Are you currently looking for a software developer job in London? The scene is booming at the moment, but I still encounter people who have trouble when looking for new roles. So I thought it worthwhile to pass on some of the things I’ve learned whilst navigating this exciting job market.
Whether you’re looking to move from permanent to contract work, or just trying to land your first developer role, there are some things you need to know about getting a programming job in London.
Note: I’ve written this guide with the London job-market in mind, but the principles and methods I’m sharing with you here can be employed regardless of where you live.
About a year ago I made the jump from permanent employee to self-employed contractor.
From this experience I’ve learnt a lot about the process of getting new job offers. I’ve boiled it down to a few steps which allow me to cut through all the crap and get direct access to the best recruiters and roles, saving hundreds of hours of job search time.
It wasn’t an easy start, but hopefully the insider knowledge I’m sharing with you today will save you the 100+ hours I spent learning this stuff.
Contract vs Permanent
First, what’s the difference between permanent and contract?
The traditional way companies employ staff. They hire you and you work for them until you quit or get fired. You get paid a yearly salary as well as a number of bonuses such as an allocated amount of holiday and sick leave.
- More stable (guaranteed income, notice period if they need to let you go).
- Company provides all the equipment you need (laptop, monitor etc…).
- Opportunity to move up within the organisation.
- Build long term relationships with colleagues.
- Receive sick & holiday leave.
- Pension plan.
- Typically less flexible (you can’t just take two months off to work on your own projects or travel).
- May get repetitive/boring.
- Locked down to living in one area.
- Holiday time may be subject to approval of your manager.
This is where you get hired for a set period of time (typically 3 – 6 months) to work on a specific project. You only get paid for the days you work.
- More freedom to take time off during contracts.
- Meet more people and grow your network quicker.
- Gain experience in more companies and sectors in less time.
- Typically higher pay.
- Equipment/services you buy for work purposes can be tax deductible.
- Experience setting up and running a company.
- Higher risk (may not have work for a month or two).
- Need to setup a business and manage your company finances.
- Overhead cost of hiring accountants and buying insurance.
- Need to buy your own equipment (laptop, monitor etc…).
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both types of employment. You need to decide which one you prefer based on your personal values. Personally, I prefer contracting because I can spend time on my business when I am between contracts.
In London, there are hundreds of companies desperate for good permanent developers. Getting a contract position is a bit more challenging, but it’s worth it in my opinion.
Finding a Job
Once you have decided if you prefer permanent or contract, this is how you find your dream job.
First, update your LinkedIn profile. I know it sounds obvious but it is the go-to place for recruiters to find you and see all of your work history and education in one place. Make sure you have listed every job you have ever worked and all of your education and achievements.
LinkedIn recommendations will give you credibility, so try and get as many as you can.
Here is a tip for getting recommendations: Instead of asking people to write you one, write them a recommendation. My experience is that they will typically write one for you in return without you having to ask.
Next, update or create your CV.
Pay special attention to detail. Ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors and that all the content is laid out evenly. You will be surprised how many people submit CVs riddled with spelling errors and poor grammar. Having a really well groomed CV that looks good will certainly make you stand out by demonstrating good attention to detail (very important trait of a good developer).
Keep your CV short and concise and avoid repetition at all costs. I would recommend a maximum of 2 A4 sides. You can play around with the margins in Microsoft Word if you require more space.
Make sure you have an editable Microsoft Word version of your CV. Recruiters won’t use it unless they can remove every shred of detail that could be used to identify you, as they (understandably) don’t want their clients contacting you directly.
Once your CV is done, it’s time to “put yourself out there”, as the cliché goes.
Create a profile and upload your CV to the following sites:
Once done, you can look through the different sites and apply to the jobs that appeal to you.
You can look through those sites and apply to some of the jobs listed. However, don’t get too attached to any specific job listings. My experience is that either things move really really quickly, or the listings are fake and created by the recruiters to lure in candidates. That doesn’t matter because your goal is to get your details on as many recruiter databases as possible.
Handling Phone Calls
Make sure your phone is working. (Again, sounds obvious… but you’d be surprised at how things like bad signal can be overlooked and result in you not receiving calls.)
Now that you have created your CV, uploaded it to the job site and applied to some job listings, you can expect some calls.
Recruiters are trying to reach potential candidates while they are away from their desk, so they will call most frequently between the following times:
- 08:00 – 09:00 (Before work)
- 12:00 – 13:00 (Lunch)
- 17:00 – 20:00 (After work)
Try your best to be available with your phone and laptop/notebook to take notes down at these times.
Good vs Bad Recruiters
Overall, many recruiters have a bad reputation amongst the developer community.
This is probably because — as with any industry — there are bad recruiters out there.
They get paid on commission, so they’ll sometimes try and scare you into lowering your expectation or putting yourself forward for a job that may not be what you are looking for.
This perception is unfair to the many great recruiters out there who will work hard to place you in the position you are looking for.
The key is to filter out the bad ones and focus your time speaking to the good ones.
I keep a spreadsheet of all the recruiters I work with, and I use it to track the number of jobs they put me forward for, how many interviews I have, and how many jobs they placed me in.
I also rate each recruiter on a scale of 1 – 5 based on how positive they are about placing me in the type of job I am looking for.
Here are some signs of a good recruiter:
- They have placed you in a role before.
- They take the time to learn about your history.
- They have a good understanding of the industry (knowing technologies etc…).
- They invite you to events and meet-ups.
- They are encouraging about what you are looking for.
I have something I call my Sales Pitch.
It’s 1 page Google Doc with a list of bullet points in chronological order describing my work history and achievements.
If a recruiter calls and asks me to give them a bit of background about myself, I use this list to give them a brief run down of how I got to where I am today. This enables me to focus on delivering the most impactful information in a concise, organised way (which is often a tricky thing to do when a recruiter cold-calls you out of the blue).
This entire step-by-step process has enabled me to start a successful contracting career, but the same lessons can be applied no matter what your situation.
As I’ve said before – these methods have worked for me and I hope they work for you too. Try them out and let me know if you have the same success. And if you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.
Happy job hunting.