Archive for July, 2009

How to work with headhunters

July 29, 2009

I’m a fan of Nick Corcodilos. His book Ask The Headhunter was one of my inspirations to write Land The Tech Job You Love. His thoughts on why you should refuse to reveal your salary history are inspiring, and underscore the importance of keeping the relationship with a potential employer equal to both parties.

When Nick asked if I’d review his draft of his new book How to Work With Headhunters, I jumped. No surprise, it’s a great book, and I recommend it. It’s a straightforward, no-BS guide to how to get the most out of the relationship with a headhunter, which can be tricky. The job seeker is at a disadvantage because she only seeks a new job every few years, so this relationship can be hard to manage. Most importantly, Nick spells out what headhunters do and don’t do, so you understand your role. He also explains how to tell if a headhunter is a pro or a waste of your time.

The ebook is on sale at asktheheadhunter.com, and you can get $10 off with the discount code “tenoffblog”. Tell the Headhunter that The Working Geek sent you.

OSCON slides up on Slideshare

July 26, 2009

I just posted the slides from my Effective Job Interviewing From Both Sides of the Desk talk at OSCON.

Thanks to all who came, and if you were at the session, please submit your feedback. I’d like to see more soft skills talks at OSCON, and your voice will help that.

The importance of cover letters in the hiring process

July 20, 2009

Jeffrey Thalhammer, who last wrote for The Working Geek on “On breadth vs. depth of technical knowledge”, has strong opinions about resumes and cover letters:

Last week, my wife attended a “resume bootcamp” seminar. Among other things, I asked her what the seminar recommended for cover letters. According to the speakers at this seminar, the resume is far more important the cover letter, and they de-emphasized letter-writing skills. I was shocked!

In my experience with hiring, I’m far more impressed by a compelling and concise cover letter than a long and esteemed resume. To me, a resume is like a PowerPoint presentation and I don’t mean that in a good way. It is usually a dust-dry list of bullets and broken sentences that lack any texture or color. Reading a resume is never fun or even interesting.

On the other hand, the cover letter is an opportunity to tell me a story that holds my attention and helps me understand you. As an expository document, rather than a declarative one, your cover letter can leverage all the literary devices of your language: cadence, phrasing, metaphors, symbolism, vocabulary, etc. These are what make your cover letter interesting, and make me want to talk to you.

A good cover letter indicates your ability to communicate with others, and in the software industry, it also indicates your ability to write code. If you can’t express yourself elegantly in your natural language, then you probably can’t express yourself elegantly in code either. I realize this judgment is harder to make with those who don’t natively speak your language, but fundamentally, I believe it is still true.

This doesn’t mean that you should write a five-page cover letter for each job — economy of words is still important. Consider writing your cover letter as if you wanted to thrill the reader with a summary of the exotic vacation you took last month. Tell them what you did, why you did it, how it affected you, and why the reader should be interested in your story. Make it exciting and fascinating to read. Show me your energy, your style, and your personality. And of course, be professional too.

In their defense, the speakers at the resume bootcamp were all HR recruiters. Often times, recruiters are given only a list of keywords and skills associated with a job, and instructed to harvest as many compatible resumes as possible. From that perspective, I can understand why they would put so much more emphasis on the resume. But once the resume gets to a hiring manager, I think the cover letter becomes a much sharper image of the candidate. So in the end, you really need to have the total package: a great cover letter and resume. But don’t neglect one for the other.

A note for hiring managers: If your HR department does not pass along the candidates’ cover letters, you’re not getting the whole picture on your job candidates. Ask your recruiters to pass along the cover letters and all the correspondence associated with any resume they submit to you. You can learn a lot by looking at how a candidate interacts with recruiters in the early stages of the hiring process.

Jeff Thalhammer has been specializing in Perl software development for over 10 years. He is the senior engineer and chief janitor at Imaginative Software Systems, a small software consultancy based in San Francisco. Jeff is also the creator of Perl-Critic, the leading static analysis tool for Perl.

Geek conferences for families

July 13, 2009

Skud asked me a few weeks ago if I’d mention something here about support for women with children at geek conferences. Specifically, she asks for updates to the Geek Feminism wiki page on childcare and women-friendly events.

What jogged this in my mind was a geek conference of another kind. I went to the American Library Association’s annual conference on Saturday, and they were very family friendly. A big sign by registration pointed to the child care area, and there were plenty of amenities to help conference-goers with families:

Child Care and Camp ALA
Make this year’s annual meeting a family affair. Once again, ACCENT on Children’s Arrangements, Inc. has planned a great children’s activity center for ALA convention attendees’ children. ACCENT is a nationally recognized professional childcare company organized to provide quality on-site children’s activities in a nurturing, safe, educational environment. ACCENT’s counselors are fun-loving professionals with plenty of experience with children. With activities such as arts and crafts projects, active games, movies and much more, the children are sure to have a great time. The fun includes optional field trips for children ages 6 and older.

CAMP ALA welcomes children ages 6 months – 17 years, and is available Friday, July 10-Tuesday, July 14. The cost for the camp is $80 per child per day. Parents pay $48 per child per day for the center and ALA funds $32 per child per day. An optional $15 lunch is available, or children can bring their lunch. If you prefer, you can register your child for a field trip day instead (children ages 6 years and older only), which includes lunch. The cost for each child with a field trip is $90 per day. Parents pay $58 per child for the field trip day and ALA funds $32 per child per day. A $10 Non-refundable registration fee per child is also required. Download a Children’s Program and Registration Form.

Children’s Policy
Strollers are permitted on the exhibit floor but only if there is a child in them at all times. Unescorted children are not permitted on the exhibit floor. Children under the age of five must be restrained at all times (stroller, back pack, etc.). Any child over the age of five must have an exhibits only badge to be admitted to the exhibit floor. These badges are available at onsite registration for $25. An adult must accompany all children under the age of 16.

New Mother’s Room
The New Mother’s Room is located in the First Aid Room, Level 1, near the Concierges, McCormick Place West.

Can you imagine a computer conference like this? Maybe they’re out there and I’ve just never been to one.

The wags out there will likely point out that librarian conferences skew female far more than techie conferences, and that’s true. But is that cause or effect?

Milwaukee Jobcamp slides available online

July 11, 2009

The slides from Thursday’s Milwaukee Jobcamp, “Effective Job Interviewing From Both Sides of the Desk,” are now available at Slideshare.

I’ll also be giving this session at OSCON next week out in San Jose.