I recently started my first software engineering job at a company and on a team that I’m really excited about. While I was job hunting, one small mindset shift made a huge difference for me:
View the job interview process primarily as a learning experience, and secondarily as an opportunity to get a job.
This is of course much easier said than done, and not everyone has the luxury of approaching the job hunt this way; but in my experience the more I was able to make this mindset shift, the happier and more successful I was in my job hunt.
Why should you try to make this mindset shift?
1. Mental/emotional well-being
Job hunting is extremely stressful and emotionally draining. There is so much pressure to get a job, that it is difficult not to take rejection personally. On top of this, the outcome of a job interview is ultimately out of your hands, and the lack of autonomy can be extremely anxiety-inducing.
By making it the primary objective of your job interview to learn something, you are reclaiming autonomy and putting yourself back in control of your own success.
2. Success in the job hunt
Ironically, in slightly de-prioritizing the hiring outcome of a job interview, you can also make yourself more appealing to employers.
When employers hire junior developers, if they know what they’re doing, they’re not looking for the candidate with the most technical skills. If that’s what they wanted, they would be hiring for a more senior position. Instead, they are looking for a candidate with the most capacity to learn technical skills. If you make learning your priority (and if you are able to effectively demonstrate this to the employer), you will make yourself a very attractive candidate for the position.
How can you begin to make this mindset shift?
1. Look for opportunities to learn new ideas and technologies
A great way to do this is to look at the company’s tech stack and try to learn more about the technologies they use, especially if you are unfamiliar with those technologies. If they have a tech blog, read it and discuss it in your interview! If you’re working on a take-home assignment, try to incorporate part of their tech stack. If you’re doing a code review, talk about how you might refactor to utilize a technology they use on the team. If an interviewer mentions a term or technology you’re unfamiliar with, read up on it after your interview and mention what you learned in your follow-up/thank you email.
It might not be realistic to learn a new framework or language for every job you apply to, but demonstrating a passion for learning will go far in a job interview, and hopefully it will also make the process more fun or interesting for you.
Of course the hope is that you’ll be able to impress the hiring manager with your newfound skills and demonstrated ability to learn, but even if you don’t get the job you’ll have a new skill to put on your resume or a new concept you can talk about in future interviews!
2. Ask questions that demonstrate your curiosity and desire to learn
I was a hiring manager in my previous (non-tech) career, and I noticed that something a lot of entry-level job applicants forget is that a job interview really should be a two-way conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! In my experience, the more I remember this, the less scary job interviews are. Not only this, but an interesting conversation will be a lot more enjoyable for the hiring manager and you’ll leave a much better impression on them. Job interviews can be stressful and/or draining for hiring managers too, and they’ll really appreciate an engaging conversation.
As a junior developer, in the interview process you will almost certainly be speaking with developers who are much more experienced than you are. Take advantage of this! There is so much you can learn from them — about the company’s tech stack, about their personal career path, and about the tech industry in general. Even if a job offer doesn’t come out of the interview, you could be making a connection that will help you in the future.
I hope this tiny hack helps you the way that it helped me, and I wish you the best of luck in the job hunt!