A Hacker's Notes on Getting Noticed in Job Searches

By Jon Saints - 16 Dec 2013

I recently went through a job search and compiled some notes on what worked and what did not. This is me searching for software engineering work in Colorado in late 2013.

I presented this to the Lafayette Tech Meetup. Here are the slides.

What did not work

  1. Browse the interwebs for Job Postings
  2. Submit resume and cover letters
  3. Wait

I am not sure why companies even bother posting jobs on their web sites! Only one out of many got in touch with me later. I am not the only one with this experience. (Perhaps I just wasn’t qualified for 99% of the jobs I applied for… )

What did work!

Create a Genuine and SPIFFY Github Profile

I found my github profile page to more important than my resume. I am not exaggerating. If you are looking for a developer position today, your resume is secondary. Start curating your github page today. My Github profile started many many more real conversations with potential employers. (In fact Google called me out of the blue saying “hey we noticed you have been committing a lot of Python code, do you want to chat?”. I did not get the job in the end, but did get a couple of real conversations in interviews.)

Ways you can create a profile worth looking at:

  1. Make an open source contribution or two. Even just filling pull requests with your code is good.
  2. Clone some interesting Repos and read the source. Open Source projects give us access to the minds of some of the top coders in the world. We should read open source projects like we read fine works of William Shakespeare. Read open source projects like fine novels. One I highly recommend is Redis
  3. Publish your hobby projects. Even if they are just stubs. Here are some I did recently:
    • Implement jsonapi.org specification in your favorite language…
    • create working example using a new framework like Angular
    • Heroku-like Deploy of Wordpress with Git
  4. README Driven Development (RDD)

Too busy to write full working code for you Github profile… try README Driven Development!

Just create detailed readme of your idea with complete install steps and documentation. Show example of how the user will use your code to solve a problem. The community might just start a discussion… my Improvements for Git got to #5 on hackernews.

Clear READMEs can quickly show off an innovative solution to a complex problem. They also make a great spec for when you do start coding.

Here are examples of a couple of my README Driven Development projects:

Ask good Tough Questions

You are selling your time and talent. Two of your most valuable possessions! Fight for them.

The interview is not just for you to impress them. They need to impress you.

Some questions that I asked:

  • Think of the last fierce technical disagreement at your company. What was it over? How was it resolved?
  • What was the last exciting feature or innovation you introduced to the company? How did you go about making it happen what challenges did you face along the way?
  • How many hours per week do you spend in the office?
  • What are the next three positions you plan to hire for?
  • Tell me about the last three bonuses and raises that were given? Why and when were they given?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change one this about this company what would it be?
  • How many hours per week do you spend in meetings?
  • What percent of the alloted bonus to your top performers take home on average?

Find companies you love and Propose Your Role

Look for interesting companies

Find a way to understand deeply what they do… grab coffee with an employee… find an in through your network

Propose a role. Tell them how you can help them most.

Summary of what works in Job Searches for Hackers

  1. SPIFFY Github profile
  2. RDD – Readme Driven Development
  3. Ask tough questions
  4. Find companies you love and Propose your own role


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