Land Your Dream Tech Interviews: Insights for Aspiring Software Engineers

Unpacking Key Questions and Strategies for Success for Junior Software Engineers
December 9, 2023
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Welcome to our blog, "Navigating the Tech Job Landscape," a thorough exploration of essential questions and customized strategies for software engineers derived from insights shared during our LinkedIn Audio Event on 12/5/2023. Hosted by Jean Lee and Soyoung Lee, Founders of Exaltitude, these monthly LinkedIn Masterclasses delve into various facets of the tech industry. We trust you'll discover valuable insights from today's discussions and encourage you to join our next event to pose your own questions!

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Showing the Impact of Your Work: Effectively Promote Yourself

Question: While stating the facts, I do not have the percentage of increase in sales or something as a project was launched last year. I can say that we had about 250 customers trying out the product I designed, but it was still in the beta phase. 

That's okay. People often focus too much on specific numbers they CAN’T get, but there are various ways to quantify your achievements. You can mention the number of customers impacted, cost savings, time improvements, or even survey results on customer satisfaction. In the Ultimate Resume Handbook, I discuss 12 different ideas for quantifying results and your impact. It’s only $20, I recommend you get the book if you’re struggling to quantify your work. 

Remember, there are multiple ways to showcase your impact. The key is to control the narrative and focus on the numbers or impacts you do have rather than what you don't.

Question: Are AI skills essential post-COVID for a future in the tech field?

I recently created a video on my YouTube channel, sharing seven tips for software engineers in their 20s. While it's important to focus on learning essential technologies like Python, DeFi, or React when starting out, these technical skills are primarily entry-level requirements. Once you're in the field, what sets you apart as an exceptional engineer goes beyond coding. It involves collaborating with others effectively, articulating your ideas, and demonstrating the significance of your work. Answering questions like why your project matters and why others should care becomes vital. 

Developing these interpersonal and leadership skills is key to standing out, especially in the evolving landscape of AI, where showcasing the impact of your work becomes increasingly important.

Choosing Your Path: Entry-Level Roles in Software Development

Question: What is a truly entry-level role in this economy? 

Yep, that's a question many folks ask a bunch. You see, there's a lot of mix-up between Junior and entry-level roles in tech. People can't agree on the terms, causing confusion. Some companies use "entry-level," but they really mean a Junior role. 

Junior roles could be 0-5 five years of experience. Considering a career of about 30 years—if people retire in their 50’s, which is a bit of a stretch. But let’s say a career is 30 years. Then it’d make sense the first five years are somewhat junior. 

When job hunting, many think "entry-level" means fresh out of school, but there's not a clear consensus on what is entry and what is junior. Different companies use different terms, and there's no universal definition. It depends on who you ask.

Question: What is the lowest paying, easiest to get, least competitive job title in software development?

Great question! Everyone wants an easy-to-get, well-paying job, right? However, due to the current recession and changes in the tech industry with layoffs, finding something “easy” might be challenging. Some less competitive software engineering roles, like testing or DevOps, could be a good starting point. But if you do go that route, be cautious, as they're on the list of jobs that AI could replace soon. It might be a good short-term bet for gaining experience or getting your foot in the door, but long-term success depends on your goals and aspirations.

Question: What about getting your dream tech job at a high level without starting from the bottom?

I don't think it works that way; it's like trying to skip elementary school and go straight to getting a Ph.D. There's no easy shortcut for that, sorry. 

Starting your own company could be an option, but getting funding is tough for people with no experience. I don't think it's a common thing, especially in today's economy. It might have been different when money was flowing more freely a few years ago. Sorry. 

Cracking the Code: Connecting with Recruiters and Hiring Managers


How would you recommend we connect with recruiters or hiring managers to get noticed more? I tried reaching out via LinkedIn, DMS, or email the word email directly but still haven't heard back despite updating my resume, projects, and LinkedIn page. We'd love to hear any tips on how you go about the tech job search or getting more responses back from recruiters.

You know, let me share some realistic expectations about reaching out to people. Usually, the response rate is pretty low, like in the single digits. So, hearing back from around 10 people out of 100 messages is normal. If it's less than 10, there might be room for improvement. 

Often, people make the common mistake of just saying, "Hey, hire me!" without checking if there are actual job openings. First, see if they have open roles by searching or looking up the company. Prioritize contacting those who have job listings. For example, if you message me and ask for a job, I can’t help you because I’m not hiring.

Also, personalizing messages can help, but it takes time. So, find the right balance between customization and the number of messages you send. Sending one highly customized message a day might not be efficient, but some customization while sending several messages could work well.

Another handy trick I use is going to the profile of the person you want to message. Download their profile as a PDF, scrape the whole page, and then let ChatGPT generate a message for you. It's a quick way to get a custom message in less than five minutes. Give it a shot if you want to connect with more people on LinkedIn.


I did not graduate from college. I’ve listed my major and years of attendance on my resume, and put that section below work history, but I’ve listed my major and years of attendance on my resume, and put that section below work history, but Is there a better way to handle this on the resume? Should I explicitly clarify that during a first phone call with a tech company recruiter? Do I have to bring it up explicitly if I’m not asked when I do not state a degree on my resume?

I checked his profile; he listed the school and major correctly. If you don't graduate, mention your major and year, skipping BS or MS. 

Dropping out of school is usually not an issue. Consider Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman. They’re dropouts, and nobody cares. In Silicon Valley, there's a joke that dropping out is a founder prerequisite.

Now, addressing the core question: insecurity. Many feel like they need to address their insecurities with recruiters. But you can flip the script—highlight strengths and only discuss your weaknesses if asked.

In reality, most won't care about graduation status, especially with industry experience.

If you're not getting responses, it's likely another issue with your resume. Learn to spot red flags with my book, Ultimate Resume Handbook. It covers common misconceptions and errors in your resume.

Question: Do you have any advice on how to obtain a referral from a contact that you have not spoken to? 

Sure, it's a common question. People often say you should build a connection first and chat with them, but I prefer being direct. If I see a job opening at a company, I reach out and ask for a referral upfront. It saves time, and if they say no, I can ask someone else. Some people like this approach, while others don't. The worst outcome is a simple no, so being direct works best for me. 

How to Land Fellowships & Internships

Question: Could you provide information on fellowships offered by companies specifically aimed at supporting underrepresented individuals?

You’ll need to Google that because each company has its unique offerings. Many major companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, typically have programs like that. Starting with larger companies would be a good approach. 

Question: I'm a second-year student trying to find an internship this upcoming summer. What are some tips and advice for that? 

As a second-year student, it might be challenging to find internships because many companies don't typically hire second-year students. However, this period is crucial for your future career because it will determine what type of internship you’ll get in junior year, which will determine the full-time role you land after graduating.

Large companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft often have programs for university or student internships. While these programs are competitive, landing one can make a significant impact on your career. Attend university recruiting fairs and conferences, talk to recruiters, and submit your resume. 

If you can't secure an internship at a big company, consider reaching out to small startups for potential unpaid opportunities. Even unpaid experiences can shape your future internships and career path.

Diving into Specializations: Blockchain, AI, and ML Projects

Question: What projects, in your opinion, as someone's resume would stand out as a potential hire for your company? For example, full-stack engineer passionate about blockchain and AI/ML. 

It's fantastic that you're working on projects, and we always recommend volunteering for hands-on experience if you have no prior experience. It’s the best way to build up your resume. Now, the next step is deciding what kind of volunteering experience or projects to take on. 

Start by examining job descriptions in your field. For instance, in a search for blockchain engineer positions, note the technologies mentioned, such as Solidity, Ethers, DeFi, and EVM. Look at multiple job descriptions, preferably around 12+, to identify recurring keywords. 

When I looked up 2, I saw they both asked for DeFi, so maybe that’s a good one to work on. I talk more extensively about how to find your specific keywords in my book, Ultimate Resume Handbook. Go check out the chapter titled “Developing a Strategy for Targeted Resumes” for detailed guidance and ChatGPT prompts you can you.

These keywords become your focus areas. Align your projects with these keywords to enhance your resume. 

Additionally, be prepared to discuss these projects in interviews. This approach works for various roles—just replace "blockchain" with your specific field, like AI or machine learning.

Thanks for Attending the Talk & Reading

In conclusion, breaking into the tech industry involves a combination of technical skills and effective communication. By understanding industry nuances, leveraging relevant projects, and honing interpersonal skills, aspiring software engineers can navigate the complex job landscape and enhance their chances of success. Remember, it's not just about getting the job but showcasing your unique contributions in the dynamic world of technology.

We trust you gained valuable insights from December's discussions and welcome your participation in our January event to ask your own questions!

Exaltitude newsletter is packed with advice for navigating your engineering career journey successfully. Sign up to stay tuned!

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