Monday, 17 January 2011

Getting a job: Tips and tricks.

Here are my top tips for getting a job (or a contract).

Your CV needs to be excellent, not a pile of crap that looks like a 12 year old wrote it. If you can't figure it out, stop now and give up because you don't deserve to be a professional software developer.

Try to target companies you actually want to work for. Google them, do your homework, read some blog entries, check google maps, basically stalk them on the internet for a bit. This knowledge will help at interview and you can use bits to help you write a good covering letter.

Use agencies as a last resort (you probably will use them but try direct approaches too). Try the direct approach, rigning companies up, asking friends, using LinkedIn, etc, first.

Think of every nasty question a potential employer asked you and make sure you have a damn good answer.

Act like you actually want the job. You'd be suprised at the number of people I haven't hired, simply because they didn't seem to care.

Don't claim you have knowledge of something you don't but on the other hand you can (and sometimes should) 'talk up' your skills a bit but don't flat out lie. Sadly, a lot of employers are too stupid to realise that people can pick things up on the job quickly and are too quick to dismiss someone because 'they don't have the right skills'. How many jobs have you honestly started with all the skills you needed to do it? If you answered more than zero, your last job was proably as a cleaner.

If you genuinely don't have any skills in certain areas that the job requires, don't let that put you off, be honest in your application. Honesty counts for a lot and you might be suprised. I got a job once with a smaller company on the strength of my experience, dispite not knowing their primary programing language.

If you do use agencies (and in IT, you almost certainly will) then you need to be carefull. Tell them only what they need to know, which is:
- You skills and levels of competancy.
- Where you've worked and when (if asked).
- Your temporary contact details (disposable mobile phone number, temporary email address - see below).

Never give the following to anyone other than an employer:
- Your address and house/mobile phone number.
- Your personal documents like passports, etc (or even coppies).
- Coppies of your qualifications.
- A list of places you've applied to (will just be used for them to send more CVs to).
- Names of people (i.e. individuals) you've worked with (or even worse, for) - if you do, expect them to be called and harassed.
- Money.
- Your time, in any great quantity (agents sometimes like to treat you like an office temp and ask for a face to face - just tell them you're bussy).
- References! See above - will just be used for marketing/sales.

I usually buy a cheap 'pay as you go' mobile and open a temporary gmail account which I use solely for job hunting because some agencies, are SO FUCKING STUPID that they will keep ringing you YEARS after you've stopped looking for work, solely based on a misguided search hit on their crappy software. When this happens, you can dump the phone. The agencies that I actually find useful (of which there are few) get my real contact details when (and only when) they get me a job.

Never sign anything an agent gives you until you have a job and even then - read through carefully. Try not to sign anything which would put you at a dissadvantage, like exclusivity clauses.

Finally, try to get references in writing, get a personal email address (because people change companies) and get an agreement with the referee that you can reuse them for job interviews. That way, you can just photocopy the reference and turn up on the day with it to hand over to the employer (not the agent). This goes down very well because companies are often way too busy to chase references. I once had a truly awesome reference but didn't take a copy of it, fell out with the HR woman who had the only remaining copy and she destroyed it out of spite (shortly before she was sacked), which was rather inconvenient at the time - but hey, lesson learnt!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Dysfunctional Companies

Way back when I has relocating from the South coast to the crappy middle of England, I was job hunting and landed an interview at a less than impressive company selling widgets used by the water industry. Back then I was feeling pretty desperate but not so desperate that I wanted to shell out £90 in petrol for the sake of wasting my time if they didn't like me at the interview so I asked the agent for a telephone interview as a first step.

They could have just said no, instead they said 'tell him if he wants the job he should turn up or else forget about it'. Not a good first impression, is it?

Like a fool I decided to go to the interview anyway. I was joined in the interview by the bitchy HR/Marketing type (there's one in every crappy start-up), who had a chip on her shoulder against men, 'nerds' and it seems anyone with the balls to ask for a telephone interview.

To say she gave me a grilling would be putting it mildly. She was rude, obnoxious, made derogatory remarks about my appearance and asked if I was a hacker. The director was an ass too. I'm actually quite proud of the way I handled it though, I remained calm, smiled and answered every question politely and courteously.

I got home and told my family 'no way would I want to work with a bitch like that, forget it'. The agent rang me up and I told him the same thing. Then the agent rang me back and said 'you've been offered the job'. I immediately told him where they could stick it. He explained that the lady 'just had a thing against nerds, and so that's why she gave you a hard time'. I explained that that was completely dysfunctional: if she had problems getting on with her colleges because they answered back to her when she was obnoxious and she doesn't like that, she should hire a doormat, which I was not. I would probably have slapped the bitch if she talked to me like that on the job. Interviews are different, you play it cool and see whats on offer.

Eventually he talked me back into it and the grounds that this 'second meeting' (they told me) was 'just to meet the team' - this was to be an opportunity to meet and greet the team and find out who I'd be working with and what projects I'd be working on. When large amounts of money are involved I usually hear people out, so I went. I had nothing to loose.

I was promptly grilled by the technical team. Three little boy-nerds, who were the most obnoxious bunch of little shits you'd ever have the displeasure to work with. The penny dropped. I looked at the face of my manager-to-be which seemed to be saying 'help me out here, I can't handle these teenagers'.

'This is the first we've heard about it', they said. Another bad sign.

I was starting to notice a pattern here: A company that didn't trust or respect it's developers, developers who didn't trust or respect their management. Little to no inter-department communication. Alarm bells starting ringing in my head. This was another Dysfunctional company.

My agent rang me that night to tell me that I now 'definitely had the job'. So I guess I only sort of had it before, right? You lying sack of...

There was, I explained to him, not enough fucking money in the world!

The moral of this story is whilst playing hard-ball with your candidates might sift out the wheat from the chaff to a degree, being inflexible, having an attitude and piss poor communication will show your potential candidates that this isn't the place to be. It's unprofessional and makes your company look about as attractive as an 18th century mill.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

What the hell is wrong with Asian spammers?

Seriously, do you guys have nothing better to do that to try and pimp me Viagra and get me to visit your porn sites by spamming my comments inbox? Do you think I want to see Chinese girls puking in to each other mouths or the latest anime tentacle rape video?

Hey wait... looks like I've got an email from - oh, better enter my account details and 'word of passage' - what's that... Yeah that sounds about right...

I mean, Are you earning a living doing this shit (posting comments on a blog with about 0.5 readers and about 1 article every decade) because if you are, I'm almost impressed.


/Disables comments

See you next decade suckers.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cleaning out private data from Google

About a year ago I landed what I thought was a good job in a very small web development company, the role wasn't what I expected, the people were total dicks and not surprisingly I left under a cloud. Every now and then, like most people, I type names into google to see what pops up, mostly for me it tends to be lots of random actors, muggers, sports people and random teenagers with myspace pages. So the last thing I wanted to find when I googled my own name and hit the link to 'results from my country only' was a big grinning photo of moi at number 1, sat under the name of my old nemesis.

Why? Because I did not want to put this company on my CV, because they fired me. Now I could have come clean and explained it to any future employer with ease but the fact is, the world isn't perfect and people are prejudiced - I fully expected to get to the interview stage if I left it in. So of course, I left it out. Now I know that a lot of employers will google peoples name to find out information about you before the interview. This very company I got fired from embarrassed a candidate applying for the secretary's role by talking about the erm... 'artistic photographs' of her on her facebook page (that gives you an idea of the kind of dicks they were). Privacy is dead and companies have no morals.

So what to do about sorting this mess out? Well, firstly I got the old boss to remove the content by emailing him and politely suggesting that it doesn't benefit either of us (tip: avoid being confrontational at this stage). He saw things my way and removed it. The next step was to remove google's cache of the image and search results that linked to my name by using this tool:

It's easy enough to remove if the content has already been removed and is 404-ed or the content has changed. It takes a couple of weeks or so sometimes. Once you've done google, I suggest checking yahoo and possibly MSN (but I didn't seem to have a problem with these).

However, this is only the start of the quest to regain your privacy. Sites like seem to cache google searches and not only that, they search a bewildering array of sites that you'd completely taken for granted. For instance, a search for my name hit my Amazon wishlist and told you were I lived and what my girlfriends name was, fairly harmless but still more than I want known by just anyone. Needless to say I changed my 'unique facts' to something short and simple that only family would understand. Even if you removed the content from google, some of the content on this search site can stick around for MONTHS! I hate sites like these, they're about as sleazy as you can get - only a stalker thinks that a site like this is cool.

You might also want to check the Wayback machine (which keeps old copies of websites) and make sure that this hasn't grabbed your offending page. It's a little more than most employers would do to search this but it doesn't hurt to be thorough.

So if information does leak out onto the net, it's not the end of the world but it can be very time consuming and difficult (but not impossible) to remove.