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re: Things which help you get an interview (?)

 
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This question keeps coming up so I thought I'd throw my thoughts in. There are three things that come to mind to help in getting a job.
The biggest challenge in getting a job is indeed getting an interview! For every 100 resumes sent, you may only get 10 responses and if you're lucky 1 interview. So what can you do get 30 responses and 10 interviews? Here are my thoughts.
What are the best things to have in addition to experienced jobs in order to get more interviews?
--Quality certifications are valuable in helping you get an interview. The SCJP will do *zero* to directly help you get a job, but it will indirectly help you get an interview, as it provides at least a basic benchmark of knowledge. Note, only certifications that have integrity should be earned. Certs that don't have objective testing (Brain Bench), or are subject to memory cramming (test dumps)- like the NT 4 MCSE- should be avoided, in my opinion.
--Strong academic background. Some people feel that where one went to school doesn't matter much. In the long run this is true, but in my experience and from other professional contacts, if one has graduated from a top university and/or CS or Engineering department you get more interviews even 10 or 20 years later. I've been told a few times that my BA in CS from Berkeley has got me interviews where I only minimally met the job description, just on the perceived strength of the intellect required to graduate from such a program. I've heard the similar stores from others who have graduated from top 10 CS programs like Michigan, Texas, Cornell, CMU, Illinois etc. Alternatively, a Master's in CS is a big boost. However, academic credentials will do *nothing* to actually get you the job itself directly. But just getting to the interview pool can be the biggest struggle and your college name can help you with this years down the road. If you're considering college keep these thoughts in mind in selecting where you go.
- A personal web page. A web page with information about yourself and your interests can help in terms of giving a recruiter or HR person more information about you as a person- something which transcends the resume. Again, this can help get you the interview by making you more of a 3 dimensional person instead of just a list of skills and job experiences. Humanizing yourself will give you an edge. Also, your webpage can expose personal projects if you lack professional experience in certain skills. People naturally are curious about others- putting a link on your resume to a personal webpage can get good results, and you can also see which companies are actually following up on you in some cases. Upon seeing a log of "XYZ.com", you can that day send of a short email again expressing your interest in the company.
What might you suggest to increase your chances for an interview?
 
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M Prembroke:
I'm on a roll today - so buckle yourself in and hang on.
I agree with your statements above. However, if you have a BS-Comp Sci (or other close technical degree), or you have experience - the web page is not all that necessary.
I don't have one - except where I post my resume in MS-Word and text - for people on this and other boards to read.
It's weird - in 5 years of playing this game - I have never been asked to bring code samples or screen printouts to an interview. However, I have been asked to outline a project or two - but here you can ask the interviewer what he/she would like to focus on. Basically try to avoid a 30 minute chant on your part.
-----
Moving on to the SJCP. Combined with a degree - it's gotta help. And it's gotta help big time - at least to get an entry-level inteview. Getting the job is another story - but if you did reasonably well in your degree/studies this will take care of itself. And of course, at the interview - it's the managerial questions/answers that get you the job 80% of the time. At least at the junior - mid level positions.
----------
What I see (and have repeatedly stated on this board) - are qualified people (degrees and certifications) - that do not prepare for the interview.
I ask you this: How many times have you gone to the store and bought something you did not intend to - or how many times have you gone to the store for something and come home empty handed - even though the store had the item.
This analogy EXACTLY applies to the interview/hiring game.
-------------
So many people in our field do not prepare for the interview. Most spend about 10 minutes writing up their resume's. Take a look at www.javajobs.com and you can see what I mean.
Most don't wear a suite and tie to an interview - or they wear a green or light blue suite or an orange silk shirt with a black tie. Or they try to fake it out with black Nike' high top tennis shoes. Or they forget the tie all together. Or (here's a classic) they wear white socks with black shoes to the interview. Whatever they wear - they violate the rules of the game. And yes, there are rules (unwritten - but they exist).
Granted - what you wear does not make the person. But how you prepare for the interview (and this my friends is how you gotta look at the game) is what counts. And getting dressed is part of the preparation.
I remember a guy on here posted this about his father. Said his father would "Never wear a suite and tie to an interview because they hire the man and not the clothes". Well baby - they do hire the clothes. Because, number one it's the rules and number two it's shows respect, and number three it shows you took the time to prepare for the interview, and number four it shows you don't have an attitude problem and are not going to shorten my life span (via the many headaches a trouble maker would cause).
------------
Moving on the the actual interview. You need to prepare - by writing up 3 or 4 stories for the managerial section. You should have some knowledge of Java (it helps).
But, everyone on ths board seems to focus way too much on the technical aspects and they leave the other parts behind. Sure, you gotta know the technical parts. But don't forget the other facets of the game.
------------
Hope that helps.
Johnny
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
[This message has been edited by John Coxey (edited March 30, 2001).]
 
John Coxey
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M Prembroke:
To answer your question more directly on what you can do to generate more interviews:
1. Have a good cover letter. Your cover letter should "sell" your self. Do not put in any negatives. Do not explain why you left your last job - no one cares. Put in your positive aspects. For entry level, list some points that tell how you are "goal oriented", "a self starter", "learn rapidly/fast"
2. Your cover letter should not be a rehash of the resume.
3. Your cover letter should be 3 paragraphs. And it should be personallized. I usually change the first paragraph around and leave the other two alone.
4. These resume folks all say to do research on companies you are applying to. Sure it helps, but do you really have time to do the research on 10-20 of the companies you are going to send resume's to that week. Better yet, in our industry alot of the leads are through head hunters - and you don't know the comapny.
Basically, I address the cover letter to whomever. Include title/etc. I also say where I saw the advertisement or whatever the case may be.
5. If sending a us-mail - sign in blue ink. I don't know why - but blue ink gets you responses. Probably because it stands out better.
6. The new theory in sending out resume/cover letter via mail is that you should use standard white paper. I say no way kids.
You should use good stock (100% cotton - about $8.00/50 sheets) white or light grey paper. Do not get the "flecked" kind with little ticks on it. It looks nice - but does not copy well. I think they call this style "dark granite" or something.
7. The theory about stamps used to be to use commemorative stamps. I say go with the standard US Postage ones. Never, ever use a postage meter. Always type up the envelope with return address.
Never use labels on envelope.
Never use those Easter Seals doodads to seal lid of envelope.
Never use self adhesive return addresses.
8. None of the issues in item #7 will kill you - but you are trying to get past the minimum wage secretary. Who would love nothing more than to throw the whole pile in the trash. After all, you are interrupting her game of computer solitaire.
----------------
9. If you can, follow-up with a phone call. Tough with a lot of them. But try.
10. Apply to everyone-everything-anything. Go to job fairs, resume workshops (the free ones). Subscribe to the free trade magazines - most are useless but once in awhile they have a good article.
Example: I was interviewing with General Electric Locomotive in Erie, PA. Saw they were going to put satellite dishes on the locomotives - but the heat from the radiators was melting the dishes. So I learned the locomotive model numbers (C40-9W) and the horsepower (5000 HP) and the proposed horsepower (6000 HP). Also read that Conrail had bought the competitors locomotives (General Motors - EMD SD80MAC).
At the interview - I said that it was a shame that Conrail didn't buy any of GE's new Dash-9's. Would have loved to seen the paint job on that one. Of course the guy damned near peed himself.
I was offered the job. But no, I decided to go work for our friends at Lucent instead.
----------------
11. Be professional on the phone. If you live with mum/dad - do not tell the interviewer/person making the initial phone contact.
Change the answering machine (perfectly legal to do so and a must in today's business world) to your voice only. Tell mum/dad to NOT to answer the phone - explain why.
I know, it's one of those American things. But I feel recruiters question someone still living at home with parents.
I had to do this when my lease ran out at Pitt - and I moved back in with parents for 2 months.
And yes, I got the lecture from the old man about how I should be loyal to the same company for 40 years. You know, the old man has been retired for like 5 years now and he still has the company license plate "MAYTAG" on his mini-van. Yes, there is a generation gap in our house. My dad is a salesman - and he knows how to dish it out.

12. MOST IMPORTANT!!!
HAVE FUN. IT'S A GAME.
13. This number is bad luck - so left blank.
14. If you do this job search right - it will be a full time job after about two weeks. You want to stay SO busy that the rejections (AND YES THEY DO HAPPEN) just get flung over your shoulder and you move onto the next one.
Johnny
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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After 8 successful years of staying employed I've got some random thoughts.
(1)
I have been amazed at the lack of technical questions asked at interviews. I think a B.Sc. from any of the top 50 engineering and CS schools and more than a couple years of experience lets people know you can succeed in a technical environment.
(2)
If you have certifications and/or proof of continued education that's a big plus. It shows you are serious about your career. Employers like to hire self-motivated people.
(3)
If you faked your way through school, or didn't get a good education you will not last long anywhere. If you've ever been promoted it shows you succeeded somewhere. In the hiring manager�s mind, if you have had success you will probably have it again.
(4)
Read the job description and you probably know everything you need to know to get hired.
* Corporate culture - Most companies go out of their way to tell you this. The tone of the advertisement will scream "family oriented" or "challenging environment". You can position yourself based on this type of information.
* Job skills - The job description is written for the perfect candidate. Those don't really exist, so pick out what you match and emphasize the heck out of it. Don't sell yourself short.
(5) COVER LETTER
This is usually the most important part of the job application. A cover letter gets read! A resume is browsed. Regurgitate some of the job description back to the hiring manager so he knows you are a good fit for the job. If you can't do this easily than the job may be beyond your current skills. It's better to put together a good resume and cover letter for 10 jobs you're qualified for than 1000 that you're not. Be realistic.
(6)
Headhunters are for experienced professionals. If you don�t have experience you probably can through out all advertisements from these peddlers of flesh. Once you get experience remember that most Headhunters get paid to make you change jobs. That doesn�t mean they�re looking out for your best interest. There are exceptions to this rule, but be careful.
That�s enough. I�m getting off my horse now.

Mike
 
John Coxey
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More stuff:
Another thing that I saw come across my desk the other day.
Do not send references with cover letter. Bring them to the interview and when you fill out the application - just put them inside. Usually, this can wait until your first day of employment.
Surprisingly, hardly anyone calls your references. And it looks like your "pushing" yourself or "using references for fill" if you attach them to resume.
----------
Other things I have seen on resume (most of this is rehashed from last month - but worth repeating).
STUFF NOT TO PUT ON RESUME
- No one cares about your health
- No one cares about your high school - PERIOD!!!
- No one cares that you were in the dance recital in College/High School.
- No one cares about your height - why the hell anyone would put this on a resume is beyond me. I've seen this twice now in the past week.
- Do not put extra curricular activites such as ...
Eagle Scout (which I am)
Denver Java User's Group (which I have not joined)
Trout Unlimited Membership (which I belong to)
Explorer Post at EDS (used to do until I came out west)
... on resume, this can wait. If you put them on the resume' it sounds like you are using "fill". It won't necessarily kill you - but it's not that good of an idea - my opinion.
... you can put them on the application (there is a space for this). You can mention in one of your stories during the interview.
... Speaking of Eagle Scout. Some companies are big supporters and you will see this "silver eagle statue" (guys who are in scouts will know what I am talking about) that corporations get for a major donation.
... I like to point out the statue and sometimes you can "break the ice" this way. Once in a while you find out that the guy's kid(s) are in scouting. Then you can recall your days as a scout. Sometimes (if you are lucky) a majority of the interview will be spend shooting "old times". It's called "getting to know someone". And if you are relaxed, the interviewer is relaxed. And you can score some points. Remember, people just love to talk about their kids.
This is is how you use the "Eagle Scout".
In addition, if you are 40 yrs old - putting "Eagle Scout" on the resume makes you come across as some kid - or that you haven't done anything with your life since you were a kid. But using the above technique can get you around this.
Granted, if you are new to interviewing - you aren't going to know all this. That's fine. But someday (if you stay in the game long enough) - you will be at the point where you can change your interview on the fly. And yes, I have stumbled, with absolutely no chance of recovery. But remember, it's only a game. And to be honest, I really do love playing the game.
STUFF TO PUT ON RESUME
- Here's a goody: List your computer languages - NOT IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER - but in the order of most relevant to least relevant. Recruiters know to look for this.
- You do not have to list all of your jobs. Just list the ones relevant to the IT industry. No one cares that you worked at McDonald's unless you did IT work for them. Granted, if that's all you worked at - then put it down.
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Regarding 1 page versus 2 page resume's. I am not sure about this one. It's been a big debate for past 3 days for me. I am going to go with a 2 pager. There's not too much fill in it - and I like the layout of my resume - so I am going to go with it.
Again, will let everyone know how it works out. So stay tuned to JavaRanch.
Well, that's about it. It's Friday - Actually it's Saturday (because everyday is Saturday when you're not working )
Later,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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Very informative points, John. Infact, I immediately took a print out of this post and have to appreciate your effort, for taking time to write up so much stuff! Whew!
Also, thanks to M Prembroke and Mike.
John, sorry to hear about your job lay off and good luck with your job hunt.
Keep us posted,
- Suresh
[This message has been edited by Suresh Ray (edited March 30, 2001).]
 
Michael Pearson
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Ditto on the references.
I don't give them out until I have to. HR only uses them against you, so usually they are only asked for if the Hiring Manager wants to speak with a former manager of yours or a peer. My experience is that this has more to do with evaluating how you fit into the new company and not your technical skills.
1 page or 2?
Most people probably don't need more than one page. The exception would be if you were in a job that is project driven. I have completed 12 major projects since 1995 as the lead design engineer. Each one is unique and deserves some play, but not as part of my resume. I use that experience as fodder during the interview or provide it in writing when asked.
Mike
 
John Coxey
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Mike:
The reason I am going with the 2 page resume is that I have back to back layoffs, a cross country move, 1 year of a PhD program (so there is an employment gap between the layoffs), an MS program (another year gap), and finally we get to some real world experience with Osh-Kosh and EDS.
Not sure how the back-to-back layoffs are going to effect the search - getting those initial phone calls.
I can handle the interviews - as I won't dwell on the layoffs. In other words, I won't change the interview to a gripe and complain session. So that base is covered.
----
Resume's are done. I am going to post them to my AOL site tonight and will get back to you all with the link.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
Michael Pearson
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John,
When I said most people, I wasn't thinking of you. You have a lot of education and experience that's going to take up space.
If you are inexperienced (less than 2 years) or just have a B.Sc. and looking for your first job you don't need a two-page resume.
Good luck!
Mike
 
John Coxey
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Mike:
Going to the 2 page resume was a big leap for me, and I had to think about it a few days. Now that the decision was made - and you received a copy - I have decided to add another job to the resume.
Granted I only worked their a year, doing basic telephone support (was a 4 person outfit) for MS-DOS based software. Pay was only $6.00/hour (I told you that I paid my "dues"). But, I figure it's relevant and I might as well add it to the resume since there is room.
That's about it. Resume's/etc. should be up tonight (Sun). I have everything written out - and hope to have it on the boards -just need to think about it some more today.
Later,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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