• You can’t take the easy way to writing a résumé

    I came across a horrifying thread at Hacker News: Can I use a LinkedIn profile instead of resume for my job applications? It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is “No, you cannot use a LinkedIn profile instead of a résumé.”  If the job ad asks for a résumé, then you give them a résumé.  If they want the résumé in Word format, you give them the résumé in Word format.  What the hiring company asks for, you give them.

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  • Résumé-building websites are worse than worthless

    We all want an easy way to get things done, and resume-building websites promise an easy way to put together a résumé for your job hunt. Unfortunately, using them does you a disservice by making you think that formatting is what matters, and helping you create bland, uninteresting résumés that won’t grab any reader’s attention.  You cannot create a good résumé by filling in a few blanks off the top of your head.

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  • Does your résumé have to fit on a single page? Roger Ebert has the answer.

    Every time I speak to a group of people, and people talk to me afterwards, the topic of résumés always comes up. And every time people ask about résumés, someone always asks "Does my résumé have to only be one page?"

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  • The worst way to start a résumé

    As I go through dozens of resumes, I’m amazed by how many people still waste the crucial top two inches of their resumes with drivel like this:

    Objective: A fast-paced, challenging programming position or other technical position that will utilize and expand my technical skills and business experience in order to positively contribute to an organization.

    You and everybody else, buddy. Why should I give it to you?

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  • The job interview is not about collecting factual information.

    There’s a common misconception in the techie community that you should make sure you don’t fall prey to. Here’s what it sounds like.

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  • How to explain past problems in a job interview

    In her recent US News article the always spot-on Allison Green of Ask A Manager answers the question “How do I explain in an interview that I was fired?” An example from the article is:

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  • Milwaukee JobCamp, a free all-day job hunting event, is this Thursday

    Thursday, October 7th, 2010 is the fourth Milwaukee JobCamp. This free day-long event takes over a huge amount of space at the Potawotami Casino conference. There will be sessions on a huge variety of topics related to the job hunt, as well as a resume help desk room and, of course, lots and lots of networking with others.

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  • Fifteen ways to kill your job interview

    There are hundreds of ways to ruin an interview, but here are 15 that are dear to me, or that candidates have pulled on me in the past.

    • Show up late

      • It's inexcusable. Drive there the day before to make sure you know you can get there in time.
    • Be unprepared

      • Your first assignment at this company is to show up prepared. Don't fail it.
    • Smoke, or smell like smoke

    • Have bad breath or body odor

      • Nobody wants to smell your smells. Eradicate them.
    • Shake hands like a fish

      • Don't shake hands with a death grip, but don't wuss out, either.
    • Come underdressed

      • If you find yourself asking "Do I have to do X?" for the interview, play it safe and do it. That means wear a suit.
    • Speak ill of anyone, especially past employers

      • If you complain at the interview, you'll complain all day at work, too. No boss wants to deal with that.
    • Complain; discuss your problems

      • Your boss has his own job-related problems to deal with. He doesn't want to hear about yours.
    • Bring up your needs, such as money or benefits

      • Your interview is all about what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you.
    • Lie

      • You'll be found out, and you'll be worried about it until you are.
    • Appear uninterested

      • No boss wants to hire someone who doesn't care about the job she's going to be doing.
    • Fail to ask your own questions

      • The best way to show that you care, and that you have a mind for business, is to ask your own questions about what you've discussed during the interview.
    • Appear desparate

      • Enthusiasm is one thing. Desperation is another.
    • Leave your phone on

      • There's no way you could be expecting a call that's more important than this interview.
    • Cut the interview short

      • Allocate adequate time for an interview. A longer interview is always better, so plan for the good. Don't try to squeeze in an interview on a long lunch hour. Make sure your kids are adequately covered and you don't have to say "Sorry, I have to leave, my sitter can only keep my kids 'til 4:00."
  • "I just slammed out 300 resume applications for which I am more than qualified for this week, I doubt I will hear from even one"

    A recent poster to reddit asked I just slammed out 300 resume applications for which I am more than qualified for this week, I doubt I will hear from even one.....any advice for [engineering] job hunting?

    If I'm hiring people, the slammed out resumes mean nothing to me. You want to know the number one way to attract my attention? Write a cover letter that says that you've actually done some research into the job for which you're applying.

    It's a buyer's market out there. You're putting your resume out there with, say, 500 other applicants. Wading through that much shotgunned resume crap is daunting at best. Give me something to grab hold of. Give me a reason to say "Hey, this looks interesting."

    Don't waste your time applying for 300 positions. There are not 300 positions out there for which you are qualified, and that you would be happy doing. Instead of shotgunning them, work on two or three or five and really get into understanding the job. Research the company. Research what they need. Find out everything about the company that you can, and spend the time figuring out what you bring to the table that will help the company the most.

    Finally, those 300 applications came from where, Monster or some job site? Less then 10% of jobs get filled through job boards. Personal networking accounts for about two thirds of job placement. Instead of wasting time with shotgunning resumes that are obviously shotgunned, work to talk to everyone you can and find pointers to other people who can help you find a job. The jobs are out there, but you have to know where they are.

  • How to do a web resume right

    I'm amazed checking out the web resume for my friend Julian Cash. It hits all the right buttons.

    • Catchy domain name, hirethisgeek.com.
    • Strong bulleted overview of his skills on the front page.
    • Links to key points in the margin on the right, and at the bottom of each page
    • Subpages about important areas of interest (project management, programming, etc)
    • Contact information at the bottom of every page
    • Testimonials page, although I'd put some information about each person to give weight to their words.

    If you can get your web resume to be even one tenth as interesting as Julian's, you're way ahead of your competition.

  • When was the last time you were thanked?

    Seth Godin's blog entry today sums up so much of my frustration with much of what I see on the Net:

    Yes, I know you're a master of the web, that you've visited every website written in English, that you've been going to SXSW for ten years, that you were one of the first bloggers, you used Foursquare before it was cool and you can code in HTML in your sleep. Yes, I know that you sit in the back of the room tweeting clever ripostes when speakers are up front failing on a panel and that you had a LOLcat published before they stopped being funny.

    But what have you shipped?

    What have you done with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world?

    Go, do that.

    Right on, Seth. To that list of "so you can..." I'd add

    • You're a master debater on Slashdot and Reddit
    • You're quick with a link to letmegooglethatforyou.com
    • You correct people in the ways in which they ask questions in IRC

    The tough part is that most of the things that you do "with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world" require you to get off your ass and get out from behind a keyboard.

    Ever given a talk at a user group meeting? Ever organized a conference? Or lined up a speaker for a user group meeting? Written an article or blog post where people say "That's changed the way I look at things?" Or created software where people say "I don't know how I lived without this?"

    When Seth talks about "moved the dial and changed the world," I'll even set the bar a bit lower. When was the last time someone thanked you for downvoting someone on reddit, or being an oh-so-clever snark poster on Slashdot? Ever received appreciations for pointing out what you perceived as someone's shortcomings in a flame war?

    Which is more likely?

    • "Thanks for telling that guy your negative opinion of him."
    • "Thanks for that presentation on Ruby modules."
    • "Thanks for reaching level 75 on Farmville."
    • "Thanks for putting together this group. I learned a lot."

    Get out there from behind your keyboard and do something that builds rather than tears down.

  • Don’t confuse "qualifications" with "skills assumed of everyone"

    When employers are looking for candidates, the fact that you can tie your shoes and not pee in your pants are just assumed. You’d never see a job for a computer professional advertising:

    • Able to get to work on time
    • Knows to go to bathroom and not wet self
    • Can tell ass from hole in ground

    So why do candidates put these sorts of filler bullets at the top of their resumes in sections called “Summary of Qualifications”?

    • Able to work well with others
    • Strong work ethic
    • Attention to detail
    • Quality-oriented
    • Dependable
    • Responsible
    • Results-oriented
    • Problem-solver
    • Interested in improving efficiency
    • Able to find innovative solutions
    • Proficient in Microsoft Office and the Internet

    If you are a professional in the computer field, every one of those bullets is assumed . Those are the price of admission, not selling points. Putting such vague mundane “qualifications” as the first thing in your resume says to the reader “I am completely average.”

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  • What schools should be teaching IT students

    This past Friday, I spoke at POSSCON on what schools should be teaching IT students. Here are the slides from the presentation.

  • Use Google Alerts to monitor your online presence

    Next time you apply for a job, the hiring manager is going to Google your name and see what she finds. Do you know what people say about you? About things you've written? You should.

    Google Alerts is a fantastic little tool that I don't hear people talk about enough. Google Alerts lets you enter a Google search once, and Google will update you whenever the Googlebot finds new matches for your search, often within only an hour or two of the page's publication.

    The most obvious Alert search is your name, as a phrase in double quotes, but that's just the start. Here are some more ideas:

    • Your name ("Andy Lester")
    • Your nick ("petdance")
    • Your email address ("andy@theworkinggeek.com")
    • Your company's name
    • Resumes related to your job market in your area of expertise (I have an alert for "resume Perl Chicago" (but without the quotes)
    • Titles from blog postings you've made
    • Links to specific blog postings you've made using the link: syntax

    Keep an eye on the results. It's not vanity, it's understanding your personal brand.

    For more of my suggestions of how to improve your working life in 2010, see the January 2010 issue of PragPub magazine. It's a free download in three different electronic formats: PDF, ePub and mobi.

  • How to keep a job you don't love

    You wouldn't think I'd be advocating hanging on to a job you don't love, but in today's economy it may make the most sense. In the latest issue, #6, of PragPub, the free magazine from Pragmatic Bookshelf, I talk about how to make the most of the time you're spending in a job that you have to keep. It's also the first in my new monthly column for the magazine.

    PragPub is published every month in three different formats, so you can read in the format that works best for you. I admit, I print mine out. Sorry, trees!

    Finally, from last month, there's an article with me in the blog Interview Mantra.

  • How to show open source experience in your job hunt

    You're out looking for a job, and you want an edge over the rest of the candidates out there. Your experience in open source should count for something, right? It just might, but the key is how you sell it to the person who reads your resume, and to the interviewer in an interview.

    First, think of each project as a freelance job that you've worked on. Just as different freelance gigs have varying sizes and scope, so too does each project to which you contribute. The key is to not lump all your projects under one "open source work" heading.

    Explain in your resume the contributions you've given to each project. Don't assume that someone will understand what your project is, or immediately grasp the importance of what you've done. For example, on my resume I might have:

    Perl programming language (www.perl.org)

    Created the prove command line testing tool. prove allows the programmer to interactively and selectively run tests in a test suite without a Makefile, making test-first development much easier. I wrote prove in 2005, and it was immediately embraced by the Perl testing community. It has been part of the core Perl distribution since 2006.

    As with anything you put on your resume, explain what you did and why it was good that you did it. The only difference between project work and a "real" company is that instead of explaining the value to the company, you're explaining the value to the project or to the users.

    Wags familiar with prove may say "But all you did was write a couple hundred lines of code around the standard Test::Harness module." The key to someone looking to hire me isn't what I did, but why I did it, and that I took the initiative to do it at all. I saw a need for a tool, created it, and released it to the world, to much appreciation.

    So what have you done to contribute to help open source projects? It doesn't have to be as big as a deal as you might think. Submitted a code patch? Explain the bug, how you fixed it, and what you did to get the patch into the system.

    As with any project, make sure you explain what the project if there's any chance someone reading might not be familiar with it.

    (Thanks to Esther Schindler for asking for comments in her article "What To Include In Your Open Source Resume", which prompted this posting.)

  • How to boost your career by contributing to open source projects

    I've been hanging out at JavaRanch.com lately, after I was the guest forum contributor a few weeks ago. The Java market seems to be glutted with programmers from what I read, and there's a lot of interest in using open source to boost one's résumé. One poster asked for specifics of how he could use open source projects to help his career change to one of programmer. Here's what I told him (with some minor edits):

    The key to getting into open source isn't to find a project to contribute to. What you want to do is contribute to a project you already use.

    What open source projects do you take advantage of every day? I'm no Java expert, but it seems like half of what the Apache Foundation is driving these days is Java-based. Do you use Ant? Struts? Jakarta?

    How about non-Java projects that you use? Do you use SpamAssassin? It's in Perl, so would give you a reason to also learn Perl. Any Apache modules you use? You could learn some C.

    How can you contribute to those projects? It doesn't have to be just contributing code at first. Hang out on the mailing lists and provide answers. Update support wikis or contribute documentation. I know that on the Parrot project, a large amount of contributor time goes just to maintaining the tickets in the bug system. Anything you can do to pitch in, do it.

    Start with joining the appropriate mailing list for the project, or monitoring forums. Hang out in appropriate IRC channels. Listen to what people are saying. Make yourself known as being someone who is willing to pitch in. And then do the work people are saying needs to be done.

    Go into it with the goal of contributing to the project, and not of improving your career. When you take care of the first part, the second part will come naturally.

    Good luck!

    Any other suggestions? I'd like to turn this into a sort of standard page that I can point people to when this question comes up.

  • Resume tactics from the grocery checkout lane

    Next time you’re at the grocery store checkout lane, take a look at the magazines and see what they do to get you to read them. There’s a valuable lesson there for your resume.

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  • Hunt for your job like you hunt for your toys

    We geeks love our toys. ThinkGeek has led an industry on new toys, but many of us revel in our old toys as well. The quest to find the last comic in our collection, the last Star Trek model, or an old first edition Heinlein novel can be pretty compelling.

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  • How to work with headhunters

    I'm a fan of Nick Corcodilos. His book Ask The Headhunter was one of my inspirations to write Land The Tech Job You Love. His thoughts on why you should refuse to reveal your salary history are inspiring, and underscore the importance of keeping the relationship with a potential employer equal to both parties.

    When Nick asked if I'd review his draft of his new book How to Work With Headhunters, I jumped. No surprise, it's a great book, and I recommend it. It's a straightforward, no-BS guide to how to get the most out of the relationship with a headhunter, which can be tricky. The job seeker is at a disadvantage because she only seeks a new job every few years, so this relationship can be hard to manage. Most importantly, Nick spells out what headhunters do and don't do, so you understand your role. He also explains how to tell if a headhunter is a pro or a waste of your time.

    The ebook is on sale at asktheheadhunter.com, and you can get $10 off with the discount code "tenoffblog". Tell the Headhunter that The Working Geek sent you.