Apply For Programming Jobs You’re NOT QUALIFIED FOR

Written By John Sonmez

I often coach newbie Software Engineers straight out of coding bootcamps on how to get a job.

Usually, they spot the perfect job posting. They get delighted by that job and they are, indeed, a perfect match for the role.

HOWEVER… There is a small “BUT”.

The programming job posting need, at least, 5 years of programming experience.

A lot of my students almost give up when they see this. They feel like they'll never get a job.

This is when I present them with the 5-year-rule.

Today I'm going to tell you why you should apply for jobs that you're NOT QUALIFIED FOR and how it makes a difference.

My name is Jason Humphrey. I help bootcamp students get their first professional, high paying job right out of the gates.

Do you ever find yourself just kind of browsing the job market, looking for that next developer job? Or, maybe you're coming out of a bootcamp, and you're looking for that next job. And, as you're going through the job list and you're like, “Man, that's a really good job right there. I really want it. That is for me. It's everything I want to be doing,” to only scroll to the bottom and find out that they want five years of experience. And, as you're looking at it, you're just like, “Damn, it's never going to work. It's too damn bad.” It feels pretty terrible when you find that job that you just aren't qualified for it, or at least you think.

Today, I want to cover the five-year rule and tell you about it, because I get this question all the time about where or when should I apply or when shouldn't I apply when I see something I feel unqualified for?

Now, this five-year rule applies to everybody, but I'm going to be specifically talking to bootcamp students today because this is where I get the question asked most.

The five-year rule just states this, you apply to anything within five years of your experience level. What happens a lot is bootcamp students will come to me and go like, “Look, I've got zero. How am I qualified for a five-year job?” And, you're right. You're absolutely not.

I've opened up two wrecks on my team, where I opened up to mid-levels. And, so I was hoping that I could get two pretty high quality workers in to get a good amount of work done, work on the front-end, work on the back-end and kind of crank out the code base and get going.

No highly qualified mid-level developers were applying. What I was getting was I was getting a bunch of young associates applying, people who had like two years, maybe one year experience, applying to become a mid level developer and it just wasn't working out. I wasn't getting what I was hoping for because all of the mid-level developers wanted to become senior developers. I wasn't getting what I was looking for.

So, what I did was I dropped one position to be an associate or junior level developer, and I upped the other one to be a senior level developer. I was taking in resumes at the mid-level, but if any of those people applied when I dropped the one to a associates level, well now I have 200 resumes to instantly go back through. I don't have to wait two to three weeks.

You never truly know what's going on behind the scenes. You never know what type of talent they're getting in. So, what's holding you back from applying for something within a five-year span? So, I encourage you to always apply in that five-year mark, but that's not the only reason.

When you apply to these five years and under, you can get called in regardless of your experience, even if it's a higher level role because some of these jobs, especially startups, are willing to take a chance on a person that has the quality, the character, the work ethic over someone who has the experience sometimes. And, this happens because the type of culture they built, they're building for a specific person, not a specific output always.

It's important that not only you are applying because of the situation that might happen, but also because of the culture and the people they're looking for. I've seen it time and time again, and I encourage you to do it because you could go in there and impress them, and then what they'll ultimately do, potentially, if it's a five-year job, if they truly like you, they can always bring the role down.

It's harder to bring the role up and to add budget to a developer role, but it's a hell of a lot easier to bring the role down and to bring the budget down and pay less for someone you like and that you want to grow on your team.

Once you get past five is when you get to people really looking for a senior role. And, up generally has some type of leadership experience, some type of architecture experience, database management, something in there that's extra. And, that's where past that, I've seen a lot less callback rates from the people that have applied that I know have done that in the past.

So, that's why for a long time, I've been sticking with that five-year mark because as soon as you get past that five years, it drops off like crazy. And, I prefer to play the numbers game correctly in the sense of keep as high as I can for as long as I can, and that's that sweet spot right there.

I encourage you today to apply with anything within five years of your own experience because you never know what's going to happen. You never know what the situation is going to be or what they're truly looking for until you apply.