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How to get hired (by me, specifically)

I’m aware that a lot of people are in need of jobs at the moment due to all the various shit that’s going down in the world. I’m in the fortunate position of having a pretty stable job in an industry that’s not at threat from the pandemic, and I’m also hiring, which means I’m seeing a lot of CVs. Every hiring manager is different and all the little factors which go into a “yes” or a “no” stack up differently for different people, so in all likelihood the following tips may only help if you’re looking for one of my posts. If you are – solid internet stalking, well done.

CV

  • Bullet points are better than paragraphs. Always.
  • I don’t much care what you were doing 15 years ago, list it but don’t go into huge detail
  • Conversely, I do care what you’ve done recently. Any cool projects or interesting achievements should be included. Concisely.
  • Please please please provide a list of technologies at the top of your CV. It makes me grumpy to have to scan for this basic information.
  • There are some things outside paid employment which I like hearing about – voluntary work, conference attendance (or even better speaking), open source contributions.
  • However, I don’t care that you like to hike and cook Lebanese food in your spare time. I don’t need you to be a fascinating dinner guest, I just want someone who writes good code and isn’t a dick.

Interview

Job interviews are a tricky business. It’s actually very hard to judge someone’s abilities from a 90 minute chat, especially over the internet. We use a combination of a technical task completed in advance and an interview, and even then it’s sometimes not enough to get a feel for a person’s skills.

Hiring people who are not up to standard causes huge problems later on, so the first thing to bear in mind is that if it’s a “maybe” after the interview, that’s really a “no”. You need to convince me during that time that you will be a good addition to my team, otherwise I’m going to pass – there’s no “benefit of the doubt” in hiring permanent staff.

So, how to do that? Here’s some tips.

  • Never, and I mean never, give one word answers. Unless you find yourself on the receiving end of some sort of weird “true or false” game (in which case I wouldn’t take the job if you’re offered it!), always explain and expand.
  • However, make sure everything you’re saying is meaningful and relevant. Do tell me about how you solved problems, how you added value and how you would do things better another time. Don’t tell me about leaving your last job because you didn’t like the commute.
  • Admit when you don’t know something. I like to ask a mixture of experiential questions (“Tell me about a time when you achieved X”) and direct technical questions (“Explain this java command to me”). In the latter case particularly, it’s acceptable not to have the entire Java Class Library memorised. Caveat – if you can’t explain simple everyday commands I won’t be impressed.
  • However, if possible find something useful to say. If I ask you to tell me how threading works in Java, and you can’t remember a specific keyword, tell me the bits you can remember and maybe how you would get information on the rest if you needed it.
  • Show off. If you did something great, tell me about it – modesty is useless in interviews.
  • However, don’t exaggerate. If you tell me that you single-handedly introduced a CI pipeline I’m going to be interested and have many many follow up questions, and if you can’t answer them that won’t look good.
  • Don’t give up. One bad answer doesn’t mean a rejection. Stick it out and try and pick it up later.
  • Finally, and most importantly, listen. If you’re well prepared, and you’ve been brushing up on your java, and you’ve got your examples all lined up to show off what you can do, you can sometimes stop paying attention because half way through the question you’re already planning your answer. When you do that, you lose rapport and can even end up answering the wrong question. Remember, I’m a person too and I’m rooting for you to do well – a good interview can be our first successful project together.

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