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Excellent grades

Come on Joel, let me explain my 'B' average.

I was a young kid from a small town.  Nine people total in my graduating class.  I was the only one that went to college from my class, the first one in my family ever to go to college, and I went to the university that was closest to my home (you're right, you've never heard of it).  The two classes ahead of me and the two behind me only produced 2 other college graduates (I haven't kept up with the other classes). 

Of course, I never had to study in high school or college, and a 'B' average was acceptable to me, even desirable in some instances -- no one likes the kid always acing the exams.  I didn't even know there was study materials for the SAT - the people that bothered to take it in my home town just showed up. 

The only teacher that really talked about college said it didn't matter where you went to school, they were all pretty much the same.

It wasn't until I was out for several years and looked in to getting a MSCS that I realized what I had done.

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Oh... the university that was close to my home town consisted of ~1000 people from the other small towns in the region, so it was really like high school all over again.  Without parents.

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

what a relief :)

actually Im not good at hating _anyone_....my partner believes its because Im emotionally stunted geek with anger management problems....personally I prefer to believe its because Im an easy going kind of person with a good sense of separation between my ego and myself...

_or_ I may be suffering from that geek disease, whats it called?  the one where I would speak in a monotone and spend periods of time banging my head against walls....

mind you, people who suffer from that tend to me a lot smarter than me in geeky areas....


so Im back to either easy going or anger management problems :)

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

well... I am having a bit of fun.

I'm just trying to point out that "excellent grades" doesn't mean "smart".  Remember Joel's essay says that his requirements are "Smart" & "Gets things done".  His version of "Geeks" are middle class kids that went to Ivy league colleges.  Much different peer group than what I'm used to.  The majority of people where I went to school were receiving government aid.  The school I went to didn't get a computer until 1989.  It was a trs/80.

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Ive not yet completed my university degree (now 35 years old, completing via correspondence) and left school at the age of 17 to spend 10 years working as a labourer :)  now I own and run my own software company and spend an awful lot of time hopping between countries in a futile attempt to keep my clients confused as to my whereabouts.

<g> Ive just discovered that my IQ is only 117 so I dont even have the distinction of being particularly bright.

When I was younger some people assumed I was pretty thick, now some people assume Im very bright.

<g> truth is that they are _all_ wrong.

if people wont hire you then find your own way forward and stop ya bloody whinging ya great ninny.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

No.  I'm just saying there's smart people that don't have excellent grades, so maybe that shouldn't be a 'requirement' if you're looking for smart people.

Why are you all so angry?

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Law schools love stories like yours.

1.  You have a big ego.
2.  You were the first in your family to graduate college.
3.  You're from the sticks. 

If you're a minority and you really are smart, say "hello top 14!".

Tech support is an entry level job though.  Presumably this person won't have much else to go on other than what they did in school.


Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I think I missed something - where did Joel say he only hires people with A averages? That seems really counter-Joelish to me...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

"Excellent grades and a track record of success"
http://www.fogcreek.com/Jobs/CSR.html

"Most of the geeks I've known are middle class nerdy kids who got great grades and went on to ivy league colleges where they were appreciated for their nerdiness"
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/oldnews/pages/fog0000000269.html

A's hire A's, B's hire C's.

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

no interest in law school, but my GRE percentiles were very good (v:95,q:95,a:97), maybe I could qualify my GPA with those.  But, I'm not actually interested in the job, I'm just starting conversation.  Apparently one that touched somebody's nerve.

I agree with you FullNameRequired.  I had a couple of teachers that were disappointed that I didn't enroll in grad school, but I knew that credentials would only help me get jobs working for other people.  Not what I want.

please don't hold it against me
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

OK, let me clarify a bit.

I don't care if you got good grades, I care if you're smart and get things done.

Getting good grades, however, is one of the best ways you can prove that you're smart and get things done.

A high GPA in college means that dozens of smart professors evaluated an entire semester of your work, each independently, and judged you to be smart. This is more meaningful than good references (previous employers may be afraid to get sued). It is more meaningful than good SAT scores (that was one test, three hours). It is more meaningful than all the active verbs you were taught to use in your cover letter.

Lacking good grades, I'm going to need some other evidence. Tell me a story about some time when you faced a challenge and overcame it. Dazzle me with your brilliance in the cover letter.

Faced with a hundred resumes for one open position, I can pretty much guarantee that:
* I'm going to ignore spam resumes with cover letters that are completely generic. This makes it look like you're applying for a million jobs. That in turn makes you look desperate, which makes you look unhireable. It's all about impressions. Somebody who says, "CityDesk is cool, I want to work for the guy who designed CityDesk" is going to impress me more than the person who says, "I'm an excellent team worker and also able to get things done on my own." This is not because I'm vain, it's because it shows that you're making an effort to find a job that's a good fit rather than resumespamming.
* I'm going to ignore email where the name of the mailbox doesn't match the name on the resume. What the heck is up with that? If you're so clueless about email that you haven't managed to get an email address with a name that matches yours, I'm not sure how you're going to answer Fog Creek's email.
* I'm going to discard resumes that don't demonstrate the level of literacy that we expect from high school graduates in this country. Yeah, there might be some reason you can't get noun/verb agreement, but I don't have time to find out what it is.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, June 12, 2003

OK

"CityDesk is cool, I want to work for the guy who designed CityDesk"

Hire me. =)

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Joel, do you ever get resumes from Monster or other online services?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Philo - when you're as high-profile as Joel, I suspect you don't need to go to Monster. That would just add more resume's to the mix, and why increase it from 100 resume's to 1,000 (sorted by date).

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Is this site really that popular?  I stumbled across it awhile ago and I think it's great, but you guys are making it sound like every software developer worth his salt knows about this site.  I thought it was just some random corner of the web.

When I think of a site that a lot of programmers read, it would probably be slashdot, though I don't read that myself.

Andy
Thursday, June 12, 2003

JoelOnSoftware.com is #68,100 out of all internet properties. To contrast, Atkins.com is #69,281. MarkTAW.com is a lowly #661,332.

http://www.alexa.com/data/details?url=joelonsoftware.com

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Slashdot, btw, is #964

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Cool link!  thanks...

I was surprised that microsoft has 4 sites in the top 10!  MSN, Microsoft.com, Passport, and Hotmail... damn their monopoly has only grown stronger since the lawsuits... I can't believe microsoft.com is higher, much less in the same league, as amazon.com.

However I noticed this:

Please note: The traffic ranking for archive.org is inflated because users of the Alexa Toolbar are disproportionately likely to visit this site. The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library of the Internet.

So I guess how they track it is that they get people to download that alexa toolbar (like google does) and then they track what sites they visit.  So it's not totally accurate, but still interesting.

Andy
Thursday, June 12, 2003

JOS might only be a small corner of the web  but for a company that only had three other deveopers last count I would have thought that would be hi-profile enough.

And to the guy who started this thread, employers aren't after giving you a chance; that only happens in corny Holllywood movies made by studios who wouldn't give you the time of day, let alone a good job.

Employers want somebody who can add value to their company, and a degree from Oxbridge or an Ivy League university is a fair indicator the candidate is likely to do this. You're only going to get a lookin when there's a boom, and there aren't enough of those to fill the shortlist, and then you'll only get the job if those on the shortlist aren't any good. If they're OK they'll still get the job even if you're better.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Incidentally the figures for fogcreek.com are higher.

http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details?&url=Http://discuss.joelonsoftware.fogcreek.com

The site is rated at 43,693

As, unfortunately for Joel's bottom line 78% of users come to it from disscuss.fogcreek.com this suggests that 75% of the fogcreek figures should be added to the joelonsoftware ones, which still leaves this as a little corner in the web, but a somewhat more populated one than you thought before.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Good point about discuss.fogcreek.com. I think the bottom line is the reach-per-million internet users... Though to put meaningful numbers on that you have to know how many internet users there are total.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

"I'm going to ignore email where the name of the mailbox doesn't match the name on the resume"

That's me out then. The mailbox I use for personal mail is the same as my initials.

"What the heck is up with that?"

If you're so clueless as to not work out that people use mailboxes for filtering and discovering who gets email addresses from whom, I'm not sure how you're going to cope with email from people who have their own domains.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

Sorry. Rereading that last post it came out harsher than I intended. I stand by the jist of it however.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

I think that what Joel is referring to is where people us their girlfriend's or father's or daughter's or neighbour's email instead of their own.

Happens quite a lot (one theory I have is that it's the wife applying on the other guy's behalf because she's sick of having him loafing about unemployed all the time).

It makes a mess of the tracking system. You have to deliberately enter the email you are replying to as linked to a contact for the original poster.

My favourite similar story was from an applicant for an English job who gave a list of the usual office computer skills in the addtional information in the resume. The trouble was that the resume's file name was "Dadsresume.doc"

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I think you misunderstood what he wrote.

For example, if your name is John Smith, he expects the mail to be as this:

From: "John Smith" <joelspam@johnsmith.mailshell.com>

and not

From: "Type your name here" <johnsmith@aol.com>

Yves
Thursday, June 12, 2003

"a degree from Oxbridge or an Ivy League university"

It's amazing the publicity engine Oxford and Cambridge manage operate that people think like that.

Yeah, Oxbridge is a great place to get a grad from if you want one that can do maths and theory and nothing else.

For a decent CS person, places in the UK advertise for someone who graduated from a "redbrick" university. These are the newer ones, with more of a focus on practicality, but not the extent of being an ex-polytechnic (which don't do /enough/ theory)..

Of course, being British, when I say "newer", I mean "new within the last 150 years" -- There are competing claims for the first redbrick from Birmingham (1901) and Liverpool (1881). {The argument appears to be that Liverpool only had a red brick building, not a entirely red brick campus..}

Katie Lucas
Thursday, June 12, 2003

http://www.alexa.com

Totally great ! Installed their toolbar and surfing with pleasure already ...

Evgeny Goldin
Thursday, June 12, 2003

What's wrong with:

From: "Type your name here" <johnsmith@aol.com>

/shrug

The other form assumes you have a nameserver named after you.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

I took Maths and nothing else at Cambridge. I learned software engineering on my first job, from a comapny who I thoght knew knew more about software engineering than any university at the time (the Data Networks Division of Bell Northern Research).

I went to King's COllege; it's a left-leaning college (for example, they changed the dining hall to remove the platform of the "high table" for the dons). When I was interviewed, the tutor said: "So: you have As for your A-level, and good marks in your entrance exam... but do you think it's fair for us to take you, since you went to a good school, and are competing against other people who didn't have good teachers?" I replied "It wouldn't be fair to discriminate against me, since I went to that school on a full scholarship."

My Dad tells me that the Blair government is proposing (because, in the U.K. much of the university and student funding comes from government) that universities should have a stricter quota system: to limit the number of applicants from priviledged backgrounds whose parents went to university.

If the tutor has said to me "Do you think it's fair, given that your Dad is a university professor and your Mum created a Montessori nursery school for you? I don't know what I would have said.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, June 12, 2003

"Yeah, Oxbridge is a great place to get a grad from if you want one that can do maths and theory and nothing else."

I don't know so much. Their Software Engineering program seems to have a pretty good mix of stuff you wouldn't necessarily find time to learn elsewhere, but which helps you to think (theory) and practically applicable stuff like requirements gathering.

I say "looks" but I haven't started yet. The stated intent is to have real-world practical value, and I'll be interested to see whether it actually unfolds that way.

Fernanda Stickpot
Thursday, June 12, 2003

"http://www.alexa.com / Totally great ! Installed their toolbar and surfing with pleasure already ..."

Congratulations! You're being closely monitored!

Gusta
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I'll get a resume where the resume is purportedly for, say, Nancy Smith, but the email will be from Fred Jones. To me this says that Nancy doesn't quite have email yet, she's using Fred's email address, and she's not even going to make the effort to set up a free hotmail address for the purpose of applying for this job, because she's just too clueless about email. Either way anyone who is still that hopeless with email is so far away from being qualified to install FogBUGZ on Windows 2000 Servers and debug SQL Server administration problems that it's not worth the time it takes to delete the resume.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I was speaking about recruiting in general, not just software.

Every year they ask faculty staff at most European universities to name the best university in their field apart from their own.

They then publish the top five and you will find Oxford and Cambridge in nearly every one of those top five where they actually offer the course.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I think the type of degree is important. I didn't get A's in college, but I majored in Electrical Engineering. Wow, what a meat-grinder that was, but I graduated and am better for having suffered through it.

I think that training has helped me succeed.

Steve
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I used to hate feeling out HR forms that asked me what my gpa was.  Although it's a respectable number, I worked full time when I was going to school so it could've been a lot higher.  Getting good grades always took a backseat to putting food on the table & a roof overhead though, and sometimes it was a struggle.  I think that says more about me as a person than if my gpa had been higher w/o working, because it made me a lot stronger than what I would have been.  But they don't see that, they just see the number.  Their loss.

Luckily I've been out of school long enough now that I can rely on my contacts and my track record instead of where I went to school and what grades I made.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

Joel says --

"I'm going to ignore email where the name of the mailbox doesn't match the name on the resume. What the heck is up with that? If you're so clueless about email that you haven't managed to get an email address with a name that matches yours, I'm not sure how you're going to answer Fog Creek's email. "

I LOVE this ... I have always been irritated when people write me from their girlfriend's or boyfriend's address, and then say, "Do not respond to this, please send e-mail to cccccccc@ccccc.com" -- I'm like Joel, I wonder why the hell they don't have a freakin' Hotmail account of their own, if nothing else.

Bravo, Joel.  I love your attitude.

programmer
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Incidentally, do those of you who want to see a high GPA consider the source?

Candidate 1:
3.5 GPA
120 credit hours (1991-1996)
B.S. (Major: Computer Science)
Podunk Univ.

Candidate 2:
2.7 GPA
165  credit hours (1985-1989)
BSEE
Top Ten engineering university

Does Candidate 1 automatically "win"?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Philo - I think that's a loaded question.

Would you hire

Bill Gates
High School Dropout
CEO Micosoft

?

Remember, Joel mentioned having a proven track record (or something like that). The guy who went to a presigious university and has been in the "real world" a number of years has advantages that aren't tied to his resume.

When someone asks for a GPA it seems to me that it's more of an indicator that the position is for recent college grads who won't have a lot of other experience on their resume than that he's filtering strictly on GPA.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, June 12, 2003

That's Harvard dropout. not high school dropout. big difference.

John Harvard
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Ivy leagues are notorious for grade inflation. 


Thursday, June 12, 2003

When I'm interviewing someone, I only care if the GPA is on the paper, and if it's a relatively OK value. I could care less about the difference between a 3.1 and 3.9.

What I care about is a) are they smart b) are they the type of people who can do things when asked c) can they fit in. I've found lots of really smart academic types, but I seriously doubt their ability to get things done in a corporate environment.  Overly shy, overly introverted (if you can't adequately tell me about your projects -- how can you adequately communicate what you're doing?), and overly nervous get filtered out.

S. Gwizdak
Friday, June 13, 2003

That's why you should always interview drunk.

j/k

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 13, 2003

S. Gwizdak
"Overly shy, overly introverted (if you can't adequately tell me about your projects -- how can you adequately communicate what you're doing?), and overly nervous get filtered out. "

Because you know, the computer industry's just full of beaming extroverts. :)

I don't really understand this prejudgement.  Usually people who are overly shy or what not are that way because it's an interview setting.  And some lack of clarity may indicate, among other things, a level of excitement about past projects.

(frankly, an obvious lack of any enthusiasm is the #1 turnoff for me when interviewing)

As a manager, what does this so-called "communication problem" really cost you?  If you have to spend minutes more having a problem explained to you, is that really less worthwhile than having better intellectual output?  Programming is an introverted activity; it's not a sales position.

smkr4
Friday, June 13, 2003

I disagree. Software is a team effort. Social skills are very important.

I've worked with extreme nerds that just don't get it. They don't pick up cues from other people and don't know when to move on. They often get huffy and red faced or pout when minor issues don't go their way. It's like dealing with a child.

After a certain age there are some things people are expected to have figured out, and if they haven't, well, you have to wonder why not.

Potty training. Manners. Conversation. Business communication. Handling pressure.

I believe the nerd-genius thing is a myth. Every smart person I've met has mastered basic life skills.

matt
Saturday, June 14, 2003

matt:

I wouldn't say that someone who is "overly shy" in an interview is necessarily lacking basic life skills.  Personally, I have interviewed the _pathologically_ shy, and I agree there.  But that's certainly an extreme case--a little too extreme to correlate with academics in general, which I think is what Mr. Gwizdak was doing.

At any rate, business communication, etc. is a skill more suited to communicating with management than communicating with team members on a software project.  And if we could only do the latter (ie, if management would stay out of our way more :)), we'd have much better teams. :)

smkr4
Saturday, June 14, 2003

"Would you hire

Bill Gates
[Harvard] Dropout
CEO Micosoft"

I doubt that we could afford his wages.


Monday, June 16, 2003

smkr4,

1. I am not a manager. Where I work, each interview candidate gets picked to pieces by each engineer after a manager has interviewed them. Afterwards, the CTO gets to interview them.

2. I'm shy. I'm not overly shy. I can talk to people when necessary to get my job done. I've had candidates regurgitate what's on their resume when I ask about their projects. I prefer candidates who will talk about their projects to the point where I have to stop them. I've seen candidates so shy they just sit there and mumble quietly. I do not want to work with someone I can't understand. I also do not want to work with someone who can't speak up about things.

S. Gwizdak
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

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