Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

About To Begin A Job Search...

I'm about to bid adieu to Australia and head back home to New Zealand (Auckland - hey I'll be able to work on Mozilla from Internet cafes!). I've been browsing job sites and the like and spending time staring at my resume (Google for my name if you're interested) wondering if it sets the right tone.

Here are some things going through my head:

* Is it relevant/useful to state that I've been programming (non-commercially of course) since I was about 10 years old[#]? Yesterday my project manager was looking over my shoulder and asked me how long I'd been programming - "it shows," he said. [I don't say this on my resume currently, but my PM's comments made me consider doing so].

Part of me thinks that sounds silly to mention this experience, but another part of me thinks it shows an ongoing relationship with the field, the ideas, etc and (one would hope) a degree of insight greater than my "resume experience".

If you are/were in a selection process would this be something you'd consider?

* I've hopped around a bit in the time I've been working, but 2 of the companies I've worked for in the last 5 years are no more and another 2 have had very high staff turnover rates since 2001 (others have changed hands/names several times).

I don't think that I would be as strong a candidate as I am without having taken the steps I had, still - this looks "bad" if I'm applying for a permanent role (and ideally I want a permanent role in a strong team) and it looks like I'm disloyal. Me referees would probably refute this, but I have to get to interview stage before I can get to referee stage. 

Any tips on spinning this "negative" into a "positive" on a resume (I think I can hold my own if asked about this in an interview)?

Your feedback appreciated.

[#] Satisfying coding experience - writing a program for my mum when I was 13/14 that saved her about a month's worth of evenings pouring over printouts, the next day her firm decided to buy a PC!

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, July 23, 2003


One of the troubles with the market here is that recruitment is that the market here is dominated by the recruitment agencies, who in my experience are by and large rapacious incompetent scum who know nothing about IT. To get to the client, you first have to go through them, and their main interest is in shifting bodies as fast as possible. They’ll do this by looking at your specific list of skills, and attempting to match it up as quickly as possible with one or more of the clients on their books, possibly using an automated matching system. In this context, the “Skills Summary” and “Tools Summary” on your CV are likely to be very useful in getting a foot in the door. I’d be inclined to say that putting your wider background on the CV might be of interest to an employer should you get as far as an interview, but in order to get that far the specific technical skills are more important. Also, bear in mind that the agency will re-package and possibly re-write your CV in their own format.
On the plus side, a number of agencies do carry out reference checks on candidates before putting them forward to an employer, so it’s not necessarily true to say that you need to get to the interview stage before references are checked. Also, I get the impression that your Java skills are in reasonable demand here. In particular, Fonterra, the dairy company, was advertising for staff for a big Java project. Worth a look at:

Good luck

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

On displaying non-commercial experience: These are my thoughts, which are not those of a recruiter or an HR drone, so I don't know if it's correct.

I don't like stating anything I can't back up. I can say I've been programming for the last 7-8 years (true), but I've only got projects going back maybe 2, and employment even less. So I don't claim the time.

I am a firm believer in the 'talk''s cheap' principle. I don't like saying "I can do XYZ". I like saying "I *have done* XYZ". That's not possible nearly as often as is optimal, but that's the way it goes.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, July 24, 2003

Why don't you add your comercial experience depending on the job you apply for. some companies might want to see that, others might consider only professional experience.

Prakash S
Thursday, July 24, 2003

I am a developer and I "peer interview" other developers. Job hopping is often a red flag on a resume, but only if the job duration is less than 12 months. I think employers understand that, in the dot-com era, it was common for companies to fold or for people to switch jobs.

I think mentioning non-work software projects can be worthwhile. If it's something technically interesting or related, then it shows you have a strong interest (outside of paid work). It also gives the interviewer something to ask you questions about.

I would not mention that you have been coding since age 10. I think many developers have been interested in computers since a young age. It makes your resume sound like you are trying to pad your resume because you don't have other, tangible projects to mention.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

When I read your comment about programming since 10 years old and your project manager said "it shows", my first reaction was that it was a dis, that your code looks like code written by a 10 year old! :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2003

I absolutely hate seeing "I have 20 years programming experience" on a CV, and upon further inspection realising he was counting from his dad helping him write hello world at age 5.

If you weren't getting paid for it, I can't verify it, so it doesn't count. Sad but true.

Thursday, July 24, 2003


Fair enough comments - thanks for your input.

I guess I was trying to think of ways to better position myself, and my resume.

Walter Rumsby
Thursday, July 24, 2003

Walter, I know this has been suggested before, and is almost cliched, but buy yourself a copy of

What colour is your parachute.

Totally worth every penny.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home