If you’re considering options for a career shift and decided that a tech bootcamp is the fastest and most affordable way to reach your financial and professional goals, you’re probably moving on to an important step in the process: figuring out how to apply and enroll in the best program.
You can usually expect an admissions interview before being accepted. (And it’s important to prepare your responses to the most common bootcamp interview questions).
But your interview prep isn’t only about planning your own answers. You should also have an idea of the questions you want to ask them. The bootcamp interview may be your best chance at getting detailed explanations from a real human before you enroll.
After all, most bootcamps position themselves as being able to deliver pretty clear results: like a certification, job guarantee, or even a specific salary level after graduating. But it’s up to you to do your due diligence, and determine which program offers the type of support, curriculum, and payment options that work for you.
So we’ve rounded up several questions to ask during your bootcamp interviews. These questions are geared to help you find the right bootcamp for your lifestyle.
We divided the questions into three main categories:
- Outcomes: graduation and hired rates
- Curriculum and format: the skills you’ll learn, and how you’ll learn them
- Differentiators: credentials and unique selling points
If you’re prepared to ask at least a few of these questions during your admissions call, you’ll walk away with a much deeper understanding of how that bootcamp operates; and, more importantly, whether it’s a fit for your career goals.
Outcomes Questions: What to Ask a Coding Bootcamp Enrollment Representative
What are your graduation rates for this program?
Most bootcamps are prepared for this one. They like to advertise high graduation rates as a key success metric.
Press them a little further by asking them for specifics: find out the current graduation rate for the specific program you’re interested in and in the specific region you’re interested in. (For example, the graduation rates in a General Assembly course may differ from city to city.)
It could turn out that the bootcamp you’re considering has stellar grad rates from their Software Engineering program, but a far lower success rate for Data Analytics. A bootcamp may add a new program to their repertoire, change their curriculum, or hire new instructors that aren’t as experienced - any number of factors could affect the quality of their program.
You won’t find those operational changes during your research, but the coding bootcamp should be transparent when asked directly.
What are your rates of employment six months after graduation?
Most bootcamp candidates aren’t really looking for a digital certificate to display on their LinkedIn page. They’re looking for a new job, and the foundation for a stable career.
Ask your admissions representative what the hired rates are like for the program. Most bootcamps track the percentage of graduates who get hired in their new field, and how long it takes them to accept a job. If you’re satisfied with the answer you get, then you might have found a great fit.
If the post-graduation employment numbers sound lower than you expect, don’t be afraid to ask them why. This isn’t necessarily a negative attribute. Some coding bootcamps might only count graduates that are hired full-time in a software development role, which is better than a bootcamp that counts their outcomes for part-time and full-time in any role (regardless of whether or not it’s a coding job).
Afterward, do your own digging. Maybe that particular bootcamp is thin on student support; or, they could offer a notoriously rigorous curriculum, and maybe you’re up for the challenge. Either way, you should have a full understanding of the outcomes, and do a little extra research to get a full picture of the program you’re signing up for.
How recent is that data?
This is an important follow-up. Since many of these bootcamps aren’t held to formal regulations, they can easily provide data from several years ago - but you want to know what their results have been recently, in the current economy.
What type of students are likely to be successful in this program and career path?
The most successful bootcamp students might be those who are motivated by long-term career results. They might have the ability and determination to devote several hours a day to their course work. They might have some background in math or analytics, or all of the above.
It’s worth asking your admissions representative what factors tend to indicate success in the course.
There may even be some areas of proficiency or personality traits that typically indicate long-term success in the field. Now’s your chance to find out.
Do you have an employer network, and if so, how does that benefit me?
Some bootcamps advertise an employer network. But there are no established standards about what that actually means; take this time to get a conclusive answer about their relationships with employers, if they have any.
If an introduction to potential employers is important to you, then you’ll want to find out whether this bootcamp cultivates active partnerships with large companies, and how many students they successfully place each month.
Diving into this question and a few follow-ups will help you uncover how active that network actually is, and whether it goes beyond a simple email list or LinkedIn group.
Do you have any type of job guarantee, and if so, how does it work?
The “job guarantee” has become common among tech bootcamps. And it is an excellent incentive for bootcamps to tailor their course material to the job market. But as enticing as this promise sounds, it’s still important to get the details.
Many bootcamps promise a job, but there are bound to be some special qualifications. In most cases, you’ll have to agree to follow a specific job application process, and you may have to commit to the job search for months or even a full year before any kind of tuition refund kicks in.
It might be easier to digest that information in a live conversation instead of sifting through paragraphs of fine print buried on their website. So bring this up during your first call, if your admissions representative doesn’t offer up more information from the start.
Curriculum & Format Questions: What to Ask a Coding Bootcamp Representative
Realistically, how much time will I commit, including coursework?
Most bootcamps list the number of “classroom” hours (more accurately, remote laptop hours) to expect in each program. But there may be time commitments beyond that number, such as homework, projects, office hours, career coaching, and mentorship sessions.
So find out how many hours you’re actually committing to.
When you get that time estimate, think through what your typical week looks like, and make sure you can devote that much time without compromising your lifestyle. Bootcamp formats vary, and you can decide whether you want to learn full-time, part-time, or even in smaller, self-guided chunks. You’ll need to get all the information upfront to make the right decision.
How is the coursework presented?
Your lectures, labs, and take-home assignments will all be delivered within the confines of your laptop. And you’ll have to grasp some pretty technical concepts in just a few short months.
It’s no small feat, and many bootcamps now offer creative ways for students to complete labs and practice exercises remotely. So find out more about the learning platform you’ll be using. You should also find out what kind of device and storage you’ll need, since most bootcamps don’t provide a computer.
If you’re interested in learning remotely but will fare better outside of the home post-pandemic, there are also some bootcamps that partner with co-working spaces.
Will I have access to any learning support?
The opportunity to join a strong community of motivated learners, as well as experienced professionals in your new field, is almost as valuable as the course itself.
Find out if your bootcamp fosters engagement and collaboration with other students and instructors. They may even have an established, formal mentorship program.
Asking this question opens up the conversation, and allows you to get specifics from Admissions before you actually enroll.
Will I have an opportunity to take breaks or pause days?
Even though you’ll be learning remotely, you’ll have to streamline your schedule. If the course you're considering is several months long, they may build in time for you to take a break. We all need sick time or mental health days - especially if you’re enrolling in a rigorous program.
Asking this question shows admissions that you’re really considering whether you can be successful in this program and that you want an outlet to make up for any work you may miss due to illness. Their answer may give you an idea how student-friendly and flexible they’re willing to be.
Are there any other skills not included in the curriculum page?? Will I learn [x, y, z]?
This question might take a little extra preparation on your part. It’s fair to ask what type of skills you’ll learn beyond what they list, but you’ll get even more out of your conversation if you know exactly which coding languages, frameworks, or skills you want to graduate with.
Most admissions representatives will be happy to send you a detailed curriculum so you can compare the course with their competitors.
Differentiator Questions: What to Ask a Coding Bootcamp Representative
Describe your instructor credentials.The quality, skill level, and enthusiasm of your instructor will have a massive influence on your own success in the program. That’s especially true when you’re learning online, and taking in a lot of brand new, technical information via Zoom.
The best bootcamps have a standard set of requirements for their instructors and TAs, whether that be years of experience in the industry, degrees, or certifications. If you’re weighing up two or three similar programs, this could be an easy way to differentiate them.
What are the main differences between you and other bootcamps?
This question allows you to get a clearer understanding of what that specific bootcamp values, and where they’re investing their time, energy, and budget. Whether they emphasize their passionate mentors, thorough curriculum, or state of the art learning platform, you’ll come away with a better understanding of where their strengths lie.
Choosing The Right Bootcamp
Professionals of all ages looking to shake up their career development have so many options to choose from when it comes to tech bootcamps. An increased level of investment leading to a host of bootcamps options to choose from is a wonderful advantage for a prospective coder.
The challenge is selecting one that fits your needs. Once you’ve narrowed down your list to 3-5 programs, come to your interview prepared. Admissions will try to sell you on their product, and it’s up to you to ask some tough questions. This is a great opportunity to figure out whether their program is truly a match for your career goals.
Most of you reading this have done so already, but if you’re ready to start a new, life-long career, start comparing top tech bootcamps to find the one that will get you there.