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The reality of the job market (from the other side)

Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I am currently trying to hire 4-5 senior developers in NYC. Here's the reality I'm facing, for those who are naysayers about the job market...

I posted two job listings on Monster, Dice, and Craig's List. After 7 days I had a whopping 12 resumes. (A year ago in Boston posting on Craig's List I would get 100 resumes in 48 hours.) We are looking for mid to senior Java guys, roughly 5-10 years in experience. (For those who claim age discriminiation, I would gladly take those with more experience, but it's about 1% of the candidates with more than 12 years of experience.)

I then searched for resumes on major web sites (Monster, HotJobs, Dice, Craig's List, and America's Job Bank). I literally grabbed hundreds of resumes and started contacting them. Very few are worth while. Many resumes have typos and many candidates have poor communication skills--I don't mean bad english, although often English is a second language, but just can't communicate clearly. Below is a list of gripes from my side of the table. If you are a competant developer, I can't imagine not being able to find a job in NYC if you're willing to pound the pavement.


Bad resumes
- In the US, a resume should be 1-2 pages, not 5, or 6, or 7. I scan resumes in 30 seconds, you need to make it easy for me to do that. If you want to work in France, your resume should be written in French; if you want to work in the US, make a resume formatted to US standards.
- I don't need to know every technology you used on each and every project. When working in Java, I certainly don't care that you used a computer with a Pentium III processor!
- Having a technology list is fine--one list. I don't need to see that you used CVS on each and every project you worked on.
- Use a spell checker and grammar checker. I don't care if your English isn't perfect, but if you're not willing to put some effort into your resume, what does that say about the quality of your work? I'll even gladly forgive a typo, but not many typos.
- Using the singleton pattern (or any pattern) is not worthy of being put on a resume. Give me the high level view in 2-3 sentences. (If using the singleton pattern is a big achievement for you, I don't want you.)


Bad Candidates
- Know the name of the company you're at, and if you don't know it, act like you do.
- At least have a vague idea of what the company does, or refer to things on the website which was unclear. Show me some effort.
- Keep your answers relatively brief. Hiring managers are busy, and want to cover a lot of ground. Rambling on for 5 minutes makes it harder for us to get to the point we need. If you're not sure how long to spend on a question, ask!
- Be confident in your answers. Confidence goes a long way.
- Know basic Java. I can't believe the guys and girls who can't even answer simple questions! Sure top people will miss some things, even a basic thing they may just forget, but many candidates with 5+ years can't even answer one of a multitude of basic questions.
- Never be quiet for long periods of time. If given a brain teaser or design problem, think out loud. It's not the answer I want, I want to see how you think.
- If this is a system you claim to be working on, or worked on recently, be able to get down into the details if I ask, otherwise I start to wonder if you're really on the project.
- Don't waste time on obvious stuff, e.g. don't spend 3 minutes describing a generic 3-tiered MVC architecture to me. Any manager you'd want to work for understands the architecture as soon as you say "3-tired MVC." Don't waste precious interview time explaining it.
- Be proactive in the interview, ask me questions. Don't sit there under interrogation waiting for it to be over.
- Distinguish yourself. Every candidates says "I'm smart/hard working/dedicated/know Java well/know some other technology well/like challenges." I can't distinguish you that way. You can say things like that, but only if you tie it into the specific role at the specific company, otherwise you just sound like everyone else and don't stand out.
- Find a way to stand out. Make a joke, be quirky, be whatever, just be unique.


These are just some late night gripes after many, many fruitless hours of searching, and disappointing candidates. I can't speak for the whole country, but in NYC, there is a definate lack of quality candidates.

--Mark
Anand Wadhwani
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 21, 2005
Posts: 151
Hey Mark,

It was really nice reading your mail, specially I could not stop laughing after reading 'singleton' thing

You mentioned formatting of resume per 'US standards'. Could you please put some more light on this. It would be wonderful if you could send me a sample resume at anandwadhwani@gmail.com. I could take that as a template and update my CV, or if not, please explain 'US Standards'.

Thank you very much,
[ May 03, 2005: Message edited by: Anand Wadhwani ]

SCWCD 1.4<br />---------------------<br />Ability is what you're capable of. <br />Motivation determines what you do. <br />Attitude determines how well you do it.<br />---------------------
Rashmi Tambe
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 07, 2001
Posts: 418
Thats a nice summary of what to DO/NOT TO DO for the interviews. Your suggestions are very helpful and I agree with most of them. however...

In the US, a resume should be 1-2 pages, not 5, or 6, or 7. I


I sometimes dont understand how can one put 5-6+ yrs. of exp. in 1-2 pages? I just understand how?
Danish Shaukat
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 16, 1999
Posts: 340
Mark,

It would be great if you could post a link to a resume that you really like. (I mean sample resumes, not of your candidates)
[ May 04, 2005: Message edited by: Danish Shaukat ]
Mohd Ali Advani
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 14, 2005
Posts: 54
Originally posted by Rashmi Tambe:

I sometimes dont understand how can one put 5-6+ yrs. of exp. in 1-2 pages? I just understand how?

One needs to write ONLY what he/she has done in the work .Don't write in detail how your project is serving all 50000 customers of retail chain.Explain that short.
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
We are looking for mid to senior Java guys, roughly 5-10 years in experience.

My first full-time job was on Project Apollo. We developed complete audio/visual/mechanical mission trainers for the lunar astronauts, including fully functional cockpits and clones of the MIT/Delco on-board computers. The programming of the seven mainframes was in assembly language. I can't think of more than two team members who had more than two years full-time experience when hired. No one had prior experience in DDP-224 or any 24 bit assembly language. Somehow, we got to the Moon anyway.

We finished ahead of time with full functionality. It worked so well that even I could fly it (I just pushed the ABORT button and it flew itself).

Now, forty years later, with countless improvements in programming languages, software tools, and college curriculums, it takes five years for a CS graduate to become a mid-level programmer?
[ May 04, 2005: Message edited by: Mike Gershman ]

Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I don't have time to do a lot of searching for good resumes (and obviously can't post candidates resumes without their permission) but here's a quick example from online; here's another. I'm not saying these are the pinnacle of resumes, I don't even like the formatting, but the level of detail per job is appropriate. You might be able to double the level of detail per job (read: double the text), if you held it a long time, or did a number of tasks, but I wouldn't go much beyond that.

--Mark
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

Now, forty years later, with countless improvements in programming languages, software tools, and college curriculums, it takes five years for a CS graduate to become a mid-level programmer?


Yes, for a variety of reasons. For one the field has become far broader. That means you either overspecialise and become useless, become overly broad and become useless, or slowly develop yourself within some constraints you (or chance) decide on.
The first two options are not people you likely want (unless you happen to need someone with that particular hyperspecialisation), the last takes a long time.

There are also far more people entering the field than are leaving it (or there were until recently).
This means a large group of people who would in the past qualify for senior jobs now don't because there already is a large pool of more experienced people to fill those positions.
This leads to people sticking in intermediate level jobs longer, who would in the past have flowed into senior jobs.
In turn the same effect means people spend more time in junior jobs as well.

Compare it to the armed forces. In wartime there are far more young officers in high ranks than there are in peacetime.
This is not just because the armed forces are larger in wartime, but in large part because the people in those higher positions are a prime target for enemy snipers leading to a steady stream of battlefield promotions to fill the shoes of (in this case literally) dead people.
In peacetime those shoes stay filled because there are 10 colonels for every general so chances of promotion are slim.


42
Eric Lemaitre
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 03, 2004
Posts: 538

Hi Mark !

I am afraid it is totally logical if you cannot find anyone with such standards. According to the numerous opinions I gathered from relevant employees and employers, it really looks like the only IT people readily available in US are "cheap average 3 years experience" indians or chinese hired through now completely boggus H1B system. Only "cheap average" are hired for of course the bad ones are not, but the really good ones are not either because they are not cheap and live much better in their own country than they would do in US. Please don't take this as blattant exageration, some very few immigration lawyers and recruiters confirmed this trend in private, only cheap indians/chinese are hired for US, other nationalities even excellent simply cannot be, whatever good they are.

The 2 consequences of this trend is both whipping out native US beginners for they have no experience while thousands of 3 years experience H1B are available anytime, and total impossibility to hire really good aliens through H1B when needed.
Of course by really good I mean according to standard 80% law : 10% crap, 80% average, 10% excellent (real good). This is what is found anyway in any community, no intention to harm anyone.

At the end, within a few years, there won't be any native US IT student because he wouldn't find any employment, and the only way to find a really good IT pro will be to steal a very expensive one from another company. This will make very shortly wages abnormally high for the very few best IT people and abnormally low for all the very numerous others. This would be a catastrophic scenario for US IT suppremacy.

In conclusion it looks like the really good ones you are looking for are already getting scarce in US. Looks like the catastrophic scenario first effects are getting visible.

Best regards.


Eric LEMAITRE
CNAM IT Engineer, MS/CS (RHCE, RHCX, SCJA, SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, Net+)
Free Online Tutorials: http://www.free-tutorials-online.net/
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
a large group of people who would in the past qualify for senior jobs now don't because there already is a large pool of more experienced people to fill those positions.

That does not explain Mark's assumption that programmers with less than five years' experience are not worth even interviewing for mid-level programming jobs.

Actually, the time required to be fully effective varies widely based on the aptitude of the individual, the work assigned, and the way the programmer chose to write the programs (any way that works versus best use of library classes and API's, patterns, and standards). The best programmers are at the top of their game within a year or two. They can pick up new tools and languages almost overnight. They are also well over ten times more productive.

Of course, the interviewer has to be capable of identifying the skilled programmer versus the experienced programmer. In my experience, technical knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an effective technical interview.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

That does not explain Mark's assumption that programmers with less than five years' experience are not worth even interviewing for mid-level programming jobs.


In practice it will take that long for someone to have gained access to enough experience gaining work (rather than brainkilling boilerplate work) to be experienced enough.
Ever more juniors will spend years doing what in the past was done by typists, typing in the designs made by others without much thinking of their own.

Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

Of course, the interviewer has to be capable of identifying the skilled programmer versus the experienced programmer. In my experience, technical knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an effective technical interview.


People knowledge is indeed more important. Many technically competent people are introverts and rather shy. Getting them to open up so you can get at that knowledge inside can be hard.
I know, I'm one of them Despite having years of experience writing SQL every day during a job interview I couldn't remember the simple UPDATE statement I'd used only the day before... The environment is so different, the pressures on your person immense (especially if your current job is in danger you're not relaxed at a job interview).
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
Most of what he said has a lot of merit. I do have one nit though -

- I don't need to know every technology you used on each and every project. When working in Java, I certainly don't care that you used a computer with a Pentium III processor!


This goes counter to what every recruiter I have ever talked to has said. Although I get real tired of writing "I used [X] technology while working on this project" and I really don't see the point of distinguishing between which versions of Windows I have developed on, it seems to be very important to the HR folks who generally screen resumes.

For our consulting resumes, we don't use bullet points, but instead use paragraphs to describe each project. While not as easy to scan, I do find that the format makes it easier to describe relevant experience. At the same time, it's probably a bad format for getting work if you're unemployed. Still, I find it somewhat ironic that the standard method of presentation in resumes is also somewhat underrepresenting of the candidates abilities.

Another nit, and this has nothing to do with Mark and everything to do with the industry, is the magical "5 years" mark. It seems like ever since I hit 5 years I have become highly sought after. Yet I see little difference in my skill sets between my 4th and 5th year in technology. Indeed, I grew the most between my 2nd and 3rd year, and again in my 5th to 6th year. Ironically, when I hit 10 years experience I will find it harder to find the kind of work I am doing now. That is one of the reasons I am moving off into architecture or project management. I simply see little future as a senior dev.
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
So right after posting, I had another thought hit me.

Question for Mark,

After my first year as a programmer I needed to find a new job as my company was in transition and I find less and less for me to do. I posted my resume and was flooded with offers. This was 2000 and right before the crash.

When I lost that job in 2003, I had difficulty finding work despite a much more impressive body of experience. One of the difficulties I identified (after I found a new job, natch!) was that I had never really sought a job before. Indeed, my search took a turn for the better when I learned that a job hunt was in effect me becoming a saleman of myself.

Yet I found my current job much like I did in 2000, which is I posted a resume to Monster (I wasn't actually looking, I just wanted to keep it up to date in case I found myself unemployed again) and someone just contacted me out of the blue.

So, with that in mind, do you think a similar problem is occurring? Is there still a mentality that employers should be beating a path to the technologist's door and/or are technologists still just really horrible at selling themselves to prospective employers?
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
Let me remind you. You are a manager at some privately owned start-up. Your funding just got turned on and you need people who think parachuting onto a burning building and picking up a hose is exiciting. You have no published financial data like earnings per share or even sales. You have no sales. You can neither offer your candidates security nor stock options.

Your budget is lean. Your deadlines are impossible. Your infrastructure is wobbly and B-grade. You are looking hard at offshoring. Your system needs to be state-of-the-art.

Half the resumes you see are above average.
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
As a job applicant you cannot read the minds of employers and say these two pages are what this company wants. One tries to put down what one has done and hope that it matches what the employer wants.

A long resume is an indicator of a long career. A person who throws out long resumes indicates experience is a negative. A long career indicates an advanced age. Intentional or unintended, age discrimination is a crime and you are a criminal, Mark.

BTW, I've noticed you occasionally make grammactical errors on this board. I don't think it lessens your capability, do you? Are you looking for English majors? Your not looking for well rounded people. You have five or six technologies you want a perfect fit on. There are no perfect candidates. Roses have thorns, shining waters mud...
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

That does not explain Mark's assumption that programmers with less than five years' experience are not worth even interviewing for mid-level programming jobs.


I never said that, please don't put words in my mouth.

Would you hire a guy with no experience as an architect? as a director of engineering? as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? How about with 1 year experience? 2?

Experience definately factors in. Now you may disagree on where the line is drawn, but that's just your opinion versus mine. I'd be nuts to pass up a great candidate with 4.5 years of experience because he's 6 month's shy, but I had to draw a line somewhere as general guidelines. I'm also not going to spend time looking at guys with no experience--remember I don't need the absolute best guy ever, just the best guy I can find in a reasonable amount of searching.





Originally posted by Eric Lemaitre:
I am afraid it is totally logical if you cannot find anyone with such standards. According to the numerous opinions I gathered from relevant employees and employers, it really looks like the only IT people readily available in US are "cheap average 3 years experience" indians or chinese hired through now completely boggus H1B system.


COnsider the number of software developers who graduated between 1995-2000 (let alone the ones already in the field). Sure many H1-B's came over, but we had hundreds of thousands here already.





Originally posted by Rob Aught:
This goes counter to what every recruiter I have ever talked to has said.


Well, I've neve rbeen a big fan of recruiters. I'm fine with a list at the end where you put in all the buzzwords, and appreciate that sometimes you need that just to get a search hit, but really people are going too far. If you say EJB's, you don't need to tell me Session EJB's and Entity EJB's, I know you're doing both! It just adds noise to your resume.






Originally posted by Rob Aught:
do you think a similar problem is occurring? Is there still a mentality that employers should be beating a path to the technologist's door and/or are technologists still just really horrible at selling themselves to prospective employers?


I think this is a big problem, although not necessarily for the reasons you named. I think most software people aren't good at selling themselves, fundamentally. They need to get better, and this will be the case irregardless of the economy.

I do think many young guys got burned and expected a bubble market for life. They never learned how to sell themselves. Many skill-less people could get a job in the bubble. Come 2001 they felt betrayed. I worry that the first chance they'll get we'll go back to demanding outrageous salaries and we'll have a boom-bust cycle as opposed to steady growth.




Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
Let me remind you. You are a manager at some privately owned start-up. Your funding just got turned on and you need people who think parachuting onto a burning building and picking up a hose is exiciting. You have no published financial data like earnings per share or even sales. You have no sales. You can neither offer your candidates security nor stock options.

Your budget is lean. Your deadlines are impossible. Your infrastructure is wobbly and B-grade. You are looking hard at offshoring. Your system needs to be state-of-the-art.



Homer, you have no clue what I'm doing, so please don't make statement like that. We're a 5-year old private company with long term growing revenue streams. We didn't just get funding yesterday, nothing is burning, but we are trying to ramp up development. Like all private companies, we have no published data (and I'm not going to discuss our finances here). We do have strong sales and marquee clients, we offer security, great benefits (better than many large firms I've seen) and stock options. The budget and deadlines are fine, as well as our infrastructure (and I know you haven't seen those so please don't speculate). I'm not looking hard at offshoring, we've been doing it for a while and it's working well.




Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
As a job applicant you cannot read the minds of employers and say these two pages are what this company wants. One tries to put down what one has done and hope that it matches what the employer wants.

A long resume is an indicator of a long career. A person who throws out long resumes indicates experience is a negative. A long career indicates an advanced age. Intentional or unintended, age discrimination is a crime and you are a criminal, Mark.


I say this only for the sake of young folk who might actually take your advice. Listing work experience back 10, 20 or however many years is an indicator of a long career. Using 7 page is an indicator of an inability to present concise information. Most employers want the same thing, and while your resume can't appeal to everyone, trying to make it do so will only hurt it. But don't take my word for it, hire any decent resume writing professional in the US and they'll tell you the same.


--Mark
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Mark said:
Would you hire a guy with no experience as an architect? as a director of engineering? as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? How about with 1 year experience? 2?

I thought you were hiring "mid to senior Java guys".


Jeroen said:
juniors will spend years doing what in the past was done by typists, typing in the designs made by others without much thinking of their own

And this qualifies them for programming jobs more than a Computer Science graduate who spent years writing complete programs involving a well-defined set of current technologies?
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
Mark,

Thanks for the clarification. I agree that getting into fine grain details about particular technologies is probably worthless. I've never listed anything more specific than "EJB" for instance. I understand that an HR person wouldn't know the difference and a hiring manager probably won't care.

As for the controversial experience number, I think Mike kind of pointed out that it is for "mid to senior" level positions. That actually sounds about right as not all fifth year developers are necessarily "senior". I personally tend to think of mid-level as 2 to 7 years experience. I really didn't hit a senior title until my current (6th) year.

I'm still curious why 5 years is such a magic number for employers though.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Rob Aught:

As for the controversial experience number, I think Mike kind of pointed out that it is for "mid to senior" level positions. That actually sounds about right as not all fifth year developers are necessarily "senior". I personally tend to think of mid-level as 2 to 7 years experience. I really didn't hit a senior title until my current (6th) year.

I'm still curious why 5 years is such a magic number for employers though.


This has always bothered me. At some point during the boom we got title inflation. If you want to have a 30 year career as a developer, mid should be 10+ years. But titles, as they were, inflated along with salaries in the 90's. I see plenty of guys with 3-10 years of experience listed as "senior." In the job posting I needed to say senior because someone who is a senioer developer might not be interested in a non-senior position. not matter what terms I say, I want people with 5+ years of experience. The upper end is, of course, unlimited--although a senior architect with 20 years experience is probably out of the price range, just like I would be out of the price range of an entry level guy. Still, if someone with 20 years exp sees the ad and applies, understanding the salary range implied y the experience, and is open to it, I'll gladly consider that candidate.

As for the 5 year magic number, I think it's for two reasons. First, psychologically, it's a "round" number (half of 10). Second, many job sites have you search by ranges, such as 0-5/5-10/10+ or 0-2/2-5/5-10/10+ so the search structure put a big step around 5.

--Mark
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
Java is also relatively new. When I entered the field in 1999, someone with 3 years experience could claim to be a Senior Java Developer and no one would bat an eyelash. Now that is ludicrous.

So I fully expect that as time goes on, we will see more people with longer stretches in "lower" titles. And I do currently see people with 10 years experience in mid-level roles. I worked my butt off to get my senior title at this stage in the game. I barely meet the minimum requirements. I had to really had to "wow" the senior management into thinking I was worth the title. Even then, I now run the risk of an even longer stretch before the next progression.

I think we're experiencing title deflation, and from what my Dad has told me this is normal for each new technology.
Hussein Baghdadi
clojure forum advocate
Bartender

Joined: Nov 08, 2003
Posts: 3479

Java is also relatively new.

Really ? 10 years and still new ?
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
Sorry, is it 2005 already? Time seems to be flying for me.

But yes, computer technology as a whole is not really all that old. It really has not come into it's own until just the last 20 years, and even then the real push seemed to come around the late 80's and early 90's. The field is still evolving rapidly.

Java is relatively new. There are still plenty of people out there that have had entire careers before Java ever became big on the market.

As a technology it is not all that new, but there is a reason I keep using the word "relatively" so much.
Henry Wong
author
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Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18821
    
  40

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
This has always bothered me. At some point during the boom we got title inflation.


I don't think it has much to do with the boom. Titles always has little to do with experience. In fact, in many cases, salaries too, have little to do with experience...

Over here, the classic example is Wall Street. Many developers have the title of Vice President, not because they have direct reports, not because they have executive responsibility, but because that title was mandated to get the required salary. And that existed way before the dot com boom.

Henry
[ May 05, 2005: Message edited by: Henry Wong ]

Books: Java Threads, 3rd Edition, Jini in a Nutshell, and Java Gems (contributor)
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Henry Wong:

Over here, the classic example is Wall Street. Many developers have the title of Vice President, not because they have direct reports, not because they have executive responsibility, but because that title was mandated to get the required salary. And that existed way before the dot com boom.


I had the impression that it was because they would talk to the VP level at their clients and the banks wanted the client to feel as though they were getting an appropriaely "high level" service rep. Keep in mind above the VP is the MD (Managing Director), which is not a common title in other industries.

Comparing titles across industries makes little sense, likewise comparing salaries (e.g. below the executive level, you can't generally compare those who work at Aramark with those who work at IBM). However, within an industry, or over time, I think the comparison does hold.

To be fair, there will never be total uniformity. A VP at 50 person startup company is different than a VP at a large MNC like GE.

--Mark
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
...To be fair, there will never be total uniformity. A VP at 50 person startup company is different than a VP at a large MNC like GE...


True a VP at a small company may be very different from a VP at a large MNC. I've worked for both.

The small company VP is more likely a true VP. She reports directly to the President, possibly the owner, may sit on the board of directors and her position is directly affected by the company's financial performance.

The VP at a large MNC on the other hand probably reports to a Senior VP who reports to a someone who reports to the Managing Director who reports to a board. There may be several more levels. This VP never even meets real board members and may see the MD at meetings once a year. This VP doesn't care about company financials since he gets his bonus regardless.
Don Stadler
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 10, 2004
Posts: 451
Mark makes some good point about level of detail in resumes/CV's. The examples he showed were classic formats.

Rob Aught replied that was contrary to what 'every recruiter' he ever spoke to says. I have to agree. Mark probably would not like my format but it's that way for a reason. The reason is those flamin' automatic resume-screeners that recruiters and even company HR departments use. I feel like I have to put in all the buzzwords of all the crap I've ever done - just so I can get it through the screens.

One idea for Mark might be to request a resume in his format. I have about 20 different formats of my CV on my hard drive so doing one more in a 'classic' format isn't a big deal.

Even multiple CV;s can be a problem. One 'interview' I had was with a manager who had searched out a CV I'd put online and compared it to the customized CV my recruiter had sent him. They differed in minor details, but he felt that amounted to rank dishonesty. I was not an Ethical Person (tm). He wasted half a day of my time to tell me that. I'd done everything on both versions of the CV and could prove it. But apparently I'd missed the 11th commandment Thou shall have only one CV and never change it.

"I don't need to see that you used CVS on each and every project you worked on."

Unfortunately there are people who go through each job listing in this kind of detail. I've repeatedly had recruiters ask me to 'put it into each work engagement' because that is exactly what the client does. Apparently if you don't put Java in each description it doesn't count - even if it's perfectly obvious. It's HARD to do JUnit without doing Java, you know!

Sigh. There are a lot of people making judgements who don't know the basics, Mark. I've found it essential to pitch my CV to the LCD.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Don,

That's a good idea, I should explicitly note in the description that I want a 1-2 page resume. (Although I I honestly think very few people would go out of their way if they don't already have one; still, it can't hurt.)

I also understand the need for buzzwords (given the large number of computer-based searches), and encourage developers to have a skills section in which they list words and phrases to their hearts content. 5 years ago, I even encouraged people to list design patterns on their resume; that is, the words "design patterns" to show a level of knowledge which was surprisingly rare. The popular term to put on a resume these days is [/i]Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)[/i] or some variant.

Still, ask yourself where you want to be and who you want to work for. As an example of how I'm falliable myself, years ago some recruiters suggested I list MS Word, Excel, etc on my resume. A friend pointed out that I still had it and said "do you think at your level they care if you list it?" If a company is hiring someone at my level and sees my background and isn't sure if I can handle MS Office products, something is seriously wrong. I removed it. Likewise the good hiring managers don't need to see every buzzword. When I interview candidates I find I ask far fewer tech questions of the top candidates than of the others. Why? Because the top candidates come out swinging and just by how they talk about their projects, I see a depth of knowledge which assures me I can skip all but the most complex Java questions. Likewise, a good hiring manager can read a short resume and get a general level of where the person is.

I think of it as similar to the adaptive ETS tests. For those not familiar, instead of asking everyone the same 50 questions and seeing their net score, it adapts in an online test. it starts with a question 50% of the people get right and then asks you a tougher or easier question based on whether you got it right or wrong. (It's not quite so "one questions and your marked" but that's the rough idea.) Similarly, the resume ballparks the candiates for me and I use the interview to fine tune it. Sometimes the candiate is a good resume writer but not as impressive as I expected; sometimes the opposite is true.

In any case, do you really want to work for a guy who needs everything spelled out for him? As for the recruiters, most of these recruiters, as I've said before, don't know their ass from their elebow (I also note there are exceptions). I still get a request a day from a recruiter, picking up my 3 month old resume saying, "I see you know J2ME (note: it's listed only once or twice on my resume) we need a J2ME contactor in NC for $30/hr, please answer the following ten questions for me...." Do I want to work for manager who uses such a recriuter?

If you're willing to settle for the way things are, go with the herd. If you think you're above average, and can get an above average job, with above average people, and an above average manager, then do what makes sense, because that's how an above average manager would be approaching the problem.

--Mark
Don Stadler
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 10, 2004
Posts: 451
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

(Although I I honestly think very few people would go out of their way if they don't already have one; still, it can't hurt.)


Agreed. But the ones whom you really want to talk to might. Assuming they have time...

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
The popular term to put on a resume these days is [/i]Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)[/i] or some variant.


Another pet peeve - jargon creep. I was narked out of a submittal because I didn't list SDLC on my CV. Turns out that it's pretty much old wine in new bottles.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Still, ask yourself where you want to be and who you want to work for. As an example of how I'm falliable myself, years ago some recruiters suggested I list MS Word, Excel, etc on my resume. A friend pointed out that I still had it and said "do you think at your level they care if you list it?" If a company is hiring someone at my level and sees my background and isn't sure if I can handle MS Office products, something is seriously wrong. I removed it.


True. I did a top-down review of my CV this spring, the first in more than a decade. I'd encourage everyone to do this at LEAST once a year. A resume/CV is a marketing document as well as a chronicle. It presents you in a way that supports you in seeking your aspirations as well as documenting your history. Aspirations and the way you view your history change, sometimes profoundly. QED. I'll probably do another review with these remarks in mind.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I think of it as similar to the adaptive ETS tests. For those not familiar, instead of asking everyone the same 50 questions and seeing their net score, it adapts in an online test.


A career is an adaptive test. A job search is a speeded-up adaptive test with profound consequences for your life and your loved-ones. Learn from experience. I learn from interviews - and adapt. I learned from the experience of not getting my CV through the automatic screens - and adapted. Now I'll probably go off and make a 'classic' format CV - yet another adaption.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
In any case, do you really want to work for a guy who needs everything spelled out for him? As for the recruiters, most of these recruiters, as I've said before, don't know their ass from their elebow (I also note there are exceptions). I still get a request a day from a recruiter, picking up my 3 month old resume saying, "I see you know J2ME (note: it's listed only once or twice on my resume) we need a J2ME contactor in NC for $30/hr, please answer the following ten questions for me...." Do I want to work for manager who uses such a recriuter?


Do you really want to hire someone who can't tell the difference between a fundamental principal and a tactic? And who refuses to use tactics to help him survive? I hear you about the J2ME. I was that way with Oracle for many years. Oracle was a supporting skill not a main one, and I kept getting calls for $20/hr in Florida. The ironic thing is that after my current gig Oracle will be a main skill, a supporting one no longer....

Some of the 'clueless' gigs are really quite rewarding, Mark. Sometimes they are working for people who need something done and don't have the first idea how. So you can come in and show them how to accomplish what they want. You get a lot of autonomy on how. But you can't play the game unless you can get through the recruiter and HR screen?

I believe in flexibility. I'll play it your way with the intelligent managers - if I can identify them. It's really hard to do unless they post their ads directly where I can read them. That kind are like hens teeth. Like you with CV's I can read an ad and work out a lot about the person writing it. Assuming it's not boilerplate - which at least 95% of all ads are. Higher, much higher.

BTW, have you had a think about the 'Kathy's blog - hire different' thread? I think there may be something in it for you...
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Don Stadler:

BTW, have you had a think about the 'Kathy's blog - hire different' thread? I think there may be something in it for you...


I replied in her blog.

--Mark
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
Homer, you have no clue what I'm doing, so please don't make statement like that. We're a 5-year old private company with long term growing revenue streams. We didn't just get funding yesterday, nothing is burning, but we are trying to ramp up development. Like all private companies, we have no published data (and I'm not going to discuss our finances here). We do have strong sales and marquee clients, we offer security, great benefits (better than many large firms I've seen) and stock options. The budget and deadlines are fine, as well as our infrastructure (and I know you haven't seen those so please don't speculate). I'm not looking hard at offshoring, we've been doing it for a while and it's working well.


Senior Developers, state-of-the-art requirements, NYC ... let's talk. What would an atty or finincial analyst command in that market? Could you go $200 an hour? I don't want to put words in your mouth or anything. What sort of range could you go for? How big an office? Do you provide parking, reimbursment for tutition, or no-strings-attached tution funding? Does the developement team have a dedicated secretary?
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
Silence is golden...

Cost of living is brutal in NYC. $100,000 really would not be unreasonable would it? And that's only if you want to hire the candidates as direct employees. BTW, do your competitors have access to any better talent than you do?

**EDITED** Please don't make accusations like this.**EDITED**

Deposit, time spent searching for an apt and moving costs are significant.

I know you really don't like to talk about money in the interview process. In fact the reality of it is you just want a new college grad or an H1-B to be taken what your givin. If the candidate is an experienced guy, you'll talk salary cause it gives you the convienient excuse to say - He wants too much money.

How's that Stones song go - Bite the Big Apple, don't mind the maggots...
[ May 17, 2005: Message edited by: Angela Poynton ]
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
I think your accusations are uncalled for and are based more on your own biases and speculations.

Just because a shop outsources does not mean they do not need domestic help. It was the projects that eliminated all of their domestic IT that soon found themselves in trouble. I still find offshoring to be a very dubious prospect, but their have been some success stories. None of those success stories involved "well, we got rid of our domestic developers".

It doesn't seem quite right for you to tell him what he means. You made some assertions, he gave his side. They you defined his side. How can this be a discussion if you're going to tell him what he means?
Don Stadler
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 10, 2004
Posts: 451
Homer, please give the man a break. Mark is a decent chap and offshoring is a fact of life we all live with.

An old PM of mine now spends significant time overseeing an offshored project in Pune. When asked his opinion he recommended they 'reshore' and backed it up with data obtained through his experiences.
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Don Stadler:
Homer, please give the man a break. Mark is a decent chap and offshoring is a fact of life we all live with.

An old PM of mine now spends significant time overseeing an offshored project in Pune. When asked his opinion he recommended they 'reshore' and backed it up with data obtained through his experiences.


I find "Homer" hard to take as well, I wish he'd expose his other persona. I for one, am only myself, but he admits to being one of many.

I worked for many years for a company that provided "offshore" services, long before that term was popular and most organizations would come to us and then a few years later go back, sometimes to return after they made a complete dog's breakfast of their system by themselves. We referred to the two states as "inhouse" and "outhouse", outhouse was back with us again.
Angela Poynton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 02, 2000
Posts: 3143
Please refrain from making assumptions here based on personal bias.
[ May 17, 2005: Message edited by: Angela Poynton ]

Pounding at a thick stone wall won't move it, sometimes, you need to step back to see the way around.
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
Angela it's nice you could drop in. We see so little of you around here. I'm hoping you'll add some incite to this discussion.

Do you think there's any personal bias in a thread entitled The reality of the job market...

I think the facts are clear hundred of thousands have been laid off in the US. Hundreds of thousands of IT professionals have been imported. When one has hundreds of resumes to select from, the same pool his competitors have, and they are definate lack of quality candidates, it says more about the person making the subjective judgement.

Many if not most of those resumes are college grads. Many if not most are honest hard working people who, maybe not their first week, would make significant contributions to Mark's enterprise. Should they prove to be unacceptable after some adequate probationary period, they are employed at-will.

With unparalleled access to world wide market of people, with unparalleled ability to search and advertise for people management's tired worn out diatribe we just can't find anybody should be, IMO, recognized for what it is - whining.
Angela Poynton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 02, 2000
Posts: 3143
Here's how I see it.

Yes, maybe "The reality of the job market" wasn't the best title for this thread, since of course reality is subjective.

However, I believe Mark started this thread with the intention of offering useful advice to jobseekers from the perspective of someone in a hiring position.

His example was one which meant he was clearly looking for someone with specific skills, it's not that unusual. Perhaps it was a bad example to put into a thread called "the reality", the point is I guess, to try to understand that the intention was good and to perhaps offer your comments in a more constructive manner rather than "attack".

You're right, I don't really look in this section, I note you post here quite a lot though and I apologise if the assumption I'm going to make on the few posts I have read is incorrect. It seems you have been burned (or are currently being burned) by the job market. I'm sorry for that. If it makes you feel any better, I'm going to be re-entering the job market myself soon and will more than likely be sharing your pain.

The point is. You could have put your point across without attacking Mark personally. He was aiming to help job seekers, maybe you could be aiming to help him.
Eric Lemaitre
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 03, 2004
Posts: 538

Hi Homer !

With unparalleled access to world wide market of people, with unparalleled ability to search and advertise for people management's tired worn out diatribe we just can't find anybody should be, IMO, recognized for what it is - whining.

Well said, Homer.
Despite the respect I have for Mark Herschberg, and although I understand his point of view (finding really excellent IT people is very hard and keeping them is much harder), I simply took this thread as an insult at first sight : how can simply nowadays a recruiter complain about difficulty to find valuable candidates while it is comparatively immensely much harder even for valuable candidates to find a job ?

Allow me a last joke, isn't H1B specifically designed for Mark's issue, allowing the very qualified alien IT people unavailable in US to come ? He should apply in his case...

Best regards.
Don Stadler
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 10, 2004
Posts: 451
Mark, some serious answers without slagging you...

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I posted two job listings on Monster, Dice, and Craig's List. After 7 days I had a whopping 12 resumes. (A year ago in Boston posting on Craig's List I would get 100 resumes in 48 hours.)

We are looking for mid to senior Java guys, roughly 5-10 years in experience. (For those who claim age discriminiation, I would gladly take those with more experience, but it's about 1% of the candidates with more than 12 years of experience.)


This is bad news? I'd say it's fantastic news - both for candidates and the long term future of the US industry! The people you're looking for with 5-10(+) years experience are the Holy Grail in a healthy labor market and the fact that you could draw 100 responses in 48 hours a symptom of deep sickness.

In 'normal' times these people are difficult to find and you have to pay through the nose because they are rare and valued. If these people can't make a go of it there is very little hope for anyone else...

I personally consider the mark of a superior manager to produce superior results with relatively mediocre staff. I usually look for people with pronounced strengths (but also weaknesses). The trick is to recognize the talent and put it where it will do the most good....

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
If you are a competant developer, I can't imagine not being able to find a job in NYC if you're willing to pound the pavement.


I can, very easily. Call it the Tim Holloway factor. Or to a lesser degree the Don Stadler syndrome. Tim is obviously a good developer who spent 2+ years on the beach. I am an experienced developer who isn't a perfect fit for many of the roles stereotypically advertised. Yet I am a damn good developer with a dedication to my profession and self-improvement most could envy.

I had 2 spells of unemployment which might well wipe me off your dance card, 8 months in 2003 and 6 months last year. I landed two contracts which fizzled during the first spell and one fizzle last year. Two of the three were high-level desireable gigs.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

- At least have a vague idea of what the company does, or refer to things on the website which was unclear. Show me some effort.
- Be confident in your answers. Confidence goes a long way.


I have to comment on this last. Mark, It's hard to maintain confidence in the face of serial turndowns. My confidence took a beating and has only recently recovered to former levels. Even now it's a trifle fragile. Yet I'm quite possibly a better developer than I've ever been.
Learn to look deeper into the person for signs of confidence. If the person has good stories of success backed up with knowledge the fact that they're a bit wind-battered ought not matter too much because good management can turn that problem around....

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
- Know basic Java. I can't believe the guys and girls who can't even answer simple questions! Sure top people will miss some things, even a basic thing they may just forget, but many candidates with 5+ years can't even answer one of a multitude of basic questions.
- Never be quiet for long periods of time. If given a brain teaser or design problem, think out loud. It's not the answer I want, I want to see how you think.
- If this is a system you claim to be working on, or worked on recently, be able to get down into the details if I ask, otherwise I start to wonder if you're really on the project.
- Be proactive in the interview, ask me questions. Don't sit there under interrogation waiting for it to be over.
- Distinguish yourself. Every candidates says "I'm smart/hard working/dedicated/know Java well/know some other technology well/like challenges." I can't distinguish you that way. You can say things like that, but only if you tie it into the specific role at the specific company, otherwise you just sound like everyone else and don't stand out.
- Find a way to stand out. Make a joke, be quirky, be whatever, just be unique.


Lots of good advice here. I think out loud, ask questions, tell (true) stories. Sometimes I tell the interviewer they are wrong about something, like the guy I recently advised to consider Hibernate/POJO rather than entity EJB's for his project. I might have blown that one but sometimes they come back after a while' 'Why did you say that?'

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
These are just some late night gripes after many, many fruitless hours of searching, and disappointing candidates. I can't speak for the whole country, but in NYC, there is a definate lack of quality candidates.


Mark, I suspect that you are searching too narrowly. Look for interesting old farts with lots of C++ and a recent conversion to Java, or smart kids with little or no industry experience. Search outside the narrow experience of people with the correct profile cutting cookie-cutter Struts or EJB. Lost of these people will lack the breadth of experience and exposure to different ways of doing things. Better 18 months of Struts, Tapestry, JSF, and Velocity than 4 years of Struts, I say! Toss in some Jini and perhaps a little PL/SQL and you might really have something!

Cheers,
Don
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Don said:
Mark, I suspect that you are searching too narrowly.

I was just reading up on the history of our field and I find that a lot of the most important work was done by people with less than five years paid programming experience. I think that Mark and many other hiring managers are using "five years paid industry experience" as an all-pupose screening device. Really talented programmers can recognize other talented programmers by how they discuss issues, how they approach a hard question, what points they emphasize in describing work they have done, and the insights they have on what distinguishes quality software.

Jeroen said:
In practice it will take that long for someone to have gained access to enough experience gaining work (rather than brainkilling boilerplate work) to be experienced enough.
Ever more juniors will spend years doing what in the past was done by typists, typing in the designs made by others without much thinking of their own.

I am sure that there are shops like this, but I just checked with some managers at my old company, which employs literally thousands of programmers, and they said that this is no more true today then it was when I was there. Good programmers are quickly identified and given stretch assignments. Mediocre programmers are given routine work until the next downsizing, at which time they leave with "five years paid industry experience", load their resume with everything their department did, and sail through HR on the way to their next routine job.

As I expected, nothing has really changed except the names of the latest and greatest languages and software packages which are so new and uniquely different as to totally invalidate any experience on last year's latest and greatest languages and software packages.

Laws change but the top lawyers are still the top lawyers. Tax laws change but the best accountants are still the best. And software changes but talented programmers will quickly learn and excel with any tools they are given.

Of course, you have to know how to recognize them. Would you have hired Bill Joy, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates out of school? How about Grace Hopper (COBOL), John Backus (FORTRAN), or Nathaniel Rochester (Assembly Langage)? All of them did some of their best work before their fifth year of paid programming experience.

Programming talent is not measured in years but in raw ability, technical knowledge, disciplined problem solving, and appetite for hard work. Most of those brilliant but evil virus-writers have never held a paying job in their young lives but their work is (technically) top-notch.

Requoting Don:
Mark, I suspect that you are searching too narrowly.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: The reality of the job market (from the other side)