Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Hiring Jun 2018

It took me some time to get my first decent job, not because I lacked technical skills but I held myself back for no good reason other than making foolish assumptions about what employers are looking for. I settled for a shitty job and was spending nights and weekends to enrich my Github contribution map. Little did I know that people at the top of hiring pipeline have little interest in my code.

Fast forward four years, I have a better understanding of hiring and how you can increase your chances at the game by understanding the hirer’s state-of-mind.

In the same tone of Patrick Mckenzie’s article on names, here’s a list of some troubling myths that programmers (especially early ones) might be keeping.

1. Contribution to open-source/having Github projects is an indispensable requirement.

Anecdata: Less than 3-4% of applicants have significant contributions on Github. I have scarcely pushed any code in the last 1.5 years, and yet, I get more job offers than when I was actually contributing. More LinkedIn connections and job experience had more impact than anything else.

2. A company using a specific framework (say, AngularJs) would refuse to consider anyone who isn’t familiar with it.

Most companies understand that good programmers can ramp up quickly. Technologies change every few months anyway, so why be rigid about specific knowledge.

3. Technical skills matter above everything.

More than programming proficiency, what is valued more is the ability to communicate clearly, to work well with the team, and to understand the business goals.

4. Asking your professional connection for a referral is looked down upon.

If you can signal competence in your domain, people would be happy to refer you.

5. Odds are stacked against you since you’re competing against superstar programmers with thousands of Github stars and uber-cool projects.

Exaggerating the competition is an artifact of survivorship bias. If you were competing with rockstar programmers, companies wouldn’t have been—as I have often seen—taking months to close a single hire.

6. Asking for more salary is akin to being a greedy, ungrateful asshole who will be rejected almost immediately.

More on negotiation. tldr; There’s always plenty of room for negotiation and employers respect you more when you negotiate.

7. No response to your application means your resume has been thrown down the trash and following up would be useless.

Please, please follow-up. People get busy, and your resume might just have missed an eye. No one considers following up impertinent if you are polite and respectful. More than once, when I didn’t follow up (or, stopped after doing it one time), I came to know later that the hiring manager had just forgotten about responding. All my concerns about being pesky were unfounded.

8. If a company hires 1-3% of applicants, it implies that you’re competing against hundreds of equally talented individuals.

Read: Finding Great Developers. Hiring pool is usually teeming with resumes of incompetent folks who apply everywhere.

9. A string of rejections means you’re a horrible programmer. Like this.

Hiring is a disorganized and fuzzy process. Sometimes, even companies aren’t sure what they are looking for. Sometimes, the interviewers are over-expecting without a sound reason. Even candidates who’re perfectly fit might hit an unlucky streak that has nothing to do with their abilities. So, keep applying!

10. Impressive resumes are long and stuffed with keywords.

Good candidates should be able to summarize their work without explaining minutiae. From the resumes I have seen, it’ll not be too wrong to say that along, keyword-laden resume correlates with incompetence.

11. Throwing your resume at every company increases your chances of getting hired.

Mass-applying rarely helps. Before applying for a job, understand the company, their product and use that knowledge to craft your cover letter. That itself would put you above the rest who don’t do the basic homework.

But these fixes are just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest of the hiring hacks is networking. If you have a great network, and your abilities are known to everyone, then, you can know about a hiring position even before it hits the Careers page. During the interview, you carry the signal of being reliable and interviewers are guaranteed to see you in a more positive light. Networking takes time and isn’t everyone (surely isn’t mine) cup of tea. However, it pays back, a big time.

Have some other myth that you have seen people keeping? Let me know—and I’ll add it to the list.


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