Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio

We’re currently recruiting at work for a new developer, which means I have the pleasure of sifting through all of the emails coming in from Monster. There are so many people out there that just don’t have a clue when it comes to what applying for a job in our industry involves.

I’m sure we’ve all been there, I remember turning up for my first job interview as a developer in a shirt and tie, sat opposite the directors in shorts and t-shirt. It’s not people’s interview skills that frustrate me though, it’s how they introduce themselves as a candidate for the job their applying for.

The first thing I normally get to in a job application is the personal statement. This is supposed to be where they tell me what’s great and unique about them, a summary of their relevant experience and skills, something that makes me want to keep reading, hopefully with a bit of personality. What I actually get is some drivel about how they’re a great team player, with good communication and problem solving skills. Seriously? I’m going to assume that you work well in a team, unless you say otherwise. You’re applying to be a developer, so if you don’t have good problem solving skills you’re screwed. I’m blaming agencies and Universities for this nonsense that ends up in almost every CV I read, it’s just filler and doesn’t do you any favours whatsoever.

The next thing I get to is the Education section, listing every module of every course that they’ve ever taken. I don’t really care that you got an A in GCSE Religious Education. Really I only care about your most relevant and recent qualifications. If you’ve got a degree or a HND, great. If you’ve not got any relevant qualifications then you should be bumping the Education further down, as it will most likely put me off.

The Employment section of your CV should really go above the Education section if you have been employed more recently than your have been in education. Experience in a working environment is infinitely more valuable to me when I’m looking at a CV. I’m not talking about work experience, I’m not really a fan of seeing eight week long placements for different companies.

More importantly than the Employment and Education sections on your CV is a link to your portfolio. You could have the best looking CV in the world, but if you can’t back it up with examples of your work or a portfolio then I’m just not interested. It’s as simple as that.

Your portfolio should work for a start, I don’t want to click on it and get a 404 or 500 message. I’m sick to death of clicking links to portfolios that don’t work, or haven’t been updated since 2009. I will look at your source code, checking its structure and if it validates. If I see the <font> tag and you’re not showing me an email, or you’re using tables for design not only will I instantly disregard you as a candidate, I will pass your portfolio around the office and we will all laugh heartily at you. Ideally I want to read what it was you did on the project, what you found interesting or what you learned.

So this is all great, a decent CV and a portfolio. What else could I want? Well you can get bonus points! A exceptional candidate will be aware of what’s going on in the development community, and they’ll blog or tweet about it. If you can show me that you’re up to date and interested in the latest methods and technologies then it makes you look good. It’s all about presenting yourself in the best possible light to your potential employers.

Oh and one other thing, candidates should really be aware of their online presence. Some candidates will provide us with links to their Twitter account, normally when the tweets are focussed on development. I also Google candidates, to see if they have accounts on LinkedIn, YouTube, StackOverflow, GitHub etc. I’m looking for information that backs up their CV and also to see if the’re involved in the wider development community. Sometimes I find greatly entertaining things like videos of potential employees on YouTube singing Happy Birthday to a friend, which was a great talking point in their interview!

Update: I’ve been told that I should be careful about telling the world that I Google candidates as part of the screening process, but having looked into the legalities of Facebook and employment law which are so far largely untested. People are dismissed all the time because of information that employers find on Facebook. One man who was dismissed after his employers found information on his Facebook page that they felt compromised his professional integrity said his dismissal infringed his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 and freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. A tribunal found, however, that his activities were in the public domain and upheld the dismissal. Read Germany considers ban on using Facebook for recruitment decisions (PDF) for more info about this particular case. The ICO’s Employment Practices Code (PDF) also suggests that employers “Explain the nature of and sources from which information might be obtained about the applicant in addition to the information supplied directly by the applicant.” There’s more opinion from employment and data protection experts in this article about Googling job applicants.

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