Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't Send Us Your Resume!

At a small company where I work, we had a job opening about 9 months ago (it takes a bit of time to finish writing a blog post). We were looking for a software tester of a particular kind: one that can program. Automated testing is absolutely crucial in making maintainable, good quality software.

First attempt - FAIL.
We posted a normal ad first, and in two weeks we received almost a hundred CVs/resumes. The advertised position was a 3 month contract with a very good rate, and a chance of extending.

A side note:
Although both leading job search sites: and ask for resumes, in Australia, the terms "CV" - Curriculum Vitae and "resume" seem to be used interchangeably in this context. In the US it's usually "resume", in Europe - "CV". Australia takes words from both cultures. In the US a CV is usually a complete career history, and a resume is a short 1-2 page version of your CV tailored to the job you are applying for. Unless you are applying for a highly visible job, for example, a CEO of an international company, a university lecturer, or something similar, you should probably send your 1-2 page resume, not 7-9 page CV.

Back to the main story:

It took me a few days to go through the submissions and identify potential candidates. It was not something I would like to do again. Here is why:

1. CVs instead of resumes.
Some of the documents were very long: 7 to 9 pages. It would take me days or weeks to read everything carefully (7 x 100 = 700 pages), so I skimmed.

2. No cover letters.
Maybe a third of submissions had cover letters. Without a cover letter it is sometimes hard to determine if you are applying for a job with us, or if you submitted your resume by mistake. A short cover letter helps me get interested in your resume.

3. Missing information.
Many candidates did not include their address. I did not know if they were local or not. Many did not provide addresses (city, country) of their employers. I did not know which country they worked in. A few did not provide e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

4. Inappropriate information.
At that stage I am not interested in your visa or passport number, I assume you have the right to work in Australia if you are applying for a job in Australia, if not, please say so in your cover letter. You definitely should not include your picture, unless you are applying for a job as an actor, TV presenter, or a model. :-)

5. Language errors.
Good communication skills don't need to be advertised, they are self-evident. In some jobs they don't matter much, in others they are crucial, but a resume must not have glaring errors, and no, it is not enough to run a spellchecker.

6. Multiple submissions.
Not keeping track of where you applied and sending your resume twice for the same ad doesn't look good. It's not about quantity, it's about quality.

Initially, I planned on confirming every submission by e-mail, and then informing every candidate about their status, but after the first five I realised that I did not have time for that. Sorry. The reality is: if the employer is interested in you, they will probably contact you quite quickly. Some organisations take long though, weeks or even months.

From the 100 candidates we selected 10. We asked them to complete a simple programming task in Sikuli and Robot Framework. At home. Time given: we were prepared to wait a few days.

Only one candidate completed the task, but not very well, half of the code worked, the other half had a sneaky bug that made it look like it worked, but in reality it didn't. We still would consider that candidate, but he was not readily available - he was in India, and he had other commitments at that time - we needed someone quickly. The others, well, the main excuses were: "the task is too hard", and "I had no experience with that technology" -  the technology was listed in the ad, so there was time to check it out, and we did not require being a master in it. Quite the opposite, we assumed no candidate worked with it before. One candidate misunderstood instructions, couldn't do it, and then started whinging. That's probably the worst you can do. Positive "can do" attitude, courtesy, and ability to learn quickly are very important.

Second attempt - PASS.
My project manager is a bit of a cowboy sometimes (the "quick on the trigger" type), so seeing that the first ad, prepared carefully by our boss, was not working, he took a risk, wrote another ad, and using his own money posted it. The new ad's headline?

"Don't Send Us Your Resume!"

The ad asked candidates to NOT send their resumes, but instead it had a link to the programming task. That obviously did not stop a few people from sending their resumes. Seriously, sending your resume off without reading the ad carefully, doesn't increase your chances of finding a job. It just shows your carelessness.

After two days we had the first submission, by a local software engineering student looking for a part time job. A few days later, we had another, by a French software developer who was on a working holiday visa, working on a farm nearby. Both started working with us within days, and they are still with us 9 months later.