How to spot bootcamp grad resumes

When I first became a manager, my boss told me, “We just interviewed this person and they were great. We’re going to hire them under you”. I was pretty excited at first, but after I looked at their resume, I realized that they didn’t actually have any professional engineering experience. The lack of experience wasn’t the problem—the problem was that they were paid more than they should, especially compared to their peers. Thus, I’ve written down some heuristics on how to spot bootcamp grad resumes so that hiring managers and recruiters can hire them at the correct level.

Is their last experience an open source “project”?

If you click on the candidate’s “experience”, does it link to a project or a site that is open source, but is built to look like a company? Do you see a GitHub icon at the top or bottom of the page? Very few companies’ core products are open source , and the ones that are, you’ve probably heard of. The fact that the candidate’s latest experience is open source is a smell that this experience is not professional. Look deeper and look at whether the project is hiring, the about us, whether it has a Wikipedia, Crunchbase, or similar article written about it to see whether this experience was professional.

Contributing to open source projects is a great way to build skills and resumes, but as a hiring manager, you want to be able to discern whether a candidate’s experience is professional. Many bootcamp projects are resume builders designed to look like companies. Be wary of projects listed in the experience section as they may not always be professional experience.

Note that this heuristic doesn’t apply to projects outside of “experience”. Projects listed elsewhere such as a “projects” section generally convey non-professional, passion projects.

Is their last experience a devtool?

Recently, bootcamp candidates’ team projects tend to be devtools—is the above company an open-source devtool? As my bootcamp graduate friend told me, instead of building a useless beer or wine app, the bootcamp grads would at least have dove deep into a technology such as React, Storybook, or HTTP request testing when working on a devtool. I personally don’t buy this argument since you don’t need deep understanding of the technologies you are using to be a great product engineer.

Does their last experience list contributors?

Another heuristic that the experience is a bootcamp project is that you’ll usually see a list of contributors on the project site. I personally don’t see the point of this—since this project is usually open source, you can go to the GitHub project and see the list of contributors through GitHub’s UI. Even for my open source projects and contributions, I don’t care much about the list of contributors as the list becomes insanely long and many people are anonymous. For professional companies, you almost never see a list of contributors.

Is there last experience at a bootcamp?

Many bootcamps have fellowship programs where if a candidate can’t find a job or doesn’t want to find a job, they’ll work for a bootcamp, usually the one they graduated from. Here, there will be significant title inflation—engineers will often have “Senior” or “Fellow” titles, which do not map at all to industry standards. A bootcamp’s “Senior” is going to be an industry standard “Junior”—three months is simply not enough time to reach Senior.

Do they have a “Projects” section?

As mentioned above, most bootcamps have team projects, which grads then add to their resume. Both bootcamp graduates and junior engineers tend to have a “Projects” section, but many bootcamp graduates tend to not show their bootcamp experience as many feel there is bias against them. Take a look at these projects and see whether it’s a solo or group project.

Showing the projects is totally fine if you have no other experience, but it doesn’t make sense if you have professional experience. Side projects are generally frowned upon at companies (e.g. they want you working at their company only) and may cause legal problems (e.g. potential conflict of interest). If you have professional experience, I don’t recommend adding any side projects unless it’s revenue-generating, VC funded, or has decent traction (e.g. has a bunch of GitHub stars).

If you’re a bootcamp graduate or junior engineer, I don’t recommend adding projects to your resume unless you add tests and the project is actually live. I’ve never seen a bootcamp grad whose projects have tests, which would immediately move them to the top of my list. I also want to see what you’ve created, but I am not going to pull your repository locally, so please host your creation. GitHub Pages is free!

Training a Discerning Eye

Hopefully these heuristics help you spot a bootcamp graduate and allow you to hire them at the appropriate level. This doesn’t mean that their worse candidates or that they should be avoided—I’ve hired and worked with many bootcamp graduates that were great software engineers. Instead, the only problem I’ve experienced is when bootcamp graduates aren’t properly placed in a hiring pipeline.

NOTE: This article has had many revisions as many phrases sounded anti-bootcamp graduate. Please contact me on Twitter if you have any constructive criticisms as this is not the case!

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Jonathan Ong

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