Few people look forward to a job interview but everyone has to do them. Sometimes the anxiety involved comes from the need for steady income or the opportunities that come with a position. For many job seekers, the problem can also stem from discomfort in talking about their accomplishments or the test-like scenarios that come with interviewing.
With 6.7% of the US population unemployed, the job market is competitive. Tech jobs are no exception. Even if companies have been able to retain employees, few companies feel confident enough to continue with growth plans or hire additional employees with the global economy at the mercy of COVID-19.
At Rithm, not only do you get coding training, but you also get the support of a Career Coach. Zach DeRossette helps Rithm students prepare for their job search and beyond. We’ll take a look at what the job search looked like for Rithm grads before the pandemic and compare it with what students are dealing with now.
With almost a year of remote work and virtual learning under their belts, Zach and the Rithm team have helped students adjust to the changing environment.
Rithm Before Covid
If you’re beginning to explore coding bootcamps and a possible career change, there are some unique aspects of the process you’ll want to understand.
Rithm sets a high bar for its students. They strongly recommend that each student has coding experience and a full-time commitment. If you’re like many people today and have almost no formal coding experience, there’s good news. Rithm offers several free courses through their website to help students get started.
Students must also be able to commit to the full 16-week program Rithm offers. Typically, Rithm runs their programs in person on the Rithm campus. But since March 2020, Rithm made the shift to remote working and learning like most of the world.
This applies to the job search process for Rithm students as well. Typically, Zach (Rithm’s career coach mentioned above), starts meeting with students in the final weeks of their program. He conducts basic job prep with the cohort as a group and also schedules individual meetings with each student.
An Average Job Search in Tech
As usual, it begins with a resume and cover letter. One of the first things Zach does with students is review and update their resume and review the structure of a good cover letter. Once this is ready to go, students start applying.
On average, Rithm students will send out 10-15 job applications per day during their search. Because Rithm builds in time for this at the end of their program, students can make the job search their full-time job. Zach helps funnel jobs that align with students’ interests as well.
The rest of the process is fairly standard. If a company takes an interest in a student, they’ll request a phone interview. This is typically followed by a technical skills assessment and/or whiteboarding exercise. If you’re not familiar with the whiteboard exercise, check out the basics here. The technical round is followed by the final interview.
If you’ve been through interview processes before, you’ll know that every stage can bring on a new bout of anxiety and preparation. In his role as Rithm’s career coach, Zach works with each student to manage that anxiety and offer strategies, information, and practice to prepare.
The time students typically receive a job offer can vary. Typically, Rithm students receive a job offer anytime between the end of the interview and the next two weeks. Obviously, that’s not a guarantee, but it is a quick turn around. Of course, the length of each student’s job search period also varies.
How Covid Changed the Job Search
As mentioned earlier, Rithm moved from its on-campus environment to a fully virtual environment. Zach now conducts his seminars with the Rithm cohort virtually and meets 1 on 1 with students via video calls.
Now, what you really want to know. Are there still jobs? Is it worth it to make the career change now? Of course, that depends on your individual circumstances, but on the whole, the answer seems to be yes.
While we can’t offer a lot of hard data about Rithm students’ job searches, Zach shared some of the trends he’s noticed in the last 10 months. Early in the pandemic, Rithm grads experienced longer job searches. Zach attributed this to some companies initiating early hiring freezes and a few companies downsizing. This flooded the applicant pool in spring 2020.
While the process might have been prolonged, all of Rithm’s spring graduates have been hired. Generally, it seems companies have adjusted to the new normal and the hiring processes are picking back up. Rithm grads saw more interview offers in December 2020 and January 2021.
As you can imagine, students have been interviewing remotely online since the pandemic began. While some processes aren’t affected by this limitation, the whiteboard exercises used by many companies have been. Rithm alumni have experienced a wide variety of whiteboard equivalent assessments since the pandemic began.
Many companies are using “code together” tools such as VSCode’s sharing option, which essentially allows the interviewer and the interviewee to edit the same document. Others are using Zoom’s screen sharing option to watch interviewees code.
Other companies have eliminated the traditional live whiteboard exercise entirely. Instead, they opt to review code the candidate has already written or assign a take home coding challenge for the candidate to complete. Essentially, it depends on the company and what they hope to learn from the candidate in the interview. Be flexible and be prepared!
How Rithm’s Adapted
For the most part, Zach feels his role as the career coach hasn’t changed. The focus of his work with students has shifted slightly, but he still helps with resumes, cover letters, and interview prep. It’s how students accomplish that and the type of support they need that has shifted.
Since the pandemic began, a major focus of Zach’s individual work with students going through the job search is personal well-being. The Rithm schedule can be exhausting and intensive, and Rithm’s recent cohorts have been attending bootcamp while living through a global pandemic and massive political and social upheaval in the US.
Zach makes checking in with students personally a priority as they won’t be up for the rigors of the job search if their mental health is suffering. Rudimentary psychology shows us that we can’t function at a higher level if our basic needs aren’t being met. Zach reminds students to take care of themselves in order to maintain the pace that Rithm demands—taking time to get outside, exercise, and do things they enjoy.
Using your Network
Some people love to network, some people hate it. Regardless of your preference, it’s a necessary part of any job search.
The same is true for Rithm students searching during COVID. In our discussions with Zach, he estimated that more than half of the interviews that led to job offers came from networking. If you’re used to networking at a cocktail hour, you’re going to have to shift your mindset a little.
All networking today will be virtual. It might be attending a hackathon or through connections in the Rithm alumni network. It could also be through people met during Rithm’s company projects experience.
It’s important to remember there are still ways to network and utilize your existing network during the COVID era. It might look different but it’s still as important as before.
Another important step is how Rithm prepares students for their Zoom interviews. While much of the same advice still applies over a video call, some things simply don’t transfer. As Zach said, “You can’t say hi to the receptionist on a Zoom interview.”
Zach also spends time in practice interviews working on “eye contact.” Via video chat, eye contact doesn’t translate, so students practice looking directly into the camera while Zach run’s a practice interview. Additionally, they test drive a professional interview backdrop. With many folks sharing non-traditional workspaces during the pandemic, making sure you have a good background and audio (no echo!) is essential to a smooth interview.
In the end, Rithm is still supporting their students through the job search. It might be a little more challenging and requires some extra effort, but the support is there. And students are still getting placements, which is good news for anyone thinking about a career change.
If you’re interested in learning more about Rithm, you can find more info on their website.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.