Five ways to nail a job in Software

If you're a programmer, a great programmer - you will know how to write code. If you're a Software Project Manager, you will know all about Webservers... but what if you're not a nerd?

Jadu has hired 5-6 people every year in recent years. We are up to around 40 employees and are ramping up. I've interviewed and selected every single one. I've interviewed literally thousands of people in the past 11 years and read an unfathomable number of resumes / CVs.

I've met some amazing people - some I didn't hire and regretted it later on. Most I've hired. I've met people who are outstanding (in everyday business) and see great potential in them - so I may well just offer them a job.

Truth is, getting a job at Jadu is hard. If you're a programmer, it's very hard. Actually, it's harder still if you're a) not technical and b) not all that aware of the web.

But what if, like everyone else these days - you are looking to get hired by a fast growing, high-tech software company and you're SERIOUS about it.

You really want to work in a cool, laid back - but high pressure environment. You want to be part of the team changing the world?

Well, here are 5 tips for whatever position you're going for that will help you in nailing that job:

1. Be honest.

If you aren't a programmer. Please don't try to be. The give away on the CV is listing MS Word as an 'application' of which you are an expert. Other give away CV trashing indicators are: Dreamweaver, Frontpage, Excel etc. - these are not the tools of a programmer. Most programmers would rather pull out their own teeth than have to regularly be expert at these applications. Don't lie on your CV either. This can get you into very difficult circumstances. Also - please note, Jadu's best engineers always hire engineers.

The same is true if you are a Project Manager. For the love of God - don't apply for a job at a Software Company and claim you have 'Extensive knowledge of Internet, Hardware and Software' if you think Software is MS Word and Hardware is a floppy disk drive. If you claim such a level of expertise - you really need to know what a web server is.

I had a candidate actually say this after an interview:

"If I had known that by "Project" support, you actually mean "Technical" support, I would not have even applied for the vacancy. I repeatedly stated during the interview that I am not a technical person, yet you continued to impose technical questions upon me."

Duh. Software Company - the clue is in the title. And by technical questions, the candidate was asked "What version of Windows do you use at home... and what version of MS Project do you use..."

If you're applying for a role as a designer - things get interesting. You have to actually know CSS and XHTML! As well as Photoshop and hopefully Illustrator. Please don't say PaintShop Pro. If you're asked what you think of Microformats or CSS3, please be prepared to give a thoughtful and considered response. Chances are there is a relatively expert designer interviewing you who is genuinely interested in your response. Probably to learn something and get excited about having you in their team.

Honesty - It's really the best policy.

Every line in your CV will be read. Be careful here. You don't want to end up having to respond to tricky questions about the names of the organisations you used to work for, the names of your bosses and managers and even - the names of your references!! Once, I had a chap who couldn't remember his CEO's name - despite having reported "directly to the CEO" for years. That created the dreaded awkward silence.

Everyone embellishes their CV / Resume. If you must, be articulate but avoid being verbose. Tailor it and make sure it's relevant but please avoid bending the truth. It's always picked up.

Finally, for those of you who do bend the truth - you may well leave a first interview in tears. Sometimes, you may well leave in tears and then get invited back! Sometimes, you may leave your interviewer in tears.

2. Be prepared to be challenged on literally anything.

This is a common technique to test you. It's very expensive for a software company to make the wrong hire decision. Please don't take it personally. We need to be sure that you are good, better still - great. Sometimes there isn't a correct response to a difficult question.

If you find an interviewer persisting, it's because you haven't given a satisfactory response and they want to give you a chance. It isn't to undermine or embarrass you.

3. The test.

It's inevitable. Embrace it. Love the test. Make something worthwhile. You may well be asked to write some code, or comment on some code. You may be asked what your favorite language is. Be prepared to have a long discussion about it.

Oh - one more thing for you programmers. If you are asked about something like the difference between well formed and valid XML - please, don't just guess some random answer. (Also, you may actually want to be a programmer).

Also - sales people. You will be asked to make a presentation and you will need to be able to demo software. Just a heads up. I'm in sales, and there is nothing more rewarding, exciting or challenging than life in WCM software sales, working with the biggest organisations of their kind in the World.

4. Research.

If you want to nail a job - know what you are aiming for. You would never sit an exam without any study would you? Get behind the wheel of a car without a lesson? Skydive without a parachute?

So why, why, why - would you skim read the company website and then try and have a conversation about it with the CEO? You will never hold it up. No one can lie that convincingly. Reading the website is just the start - you should read about the products, the industry, the challenges. You're articulate, you're clever - you studied for a degree, you got good grades. You woke up early, spent time getting impeccably dressed. Hair, nails, shoes - all perfect. You made it to interview! Why would you not spend a few hours researching the job you *really* want.

5. Be sharp.

Everyone gets nervous - and the same is true for all candidates. Use it to your advantage. Avoid being cocky and over confident, but show humility and apply your knowledge. Remember - you have been shortlisted from a long list of people. You're a lucky, lucky applicant and you need to get your best qualities over.

It's hard getting a job in a cool, Software Company - but the rewards can be quite profound and long lasting. Unless you're a programmer, web developer or a designer - you don't necessarily need to be a nerd (BTW, not all tech folks are nerds - those of us who are, are rather proud of it). You do need to be into technology. Really into technology.

Know your subject. Polish your shoes. Do up your top button. Don't forget what's in your CV. And never take it personally.

Oh. And good luck :)

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    There are 5 responses to “Five ways to nail a job in Software”

    1. Bicks Says:

      So you don't recommend trying to blag your way in then?

    2. Suraj Says:

      High quality blagging will certainly get your CV read and possibly a phone or first interview. You might then have to provide evidence and/or prove you can do what you say you can do. If your a programmer for example, you might actually have to write code.

      I'm yet to find a programmer who can blag their way through writing good software. I do however, know a lot of great programmers who don't have a degree, can't blag to save their lives but can write code like a god.

    3. Kelly Says:

      Very informative read, thank you!

      *hastily deleting dreamweaver from cv...*

    4. Neil Thompson Says:

      Suraj, sure wish Jadu was located nearer to me. I'd be applying like a shot!

    5. Ian Says:

      After spotting an ad for a Project Manager position with Jadu I took the tour and thought "I'm liking this". Then read this blog and didn't know whether to laugh or cry! Actually, when I re-read the technical questions that the interviewee struggled with I'm glad that the answer turned out to be laugh. It nearly put me off applying, but you know - what's the worst that could happen? I could have a crummy interview and get laughed at. On the other hand, I could land myself an awesome job.

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