I need a job!: 4 tips from a hiring manager

18 July 2015

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The job market has been really fantastic for developers, so much so that technical immersion programs, like General Assembly and the Iron Yard, have become increasingly popular. More developers than ever are entering the market, yet unemployment (at least in DC) is near zero (according to several local recruiters I have spoken to).

As a hiring manager, I have seen many amazing candidates and many less-than-amazing candidates. I am sure (at least some of) the less than amazing ones are actually amazing. Here are 4 pieces of advice for the amazing and aspiring-amazing job seekers out there:

1. For the love of all that is good in the world, your resume is not an auto-biography.

Ok. Your resume really is an auto-biography of sorts, but it should not be as long as one. If you are a developer, your resume should answer two basic questions: “Can you code?” and “Can you learn?”

What answers these questions? The languages you know. Your portfolio – websites, modules, and libraries that you have worked on and can demonstrate. How you stay current and learn new skills.

And that is it. I do not need to know your marital status. Or your height and weight. Or your date and place of birth. Or the elementary, middle, and high schools you graduated from. Or intricate details about your first retail job. Or the grade that you got in that hand drumming class you took senior year.

Regarding length, if you are a relatively new developer with some experience, your resume should be one page. Period. If you are more senior, keep your resume down to two pages. Maybe three if you have something super interesting to say.

However, please save your 12-page resume for the outline of your memoir. If it ends up in my inbox, it will find its way into my trash bin. Even if you are amazing.

2. Please follow directions.

My company, like most companies, has a process that we follow when hiring new developers. Part of that process includes a coding test that has specific instructions. Write a web application that does xyz. Write the backend in PHP. Make the front-end look like such-and-such.

There are reasons behind the instructions because each instruction has a specific objective. For example, the backend should be written in PHP because our team works with PHP-based CMSs. Therefore, a candidate needs at minimum a basic understanding of PHP.

I sent this coding test to one particular candidate and received his app a couple of days later with a note: “I wrote this in Rails instead of PHP. Will that be a problem?”

Um… yes. It is a problem. To be fair, the code was actually pretty good. However, it was not what I asked for and it did not answer the question I needed to be answered. (i.e. Can this person code in PHP?)

On the other hand, it did answer an equally important question: Can this candidate follow instructions and code based on project requirements. (Hint: That answer is no.) Needless to say, I did not hire him.

3. Make sure your code works before sending it to me.

I see a lot of work that simply doesn’t. Portfolio links that are not responsive. Portfolio links with broken links. Coding tests that are missing half of the functionality that I had asked for. I even once got a coding test back where the candidate asked me for help debugging the work.

Your code is more important than your resume. Seriously. Clearly demonstrating that you can do the work through your portfolio or a coding exercise will make me hire you faster than seeing that you work for “Amazing Ninja Coding Warriors, Inc” or that you got a 4.0 in college studying computer science. Even if the only work you show me is that coding test, make sure it works. Make sure it looks amazing. Make sure your code is clean. Because that is your first impression.

4. Give your social media presence a once-over.

We all know that everyone now has an online presence. We all search for people online and you can be sure that I will be searching for you at some point during the interview process. If I find you and see that your online life is full of… well… life (and good examples of your work), then yay! If I don’t find you at all… well, I am not sure what that really says about you. But if you are any sort of website professional, it is a little odd.

So, google yourself and double-check what comes up. Google recently made it even easier to check out your social media presence with Social Searcher. This gives you a chance to take anything down that you might not want me to see (even though everything you post is permanent) and figure out just how searchable you are.

And if you have an online presence that is hard to find (I’m looking at you John Doe!), please do me a favor and send me a link or two to LinkedIn, GitHub, etc. It will make my life easier and I will probably like you better for it.