How to get software engineer jobs in 10 steps (with details)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as a software engineer is often a lucrative and fulfilling job. There are various tasks that a software engineer performs, including overseeing software systems and writing code to ensure the software works as described. Learning about what a software engineer does and how to get jobs in this field may help you determine whether this is the ideal role for you. In this article, we explain what the responsibilities of a software engineer are and how to get software engineer jobs.

What does a software engineer do?

As a software engineer, your role is to design, build, test and develop mobile and computer applications and programs. You may also perform other functions such as software systems maintenance, software support and integrating new updates to existing software. To complete these tasks, you require a deep understanding of computer science. Software engineers work on their own or with a team of other engineers. They work in many industries, designing programs to manage operations and improve business processes.

Related: What is software development and why is it needed?

How to get software engineer jobs

When learning how to get software engineer jobs, be aware that software engineering is a broad field with many opportunities. Depending on your qualifications and experience, there are a variety of roles you may consider. It's best to look for a job matching your qualifications, skills, passions and expertise. To get a job as a software engineer, follow the steps below:

1. Decide the kind of engineer you want to be

Software engineering has several niches you may specialise in. For example, if you want to become a programmer, you may become a testing automation expert, a DevOps expert, a security engineer, a back-end engineer or a front-end engineer. By choosing a niche, you develop a specific skill set that's more desirable to employers in this highly competitive field. Deciding what you want to become helps you and any potential employers define your roles and responsibilities. This also allows an employer to create an environment where you may work more effectively.

Related: 6 essential back-end developer skills and how to improve them

2. Learn software development skills

After deciding on the career path you want to pursue, the next step is to learn the necessary skills before you start sending applications. You may learn more about computer science, the basics of programming and how to code. The key areas to focus on include:

  • Programming fundamentals: This includes functions, loops, conditionals and variables.

  • Design patterns: This focus area helps you understand how to structure programs to make them easy to maintain.

  • Popular frameworks: Learning important frameworks helps you develop transferable skills and gives you a competitive advantage.

Obtaining a degree in software engineering or computer engineering fulfils all of these criteria. If you choose to do a degree, consider tailoring your study programme to focus on programming and software development. A degree also develops your essential problem-solving skills, provides you with a working knowledge of the maintenance and creation of databases and helps you build debugging skills.

Related: Top hard skills for your resume and how to include them

3. Build your portfolio

Once you're qualified to code, the next step is to build a strong portfolio to showcase your skills to potential employers. It's good to have some completed projects and some that are in progress. Note which programming languages you used in each project and detail those you're most proficient in. Discuss what you're able to do with each language, with a focus on how they help you develop applications and software.

Read more: What is a portfolio? Tips and guidelines to create one

4. Work on your CV

Once you've built your portfolio and experience, create a professional CV. Your CV includes all the information about your academic and professional qualifications, plus any relevant accolades, awards and experience. As you start job hunting, keep updating your CV to cover any newly acquired skills. Consider earning specialised certifications in your chosen field, as these are a valuable addition to your CV. Certifications may also help you get a higher starting salary when you land a job.

Related: What are software testing certifications? (Plus examples)

5. Start sending applications

Find job openings in the software engineering industry online or in newspapers and send your application letters. Often, new positions arise when a new organisation opens or an existing organisation grows. Though new organisations may not offer lucrative perks, it's good to work for them to gain experience and continue building your portfolio.

Established organisations may offer better terms but may not be willing to take on inexperienced engineers. You may still be able to apply for such positions if you have the required skills and experience. When applying for a job with an established organisation, consider underlining your interest in career development in your application, as you may be able to work with an experienced engineer to develop your skills.

Related: Application letter: definition, tips and a sample you can use to craft one

6. Treat each interview as a learning process

You may attend many interviews before you finally land a job. A single organisation may interview you at several stages, such as:

  • A hiring manager or recruiter may interview you first, but this interview won't be technical.

  • An engineer or a team of experts may lead your second interview. This is the stage where you demonstrate your skills and experience.

  • You may then meet more team members and complete some example coding tasks.

  • Finally, a manager may interview you and either hire you or decline your application.

As you undergo these interviews, try to learn from any mistakes so you may correct them next time. Remember, an interview isn't just about showcasing your hard skills. It's also an opportunity to prove your soft skills, such as teamwork, problem-solving skills, leadership and adaptability. The interviewers may also want to know about your drive to learn and grow with the organisation, your passion and curiosity and why you feel you're a better fit than other candidates.

Related: How to use the STAR interview technique in interviews

7. Network

It's easier to find out about job openings through networking. Try to make friends with experts in the IT industry by attending meet-ups, seminars and trade shows. You may also link up with other professionals through social media. Through networking, you may also find contacts to help you write your CV and cover letters and advise you on how to conduct yourself during interviews.

Related: 9 types of networking opportunities and their importance

8. Apply to job boards

Online job boards are amongst the best places to get a job. Focus on job boards that post vacancies in software development, software engineering and other IT-related professions. Some job boards allow candidates to post their CVs to make them publicly available to hiring managers, recruiters and other software engineers. When using a job board, use keywords that bring up jobs that fit your salary requirements and are accessible to you. Note that a job board may have a platform where you demonstrate your skills to potential recruiters.

Related: Guide: 10 different software engineer levels (plus duties)

9. Negotiate employment benefits

With a strong academic and professional background and an outstanding CV and portfolio, don't undersell yourself to employers. The first step is to know the salary you're supposed to earn and negotiate for it. Don't settle for less. An employer who knows your potential and existing skills can't allow you to go easily. The amount you expect to earn depends on your qualifications and experience.

10. Visit IT companies

Rather than waiting for job advertisements to appear, consider visiting IT organisations or departments in person to ask if they have any open positions. Discuss with the HR manager your qualifications, interests and what you think you may contribute to the organisation. Provide them with your CV and links to your portfolio. Remember that an organisation may have unadvertised vacancies. In such a case, your presence saves them the cost of advertising and conducting interviews.

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