How to Stand Out During Your Coding Bootcamp Application
How to Stand Out During Your Coding Bootcamp Application
By Joseph Rauch, writer at SkilledUp
If you enroll in a coding bootcamp — an intensive eight- to 12-week program designed to take you from coding newbie to hirable programmer — you’ll be on a fast track to a rewarding and high-paying programming career, where you can help close the vast coding skills gap and develop apps and websites.
But that’s only if you can make it past the application, which ranges from a simple phone call and payment to requiring an essay submission, interview, and coding test. More selective bootcamps will require at least one of the latter, and will always take into account your online presence.
To help you dominate these application processes, SkilledUp reached out to dozens of bootcamp staff and asked them what helps applicants make the cut. Keep reading for actionable tips so you can get into the best bootcamps.
Have a Stellar Online Presence
LinkedIn — All of the bootcamp administrators SkilledUp spoke to said they checked candidates’ LinkedIn profiles and general online presence before accepting them. In fact, the quality of your online presence can make or break that decision.
This means it’s not just enough to have a LinkedIn profile. It should be tight and easy to scan.
“I’ve seen a lot of beginners write paragraphs explaining their skills and experiences,” said Chris Beck, lead mentor at online coding bootcamp Bloc. “Do the recruiter a favor and create a list of skills in your profile’s summary section so the recruiter can quickly scan them.”
Even if you are applying to a coding bootcamp that doesn’t require basic coding skills from the start, you should still make your LinkedIn profile complete yet scannable by citing skills up front. Recruiters expect the same from your paper résumé.
GitHub — If you have previous coding projects, show them off on GitHub. Think of it as the programming version of your LinkedIn page.
“Make sure your projects are named appropriately and that they each have a README that is clear, articulate, error-free, and professional,” Beck said. “Just like a LinkedIn profile, make sure your contact info and photo are professional and up-to-date.”
Other Platforms — None of the administrators SkilledUp spoke to mentioned other portfolio platforms or social media platforms on their list of places to check. Nonetheless, having a significant following on Twitter or Instagram will certainly not hurt you, especially if you frequently post about programming.
Graphic and web design work is also worth showing off on sites such as Behance, Dribble or Cargo.
Show Your Passion with an Essay or Short Answer
“Passion makes a huge difference,” Mimi Bouhelal, program manager of RocketU, told SkilledUp. “We can see the effort reflected in the essays.”
SkilledUp also collected essay and short answer samples from the Epicodus and Ironhack bootcamps. All of the accepted essays and short answers had three elements:
- Demonstration of passion for coding and noncoding related work
- Demonstration of soft skills relevant to bootcamps and programming work, such as leadership, teamwork, ability to adapt quickly, etc.
The content is most important, but your prose should at least demonstrate that you can communicate and care enough to edit your submissions.
“A strong applicant gives answers about why they are applying,” Bouhelal said. “They use good grammar and writing, and show they can express themselves and be team players.”
Click here to see the complete bootcamp essay and short answer samples and tips from SkilledUp
Try a Video as Well, or be Prepared for Video Interview
Some bootcamp applications will require a personal essay and video, or just the video. Or perhaps they’ll suggest a video submission without requiring it, in which case you should definitely do it. In fact, some coding bootcamps such as Coding Campus prefer videos over essays.
“We’ve found that video is a much better way of getting to know applicants, especially for getting an idea about their ‘soft skills,’” said Michael Zaro, CEO of Coding Campus.
But it’s not just any kind of video. Bootcamp administrators such as Zara prefer video interviews where candidates aren’t merely talking to a camera and reading from a script.
“To dig into any questions from their initial application, get some data on an applicant’s soft skills, and to see if they are a good personality fit, we hold separate video interviews with each applicant,” Zara said. “Presentation ability isn’t a bad thing, but we’re trying to get at their ‘real self,’ so a live interview is much more informative than a rote video where applicants try to put their ‘best self’ forward.”
This isn’t the case with most coding bootcamp applications, but you should be prepared if you want to enroll at a place like Coding Campus where recruiters value videos and video interviews.
The Value of a Good In-Person Interview
SkilledUp spoke with Startup Institute, a selective bootcamp that partners with startups so their graduates have access to interesting tech opportunities. Their staff stressed the importance of the interview.
“We’d rather have conversations with the applicants themselves to get a sense of who they really are, and how Startup Institute might help them to accomplish their goals,” a Startup Institute staffer said.
In-person interviews are also the best opportunity to show your personality, which is something bootcamps such as Startup Institute will want to see.
“Startup Institute is not a bootcamp focused exclusively on skills: We screen for cultural fit as well as technical skills,” a Startup staffer said. “A candidate may be incredibly talented on the technical side, but if that candidate were to be hired by one of our partners only to exhibit a resistance to change, single-mindedness, a poor attitude, or egomania, it hurts our reputation and the employability of all of our alumni and students, in turn.”
Interviews are an opportunity to show how you think as well, something employers value. You can do this whether they ask you questions about yourself or past projects.
“By listening to the candidate describe how they built it and the challenges involved, we get a better sense of their thought process and how they might tackle future projects” said Michael Nutt, co-founder and chief technical officer of email marketer Movable Ink, which has hired bootcamp grads from Fullstack Academy.
All of the bootcamp staff SkilledUp spoke to agreed that demonstrating an impressive thought process was actually more important than getting 100 percent on a coding challenge.
Finally, don’t forget to bring your paper résumé to the interview.
Treat it Like a College Application
Coding bootcamps may be designed, in part, to give you the skills you won’t get from traditional colleges, but the application process is quite similar. Recruiters want to see that you worked as hard as you possibly could on the application. This means a passionate essay with no typos, ample preparation for interviews and tests, and a polished online presence.
Don’t worry. You won’t have to take a bootcamp SAT or send in your grades again. Just work hard, follow these steps, and ensure you’re applying to the program that suits you best.