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G.L Solaria
G.L Solaria

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After sifting through over 400 job applications ...

Banner image by Bovee and Thill is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

... I want to run to the nearest corner and rock quietly for a while.

The problem is that eager job seekers seem to write a lot of text. I feel I need to read all of it to do their application justice but I just can't; my brain hurts after 1 hour of doing so.

We currently use senior software devs to sift through resumes and run interviews because management seems to think that devs can spot BS better. We don't screen people using coding tests before interviews. I know it's a bit old school but we put out a job advertisement, review the job applications, interview the best then test during the interview.

After going through this process, I thought I would write a few tips on what I look for in a job application.

❌ Greet the reader with a wall of text in your opening letter.

You might get lucky and your letter might be the very first letter read but chances are you are number 242. Think about that first sentence of you opening letter because it is likely it's the only one that will get read.

❌ Use paragraphs of text in your resume.

If you thought the opening letter was discarded unfairly then you will be surprised how quickly a resume that reads like a novel gets discarded.

✔️ Mention the name of the company.

Do some research on the company and include a sentence to show you are interested in what the company does.

✔️ Mention the exact job title in your opening letter.

It shows you have actually read the job advertisement and acknowledge the role you are applying for. If you are a developer and you are applying for a test position then, by stating the role in your opening letter, you are signalling that you understand this. You should follow that up with an explanation as to why you want to switch to a test role.

✔️ Describe how you meet the criteria in the job advertisement.

Out of over 400 resumes, not one applicant did this and it made me cranky. What would I have done if someone actually did describe how they met the criteria? They would have gone straight to the shortlist!

✔️ Feel free to make use of bold text.

But don't overuse bold text because loses its effectiveness. Read your whole letter and then your resume by just looking at the bold text. Does it convey what it needs to convey?

✔️ Clearly indicate what languages, frameworks, and tools you have used in a summary at the top with a rough level of proficiency.

You don't need to give a 5 star rating but something like: familiar, competent, experienced. If you think such a rating would disadvantage you then don't include the rating but still include the summary.

✔️ List out the full software development life-cycle and map your experience to those activities.

For example, create a table with user requirements, architecture, design, implementation, unit testing, integration testing, system testing, user acceptance testing, maintenance and support rows. If you have helped refine requirements then the reader needs to understand this. If you have refactored part of the architecture then describe that. If you have dabbled in system testing then it shows you are more versatile. If you have fielded support requests then great, add it.

And if you are lucky enough to get an interview, bring in a copy of your resume and opening letter. It shows you are organised and well prepared.

Try not to stress with the coding test, but do practice reading code aloud. Demonstrate how you collaborate by asking questions. Solving problems by saying "Let's start off by visualising this ..." is a good way to focus your mind when you are nervous.

Discussion (12)

iamjaredwalters profile image
Jared Walters • Edited on

We currently use senior software devs to sift through resumes

Dear god why? It's the opposite of what they're hired to do and likely not a skill they were hired for in the first place.

dyland profile image
Dylan Davenport

I thought the same thing. Instead HR should just get better at hiring and gain some knowledge about the positions they are hiring for.

glsolaria profile image
G.L Solaria Author • Edited on

We have always been a company of engineers with very low overhead staff. Things may change in the future as we grow. When that happens, we can draw on the devs experiences to inform hiring practices.

glsolaria profile image
G.L Solaria Author

That's a fair comment. The company is small-ish and starting to grow so I think as it moves to the next stage of growth the practice will change.

garetmckinley profile image
Garet McKinley

If you know tools from 15 years ago, don't put them in the tools summary because it could reveal your age

this reads pretty messed up tbh. Are we openly acknowledging the blatant ageism that happens in the tech industry now?

glsolaria profile image
G.L Solaria Author • Edited on

Ageism is rife but I did not discriminate on age (I am an older dev too). I was just pointing out that your age can be made very obvious depending on how you structure your resume. I would try to avoid doing those things so that the focus can rightly be on the breadth of your experience.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

Independantly from the age question, I think that discarding 15 years old tools is completely misguided.
It shouldn't matter whether some tools is new or old, only whether it's good.
I know people making lots of money with emails.
That's right, a technology from 1960.
Beware of the cult of the new.

Thread Thread
glsolaria profile image
G.L Solaria Author

I think if you are still actively using the tools then it is fine to include. My comment was mainly around tools that you haven't used for 15 years.

jakesweb profile image
Jacob Colborn

Thank you for this. I will soon be starting my journey to get my first development job and the first professional job I ever needed to apply for also. It is helpful to know what actual people care about when they try to evaluate me as a potential hire.

glsolaria profile image
G.L Solaria Author

Best of luck with your journey Jacob.

tylerlwsmith profile image
Tyler Smith

I'm currently looking for a job after years of freelancing and I'm going to take this to heart. Thank you for writing!

adriantoddross profile image
Adrian Ross

Good read! The book “Hired Fast,” is a great way to dig further into this as far as writing relevant, meaningful cover letters.