Monday, September 29, 2014

A Great Interview Question

This piece is written for programmers, but the question may be a great one for other fields. If you are truly interested and excited about your career, it will show through.

Be able to answer this question if you are asked it.

My most recent job

A question I had recently during a talk was this:

"I worked for a long time for large company X, who many people have heard of. However I recently moved to small company y, which no one knows anything about. I'm looking to change positions. Do I include company y at the top of my resume or emphasize the work with company X??

It's an interesting question, and I have a few thoughts.

The first is that you or I can't necessarily build a resume that doesn't upset some recruiter, HR person, or hiring manager. There will always be people that expect a particular resume format and if you don't provide it, they dislike yours. I have seen people that expect a Summary at the top, your Education next, and then a reverse chronology of jobs, with the dates listed first and then the company name, with your title last.

I can't worry about those people, and honestly, if you're hung up on formatting, I may not want to work for you.

The second thing is that I would highlight my experience in a position or a project first, rather than worry about chronology too much. I would set a chronology on my profile (on a web page, CV, LinkedIn, etc.), but use the resume to convince someone that needs a person to do what I want to do, that I am that person.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Mentoring Experiment - Closing Thoughts

Andy wrote a post today called The End of the Mentoring Experiment, which is something we've talked about for some time. In fitting with the decision, and perhaps justifying it further, we decided to do this a few months back, but as with many things, we haven't gotten to it until today.

I remember when we started this, and we were very excited and interested. The first cycle of matches, using 8 people we hand picked, consumed a lot of time, and while it was successful, it was difficult to scale. We continued on a couple other cycles, trying to tweak to process a bit, but never found a way to manage this effectively, given other parts of our lives, and were never quite comfortable with automating too much of the experiment away.

We also struggled with the idea of accidently making some mistake, breaking someone's privacy, or causing harm to another's career or life. Andy wrote a few things about this, and it made sense to us.

We do believe in mentoring, and I hope that those of you looking to grow your careers take time to look for mentors. If you need advice or want help, ask. There are lots of people that will probably give you a little time. It's not a sign of weakness to need or want a mentor. It's a sign of maturity.

For those of you with some experience, keep an eye out for someone that might ask for help, or maybe just seem to be lost. Tread lightly, and carefully, but offer to be a sounding board if they'd like one. You can really make a difference in someone's career with a little effort.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Resume Templates

One of the things that I’ve been asked a few times is why don’t I present and give templates for a resume. Most of the reason is that when I show something, cut and paste in the technology business is far too common and I’ll send up with a large group of people using the same resume template and not thinking about how to stand out.

I’m rethinking that a bit, as it’s unlikely that many people will copy something directly, but I’m not sure I want to completely change. However I did see a link in the Brent Ozar newsletter for free resume templates, and I was intrigued. I looked over the list and have a few comments.

Demorfoza Template

I think the Demorfoza design is very clean and easy to read. It breaks things up nicely, but it seems more like an artist’s resume than a technical one. I can’t speak for other industries, but in technology where searching for skills is so prevalent, I don’t want any of my 30 seconds spent reading about skills shown in the upper right.

You might feel differently, especially with less experience. If I were to use this, I’d consider linking (or including a link) with my skills that might go to projects or blog tags that showcase that skill.

Ayoob Ullah Template

This template  is also very esay to read. I might move the “Languages/Skills” to the second page to keep it out of the reviewer’s eye. However the rest of the resume is very nice. Lots of white space, contact information set to the side and a clear space to catch the reviewer’s eye at the top.

Jonny Evans Template

The Jonny Evans template is very appealing to me. I like that the experience is large and centered in the middle. I’d probably be sure that I used this section to highlight projects more than jobs, showcasing skills.

I also like the “Profile” section at the bottom. I’m not sure I’d include a picture, but having a few ways to find out more about me is a good way to control what the reviewer sees. I might also put a summary of education at the bottom and use the “Education” section at the top to emphasize what I want to do.

The one thing I don’t like is the Personal details are a bit large at the top. I might put my name, contact info, and profile link there only.

Fernando Baez Template

This template didn’t do a great job of presenting itself, to me. All of the shots make it hard to read up close and get an idea of what I’d put in there.

That being said, it’s different. It uses graphics to stand out, and I suspect, it would be  challenge to put together. If I were hiring an artist, this would really stand out. For a technical person, I’m not so sure. All the graphs and image would seem to be more fluff and less substance to me.

If the images showcased some software the person had worked on, then I might feel differently, but I didn’t love this one.

Choose Your Own Style

All of these designs are very clean and easy to look at visually. I find them all much better than the standard templates that I’ve seen at so many career fairs and college offices. These stand out, and I would encourage you to choose some design that looks good.

However fill in the details your own way. Choose what you want to include, and that should be the things that showcase why you are a good hire. It’s not that you need to be the best at your chosen profession, but you want to display a high level of competence for the position. Whether that’s a junior or senior level position.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Showcase Your Competence

One of the things I recommend with resumes is that you want to show what you can accomplish. Explain on two pieces of paper, what you can do for the company that is considering interviewing you.

Sell yourself.

That doesn’t mean lie, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you need to be the guru or expert in your field. It means that you need to show what you can do for this position.

A few examples.

The Junior DBA

I don’t expect a junior DBA to have a lot of experience. However I do want them to have some passion and some talent. I’d expect a junior DBA that wants to work for me to be learning about SQL Server (or whatever platform). Blogs, projects, etc. that show me this person is trying to understand more provide reasons for me to call them.

The same impression comes from seeing them ask questions and interacting with anyone that helps them online. I would especially like to see some professionalism and courtesy.

The resume for a junior person shouldn’t be full of low level jobs. I’d relegate those to one liners, like I would for education. Instead, I’d use my parahraphs to talk about what I’ve learned. What I’ve accomplished so far with databases, even if they are contrived examples or exercises.

Senior DBA

A senior person should have lots of knowledge. I’d expect to see evidence of leading projects, performing tuning, giving me examples of solutions to harder-than-average problems on the resume. Don’t “manage 100 instance”. Tell me you’ve setup monitoring and caught issues before customers knew about them. Give me an example of a DR recovery. Show me something that impresses me in a sentence or two.

However be truthful. I’ll ask you in the interview and perhaps ask for references here.

Show Who You Are

The resume is your first chance to impress me with what you know and what you can do. I’m impressed if you worked at Google or Microsoft, but for most companies, I have no idea if it was a challenging environment, or if you rode the coattails of others. Tell me what things you have really accomplished.

And be prepared to talk about them in an interview.

Also be sure that the stories are true if I call your references or previous employers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Start Networking Today

I gave a presentation of The Modern Resume at SQL Saturday #304 in Indianapolis recently and one of the attendees noted afterwards that I should have emphasized to people that they need to start networking today, before they need a job.

That’s true, and I agree I need to emphasize that networking, like many of the other tips, are long term efforts. The benefits come from regular attention to building and maintaining your network.

Practical Tips

Talk to 3-5 people at every professional event or gathering. I’d say meet 3 new people and talk to 2 people you’ve met before. The former will grow your network; the latter will maintain it.

It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it works well.

Note that you can use social networking online in addition to in-person networking.

Why?

When you need a favor, a job, a recommendation, you’re asking for help from people. You are asking them to perform some work on your behalf.

If someone knows you, and they feel a connection, they’re more likely to respond positively. They are more likely to help. If they’ve just met you, do they feel any obligation?

Think about people that have asked you for favors. If a neighbor comes up to you for the first time and asks you to watch his or her pets for a week, are you willing to help? Some of you might, but many of you might not.

However if a neighbor that you’ve had dinner with, or talked to every week for a year asks you, are you more likely to help? Most people are.

Build a network over time. It’s easy, and isn’t too time consuming, but it does take effort. However, it’s worth it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Being Successful

Warren Buffet had some advice for being successful. I ran across it in this Inc piece, and loved it.

"Never do anything in life if you would be ashamed of seeing it printed on the front page of your hometown newspaper for your friends and family to see."

Fantastic advice. This is what I’d say about how you approach your career, your friendships, and your life.

In your career, treat others well. Be fair, be respectful, and remember your actions reflect on you. Brand yourself accordingly.