Applying for jobs is awful. We often have to do it while working full-time, leaving us with almost two full-time jobs to manage. Each company has their own hiring process: their own applications, screeners, interviews. It's exhausting to even think about.
Despite the hard work, most applications are missing the two most important parts.
When we review your frontend developer application we're looking to answer two questions:
- What can you do
- What can you do for us.
Make sure to pause for a second there and re-read that. Let that soak in. Does your portfolio / resume / application answer these two questions?
The longer it takes for us to figure out the answer to these questions, the worse your odds get.
If we need to comb through your Github or LinkedIn profiles to see if you know React, that's not a good sign. If your resume doesn't explicitly call this info out, it's time to revisit it.
Let me be extremely clear: your resume does not speak for itself.
You need to help bring it to life. It's missing answers to the two key questions.
Let's take the two things one at a time.
What can you do?
When I'm reviewing your resume / application / portfolio, this is the first question I ask.
It's not complicated.
I'm looking to see where your skills are. I ask myself questions like:
- Have they kept up?
- Are they a beginner?
- Do they know a framework?
- Do they know any backend?
- Have they solved hard problems?
- Do they know accessibility at all?
- If they look senior or above, do they still write code?
- Do they know current CSS best practices? Flexbox? Grid? Tailwind?
- Can they build good UI without the help of something like Bootstrap?
It's no more complicated than that.
Your application or personal site should answer these basic questions within 30 seconds:
If your portfolio doesn't have direct sentences like that, it should. Speak clearly and directly to your actual skills. Don't just list them at the bottom of a "Skills" section with a bunch of icons.
Now that we have some sense of what you can do, we need to see what you can do for us.
What can you do for us
After I've established that you've got the skills we're looking for — solid core CSS / JS / a11y fundamentals — I want to know how you'll do on our team.
For this question, I'm asking things like:
- Can they work independently?
- Do they seem detail-oriented?
- Have they worked remotely before?
- Have they worked on a team before?
- Have they done code reviews before?
- Are they curious and self-starting?
- Do they know Git in a team environment?
- Is there any written communication to look at?
When you join our team, all these things will be critical to your success. You'll need to be a self-starter. An impeccable communicator. A team player. You'll need to be a master of Git. None of these are optional. All are absolutely essential to your success.
Same as with your hard skills (the "What can you do" questions above) you should spell these qualities out. These personal characteristics should come through loud and clear to me.
Behold the power and clarity of this simple paragraph:
"I'm a committed, attentive, empathetic, detail-oriented team player. I have x years of experience working remotely, and have worked as part of a team for y years."
I can tell that this paragraph would stand out among 99% of the applications I've seen.
No one writes with this clarity and assertiveness. You should.
Putting it all together
Before we finish up, let's combine the two pieces into one, just to see how powerful they are together.
"I build accessible, responsive, custom UI using modern techniques.
I'm a committed, attentive, empathetic, detail-oriented team player. I have x years of experience working remotely, and have worked as part of a team for y years."
No exaggeration: 99% of the portfolios I've seen would be better served by these two paragraphs than miles of scrolling content.
Having read dozens and dozens of applications, I can tell you that this paragraph would stand out.
No one writes with this clarity and assertiveness.