In this blog post, I’m going to cover some basic info and tips about applications and interviews for coding bootcamps. The bootcamps are selective programs. Read on if you’re curious about the application process and/or if you need some help preparing for interviews.
I can only provide my thoughts based on applying to Coding Dojo, Hack Reactor, RocketU, General Assemby, and App Academy. This blog post won’t be very bootcamp-specific, but in part 2 of 2, I will write detailed descriptions of my personal application and interview experiences.
I filled out applications for RocketU and Coding Dojo first. Then I submitted applications for Hack Reactor, General Assembly, and App Academy. All applications consisted of web forms that were fairly straightforward, but some included interesting mini-essays. You can visit their respective websites and find the forms yourself, but I just want to mention that they aren’t too time-consuming.
On the other hand, I heard Dev Bootcamp’s application asks you to make a video of yourself so they can check out your personality. That might be a bit more time consuming. I didn’t bother applying to Dev Bootcamp because I wanted to enroll in a bootcamp program ASAP, but Dev Bootcamp’s application page shows their classes are sold out for the next 6 months!
Check for dates
That reminds me: you should check to see what dates are available. Unfortunately, not all sites make it crystal clear. You might waste a lot of time reading a website only to find out later that their next open enrollment is too late for you.
Note: These examples will probably be out-dated within a year or so. I imagine these companies will change their websites in due time.
Dev Bootcamp - Their website doesn’t tell you they’re sold out for 6 months until you reach their application page, which you probably won’t do until you’ve read a lot of the other pages on their site.
Hack Reactor - You have to scroll down about 33% of their single-page website before you find their start dates in a section entitled The Program. When I was just skimming, I missed these dates because my eyes were naturally drawn to the big jQuery, HTML5, etc. logos displayed just below the dates.
Coding Dojo - They actually show their next start date right away. The first thing you read on their website is when, where, and how much does it cost. Good job, Dojo!
General Assembly - A navigation bar at the top helps you skip to the Schedule list of available dates.
RocketU - The RocketU single-page website shows info about their non-bootcamp programs before getting to the bootcamp overview. They provide a navigation link to jump to the bootcamp info, and that’s when you’re greeted with next available start date and tuition cost. Not bad.
App Academy - Their navigation bar at the top of the page includes a link to dates. Their application allows you to appy to multiple dates. Nice touch! I don’t remember if any other applications have that ability.
Don’t fret for about one week
Also, you should relax after submitting an application because it took 2-7 days for the bootcamps to respond to my applications. I think some bootcamps provided automatic confirmation emails to let me know they got my application, but if I recall correctly, at least one bootcamp didn’t give me any sanity-fostering confirmation email.
If you don’t hear back from a bootcamp right away, keep in mind that they’re flooded with applications. I suggest waiting a week for them to respond to you before sending any followup emails.
It’s important to consider that the interview process is as much an opportunity for them to wow you as it is a time for you to impress them. This is why I looked forward to each interview. I couldn’t wait to be wowed.
Before each interview, I reviewed my research on the particular bootcamp. I re-visited the bootcamp’s website and their blog to find nuggets of info worth asking them about. A lot of my questions probed for elaboration on something very specific to the bootcamp in question.
I had handful of standard questions about logistics, a few questions comparing them against their competitors, questions about curriculae, etc. You can find a list of questions at the end of this blog post. I didn’t ask all my prepared questions though. Sometimes, you need to evaluate how your interview conversations are flowing. I can’t say I flawlessly navigated these conversations, but I made conscious decisions to ask or not ask certain questions as the circumstances required.
My interviewing advice
- Write down a ton of questions to ask for the final half/third of your interview. Asking a lot of questions makes you look AWESOME.
- Ask questions that show you’re planning ahead (i.e., questions about logistics).
- Ask questions that show you’re serious (i.e., very specific/thoughtful questions).
- Be prepared to answer basic questions that you already answered in your application forms. Examples:
- Why do you want to do a bootcamp?
- How did you hear about us?
- Why do you want to learn to code?
- Can you handle the intensity of our program? Are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure?
- What prior programming experience do you have?
- Do NOT panic during the technical portion of the interviews. If you don’t know something, just admit it. They don’t expect you to be an expert; they just want to see how much you know so far by asking progressively harder questions until they get to topics beyond your current experience.
I panicked a bit in my Hack Reactor and RocketU interviews. In both cases, the interviewer was nice and helped me out. In both cases, I walked out with positive vibes.
Interview questions for YOU to ask
You might think it’s hard to come up with interesting questions. I used to think that way, but then I stopped being cynical for 2 seconds so then my mind could do some brainstorming. Here are a few ideas for finding inspiration:
- Ask questions about something interesting mentioned on the bootcamp’s blog.
- Ask questions about specific topics covered by their curriculum.
- Find the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed. You might find something cool to ask about.
- Ask for examples of something they brag about (e.g., if they brag about guest speakers or networking events ask more about those).
- Check out my list of factors. Formulate questions about them.
- What are the exact start and end* dates for the cohort that starts in (INSERT MONTH HERE)?
- *Note: Some bootcamps don’t provide end dates on their websites.
- Are there any holidays or breaks?
- How many students and teachers are there?
- Does the bootcamp use a rolling cohort system?
- What are a typical day’s hours?
- What percentage of students stay extra late?
- What are your payment plans/options?
- Do you have a refund policy?
- Are there any special requirements?
- Do I need a Mac/Linux?
- What kind of industry experience do the faculty have?
- How do you help students find jobs?
- How often do students find jobs after graduation?
- Do you have any hiring/company partners?
- Do you conduct any alumni outreach?
- What kind of support do you provide to alumni?
- What are the roles of the various faculty/staff members?
- How much attention will I get from lead instructors versus part-time instructors versus junior assistants?
- Why did you choose to cover language X instead of language Y?
- How much of the curriculum features group projects versus individual projects versus quick assignments?
- What’s your favorite bootcamp-hosted event?
- E.g., fire-side chat, guest speaker, social event, networking event, etc.
- Why did you decide to work for the bootcamp?
- What is your favorite part (aka sprint) of the curriculum?
- What personality traits do your students have in common?
- How much experience do your students have before starting the course?
- Do you ever kick out students? (You may want to re-phrase this question to be less blunt)
- How do you help struggling students?
- How do you ensure no students fall behind?
- What are you doing to improve the bootcamp?
- Are you hiring more teachers? Extra staff? Specialized staff (e.g., job hunting, alumni outreach, etc)?
- Are you expanding into other cities/locations?