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Mateo Clarke

Notes from the Job Hunt

This month, I started as a Front End Engineer at AcademicWorks, a scholarship software company.

Excited women

Yeah I know it’s exciting!

I encountered a wide array of companies, recruiters, coding challenges, anxieties, and frustrations. For three months, I searched and scoured and applied to over 60 companies.

As I was on the hunt, I had four foundational requirements that I tested every opportunity against.

  1. Programming and designing user experiences with ŸavaScript and within a modern stack (preferably open-source).
  2. Choice in tools (like hardware, text editor, libraries, etc).
  3. On a team committed to mentorship (through things like pair programming), transparency (especially in leadership), and autonomy (to learn, grow, and contribute).
  4. Working on a software product OR for clients committed to a social or civic good.

I encourage all job-seekers to make a list of their ideals, and to hesitate before compromising on any of them. Know that companies eliminate candidates throughout their hiring process. You too should be picky and spare everyone’s time once you realize it’s not going to meet your requirements too.

Some good questions to ask in an interview:

  • Before the interview, learn about the people that will interview you. Linkedin, Twitter, Github are always helpful. See if the company/team has a github organization with any open source code you can peek into.
  • Ask some questions about the stack, front to back. Ask what tools the team uses. Ask about processes for code review, pair programming, QA, deployment, version control, etc.
    • How will I be assigned work, tasks, tickets, bugs? What systems do you use (Basecamp, Jira, Pivotal, Github Issues, etc)? Who is involved in creating, QAing, and closing these task.
    • How do you support personal development? Do you subsidize training, books, online courses, or conferences?
  • Ask about expectations:
    • How will I receive feedback on my work? How do you measure a job well done?
    • In a perfect world, describe the type of contributions I’d be making after 3 months, 6 months, 1 year.
  • If a company has several open positions:
    • What’s the impetus behind these open positions? Is the company/team growing, has there been natural turnover, etc?
  • Learn about the overall state of a team/company.
    • Who are the most recent additions to the team? What qualities in a new hire have worked out well.
    • What have you, as a company, learned over the past year?
    • On that note, what are some goals for the team this year?
  • At an agency, or at a company with several clients/projects:
    • What projects are you most proud of and why? What technical decisions, risks, breakthroughs were involved on these projects?
  • Learn about the logistical or technical challenges members of the team are facing.
    • What’s the biggest challenge you are working on solving right now? What problem are you thinking about in traffic on your way home each evening this week?
  • This one can be risky but if you have a good feeling about your prospects, it can help seal the deal:
    • What is your biggest hesitation about bringing me onboard? What can I do to ease or address this concern?

Job boards:


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Here are some coding prompts I’ve completed. Overall, I enjoyed the interviews much more when I was asked to build something real (on JSBin, CodePen, or in my free time) as opposed to being quizzed in front of a whiteboard. I was also more successful in those situations.