There are some big questions for anyone who wants to be a web developer. Front-end Nanodegree student Jaime P. recently asked us:
“What aspects are better to help you stand out in an interview for today’s web market? Creativity or experience? Development or Design? Own projects or work in companies? Language expertise or enthusiasm?”
This is a tough question, and one that I don’t think I can answer all the way. So, I asked around the Udacity office. Here’s what our front-end web developers think as they interview candidates for front-end roles:
Jacques Favreau – Lead Front-End Web Developer
Passion for what you do without saying “I’m passionate about what I do.” It comes in a lot of forms: everything from what projects people do in their free time, to getting excited about finding a new or better way to solve a problem they’ve been working on in the back of their heads.
Experience is necessary for more senior positions, but I’d take an enthusiastic junior over an “Eh, I do this because it’s my job” engineer any day of the week.
Different problems will require different skillsets, so I tend to look for people who, even if they don’t know something off the top of their heads, are willing, able, and excited to learn about it. Web tech moves quickly, so being flexible and — perhaps more importantly — interested in changing tech is a big thing that makes you stand out when we’re hiring. One of the ways that it’s obvious somebody likes to try new things out, is when they use them in work — either professionally, or on personal projects.
For a front end position, the resume actually counts in an interesting way: It’s not necessarily all about the content, but also the user experience of the document. Thinking “Man, somebody is going to read this; I should work to make sure that it does what they need it to do.” is actually a pretty good indicator of how often, as an employee, they would think of the users. It should be noted, this doesn’t necessarily mean “beautiful modern super cool design.” I’ve seen a great resume in a .txt file, and many really poor ones that had a lot of flashy design elements and typography.
Nick Artman – Lead Front-End Web Developer
Nick agreed that enthusiasm and passion for web development make candidates stand out.
Enthusiasm is #1. Passion for learning/personal growth accompanied by recent demonstrations of executing on it is #2. This is most true at startups, small companies, and highly functioning large companies like Google. Side projects are also super useful.
Mike Wales – Web Development Curriculum Manager
When interviews candidates, he’s wants to find out if you “live and breathe web dev.”
For me, enthusiasm is #1, passion, and having a “finger on the pulse of what’s going on” is. When I interview someone, some of my most important questions are:
1. What kind of blogs or websites do you read? Name some influential people you follow on Twitter on LinkedIn. If you can’t tell me a few of the obvious WebDev-related blogs or people, you’re not as interested in this field as I want you to be.
2. Side-projects. I want you to live and breath web dev.
3. What are you most excited about coming down the pipeline in the next few years (or even that have changed over the past few years). Once again, that’s a passion indicator. Recently, if you don’t mention Web Components, device access (accelerometer, camera, GPS, etc) or all the COOL STUFF we can now do in a web app that we couldn’t do a year ago, you’re probably not as passionate as I want you to be.
Beyond that, the rest of the questions are usually geared towards:
1. Specific items on your resume
2. Culture fit
3. Critical thinking
4. Demonstration of technical skills
James Williams – Front-End Course Developer
James chimed in that enthusiasm can even give junior candidates an edge over senior candidates.
Your own projects have an edge because you can often explain the details really well without the risk of divulging privileged information.
Lack of enthusiasm can tank and has tanked an otherwise very qualified candidate. There are other times when enthusiasm has made up for a lower skill level.
The Bottom Line
So, what’s the answer to Jaime’s question? The world of web development is awesome, so follow your passions and build side projects that you’re proud to show off. Stay up-to-date and let your enthusiasm for web development help you stand out!