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Getting your resume read

Have to say that this was one of the more hilarious articles that Joel has written.  I can just picture someone reading over all these resumes, overwhelmed with disgust, with their trigger finger on the delete key.

But I just want to say that I have noticed there are 2 types of (good) developers: ones that are extremely literate, and ones that are nearly illiterate.  I don't know what it is, but I've noticed that programmers vary widely in this skill.  On my team at work, there are those that send impeccably composed e-mails, and those who send e-mails like they're 14 year olds.  I think this actually shows a lot in their programming too... not at what tasks they're good at, but how they solve the problem.  It's hard to explain, so I won't try now.  The literate ones are usually very much concerned with programming style, while the not-so-literate ones can still be very good at getting things done.

So I don't think there is any correlation between literate people and good programmers, but of course, as Joel says, when you have 200 resumes you can afford to discriminate.

What I usually do is put a major accomplishment within the first 3,4 sentences of the cover letter that the employer would be interested in -- something that is similar to something they would do.  That usually works.

Roose
Monday, January 26, 2004

Roose, you contradict yourself.

You say there is no correlation after going to pains to point out a correlation that is pretty damn tight: More literate programmers care more about programming style and less literate ones get the job done.

From this I infer that the literate ones also get the job done but care more about how they get it done. Hence they produce work that is more maintainable, extensible, understandable and, well, better.

I've also worked with both kinds of good programmers (and with many kinds of bad ones). And while I really appreciate the hack'n'paste people who get a lot of work done, and I wouldn't want to lose any of those colleagues, I appreciate much more the ones whose code is well thought out, easy to refactor, and doesn't look like it needs a Netscape-like rewrite from the ground up just to add one new method the  API.

And I have to say, if I were hiring a new programmer, and these two types were distinguishable by tattoos on their foreheads: "Good Programmer Who Cares About Style" versus "Good Programmer With Bad Style But Gets The Job Done" it would be an easy choice.

Now I'm not sure if the correlation you describe is correct, but if it is, it seems there's no need for the tattoo. You're telling me that if I hit DELETE on the not-so-literate applications I'm improving my chance of ending up with the kind of programmer I want. Sure, I'll be throwing away all the near-literate genius programmers, with the bath water as it were, and I'll be leaving in some careless, hack'n'pasters who just happen to write well and should have been journalists in the first place, but I'm improving my CHANCES of getting the right person - which is, as Joel points out, the best I can do with 200 applications for one position.

Having said all of that, I don't necessarily agree with the correlation as it stands. I would certainly correct for foreign language speakers writing the cover letter a second (or third) language. It all depends on how long they've lived and worked in an english-speaking country of course, so I would try to determine this from their resume and make allowances. (I myself work in a country where I am pretty lousy at speaking the language - forget about writing it - and I consider myself a good, thoughtful programmer. -- On the other hand I wouldn't send a cover letter without getting it proof-read by a native speaker-friend so perhaps I am already showing I'm more thoughtful about style than the quasi-literate letter-writers)

rhubarb
Monday, January 26, 2004

Literacy is not really the issue. If you don't excel at written English but you're smart enough to recognize that, find someone whose written English is better, and get them to proofread your resume and cover letter, then readers of your resume won't know that your written English isn't so great and they won't hold it against you.

Getting someone to proofread your resume demonstrates another very important skill - recognizing your own weak spots and relying on other people to help you out in those areas. If you can't get your resume proofread, who's going to be stuck looking over your shoulder to make sure that everything else you right gets proofread before a customer might see it?

Beth
Monday, January 26, 2004

>If you can't get your resume proofread, who's going to be stuck looking over your shoulder to make sure that everything else you right gets proofread before a customer might see it?<

What? This makes no sense.

Okay, proof reading a resume I understand, but what I don't understand is how someone proof reading your resume means someone *will not* later have to have someone read every communication to a customer.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 26, 2004

I have had the misfortune to meet, in this industry of ours, so many people with impeccible manners and elegant writing style.  They rise well.  Not one, however, was actually *any* good whatsoever at design and code etc.

i am even tempted to make sure there aint no chanse youll consider me in that group, just to keep myself seeming technical.

i like i
Monday, January 26, 2004

An imperfect grasp of the English language is more of a handicap to a programmer than it might appear at first sight. It affects your ability to explain a problem. You are not comfortable in the language you are asking the question in, and your question is too general, and so gets less answers.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 26, 2004

"I have had the misfortune to meet, in this industry of ours, so many people with impeccible manners and elegant writing style.  They rise well."

I'm wondering if we are working in the same industry. You are working in software, right? Not maintaining the web servers at Conde Nast? I have continually been amazed by the managers/CEOs/VPs I've met who can't spell. As far as manners go, most people I've encountered in any position of authority have reminded me of the characters on Glengarry Glen Ross...

the real blank
Monday, January 26, 2004

"An imperfect grasp of the English language is more of a handicap to a programmer than it might appear at first sight. It affects your ability to explain a problem."

Yes. Everybody works in English. Right?


Monday, January 26, 2004

"Yes. Everybody works in English. Right? "

Anyone who is any good in the software industry does...

the real blank
Monday, January 26, 2004

I believe Van Halen had the infamous M&Ms.  They stipulated that the venue for their concerts provide a bowl of red M&Ms.  No other color.  This is because they had huge sets, and any lack of detail could have resulted in say a speaker crushing someone.  If in their dressing room they found the bowl, they knew someone went carefully through the requirements document.  (Or at least heard the rumors, though hopefully Van Halen changed the color occasionally.)

The original poster had an interesting observation though; companies aren't really looking for programmers.  Business and software creation are not together because they somehow fit naturally.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Monday, January 26, 2004

>> Van Halen had the infamous M&Ms

This is a famous variation of Jerry Weinberg's "orange juice" test. Jerry is a mensch in the consultant-client-management arena.

Jerry has nothing to say about Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth, though.

Bored Bystander
Monday, January 26, 2004

the real blank - I share your amazement and have noticed a strong correlation between literacy and value once you correct for people for whom English is a second language. Someone who cannot write clearly on a given subject usually doesn't understand it well and that almost always precludes a useful role on any project.

Chris Adams
Monday, January 26, 2004

I was surprised to see how many native English speakers, even well educated ones, can't spell their own language. To be honest, most of the time foreigners write better English than the native speakers.

Sanja
Saturday, February 28, 2004

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