Looking to hire a recent coding school grad? 4 Colorado schools share their tips

by Jess Ryan
November 28, 2016

As coding schools and boot camps proliferate, the graduates they produce become part of an ever-growing talent pool of junior developers for companies to hire. But when supply falls short of demand, companies face challenges in drawing in the right hires, like making themselves attractive to job-seekers, figuring out which students might be a good fit and even determining how high a junior’s salary should be.

We caught up with four Colorado coding schools to learn how companies can strengthen their employer brand when seeking junior talent — and what to look for in candidates that graduate from a coding school.

 

Lia Janes, partnerships manager

What's the No. 1 thing employers can do to make themselves attractive to recent code school grads? Why?

Create an environment that is healthy for junior developers with access to mentorship and learning opportunities; investing in juniors and creating a space for them to learn and develop best practices will create a loyalty for longevity on your team. Juniors really want and need mentorship and growth opportunities as they learn how better to contribute to a company's dev team, create a sense of purpose and success.

Flexibility and value of work/life balance; career changers are your typical bootcamp graduate. These individuals are making a career change to not only love what they do, but invest in a sustainable career, which means there needs to be balance.

What's the most common mistake you see companies make in trying to appeal to junior developers?

Hiring juniors without understanding the time and resource investment. Some companies will hire juniors to save money, but not understand how to create a healthy environment for that junior — dedicated mentors, structured onboarding process, TDD, pairing etc.

What should employers look for in recent grads to determine whether they'd be a good fit?

Grit, dedication to learning outside of the bootcamp curriculum/projects, transferrable skills from past experiences (what else are they bringing to the table in addition to the technical skills?) and interpersonal skills.

Based on what your students learn, what kinds of companies would make for great employers?

Culture that values learning at all levels of experience.

Skillset ranges: while our students primarily learn Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, our students have done well on teams working in a variety of languages because they learn the fundamentals of programming and how to pick up other languages/technologies quickly. It's a more seamless transition to technologies most similar to Ruby and JavaScript, but we've seen students transition to .Net and Java as well. It just depends on opportunities a company provides for learning, the student's dedication to learning as well as their grit.

 

Brooke Smith, regional director

What's the No. 1 thing employers can do to make themselves attractive to recent code school grads? Why?

When employers demonstrate openness to nontraditional talent and backgrounds, they are widening their talent pool and increasing their chances of finding candidates that not only have the right skills for the role but also can add extra value. This mentality should, of course, apply to employers looking to hire from any program, school or university, but specific to graduates of programs like General Assembly, we see that a vast majority of our full-time students come to us with at least six years of real-world experience. While coding school graduates may be job-ready for junior-level roles, many come with past management experience and are experienced in diverse fields and industries. Additionally, it’s very clear that “career changers” are a highly motivated, passionate and driven group of self-selected individuals. It’s important for employers to understand the value-add of all of these attributes and transferable skills.

What's the most common mistake you see companies make in trying to appeal to junior developers?

There is no consistent definition of what “junior” means or even clear definitions of what degree of fluency junior-level candidates should have in their development skills. We see job descriptions for junior developers that are looking for 10+ years of experience and at the same time, hear from non-technical startup founders that are interested in hiring our graduates to work as a CTO and ship an entire product in a month — both of which are not a fit for our graduates. Understanding what it means to be junior-level and skills that our graduates have (along with the potential) is certainly a win-win for both sides of the employment equation.

What should employers look for in recent grads to determine whether they'd be a good fit?

It all comes back to skills. What are the skills necessary to perform in the role, how can that individual drive your team and organization forward and do they have the potential to build on top of those skills — and grow with your company?

Based on what your students learn, what kinds of companies would make for great employers?

What’s incredibly clear is that all companies — regardless of size, industry or location — have a need for tech and digital talent. The kinds of companies that make for great employers from a cultural perspective will vary from candidate-to-candidate. We see that companies that are growth-minded, are supportive of mentorship opportunities and have an established tech team are especially of interest to our graduates.

 

Scott Bowman, career services coordinator and Gary Bowley, director of career services

What's the No. 1 thing employers can do to make themselves attractive to recent code school grads? Why?

Partner with bootcamps and observe the final demo presentations of our students. You will be pleasantly surprised what they have to offer a great organization.

What's the most common mistake you see companies make in trying to appeal to junior developers?

Listing development experience as a requirement and underestimating the junior developer's strengths and experience in other capacities.

What should employers look for in recent grads to determine whether they'd be a good fit?

Resilience and career self-awareness. Are they able to stretch themselves in new directions and bounce back despite the learning curve? Are they focused as a professional and know what they want to achieve?

Based on what your students learn, what kinds of companies would make for great employers?

Great companies for our students include but are not limited to: SaaS, AaaS and startups to mid-sized companies that use the cutting edge technologies we teach; companies with a culture that welcomes junior developers; companies not so small that the junior developer would be entirely solo; companies that value extended skillsets beyond development; and companies with potential mentorship, onboarding and employee development opportunities. Most of all, we teach our students to be great learners and problem solvers with the ability to meet virtually any challenge.

 

Cole Frock, director of education

What's the No. 1 thing employers can do to make themselves attractive to recent code school grads? Why?

One of the most important factors in attracting bootcamp graduates that is commonly overlooked by potential employers is the company’s culture. Many employers tend to evaluate a potential candidate’s personality to determine if he or she would be a good fit for the team but don’t go into much detail regarding their own culture.

Many graduates are looking for a company that provides stability, which is a given, but they are also looking for a more modern workplace. By a modern workplace, I mean one in which being able to express yourself is encouraged via activities and company-sponsored events. Providing flexible hours and an open PTO system or communicating the lack of micromanagement promotes a more self-motivated employee. This style is moving away from the “old school” environment which encourages isolation to an Agile environment that practices paired programming or being assigned to a team with clear and concise weekly goals.

What's the most common mistake you see companies make in trying to appeal to junior developers?

Junior developers are made up of a very diverse group of individuals that is very hard to target from a marketing perspective. Many times, companies are under the impression that these employees are younger and more interested in fun over financial security. Many of our graduates have a good amount of industry experience, even if it’s outside of the IT industry. They have certain expectations of their employer, and if they see pictures of constant happy hours or people consuming alcohol at their desk, then it creates mixed emotions regarding the company as a whole. By assuming that all junior level developers are recent college graduates or younger in general, companies can quickly become unappealing to many who feel their priorities may not be aligned with the company’s.

What should employers look for in recent grads to determine whether they'd be a good fit?

To believe that there is a system that can dictate whether an employee will be a good fit out of the gate is fairly impractical. Most companies tell me that being a good cultural fit is the most important thing to them in an interview, but I’m not sure that I completely buy into this notion.

When it comes to programming, employees should not only be able to demonstrate a base level of competency regarding the languages and frameworks they list on their resume but also be able to show the ability to quickly adapt and learn more.

Many bootcamps teach a certain technology stack, which effectively instills the confidence to get a job. However, in reality, most companies have a very different stack or even proprietary technologies tailored to their specific needs. If a candidate can show the ability to think like a programmer and convey confidence that he or she can self-teach or has the drive to take on the challenge of learning at a fast pace with little assistance, I believe that these types are best-suited for the job.  

Based on what your students learn, what kinds of companies would make for great employers?

Based on our technology stack, our students tend to find employment at what could be considered medium-to-large companies. This is mainly due to the fact that our program emphasizes Java for the back-end language, which is not commonly a programming language used by the majority of startup companies. However, we have graduates currently working at a wide range of companies, including startups, as we also teach front-end technologies based in and around JavaScript. Furthermore, it’s fairly well known in the programming community that Microsoft’s C# was based on Java, and therefore, students also work in many .NET roles around the country.

In the long run, students in our program can opt to focus on either the front-end or the back-end. However, what we typically see are students that want to focus on the object-oriented programming tracts. Therefore, companies that utilize either .NET or Java typically make for the best employers as our students come in ready to hit the ground running.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photos provided by featured companies.

Have a tip or know of a company worth covering? Email us.

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