More thoughts on job finding for hackers

Yesterday (?), Steve Buckley, aka peroni on Hacker News, aka the guy who keeps taking the bullets for recruiters on Hacker News (thanks, buddy), wrote a nice post on how Hackers can Find a Job. I agree with most of what he wrote, but I wanted to add some color and talk about a few things. But first, go read his piece. I’ll wait.

Remember Your Goal

When you’re sending someone a resume, your goal is get the job they have to offer. There are steps in the middle, but remember where you’re aiming. (You can argue that companies should enable you, precious snowflake, but I’m not here to have that conversation right now.)

Forget the Objective

Steve says you should have “… a very brief statement about you and the type of work you are looking for.” Other folks talk a lot about objectives on resumes. My perspectives – objectives are a no-win situation. The objective of the resume is to help you get the job. Your objective outside of that is not interesting to the person reading the resume.

If you send someone a resume with an objective that exactly describes the job they have, you don’t get points for that – you get a nod. If it doesn’t, even a little bit, you create doubt in the reader’s head. Not worth it. Remember the goal: get the job they have. A good hiring mgr will see something else in you if they might happen to have something else, but they’ll find that later in the resume.

Cover Letter

Steve is spot on. (Do they still say spot on in England?) A few sentences in an email that describe why you might be a fit for this job in particular (i.e. you read the JD and you pulled some stuff out of it) has a remarkable chance of getting you noticed. I know you’re tempted to write over-professionally here (“My experience and accomplishments at Foobar enabled me to develop the advanced skills necessary for analyzing massive data sets integrating fish particles with surgical instruments, and I can leverage that expertise in your Javascript-oriented metroplex”), but this isn’t a test of your fancy writing skills. A few sentences (checked for grammar and spelling) are very likely to give you a leg up. If it’s a lot of big words, I figure it’s probably cut-and-paste.

Resume Length

When I was in college, we were instructed to keep our resumes to 1 page or so, because we couldn’t possibly have more than one page of content. Something’s happened since I went to college, though. People read resumes on computers now. You know, the things that don’t have physical page breaks, where you don’t actually turn a page around a staple? The cognitive load of extra pages isn’t what it used to be, and the page-length rule is highly antiquated. What is still legitimate is this: put the things on your resume that will help you get this job. That’s both the jobs you had and things you did, and the way you talk about them – you’re establishing your level of seniority and understanding in those words. CTO’s aren’t putting their time working at the bowling alley on their resume, not because it would make it too long, but because it doesn’t reflect the role they want now. In general, putting your non-technology-related jobs on your technology resume is a big flag that says “I’m really junior,” even if you’re not.

The GitHub Thing

Recently I was advising a startup that was thinking of building some software for the recruiting space. Awesome, recruiting’s a zillion-dollar industry, even if there are carcasses all over the place. Oh, but it’s for software companies. [See my hands getting closer together.] Oh, it’s just for developers. Oh, it’s just for open source developers. Oh, it’s just for open source developers with profiles on GitHub and maybe RubyForge. OK, you just took a gigantic market and made it (scientific term) teensy-weensy.

Look, if you’re applying for a job where a GitHub profile makes sense – you’re a Rails developer who’s working at OSS-friendly shops, or you’re going to be working with a company with a significant open source profile – then awesome. But there are a tremendous number of excellent engineers who don’t work at places that enable people to participate in open source development, and there are even more engineers that work in places where GitHub and open source development in general won’t carry any value. Oh, and there are some that go home at the end of the day and don’t code on the side, and some of them are good, and there are environments for them.

I’m not saying don’t participate in GitHub – by all means, if you have code that you can put there, do so and keep it clean – but if you aren’t able to put your best foot forward there, do other good things to demonstrate your value, like have some useful recommendations on your LinkedIn profile, or just tell us what you did and help us figure out why it was hard. Don’t obsess over the GitHub thing.

References

You don’t even have to say Available Upon Request. Obviously they’re available upon request.

LinkedIn Participation

Steve says “Hide your contacts and if you don’t want to be inundated with Recruiters offering you opportunities at ‘The next Google’ then say so in your LinkedIn summary. Better yet, change your settings so the only people who can send you a LinkedIn connection request are those who know your email address.”

I honestly don’t get this part at all. (Controversial part ahead, perhaps.)

I don’t know why you would hide your contacts: it’s not like they’re private contacts, they’re already on LinkedIn and people can find them anyway. All they really do is give some color as to who you associate with, and if those are good people, so much the better.

The “if you don’t want to be inundated… then say so in your LinkedIn summary” part is tough for me. Steve may not have meant it this way, but it feels like it’s tipping past the “I’m happy right now” point and to the “don’t bother me with your crappy startup” point – i.e. from kind to jerky. People who write unpleasant things in their LI profile seem like unpleasant people, so I won’t bother calling them, no matter what kind of job it is. And if you don’t want to be bothered about a job, then either delete the messages or hide yourself. Really, you don’t have to be on LinkedIn. (Evidently it’s hard to remove yourself, but if you really need to be this isolated, you can figure it out, or change your name to Qwert Schmarble.)

Only sending a LI connection if they know your address also seems overkill. I know a lot of people because I worked with them, but I don’t know their email address, because we both worked at Microsoft in 2002, we’re both gone, and we only emailed at work. I have no LinkedIn connections that I haven’t had a genuine conversation with over the years, but I don’t imagine I have >20% of their email addresses any longer.

I understand Steve’s general point, which is put lots of hurdles in between you and someone who wants to contact you. I get it, but the delete button is right there, and the point of being on a business networking site is business networking.

Finally

“Make every application personal and don’t lose faith.” Amen. I stayed in this work because finding good jobs for good people feels great. I’ve learned that for everyone who blogs that a zillion people are calling them with amazing jobs and they’re just so harassed, there are a lot more people who are good and solid and just haven’t found the right thing. (And that’s in our industry, with a bubble of affluence a zillion miles in diameter.) So keep trying.

(P.S. I’m sponsoring the Seattle Hacker News Meetup coming up in two weeks. Come!)