Software professional with 25+ years in SaaS product development, coding, consulting, platform transformations, and data migrations.

Contact: hikingdave @ gmail.com

Finding a Software Job

I've seen the discussion on Hacker News a dozen times - someone posts their statistics of their jobs search. They sent out 37 resumes, got 26 responses, which led to 19 teach screens, 14 inteviews, 5 on-site visits, and 3 offers, so now how do they choose between these three? Or worse statistics, but with questions of where they are going wrong.

I've been working in this industry for almost 30 years, and neither of those stories match any of my experience. I tend to send out small batches of resumes, get responses from about half of what I send out, interviews from everyone who responds, and offers from most interviews.

So I've been thinking - why is that? Why do I find jobs with less effort than others? And could other people share my success rate?

I have come to the following conclusions as to why I have success:

  1. I look for a job on my own timing. When I was younger, I would stick with a job that wasn't right for me until the correct new opportunity arose. Now that I am older, with flexibility, I can afford to be unemployed for a while, so I still take my time. I know there are jobs in the world, and that I am limiting myself by only considering the ones that happen to be open at any single moment in time.
  2. When Reading Job Descriptions:
    1. I think about not only whether I can do the job well, but whether they are likely to find someone else who can do it even better. And I don't waste my time sending resumes out unless I know I have a good shot of being a leading candidate. If my skills are shy of where I want to be, I grow them while working, and not by asking employers to take a leap of faith that I'll grow into a role. I want them to be confident in hiring me, not wary about it.
    2. I look for items in the job description that truly fit me. I don't want to be the guy that meets their minimum requirements, I want to be the guy that meets most of the "nice-to-haves", and even brings something to the table they didn't think of. 
    3. I think carefully about who the employer is - will it be work that I would enjoy doing, that is meaningful, and that I will feel was a worthwhile era of my life?
    4. In short, I self-select out of hiring processes that are likely to be a waste of time for myself and the hiring manager. I only apply to places where I can truly contribute.
  3. When sending a resume, I also say things that might not be what they want to hear. I am honest about who am I and what I can do, and I let them know in my initial communication. The point is to find a job where they like me, and I like them, so why put on any false pretenses during the process?
  4. One we've gotten to the interview, I drop the attitude of trying to self-select out of the process. I am now trying to impress them, in order to move forward to get an offer. But I also make sure the interview is a 2 way street. I ask questions back to be sure they are people I want to work for, and work with. And this often helps - a candidate who asks good questions during an interview process gives a better impression that someone who just answers questions then says, "Thanks!"

I have dropped out of interviews processes after the first interview, and it felt empowering to do so. I even did so once in the middle of the interview. It is empowering to know what you want, and accept only what works for you. And while that guy I walked out on was surprised and a bit confused, I stopped us both from wasting each other's time.

After the first interview, I don't think I do anything different than anyone else. But because I am selective in who I even start the process with, the processes do not tend to happen at the same time. The couple times I have had multiple interview cycles happening at the same time, I didn't wait for multiple offers. I took the first acceptable offer, and shut down the others. To me, that isn't limiting my opportunities, it is  maximizing my chances at being satisfied with my work, as I like to work for quick decision-makers.

Younger software professionals won't have the same flexibility on timing as I do, but there are certainly unique strengths you posses that can help you be seleective in who you contact for work. I'd recommend everyone think carefully about what those strengths are, how they could be applied to any job you are looking at. Filter the list down to the best options - you'll end up with the same offers anyway, without stressing over having sent out 40 more resumes than you needed to, and engaging in a dozen screening interviews that weren't good matches to begin with.