This past week I was talking to a guy who is graduating from College and looking for a job. He asked me what most people ask at that point in their career. “Everyone wants experience, but how do you get experience if no one will give it to you?”
What is interesting is that for all the advances in the 30 years since I started my career, that question is still the main question every graduate asks.
Now, before I get started, I want to make sure we are clear. These tips may or may not work for you. They are what I would do, and in large part are what I did 30 years ago, just updated to be appropriate to the current technology. How well they work for you are going to depend on a lot of different factors, not least of which is how much effort you apply. They are also very much based on my culture here in the USA. If you are looking for a job in another country that is dissimilar culturally, you may want to ignore this advice completely. But, I’ll also say this. If what you are currently doing isn’t working, what do you have to lose?
Now, you may wonder why I think I’m particularly qualified to speak about the interview process. Most people who have opinions about the interview process in particular have it from only one side. The one of being the guy looking for a job. And, most of you only interview when you need a job.
What makes me qualified is that, I help interview people looking for a job and I interview for lots of jobs. In my opinion, you should be interviewing for a job, even if you don’t need one, at least twice a year. I interview more frequently than that. In the last 6 months, I think I’ve interviewed at least 4 times.
So, let me start by telling you what the current interview process looks like, and why it doesn’t work. Then, I’ll move on to the few interviews that I believe captured the information everyone was looking for quickly and how you can move the conversation in this direction regardless of what side of the table you are sitting on.
Over the last several years, I’ve had a chance to read a few Programming Resumes. Or, I should say, TRY to read a few resumes. But frankly, if the Programming Resume I typically see is common, everyone who reads my blog needs this advice. I haven’t seen a barely adequate resume in years. And I’m sick of it. Oh, it’s good for me of course. I know my resume is going to stand out as such a unique work of art compared to the others, that I will get a call back right away. After all, if the competition is so incredibly weak, I don’t even need to try.
On the other hand, as someone who has to read these resumes, I’d like to have something better.
And no, I’m not going to go over the standard “how to make your resume awesome” stuff because evidently most programmers can’t even get the basics down. Seriously!
The story goes that there were two men, Joe and Frank, who were camping out in the woods when a bear showed up in the camp. Terrified, they decided the best they could do would be to stay perfectly still until the bear left. Hopefully, the bear wouldn’t notice them. As the bear was poking around, Joe says to Frank, “What are we going to do if this doesn’t work?” Frank says, “Run!” Joe says, “You really think we can out run a bear?” Frank says, “I don’t need to out run the bear. I only need to out run you.”
I’ve noticed a trend recently. Someone will write a post about some technical interview question and someone will write a comment about how that’s such a dumb question that they wouldn’t even bother answering it. I’ve actually been that guy recently. John Sonmez wrote about “Cracking the Coding Interview” and I responded that I don’t do coding interviews. In fact, I wrote a whole post about this. But as John pointed out, this may actually cause you to be limiting your career. You wouldn’t answer that question for a 33% raise? Really? There isn’t anything that could motivate you to consider answering a question that you feel is useless, stupid or dumb?
This week, I saw another post about some technical interview question that someone said he wouldn’t answer. Sorry, I don’t have a link for that one, I wish I did.
And then add to this, the number of useless interview questions I have answered in the last year. Why did I answer them? Because I could. Because the challenge was actually fun.
And so, let’s reconsider the arrogant stance of “Thanks for your time, I’ll show myself out.”
First let’s consider why we might not want to answer a particular question.