Tag Archives: CVs

Interviews

Interviewing effectively is a hard skill to master. Not only do you need to work out if the person being interviewed can do the job, but also if they’ll be the best out of all the candidates and if they’ll fit in to the team dynamic. All this in a very finite space of time. You’re not going to manage that if you just ask a few questions you’ve downloaded from the web.

I’m unashamedly evil when it comes to interviews. Once the niceties are over you’re going to find yourself face to face with my laptop and a copy of Eclipse. What happens over the next 45 minutes or so is entirely down to you.

This method of trial by fire is something I’ve endured a number of times, and every time I’ve hated it. You’re in the spotlight, you’re under pressure and you’ve got someone questioning everything you do. I recognised very quickly that this is a very powerful interview tool because it leaves you wide open and quickly cuts through any front.

What I ask you to write (which, incidentally, will be decided based on the preamble, the telephone interview if there was one, and your CV) is pretty much irrelevant, as is whether you finish it. The discussion and discovery that happens in the time is what counts. I’ll probe as many subjects as I can, dropping them as soon as I’ve determined if you’re strong or weak in that area. All of this on a platform you may not be familiar with because I use OSX.

You can use the internet because it’s not about what you can remember, it’s about how you apply knowledge; you can ask questions – in fact failure to ask any questions will probably have you flunking the interview; you can say you don’t know, we’ll move on – it is actually OK not to know every tiny thing I question you on.

It’s brutal, I know. I’ve been there. You’re constantly off guard, the goal posts keep moving, the questions keep coming and during all that someone is expecting you to code at the same time. Do well in that and the job itself will be a cakewalk. But hey, if you’ve made it to the interview then I obviously think your CV matches what I’m looking for, so you shouldn’t have a problem ūüėČ

Job Specs and CVs

Job specs annoy me. There seems to be a standard formula which contains a number of canned phrases that are absolutely pointless to certain job types; especially those I’d be applying for, or, as I am currently, advertising for. These are some snippets I’ve pulled from a similar job advert on the internet:

“Strong Analytical capabilities”

It’s a java development role. Strong analytical capabilities should be a given. I could understand it if you were advertising for a role that paid below ¬£20K, but there are certain things that you can start assuming one you get into the realms of higher paying jobs.

“A thorough attention to detail”

I’m actually hard pressed to think of an employer who wouldn’t want that.

“Presentable and organized” [sic]

Coming, as that did, after “A thorough attention to detail” you have to love the irony in the use of the American spelling in a British job advertisement.

This isn’t just a one off either. Most job adverts are like this, and when they’ve dispensed with the banal and pointless buzzwords there comes the smorgasbord of required skills. This is usually just a list of all the technology in use without proper consideration to if it’s actually required. It also tends to bear no relation to the salary on offer and, worse still, adverts these days have the wonderfully vague ¬£competitive or ¬£negotiable. In effect, most job specs say the following:

“Wanted, one development guru willing to work on junior wages. Social skills desirable.”

Norwich is not a hotbed of Java shops, so it’s understandably light on Java developers. Restricting myself with a “standard” job spec would just further limit my options. Instead, lets focus on what I really want, in the order I want it: a developer who in an A player, who has a voracious appetite for learning about new things, and who has good working knowledge of Java. That’s it, everything else is a bonus because with that base they can learn everything they need quickly, and lets face it, it’s rare that you can just walk into a new job without having to learn something.

WebLogic? We use it, but I’ve got step by step instructions on how to use that so even a non technical person should be able to cope with the amount of WebLogic knowledge that’s required. Oracle? Provided you can string together some SQL for at least one database you’ll probably be fine. JSPs, Servlets, Hibernate, Spring, JUnit, TDD, BDD, Ant, Maven, Eclipse? Yes, all lovely to have, and the more experience the better, but I don’t want to prevent an otherwise excellent developer from applying just because I’ve done the shotgun approach to skills. I’ll list them, but just so you can make the bits of your CV that include the relevant skills shine.

You’ll also note I’ve not listed how many years experience with Java I want. I’ve never thought was productive. I’ve known people with just a few months of experience in a language produce far superior code to people with several years experience. The last person I hired was technically an ActionScript developer with some Java knowledge. They were an excellent find. I’d rather take an enthusiastic, bright and eager junior developer who will grow over the years than an experienced developer who is now resting on their laurels. This is software development; evolve or die.

Degree? I don’t have one. They’re useful when getting into the job market, but once you’ve got a few years experience under your belt they become less of an issue. Mandating one is just another way of artificially limiting the¬†available¬†pool of candidates for no good reason.

This doesn’t mean I’ll take anyone though. Your CV has to convince me you’re an A player. It has to tell me you’ve got the appetite for learning that I want. It needs to show me that you’ll grow in your role. Sadly in todays world of keyword matching not many CVs do that.