What I Learned About Finding A Front End Web Developer Job In 2022

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On March 8th, 2017, I wrote about my search for a front end web developer job. Five years to the day later, I’m publishing a post about what that job search looks like in 2022.

This new job search took effort, but much less than the previous one. But like before, I learned a lot about what it takes to get a web dev position in current times.

What happened the last time I looked for a web dev job?

In 2017, I “cast a wide net,” meaning I applied for lots of jobs inside a short time frame. I applied for so many jobs that I hit a point where I had four interviews in one day.

I had to do this because I had limited experience with the in-demand JavaScript frameworks of the day, specifically React. Back then, I had over a decade of developer experience but was competing for jobs against people who had more of the required framework knowledge than me.

So I cast that wide net to better my chances of getting hired. And once I got a job (at JPMorgan Chase), I began building up five years of solid, quantifiable React experience.

What happened when I looked for a web dev job this time?

Having that experience paid off when the time came for me to find a new job. I still casted a wide net, but it didn’t have to be as wide as before.

The results of having this extra React experience were:

  • I applied for less than half the amount of jobs this time.
  • I found a job in less than three weeks. Which is less than the month it took me to find a job last time.
  • I turned down two other job offers along the way.

The six things I learned

Throughout this process, I discovered six things:

  1. React is the most in-demand skill, and that's not changing any time soon

    After its release, React solved problems that developers never knew they had. It gave them a great way to "component-ize" the UI, rendered that UI fast and made application state easier to manage.

    From this came a still-growing React ecosystem that includes Redux, React Router and Jest. It also led to a vast, supportive React community of Slack channels, web forums and tutorial sites.

    It's for all these reasons (and many more) that businesses of all sizes have adopted React. And want to hire developers that know it.

    No exaggeration: "How much React experience do you have?" was always one of the first two questions I was asked when interviewed. Followed by questions about my knowledge of the above-mentioned ecosystem.

    The years-long debate over what's the best JavaScript framework continues. As a result, both Vue and Svelte are currently being hyped as better alternatives to React.

    To be fair: each one does certain tasks better than React and their learning curves aren't as steep. But React came out before them, so the business world adopted it first.

    React is firmly embedded in many company codebases, and switching it out for something else is expensive. So any sort of Vue/Svelte dominance in the business world isn't happening anytime soon.

    Keep this in mind while job searching. There are certainly Vue and Svelte jobs available, especially at startups or if you're purely doing freelance work.

    But if you're looking for an office-type job on LinkedIn or Indeed, more options are available to you as a React developer. And it will stay like this for a while.

  2. The core skills required for web developer jobs has changed dramatically

    Back in the late 2000's, someone with strong jQuery skills was guaranteed a high-paying front end web developer job. jQuery begat Backbone, which begat Angular, which begat React, and so on and so forth.

    Yes, the required skills for FE web developer jobs change constantly. But the change from my last job search to this one is the most extreme one I've ever seen.

    Companies want front end web devs with most or all of the following skills. Preferably all:

    • React and its ecosystem: See the previous item on this list ;)
    • TypeScript: It makes it easier for those classically-trained Java/C developers on your team to learn JavaScript. It also makes unit testing easier so read up on it. Speaking of testing...
    • JavaScript unit testing: JS was initially created to be a beginner's programming language so it didn't need a culture of unit testing like Java has. But JS has matured past that simplicity and almost all prospective employers expect some unit test knowledge among candidates. Maybe not guru-level knowledge but some knowledge.
    • Angular version 2 and higher: Many businesses added Angular to their codebases before React got big. That legacy code is still out there and those businesses are hiring developers to maintain it as well as migrate it over to React.
    • Intermediate level JavaScript knowledge: If you know React and/or Angular, then employers expect your JavaScript knowledge to be better than basic. You should know how to use things like fetch and Promises and how to pull info from data structures with loops.
    • Code deployment via cloud-based apps and services: We'll discuss this in depth in #6 on this list ;)
  3. There are many open web developer jobs, but tragedy is the main reason why

    Covid-19 is horrible. It's caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, massive lockdowns that have crippled small businesses and the quarantining of most employees.

    Consequently, employees were forced to work remotely for safety reasons. Also, consequently, employers had to hire more remote employees.

    For web developers, who were technically set up to work remotely already, this was a job boom. They suddenly had job options available to them from around the world, not just in their hometown.

    Generally speaking, US companies have always hired remote developers from other countries. But based on what I saw, those companies now seem more willing to hire stateside remote coders.

    Remote hiring makes financial sense for businesses. They can either hire devs at USD$100,000+ a year, rent them an office, then maintain it with electricity, custodians, etc.

    Or, they can just hire devs at USD$100,000+ a year.

    Every job I applied for was either fully remote or hybrid. I certainly would have applied for in-office jobs, but none of the ones I applied to offered it.

    So yes, developers have a lot of job options right now and companies are saving money. But the tragedy of Covid-19 is the reason for this.

    I'm thankful to have these options, but I wouldn't have these options if Covid had never happened: I'd prefer to not have these options.

    (Side note: thankfully, Covid cases are rapidly shrinking at the time of this article. Just before I published it, Google announced they were ending their fully remote work policy in favor of a hybrid one. So the amount of 100% remote developer jobs may shrink...at least in America.)

  4. The algorithm tests are everywhere

    FAANG companies are known for the algorithm-based tests that interviewees must pass before getting hired by them. I took the Google one a few years ago and didn't make it (it's ok...I'm fine).

    It used to be that the FAANGs were the only companies requiring this test...not anymore. Throughout this process, a gaming company, a betting site and a handful of startups asked me to take the test.

    I think this is the result of the large number of bootcamp graduates applying for web dev jobs. I mentioned in my 2017 article that bootcampers are at a disadvantage when it comes to job searching...I also mentioned that Zac Holman thought this interviewing approach was bullsh*t.

    But there are lots of unfilled web developer jobs right now, and there are only so many qualified CompSci graduates available to fill them. So bootcampers are needed; therefore, the algo tests are needed to let the best bootcampers stand out.

    Now, it must be said that some EXCELLENT coders are coming out of bootcamps. I know of two bootcamp grads that got hired by Spotify, one of the hardest places to get a job.

    And Noam Sauer-Utley is a bootcamp grad who's written some of the BEST JavaScript algorithm explanations I've ever read. Read more of her stuff here.

    Back to the algorithm tests: If you want to prepare for them, Codewars is the easiest free resource. Geeks for Geeks is next and is also free...a bit more structured towards the tests.

    HackerRank is free and is probably the closest representation of what an algo test looks like. Lots of the tests I took for interviews were on HackerRank.

    LeetCode has free content but a Google developer suggested I buy their premium subscription at USD$35 a month. I did and now I suggest it: you'll see many sample questions close to what you'll see on the tests.

    Many suggest the "Cracking the Coding Interview" book but it's a big read. However, its chapter on Big O notation is excellent.

  5. The line dividing front end web developer jobs and a back end ones is getting smaller

    Some FE job openings I saw listed JavaScript and CSS as required skills. As well as Python, Java, and .NET.

    Technically, Python, Java and .NET aren't "back end languages", they just interact with the back end more than JavaScript does. Maybe the term "front end" now means "anything that doesn't require building an SQL database."

    I dunno: maybe the listings of Python, Java and .NET in these skill sets were typos. But they were there so it's something to keep in mind as you build your skill set...especially regarding Python.

    In my 2017 post, I predicted server-side Node would evolve into a big required skill set. But I didn't see a huge demand for it in the 2022 jobs I saw.

    But a coding test for a beauty company job required that I host JSON data from a Node server. And then fetch the data using, you guessed it, React.

    So learning some Node back end stuff is worth your time. Creating a consumable REST API using Node on your own is good practice.

  6. The line dividing front end web developer jobs and DevOps jobs is getting really REALLY small

    As mentioned above, knowing how to work with cloud-based services is a hireable skill. This is because companies want to build the best DevOps system that they can.

    DevOps is the combining of best practices and tooling to build an automated, efficient code deployment process. A well-planned DevOps process pushes out application code fast and with minimal bugs...this saves companies money.

    Cloud services are a big part of DevOps so front developers that understand all this are valuable hires. Developers that can help build an automated process that combines AWS or Azure with Jenkins and unit tests are wanted by the business.

    The steps for managing DevOps aren't that different from the ones for managing app dependencies with npm and source code with Git. So my opinion is, a front end web developer can (and should) ramp up on this.

    I was asked about my cloud experience in a few interviews, almost as much as I was asked about React. My limited experience with it may have kept me from moving forward with some jobs.

What were my main takeaways from this job search?

My biggest takeaway was:

“It’s REALLY good to have React experience nowadays!!!”

I do have other skills but having React experience made this the easiest job search I’ve ever gone through. However, this job hunt was also a brutal reminder of how I always need to keep my skill set current.

There’s a sticky note on my desktop listing the skills I need to ramp up on…cloud stuff, Node, etc. I’ll have to find time to do that: I have no other choice.

Also, I was sad to see that interest in CSS hadn’t grown much since my last article. But both Tailwind CSS and logical properties are exciting developers, so interest may grow again.


But finding time to ramp up my skills is the only issue right now. And the fact that very few love CSS like I do is a personal position.

The bottom line: it’s absolutely, positively one of the BEST times to look for a front end web developer job. Especially if you know React.

For skilled FE developers, looking for a job in 2022 is like picking up gold coins off the street. This may be just a bubble that will pop someday (it probably is), but it’s how things are right now.

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