Help wanted: More and more API experience

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Working with APIs is no longer a specialty skill that is confined to only a few developers within an organisation. In fact, APIs have become practically ubiquitous across both industry and job functions. That’s why hands-on experience working with APIs is getting a lot of employer attention when searching for talent. It can also be critical for candidates seeking a new opportunity.

Joyce Lin, Developer Evangelist at Postman, answered some questions about this trend. Postman is a complete API development environment, used by nearly four million developers and 30,000 companies worldwide.

1. What are some of the opportunities APIs present today?

As the number of APIs explodes -- both public and private -- the opportunities to work with them in new and more effective ways also explodes. APIs are critical in the development of web, mobile, IoT, and AI applications; they codify methods for requesting and managing data and services from multiple sources, such as other applications or services.

2. What are some of the positions beyond API engineers that require experience working with APIs?

QA/Automation engineers and Frontend/Backend developers almost always need API experience to get hired. We’re also seeing API experience required or sought in roles like DevOps engineers, product managers, sales and support engineers, developer evangelists, and technical writers.

3. Is API experience ever relevant to non-technical job seekers?

It is now. While employers rarely expect non-technical candidates to have hands-on API experience, those who can demonstrate an understanding of how APIs work, especially as they relate to the employer’s business, will separate themselves. This is especially true when the interviewer is a technical person. Candidates who do this demonstrate a certain level of curiosity and self-sufficiency -- traits every employer is looking for.

4. Why are we seeing increased emphasis on API experience?

It’s because APIs are ubiquitous today. This isn’t just a tech industry trend, it’s a trend across industries. Nearly every function -- marketing, finance, customer support, operations -- uses technology tools to make their work easier and more effective. And, increasingly, those tools use APIs or allow you to work with them via API.

5. How can job seekers attain the experience they need?

For an engineering position, of course, working with the technology is critical. At Postman we have a free plan that most users start with, and we have an API Network consisting of a listing of Postman collections and outlining how to work with some of the best and most useful public APIs available -- all downloadable directly into the user’s Postman app. Many devs use these collections to get up to speed with key public APIs. 

Even a non-technical role can find useful instruction in the Postman API Network. The network includes APIs from marketing standbys such as SurveyMonkey and Hootsuite, business critical tools like Docusign and Box, and retailers like Best Buy and Walgreens. 

6. What are some typical API-related tasks that employers ask of job candidates during the interview process?

Interviewers often ask candidates to build a proof-of-concept using their tech and appropriate APIs, or at least document the process. They also ask candidates to troubleshoot real user issues that require API know-how to solve. At the very least candidates need to be able to engage in meaningful discussions about the employer’s solutions and how APIs fit in the development mix.

7. What counsel would you provide to someone looking for work in these industries that now require API experience?

First, do your homework on APIs and be prepared to answer basic questions about how they work, including use cases if you have that experience. Second, ask what’s in the employer’s tech stack and then research what some of the common API tools and approaches are that fit. They may not provide that information, but asking for it shows initiative. And third, be proactive. If you can build a proof-of-concept or write up some documentation that relates to the employer’s business before they even ask you, that is a big differentiator!

8. From which industries do you expect to see demand for these skills in the future?

The tech industry will continue to lead the way with exponential demand for API skills. Demand is also booming in retail/CPG, manufacturing and healthcare. As I mentioned earlier, any industry -- or even individual company -- that uses tech to run its business will need some level of internal or external API expertise.

Joyce Lin is a developer evangelist at Postman
Image source: Shutterstock/Wright Studio