The Software Engineering Radio podcast has just published an episode with an interview with Ron Lichty. It is well worth a listen if you’re thinking about moving from development into management or already are amongst the development managers. Unfortunately there is only so much that can be packed into an hour’s worth of a podcast, but just based on the podcast, Ron’s book “Managing the Unmanageable” just found itself added to my ever-growing reading list.
As a lot of people keep pointing out over and over again, a job ad is an ad. Its often forgotten purpose is to get someone competent excited enough about your company and the job opening you’re trying to fill to send in a well crafted resume with a well crafted cover email.
We all know good people who can’t get a job for some odd reason, but whenever I find myself on the other side of the table I am amazed at how people don’t even bother to follow a couple of simple steps to massively increase your chances for a response. Yes, a lot of big companies seem to have their jobs email address hooked up directly to /dev/null but small companies still make up the majority of the software development landscape. With a small(er) company, there’s a good chance that your email ends up directly with the hiring manager. Somebody like me, for example.
Put yourself in my shoes. I have a job ad out because I want/need to hire a developer. I’m trying to actually fill the position, but it’s not my day job to do so. I also have made it easy for you to apply. Make it easy for me to pick out your resume from the piles of scatter-gunned resumes from the people who seem to apply to every position advertised, ever, and you’ll massively increase your chances of getting hired.
Yet the majority of the people who send in their resume seem to actively trying to prevent themselves from getting hired, so I put together a couple of tips for you to massively increase your chance at making it past the Cerberus at the front door.
The “method” is so simple I am constantly amazed that people don’t seem to do it, so here are my top three tips to make sure that someone like will look at your resume.
Read The Job Ad
I know, this sounds extremely simple, doesn’t it? Yet I am amazed that every time I post a job ad, I get ample proof that people are either unable to or unwilling to read the job ad all the way to the end to the end.
Not a good idea if the instructions for sending in the application are at the end of the ad, is it? And yes, they are in that particular spot for a reason, namely to determine if take your application seriously enough to actually bother reading the job ad before scatter gunning your resume to everybody.
Be considerate enough to write a short introduction
It’s the age of email. I’m not looking for a cover letter printed on 150g handmade paper – although that would certain pique my interest – but at least give me a hint as to why I should look at your resume. I’m constantly amazed at how many people don’t even bother with a short, to the point cover email.
My current “favourite” cover email read “resume attached”. Oddly enough, I could see that without any help. It also triggers my giving-a-shit filter – if the applicant can’t give enough of a shit to introduce themselves and write a couple of lines as to why I should consider them for a position, I have a hard time giving enough of a shit to open their resume, let alone read it.
If you’re not a perfect match, tell me why I should consider you anyway
Yes, most job ads these days seem to be overly specific right to the colour of the plaid hipster shirt you have to wear to work, but given the shortage of really good developers most people look for three qualities:
1. Are you a competent, well-rounded developer? Not a “competent developer in language X that nobody has ever heard of using frameworks Y and Z that only three people on the planet have ever used” competent but “show me you grasp the concepts, are able and willing to learn new tools” competent. Grasping the concepts is something that seems a bit old-fashioned these days, but trust me, it actually will help you have a long and fruitful career.
2. Can you get things done? Most companies’ development teams are short-staffed because there’s a surprising number of candidates that can’t get over hurdle 1). Because of this, teams need to do a lot with fewer people than they want to have on staff so the ability to deliver is highly rated. Plus, being fluent in thirty languages and sixteen frameworks is nice, but won’t help if you can’t deliver that user stats page that I’ve been bugging you about for three weeks now. So yes, a proven track record of putting things out there that don’t break the first time they’re exposed to sunlight is rather useful.
3. Can you and do you want to work with my team and vice versa? The longer I am in this business the more I really deeply understand the fact that it’s a people business. If I get the impression “oh yes, I really want to work with this person” after reading your resume and talking to you on the phone, you’re more than halfway to landing the job.
If you can clear these hurdles, then most of us will happily overlook the fact that we supposedly want someone with ten years’ experience writing Swift code.
I also like to see people who demonstrated that they are curious and were happy to work in very different environments with very different technologies. Curiosity is an integral part of being a good, well rounded developer so I’m happy to see people’s curiosity following through their career rather than the traditional “I’ll do the same thing for the next twenty years because it pays the bills”.
In fact, I’ll guarantee that if you follow the points in the three sub-headings when applying to a job on my team, you will at least get a response from me. That’s a lot more than you’ll get from most companies.
If you’re conducting an interview using your mobile phone (that’s a cell phone to the readers on the other side of the pond), at least go somewhere with good reception so the interviewer can hear what you’re saying. If you don’t you’re probably not going to make a very good impression if the interviewer has a hard time understanding half of what you say…