One of the things we miss the most about in-person meetup events is the opportunity to spend time with people who are at the start of their careers. Our conversations with students, recent graduates and folks looking to move into roles with greater responsibility often center around job applications. So we figured we’d write a compilation of the advice we give.
“Hacking” in this context refers to selectively targeting the low hanging fruit of the job-seeking process. These are things that recruiters tend to look for, and thus, give an applicant the best possible chance of standing out in an applicant pool. The advice in this post reflects the internal hiring criteria for junior to mid-level engineering positions at rtCamp, and will likely be transferable to most agencies in the WordPress ecosystem.
If you feel more confident after reading this post, swing by our careers page 😉
Contributions Across the Web
rtCamp is a fully distributed company. We have a team that spans multiple time zones and nationalities. This means that the top end of our hiring funnel is as wide as the denizens of the world wide web itself. If you have a presence on the Web, you are in our hiring pool.
That brings us to our first hack. Make sure that your online identity is complete, and representative of you & your work. The age-old advice of making sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date is a good place to start, but you can probably do better than that.
A personal website allows you to express yourself and write about the things that interest you. It’s a space that is uniquely your own. Plus, for any distributed company, strong written communication is a non-negotiable requirement for all job profiles, and a blog serves to demonstrate that ability.
Also include links to other collaborative spaces you spend your time online: GitHub, Behance, StackOverflow, DEV Community, to name a few. If you have side projects, you should definitely showcase them. Even better, write about the thought process that went into each of them and what you learned. Skills are what interviewers look for, but a demonstrated ability to learn is a very close second.
Finally, the open source ethos is at the core of many, many WordPress agencies, and so, contributions of any kind to open source projects will always draw (good) attention. Speaking of which…
Your WordPress Involvement
We are, after all, a WordPress-only company. Core contributions, plugins, themes or projects that you have shipped go a long way toward establishing your WordPress cred. Meaningful involvement through any of the make.wordpress.org teams is a good indication that you understand how WordPress works, from a technical, business or community standpoint.
Contributions to WordPress are great indicators, but they are not the be-all and end-all. Several rtCampers have modest contributions to the WordPress project but now work with the largest brands in the world. Once again, the code that you’ve shipped matters, but what matters more is a demonstrable ability to think through and solve a real-world problem using WordPress.
To effectively demonstrate that you can work with WordPress, it helps to have a functional understanding of the WP Core, as well as on a few basics including WP-CLI, WP Core API’s, WP’s database description and Gutenberg.
WordPress and Friends
Because of the sheer size of the global WordPress ecosystem (40% of the web, remember?), it helps to know a few supporting technologies that tend to go along with WP. Here, we did the research for you, and asked our senior engineers what technologies they would like to see in new team members. This is as close as it gets to gaming the system, eh?
However, before get to the technologies, we want to list some intangibles that were echoed by almost all senior engineers and project managers we asked. These are highly valuable because they are indicators that a candidate will be successful at problem solving.
- Observation skills, and attention to detail
- Ability to self learn in order to get things done
- A habit of giving and receiving objective & regular feedback
- (Honorable mention: Ability to consistently spell WordPress and other technologies correctly :D)
All of these are transferable between roles and jobs. People with these skills are at much more liberty to move between roles as they discover what they like, or as their career priorities change. At rtCamp, this happens all the time!
As for purely technical skills & experience, in no particular order:
- git and GitHub workflows
- WP REST API, GraphQL
- WP rewrite rules
- WP request execution flow
- PHPCS & WordPress coding standards
- Sanitization, escaping, validation & error handling
- Unit Testing
- Experience with CI/CD as applies to WP plugins & themes
- Experience with React, Next.js, Gatsby in a WP context
- Experience working with popular plugins like WooCommerce, Yoast SEO, Elementor, Astra, etc.
- Experience with Google Analytics, GTM, ads implementation
You don’t have to be fluent with all of these to make the cut in most agencies. We’d estimate that if you have a conceptual & functional understanding of a few, coupled with the ability to use them in projects that will benefit from them, you’re good to go.
The best way to showcase these technologies is to build something with them and document the process on your blog/resume/README page. If you don’t know where to start, learn.rtCamp.com lays out a great roadmap!
A Word On Imposter Syndrome
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, know you are not alone. Remember that while you might not be happy with where you are in your career journey, the company you are applying to might. An updated resume ensures that you are not selling yourself short.
In our conversations with people looking for jobs, we advise they apply for any job profile that overlaps with their skills. Being turned down usually doesn’t hurt a candidate’s chances in the future.
rtCamp, like most agencies, is looking for people whose fundamentals are solid, who make for pleasant co-workers and who have the ability to get things done.
So what are you waiting for? Hack away!