Re: Secrets to getting a job, now.....
- From: BMJ <parametric_equation@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 22:00:13 GMT
Subject: What I tell students
Here is an interesting response to shortage shouting at
I could not find the base article
I read it and it was the usual panicky gloom-and-doom drivel about the
First of all, I tell those students to forget everything they've ever
heard about a "shortage" of IT professionals. There has never been a
shortage of IT professionals in my memory. (I've been a Software
Engineer/Computer Programmer since I graduated with a B.S. in
Computer Science in 1979). I tell them the "shortage" is artificially
created by HR departments.
And politicians wanting to be re-elected to office. The tactic is
simple: create an enemy and portray oneself as the defender against it.
Then, I tell them that a career in IT is about four things, none of
which involve technical ability. Those four things:
1. Perfect your interview skills
2. Understand the Human Resources Department.
3. Know how to lie on your resume and
4. Understand your state's Unemployment program.
I agree with everything but lying on the CV.
In the interview you must be prepared to answer (with a straight
face) questions like "Where do you see yourself five years from now?"
The correct answer is something like "I see myself as a project
manager (or whatever) with this firm." -- remember you're only going
to be there eleven months, the question is both irrelevant and
laughable. The prospective employer is only concerned to know that
you've thought about it, and that you intend to remain with the firm.
The fact that the prospective employer does not intend to keep you
around for five years is ignored.
I agree that questions like that are simply a loyalty test, though that loyalty is expected only from the employee.
You also have to prepare for bizarre questions like "What do you know
about Java?" (I never use Java, and I don't list Java on my resume.)
The correct answer is "everything." I have no fear of answering
"everything" about Java, since if I ever need Java, I can learn it
over the weekend (I have learned -- when necessary -- new programming
languages in less than a weekend).
Again, I disagree with saying something that isn't true.
Finally, you have to be prepared for so-called technical questions
like the current C++ favorite "What is a virtual destructor?" This
question comes from a book on hiring "the best" computer programmers,
and can be considered proof that
* The hiring manager has no idea what he's talking about and is
relying on a book to help him hire competent people, and
Liberal use of appropriate jargon is encouraged as I doubt that most of the HR types conducting the interviews would know what one is talking about. However, in all the interviews I've had in recent years, I was seldom asked about my technical capabilities.
* If you know what you're doing and try to reason out the correct
answer you will never get to anything the questioner will
recognize, and you will, therefore, never be hired.
Assuming that anyone conducting the interview would properly recognize the terminology to begin with.
There is a
good chance that you will not even be asked any more questions.
The hiring manager will also, if pressed, claim he can't locate
qualified people (this statement is true -- he is completely
unable to recognize qualified people).
Or one is brought in for an interview to justify hiring a less-qualified crony.
By the way, since I read the book, the correct answer to the question
is "A virtual destructor is a destructor in a virtual class;" an
answer which is literally a restatement of the question in statement
form instead of question form.
Sounds impressive and says absolutely nothing.
Understanding Human Resources:
The purpose of the Human Resources Department is to maintain a steady
stream of candidates. It has nothing to do with whether or not there
is a job opening at all. All HR departments will routinely advertise
for personnel that they have no intention of hiring, and have no
desire at the company to interview.
Some of them do this because the company regulations state that an open position has to be advertised, even though the final candidate has already been selected, and, perhaps, offered the position.
It wouldn't surprise me, though, if this is simply smoke and mirrors used to justify HR's existence.
How many people were hired by this process during the past year?
(Disclaimer: I do not work for the company, and I am not party to the
actual numbers.) I can safely say "None." The company does not hire
anyone through the HR department. If you want to work there and you
think the company might actually have a use for you, you contact
someone who works there, and have them recommend you (They get paid
for the recommendation if you are hired, and everyone who works there
can use an extra five thousand dollars. There is no problem to locate
such a recommendation). They pass your resume around, and the
managers call you directly. By that process, you bypass the HR
department until you present HR with a fait-accompli. People I know
who work there tell me that they have never hired anyone for their
projects that doesn't already work for the company. All of their open
positions are filled internally.
I had an interview a few years ago with a firm where I did that. I'm sure I could have had a job there, but I gathered that HR found out that this went on and promptly gave their thumbs-down. I guess there's nothing like an internal turf fight, is there?
Is the HR department misrepresenting the facts? No. The jobs exist.
The company does (occasionally) hire new people. The HR department is
doing their job -- which is to maintain a steady stream of
But if the company's not going to hire anyone from that stream of candidates, isn't the effort to gather all those CVs a waste of time?
The other function of the HR department is to review resumes and
check references. For this, go to your local bookstore and read every
book with a title like, "How to Hire [Avoid Hiring] the Best Computer
Programmers." (The title is made up, but there are many books on the
topic. I recommend you read them all.) This will tell you the
standard you have to meet.in your resume. It does not matter that
essentially no one with more than two years experience in the field
is able to meet that standard. You must meet it, or you will never
work. Even if you bypass HR, HR will usually have the power to
over-rule for cause, and a common cause would be a mistake on your
resume. HR can, and will, prevent you from being hired if you don't
meet their standards.
So much for thinking "outside of the box".
I'll talk more about resumes under "How to lie on your resume."
The book "How to Hire [Avoid Hiring] the Best Computer Programmers"
will also tell you the answers to the current "technical" questions.
Remember that you must know the answers to those questions off the
top of your head, and if you try to reason out the answers from your
knowledge, the manager won't be able to tell whether or not you know
what you're talking about.
That assumes that one is familiar with what the positions actually entails. I've been in interviews where the job description was quite vague, so I often had to come up with a reasonable answer based on what I knew about it. Here I blame whoever was responsible for posting the ad for not being more specific.
On the other hand, I had an interview where the description of the position left out specific details and was never asked about them in the interview. I only found out that the outfit was looking for somebody with those capabilities when I was told I wasn't getting an offer.
Despite many years of work with C++ , and
many destructors written, including virtual destructors, I would
never have known what a "virtual destructor" was without reading the
On the issue of references, don't even think about it. I once had a
single reference called 18 times in one month by exactly three people
who were all from the same company. Other than that, only a handful
of references have ever been called. I have even been hired when I
obtained references by taking names and phone numbers at random out
of the phone book -- I refused the job, not because of references,
but because I couldn't remember who they were, or ever interviewing
with them, other than their request for references. A perceived but
non-existent shortage can produce bizarre situations, but even I
object to HR laxness when it comes to references.
The writer may be right about this. Several years ago, I was approached by a former student about acting as a reference for him, to which I agreed. I'm assuming that he was diligent in searching for a job and may finally have found one, though I was never contacted about him.
How to lie on your resume:
In the IT field, one works, on average, no more than 9 months per
year (eleven months per job). The rest of the time, one is
unemployed. If you put unemployment on your resume, you will never
work -- There are no exceptions, HR will prevent employment for any
So, you have a choice, you can lie or you can starve. I should also
note that if you make the mistake of working at McDonalds instead of
being unemployed, HR will consider you a McDonalds worker, and not an
IT person -- that's worse because you are now talking an offer of a
20% pay increase over your last job; roughly six dollars an hour to
do IT work instead of five dollars an hour at McDonalds. HR will
never approve 700% pay increases even though you would still be
making a below average income in the IT field.
Further proof that HR departments of today can't think.
I recommend you continue employment (on your resume) with your last
job until you get your next job. After all, you didn't work anywhere
else, and you did work at the job. Remember in the interview that you
still work there, and you can't leave your last job without giving at
least two weeks notice -- more HR nonsense.
During the '80s, a lot of people who were out of work would put "consulting" on their CVs. Try that nowadays, and HR is afraid that one has a business on the side and would, therefore, not be fully devoted to the company.
Remember the book "How to Hire [Avoid Hiring] the Best Computer
Programmers?" It will tell you the standard you have to meet in your
resume. You won't work if you don't meet the standard. You can also
find the same standard in just about any book on hiring the best
people...those books are written by HR people and contain all of the
same silliness regarding resumes.
Often, though, one company has a different standard than another one. Unfortunately, that standard is shrouded in secrecy.
Understand your State's Unemployment Program:
One thing I learned from my earliest days of being on the dole is how to live well on very little.
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