Applying for a job? What we like to see

We recently just finished hiring another engineer for our team (welcome Jared!), during which we’ve seen quite a few different applications and it also led to my previous post about what we’d like to see recruiters do before contacting us.

While I am certainly no hiring expert, I think some of the following points may help people applying for a job out.

Read the Full Posting

Many job postings, including ours, will include details about what they want to see from any potential candidate. I’ve seen everything from a simple put in the subject “XYZ” to answer the following programming questions. On some of our job postings we include something like include your favorite beer, the best place you’ve vacationed, etc.. These questions aren’t only used to weed out spam, but we like to see what people come up with and to see if they are a good fit. Regardless of what the posting request is, it’s important to fully read it and apply properly. Several potential candidates didn’t read ours in full and didn’t follow the simple application instructions. If you don’t follow the instructions it can reflect poorly as it may indicate you aren’t able to pay attention to details.

Shorter Can Be Better

I remember back in college when working on resumes many advocated “keep it to a single page”; I can’t agree more now. I’ve received some resumes that are over 6 pages long. A resume, in my point of view, should be something that bullet points your skills, experience, and education. Most of the time, you can fit all this information on to a single page. Being clear and concise pays its dividends. I’m much more interested in the resumes that I could briefly look at and get a good feeling about the candidate. The long resumes often spent a half page to page summarizing some activity at a previous job; it’s much easier to inquire about a specific experience you have if I don’t understand it.

Keep Programming Languages Short

One thing I saw on an alarming number of resumes was that someone would list 10+ programming languages as their core languages. I’m all for having basic knowledge in multiple languages, but I wouldn’t list all the languages I’ve ever worked on as my core language.

The long lists (java,python,php,ruby, perl, c++, c# and scala), more often on recent graduates, seemed more like a list of languages the candidate knew existed. Understandably, right out school you may not have a specific language that you have an in-depth knowledge of. In this case, I recommend looking up what language the job position that you are applying for is, and list that and one or two others that compliment it (such as PHP, Javascript, SQL) rather than listing everything you’ve ever worked in. I gave much more attention to candidates who applied with fewer languages and then listed a few projects/concepts they did within each language.

Past Projects, Not Classwork

One of the last points I want to touch on is when people want to know past projects you’ve worked on. What I’m looking for is something to just show that you can put all the programming concepts you’ve learned together to form some sort of project. Whether this is a simple side project you had or something you worked on at your last job, it shows you are able to take some theory and apply it to realistic applications. Often at career fairs I’d get 30 resumes all which list the exact same project, which was an assignment from class. While coming straight from college you may not have many side projects, have at least one (or make one), and list it first. By having at least one side project that you’ve built (or been a major part of), it shows that you’re able to take what you’ve learned in theory and apply it. Classroom assignments are often “fill in the blank” or too rigid, follow these exact instructions, to demonstrate your full capabilities.

While these are only some of the points I look for on incoming applicants, they are extremely important. Let me now if you think I’ve missed a few!

Good luck on applying to your next job!