Getting Into a Competitive Boot Camp

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Despite the proliferation of boot camps—including those devoted to solely recruiting female developers—the competition to get into one can be fierce. Improve your chances of nailing a slot with the following tips:

Make Sure You’re Committed

Pursuing programming as a hobby, or even a passion, is different from deciding to pursue it full-time after immersing yourself in a full-time program. That’s why Dori Grant, admissions manager at Hackbright Academy, looks for evidence that applicants are truly ready.

For candidates, investing time in Treehouse or Code Academy, taking GDI workshops, or getting involved in groups such as Women Who Code or Girls Who Code can go a long way. “Doing some of that self-exploration in advance really shows that you’re serious about this and it isn’t a fleeting kind of thing,” Grant said. Make sure you can show that investment or commitment before you submit your application.

Research the Industry

Code Builders co-founder Karen Hambro recommends researching the tech industry—or a segment of it that interests you—in advance of your boot camp application in order to determine the types of problems you want to solve, and what kind of area you want to ultimately work in.

“Being able to really look forward that way and think, ‘What do I want to I fix? What do I want to solve? What am I going to do when I have these skills?’” she said. “As long as you have something you want to apply that to, that kind of forward thinking goes a long way.”

Research Before Applying

If all the boot camps that interest you seem like the same thing, you may want to dig a bit deeper. “Each one is different, we all have our own personality and our own attributes,” Grant said.

“I always encourage people to go to SwitchUp and read the reviews,” said Diane Hessen, CEO of Startup Institute. “When you read the reviews you can get a feel for what the culture of the place is like, just like you can get a feel for the culture of a college or university.”

Not only will reviewing each boot camp’s details help you determine which ones you want to apply for, it can also help you prepare for an interview. Being able to say you attended an info session, connected with an instructor, or viewed the online curriculum shows interviewers that you’ve done your research. You may even find information to help you prepare for your interview in a blog post on the site.

Look Beyond the Program

Many boot camps offer internships or try to get graduates jobs with their hiring partners—so when you’re interviewing for a slot, they’re assessing not just whether you can learn technical skills in their program, but whether you’re someone who one of their hiring partners will want to hire. “We’re asking a lot of questions you would get asked if you were interviewing for a job,” said Hessen. “We want to know whether or not they’ll succeed in our program, but we also want to find people who are going to be outrageously successful in the workplace.” In particular, she looks for skilled, ambitious learners who are motivated and can work well in a team.

Add Optional Information

If an application allows you to include information such as video or social-media feeds, by all means do so. “Any way a candidate can stand out by adding more information about who they are or what they’re about to give us a better understanding of who that person is can be very very helpful,” Grant said.

Double-Check Your Application

Before sending in your application, review it for any typos. Double-check that you’re not mixing up the names or requirements of two different boot camps, and that you’ve met the parameters and details of any coding challenges. Make sure that any social media profiles to which you’ve linked are up-to-date, and that you’ve thoroughly answered any questions asked. Having a friend review your application can be helpful.

Grant also recommends making sure to address any education or work history gaps. “If we see that you don’t necessarily address it or there’s a blank spot, we’re possibly going to ask about it in the interview anyway,” she said. “Sharing that information with us so we can have a whole picture about who you are is going to be really helpful and is also going to help you stand out because you’re prepared, addressed it in advance, and are ready to handle any questions.”

She further recommends making sure not to wait until the last minute to turn in your application. Do your best to plan ahead and send everything in well before the deadline.

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