Some Notes on Job Searching

I’ve recently been thinking about how I can improve my job search tactics. There are tons of web sites out there with great advice for job seekers, and some things are just obvious. I’ve decided to jot down some random, and not so random, thoughts of my own about the process (with a focus on the tech industry).

Resources
Where to find job openings…

I’ve actually found the most promising job opportunities on Craigslist. By “most promising,” I mean companies with exciting products, cutting edge technology, and fun work environments. My second go to site is Indeed.com. Indeed is a job aggregater that pulls in job postings from thousands of different sites. I’ve found it to be the most complete listing of jobs out there. SimplyHired.com is another aggregater that I use daily. It’s results vary slightly from Indeed, so I use them both.

In addition to Craigslist and the aggregaters, I check the popular job posting sites as well. Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, Jobdango, 37Signals, Joel On Software, LinkedIn.

In addition to job posting web sites, it can be very helpful to meet people at public events related to your skills. For Portland, Calagator is a great resource to find these events.

Advice
Some things to remember when applying and interviewing for positions…

Know your resume. I made this mistake in my earlier interviews. When asked about my previous work experience, I found myself looking down at my resume for reference. It was probably a nervous reaction, but you should be familiar enough with your resume to talk about it without referring to it.

Know yourself. Be prepared to talk about your hobbies and interests. Some interviewers will ask questions about your personal life to gauge what kind of person you are. When you’re nervous, it’s sometimes hard to come up with those things, so have them memorized.

Know your previous work. Almost every interviewer will ask you to describe a previous project that you’ve worked on. Have a couple of projects in your head, and try to remember every detail about those projects. Know what was most challenging about those projects, and how you handled it, because they will ask.

Don’t stop working. I spend at least 10 hours a week reading articles and writing code. If your skills are fresh, answering technical questions in interviews is cake. Trying to talk confidently about something you haven’t done in 6 months can be challenging.

Look good. Take a shower and groom yourself. As much as we like to think otherwise, this can be a deciding factor when a company goes to make a decision in a close race. This piece of advice shows up on just about every career advice article.

Dress for success. Know what the work environment is like at the employer’s office and dress accordingly. I could be wrong on this, but… if it’s a start up or a small and hip company, feel free to wear jeans and sneakers. If you’re not sure, wear something nice. As a software developer, a suit is never appropriate and you will likely be laughed out of the interview.

Know your sources. One question that comes up occasionally is what blogs/web sites do you read to keep up with technology. I blew this one a couple of times because I could only think of a couple of web sites that I look at. I actually read 20+ tech sites daily, but they are all aggregated into Google Reader, so I tend not to recognize the individual sources.

Pad your resume. What I mean by this is to add some extra, non-traditional content to your resume. It’s gets boring reading through work experience. Some of my interviewers hadn’t even read that part when I got there. On page 2 of my resume I list out some of the personal projects that I’ve worked on. Following that, I have copied and pasted some recommendations from LinkedIn. Page 2 seems to get the most attention.

Be seen. Have a web site and get employers to look at it by referencing it on your resume. An online presence shows that you really exist and you have a life – you’re not just a name on a resume. My web sites and my Flickr photos have been discussed casually in a couple of interviews. If you don’t have a personal site, at least have a LinkedIn profile.

Thank them. I’m not completely sure about this piece of advice, but it seems like a good idea to send the interviewer(s) an email thanking them for their time. I’ve actually only done this once because when I was interviewing people, I found these emails annoying. However, I can see the benefits and most people probably appreciate it.

Don’t pretend (lie). You know what you know. Don’t pretend to know things that you don’t know, because you will likely get caught. This happened to me once: [interviewer] Are you familiar with technology x? [me] uh… yes! [interviewer] Okay, tell me more about x. [me] !@#$%.

Be friendly. Most of us software developers are introverts, but you should be prepared to make small talk and even crack a joke. If the interviewers feel comfortable around you, they will be able to envision working with you.

Want the job. Unless you are absolutely desperate for money, only apply for jobs that you think you will enjoy. If you are interviewing for a job that you really don’t want, it will show. Personally, I’m looking to restart my career with a good company and a fun job. I will not follow through with the application process for a job that I don’t think will bring me long term happiness.

Notes to Employers
How to make life easier for candidates…

Respond to our applications. I have sent in quite a few applications recently. Of those, I’d estimate that 25% of the employers have responded. That’s right, 75% of employers haven’t even acknowledged that they received my resume. I have no idea if my resume got lost in cyberspace, got tossed, went to the wrong person, or what. I have to simply cross them off my list, never knowing if I even had a chance.

Tell us when the position is filled. Most companies are good about this, but not all of them. If I make it as far as a telephone call, I’d like to know when the position is filled so I can cross it off my list. I have a few jobs that are forever in “pending” state because the employer left me hanging.

Strengths and weaknesses. You know we hate it when you ask questions like, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” It’s makes us really uncomfortable, and I can’t see the benefit to the interviewer.

Online applications. It drives me crazy when a company requires that you register on their web site (or a 3rd party site) in order to apply for a job. Not only that, but they often make you fill out a 5 page online form where you basically have to retype your entire resume. We’ve already put a lot of time and effort into our resumes, so why not just take the one we have prepared?

Other Articles
Some other interesting articles about layoffs and job searching…

Mashable: 30+ Websites to Visit When You’re Laid Off
Some good general advice on how to cope with being jobless.
Mashable: CAREER TOOLBOX: 100+ Places to Find Jobs
A huge list of sites to help you find a job.
Layoff Talk at telonu.com
Stories from the many people who have recently lost their jobs.
Mashable: Top 10 Social Sites for Finding a Job
Using social networking sites to find a job.

End
That’s all I’ve got for now! This may turn out to be a “living” post with future revisions as I continue my search for that perfect job. Until then, wish me luck.