October 24, 2010 1 Comment
Like a lot of developers, I’ve always wanted to have a job where I’d be creating an amazing product with the world’s brightest engineers. It’s the kind of work that gives you purpose, but feels more like a hobby because you’re so passionate about it. It’s with a team that pushes you to become better because well… they’re smarter than you. And it’s where your customers, whether they’re millions of users around the world or just a dozen coworkers, are more like die-hard fans and can’t wait to see your latest creation.
I started out on this quest while I was in college where I landed my first technical job as a web developer for the university. Since then I’ve worked for one of the country’s biggest defense contractors, a software company that’s changed the way IT is done, and Apple. And when it comes to hiring I’ve been on both sides of the fence… I’ve been the eager engineer who sent his resume into the black-hole and the not-so-nice guy that played paper-toss with one too many resumes.
There are a few key things I’ve learned over the years that will increase your odds at getting that dream job… and here they are!
Getting Noticed. The first thing you need to do is get an interview. Chances are the job you’re applying for is going to have hundreds to thousands of people applying for it and a lot of resumes will go unnoticed. Here are a few easy ways you can distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Launch your own project. When I see a candidate has created their own commercial app or tool that fills a need, they’ll usually get an interview (bonus points if they’re selling it). This triumphs education and experience. Why? Well first it shows that you’re motivated and passionate about your work (something a CS degree from Stanford doesn’t)… and this alone can take you far. But most importantly it shows you can ship (deliver a project on-time and with quality)… and that’s something few people can do with a team let alone by themselves.
Build relationships with your colleagues. A lot of the people I’ve worked with were referred by other coworkers. Why? Well, if a coworker recommends you you’re probably a good fit for the job, have a great track record, and will fit in with the team’s culture (aka easy to work with). You’re resume will get more attention versus applying online with the masses and you’ll probably get bumped ahead in the interview queue.
Develop your persona in the community. Blogs, Twitter and mailing lists help here. If you’re an avid developer for the Acme Platform, blog and tweet about your projects. Use mailing lists or sites like StackOverflow to help other developers in the Acme community. Chances are if I’m working for Acme, Inc. and we have a job opening, I’ll be contacting you.
Be yourself in your resume. This one sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve read that sound like they were written by robots (and it hurts even more when they have spelling or grammar errors). If we met in person, would you introduce yourself by spewing off a list of the technologies you learned in the last 5 years? I’d hope not! Put some effort into writing a meaningful cover letter, this is where you get a chance to shine. DO NOT send a generic cover letter, unless you’re applying for a factory job and want to be treated like a cog.
Use metrics. A lot of times people will gloss over their accomplishments without providing anything tangible for the guy reading it. For example, if Joe automated some tests for Acme Inc. his resume might have a bullet point with “Developed automated tests for Acme’s Widget”. As someone screening your resume, I have no idea if that was an OK, good, or great accomplishment because chances are this is the first time I’ve heard of Acme’s Widget. But if you tell me “Developed 200 automated tests for Acme’s Widget that save over 30 man-days per year and found 137 bugs in the last release” a light bulb with go on and I’ll know this was a significant feat.