Saturday, February 23, 2008

Proof I'm not talking out of my ass

My apologies if I sound like a dead englishwoman, I was listening to the thirteenth tale on my mp3 player and its affected my brain. Anyways....

I have a friend who has been SDET contracting for many years. His latest contract finished, and he's looking for permanent work. On my advice he posted his resume on dice last Saturday. I also forwarded his resume to a number of agencies that had contacted me last time. By EOD Thursday he'd had five recruiter interviews and two technical phone interviews, which is all the more impressive when you remember that Monday was a holiday. And that there's a recession. And that he's looking for a perm position, which is a slower process. In contrast, I believe it took two months to find his last job (to be fair, part of that two months was Christmas season). And that was during a fairly good economy, for a temporary position.

Posting resumes. It works bitches.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's like advice, but easier

This advice was originally devised for a friend who's spent the last year and a half doing theoretical computer science work, but has been tempted into interviewing for an applied position by the prospect of hellish hours and something free food. He's got about a week to prepare, and is willing to put serious time into it. This is about half guesswork, since my own position was similar but not identical: I wanted jobs that (while still testing) had a significantly larger coding component than my last job. Not only have some technical skills atrophied, but he's never done a job interview before and doesn't know what to expect. What I said:
  1. The most common interview pattern is: 1-2 phone interviews, then one half or full day in person circuit. If it's full day, you're probably going to have very long breaks.
    1. The phone interviews last anywhere from 15-45 minutes. If there's two, the first is probably with HR. After a bit more time in the working world, I look forward to telling any HR screener that I'll only talk to the hiring manager.
    2. The in-person circuit will have around four 45 minute - 1 hour interviews, with a different person each time. You will almost certainly get more than one question is that time. Adjust your level of detail accordingly.
  2. If an interview takes substantially less time than you were told, you failed. This includes both a single interview running short or being sent home before the time you were told has elapsed. The only exception to this is if the interviewer actually says "wow, you answered those questions so fast, I have nothing left to fill the time with. All the other interviewees took much longer." At that point, worry about the quality of the company.
  3. conversely, running over is a good sign. Getting more interviews then you were told you'd have is a very good sign.
  4. You will be asked if you have any questions. The answer should be yes, and your questions should be insightful.
In addition, here are some general tips for prepping for an interview you're intellectually capable of completing, but have some brain fuzziness on:
  1. Find or create a project that uses the skills you will be tested on. I actually started working for a friend's company, at wages that wouldn't have been worth it even if they didn't cut into my unemployment check. But it was fun, kept me sharp, and made it a little easier to transition back to the working world.* When you run into things you've forgotten the background of, look them up. Hyperspecific example: if it's an unspecified dev or test position, work on strings, lists, and trees.
  2. Work around what you're not sure of. Hyperspecific example: if you don't remember the intricacies of ints, use bignums.
  3. Testers only: develop a schema of ways to test real objects (I've been asked to test toasters, vending machines, and escalators). For breakage testing, I like to use Faith's five kinds of torture: sharp, blunt, hot, cold, loud. Interpreted creatively, these will take you far.

* It does weird ass things to my resume though. I either have a two month gap or list a two month job that doesn't mesh well with the jobs before or after it. My current solution is to mark is as short-term/part-time, and note that the owner was a personal friend when I list him as a reference.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

It's not you, it's me

Back when I was doing the job circuit, I had an interview I thought went really well. Really, really well. But I didn't get the job. I was surprised, but put it down to the fact that the HR rep who found me so impressive had evidently been fired.

Last week I met a friend of friend who worked for that company. Apparently there have been a number of potential hires that the engineering team wanted but were shot down the CTO, who's an idiot and has really antagonized the engineers by doing so.

This isn't the only job that rejected me six months ago and is still unfilled- and the jobs weren't fresh postings when I looked at them. Even the start-up with 0 testers still hasn't hired one. I can't help but think that maybe I wasn't the one with the problem. From now on, I resolve to blame every failed interview on a bad CTO or companies that expect to hire awesome developers who are also testing demons for the same rate they pay the click monkeys. 'Cause there's no way I was at fault. Not at all.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ask and you shall receive

It looks like the internet is already trying to solve my problems. (article) is a beta job posting board where you can set a price that companies must pay to interview you. The suggested prices seem to run from $100-$600 or so, although you can set anything you want. This strikes me as a step in the right direction: interviewing takes a nontrivial amount of time, so if you're good enough, companies should pay you for the privilege. It also shows that they're serious about you and aren't going to demand a whole bunch of information, they contact you six months later to let you know the position has been reorged out of of existence. And it's certainly cheaper for them than paying $10k to a headhunter to call you at work.

There are restrictions, of course. They have to approve you before they'll let employers see your resume, with an eye towards graduates of prestigious schools, workers at prestigious companies (although they allow for both fortune 500s and startups), and "in-demand skills" , which I suspect means they'll lower the bar for workers in fields suffering from a labor shortage. They claim to have an algorithm to detect "serial interviewers" who are just in it for the cash, but I don't know how they'd distinguish that from "people who really like their current job." There's a reputation system involved, so my guess is that companies can rate people who they think deliberately spiked the interview. But that's never going to be perfect, and companies will be very wary of paying you to interview for a job you'll never take. I think the next step is for the potential employer to donate to the interviewees favorite charity, so he or she receives no direct financial benefit, yet the company has proven that they are serious.

My dream is for this concept to expand into micro transactions and be able to charge people each time they contact me. It would be a small amount- even $1 would do it- because what I really want is to prevent recruiters from spamming me with every job that has "test" or "java" somewhere in the description (note to recruiters: java and javascript are not the same thing. I know both, but that's a coincidence). I'd also like them to get more contractor friendly, but that would involve a fundamental shift from "better jobs to people who already have pretty good ones" to "enabling honest signally in job hunting through monetary cost." And no matter how unfriendly they are to contractors, I'll be uploading my resume.

(hat tip: my money blog)