that I notice with my dev colleagues is to ask questions, be engaged with them during the process. Nothing turns us off more than a candidate that appears to not want to be there. Ask relevant and thoughtful questions.

fcfn profile image
Peter Timoshevsky

Thanks for sharing. Nice to know about the hiring process from the perspective of a small shop.

TBH, most of it can be applied to an interview for any position.

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

One I like to do on purpose for linked in is to leave emoji's in my chats. You will soon see no response 🤠

nomangul profile image
Noman Gul

Any opening for Junior ReactJS/React-native Dev?