This is my second attempt at writing this. Memo to self: after hitting the Post button, make sure the post has actually been published before navigating away from the page…
I’ve been reading a fair number of CVs recently, and I’ve been struck by just how much experience everyone seems to have. At least, everyone claims to have a breadth of experience that I just can’t match. I haven’t counted, but I suspect most of the CVs I’ve been looking at have listed over 100 technologies. In light of this, I’ve been considering how I’ll market myself when I’m next interested in getting a job.
There are a few things in my favour which most candidates don’t have, mostly in terms of community – MVP awards, book reviewing, web articles, this blog, newsgroup posts, open source contributions etc – but I don’t know how much attention prospective employers really pay to that kind of thing. What I find frustrating is the way that traditional CVs don’t really convey any of what I find important – either as a potentially employee or as someone involved (to whatever extent) in the hiring process. I have begun to wonder whether a list of values would do me any favours:
- I prefer working code over perfect UML
- I prefer whiteboards over Visio
- I prefer code which can easily be read over code which runs 5% faster but no-one else understands
- I prefer code reviews which force me to change my design over reviews which stroke my ego
- I prefer being laughed at due to my trousers over being disrespected for being sloppy
- I prefer going home at 5 to sleep on a problem over staying at the office until midnight and then being useless the next day
- I prefer carrots over sticks
- I prefer progress over process
- I prefer keen developers with much to learn over experienced developers who feel they have nothing to learn
- I prefer close collaboration over the heroic coder mentality
- I prefer solving problems people are having in the real world over providing marketing with a new toy to show off
Maybe that doesn’t go far enough towards selling me though. How about some more direct statements?
- I write clean code in a timely manner
- I test my work and refactor mercilessly
- I don’t assume my code is perfect
- I love to learn new techniques and technologies
- I love to teach, and can explain things clearly
- I pick up new things quickly
- I have an affinity for code which lets me solve issues quickly
- I bring passion to whatever I do
If someone presented me with a CV based on the above lists, I’d be interested. Yes, I’d probably check that the candidate had worked in some sort of similar area before, but frankly if you take a bright person and ask them to learn Java or C#, it’s not going to take them that long to do it. Learning design principles takes longer (I’ll let you know if I ever think I’ve finished!) but with good mentoring, it’s not a problem.
CVs can’t be trusted. People can write pretty much anything on them. However, they’re making a choice about what image to present to the world – and that choice itself makes a statement. I want to work with smart people who love what they do. I want to see a spark in their eyes when they tell me what they’ve been up to. At an interview, I want them to be so busy getting me enthusiastic about what they’ve been looking at that I don’t have time for the standard questions.
You may well consider the lists above to be unprofessional to an extent. I agree – but I’m not sure whether it’s a problem. I enjoy my work immensely – so much so that I hardly think of it as work for a lot of the time. That’s not to say it’s not important to do a professional job – but there’s often not much of a gap between what I’m interested in for fun and what I earn money doing.
I suspect if I gave an unconventional CV to an agency they’d either demand a rewrite or they’d change it themselves. Maybe they’d be right to do so – maybe managers aren’t really keen on this sort of thing. What do you think? Comments are always welcome on my blog, but I’m particularly keen on feedback this time, as it could have a real bearing on what I do when I’m next in the job market.