Advice please -- Please Read

Thank you for reading. This is not a pity party for me. How do I get to the next place? Can people recommend tangible steps I can take to build my network and get noticed? I have applied to over 200 positions and have had only one interview (about 50 rejections).
I am looking for specific steps that help get interviews. I feel I have a small but excellent group of mentors who have given me positive feedback. I have been to conferences, and I have participated in Ruby for good. I have a successful work history in my previous career.

Who can I chat with? What am I missing? I am happy to do the needed work, but a little specific direction would be great.

I am super resilient and capable but feeling very stuck in the mud. My focus has been C# lately, but I also love Ruby. Thank you for your time.

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The job hustle is discouraging no doubt. That’s partly because of the heinous sloppiness and rudeness of many employers: they don’t even respond to applicants. It stinks. But it’s not you, it’s them, misbehaving.

Here’s something to keep in mind: The purpose of your resume and cover letter is to get you the interview. (You may already be doing this.) Study up a bit on the employers where you apply. Try to figure out why they’re hiring somebody right now. Do they have a labor shortage? A new project? A big customer and a tight deadline? Tailor your resume / cover letter to make some things clear.

  1. You’re interested in helping solve THAT employer’s real-world problems.

  2. You will be a diligent, valuable, and interesting addition to THEIR team.

  3. The recruiter and hiring manager, by hiring you, can check off the “hire somebody good” box on their do-to-lists. (That’s the first of MANY real-world problems you’ll solve for them.)

Read this about the hiring process. It’s a bit dated, but still perfectly valid: Smart and Gets Things Done by Joel Spolsky.

Oh, and if you’re looking for programming work in the business world go learn a bit of SQL if you haven’t already. In the Microsoft / C# / Dotnet ecosystem you can focus on SQL Server.

If you’re up for it, do a couple of so-called “lost sale reports.” Ask somebody who rejected you for a few minutes of their time. If you can find somebody who will cooperate, say something like this.

You obviously spent some time considering my application and other peoples’ applications. I’m not trying to change your mind, but I would like to understand your decision process. Honestly, I’d like to know how I came up short and how I need to improve to meet <<<company name’s>>> needs.

And listen carefully to what they tell you.

Good luck. Keep trying.

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@Ollie already answered this well.

The only other thing I’ll say is that it really pays off to have a solid portfolio.

Quality over quantity here. All you really need is one solid project that you’re proud of, can speak a lot about, and is polished enough to peak the interest of someone skimming your resume.

It doesn’t even have to be overly complex in my opinion either. It just has to tick all the boxes of what goes into professional software.

To list a few:

It should be hosted somewhere so people can see a live demo
User login/registration
Password resets
Email notifications (bonus for SMS)
Full CRUD on at least one resource (not including users)
Excellent documentation. Specifically around cloning and running the code in case other people want to run the app locally
100% test coverage. For beginners this is easiest to do with “end to end” testing tools. Don’t worry too much about perfect unit testing.
Automated linting and formatting that works on anyone’s machine who clones your repo
Uses an architecture that’s well written about like MVC or MVVC for example
Integrates with at least one 3rd party service. This could be for handling users like Auth0 or processing payments through Stripe (doesn’t have to actually accept real payments)
Deployments are automated. Either you click a button, or merge a PR into a dev/master branch and a deployment should kick off automatically
Continuous integration is setup to run your tests or any other checks before a PR is allowed to be merged into develop or master. GitHub Actions is a great tool for this

You can see I made mention of very few actual features. There’s so much that goes into shipping real software and if you can demonstrate that you have at least some level of understanding and proficiency in all of these categories it’s clear signal that you know what you’re doing.

If you had a project like that, I would consider you above and beyond expectations for what most entry level developers are putting on their resumes. It will be a lot of work but you will stand out from the crowd.

And you can keep building on this too. The list of things you can add to an application that aren’t even actual features is endless. There’s logging, localization, performance monitoring, health checking, A/B testing… it seriously never ends.

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Since you are not getting interviews, the obvious reason is that your resume/portfolio is not satisfying the job requirements, or at the very least not attractive enough compared to other candidates. I would suggest you share your resume, portfolio, and Github to be more informative for giving you constructive feedback.

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It is a difficult slog to get the first job, no doubt. There are so many ways to go wrong.

As said, if you’re not getting to the interviews then there is something wrong here. I know you don’t get an interview for everything, but fro 200 applications, I’d expect at least 10 interviews, maybe more.

So, I can imagine possible causes:

  1. A bad resume
  2. A bad portfolio
  3. Applying for the wrong positions
  4. Poor or missing portfolio site
  5. Poor or missing linkedin presence
  6. Poor or missing github presence
  7. Your skillset isn’t job ready
  8. Some other wild-card that is throwing you off - like an offensive email address, etc.

At the risk of yet more shameless self-promotion, I once wrote a doc with my thoughts on the difficulties of getting the first job.

But definitely share your resume and links to things like a portfolio site, github, linkedin, etc. If you’re going to share your resume, it might be good to redact the contact information.

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I once saw a seminar where a guy suggested A/B testing your resume. What have you got to lose? You’re not getting hits anyway so why not try a few different designs and treatments of the information to see if anything does better.

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If your applying online, customize the letter for the job advertisement. Make it appeal to the bot scoring your letter and the people. I did some research. Bots look for similar phrases on your letter and the job description and passes on ones that meet a minimum score. Look for soft skills phrases such as “working in a team environment” and make sure you address that in your letter.
Step 1: get past the bot so someone actually sees your application.
–Reply to every skill requested in the job application, even if it is to say you don’t have that skill.
– when saying you don’t have a skill or are minimally proficient, say it in a positive way. Instead of ‘i don’t know xxx language’ say ‘i am researching or learning xxx language’
-Step 2: get pas the first reviewer. Most people skim when they read so always start with a positive. In the first paragraph, list the skills you do have that they are looking for. Something like " thank you for reviewing my application, I feel my skill set and energetic attitude is a good match for your company. I am proficient in… And have worked in… For x time. I have some skill with…

Finally, in the actual resume, provide a bulleted list of relevant skills and group your jobs and by the most relative. I’ve done some hiring, and I don’t care of you worked at 7-11, even if it was last week.

I got an interview for a job I didn’t have the skills for this way. And, although it could be considered manipulative, you have to get past the bots first and people second.

I work on web design and development (programming.) Understanding bots (like Google) is just one of my skills.

Good luck!

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@Ollie , @dannyjamesfletcher, @yuchiu, @kevinSmith , @lisatwin1
Thank you, everyone, for your responses. Your time is deeply appreciated. I am going to apply what you have stated to my applications. Here is a copy of my

Thank you for any additional feedback

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It might take you weeks or even months to refine your application(resume/portfolio/Github) to be considered polished. Just keep in mind that what I’d suggest might not be true for all situations. Here are some of the ideas I would suggest as if I’m the hiring manager reviewing your profile

Linkedin

Cover Letter

  • Personally, I don’t care about cover letters all that much and I skip them most of the time. So someone else could have much better suggestions than I do.

Github/Portfolio

  • On the project that you listed out, update the readme file to have detailed documentation. i.e deployed link, get started instruction, and even project/technical planning details be written down in the repository. Find some well documented open source project and try to follow their readme structures. Here are some examples, a general readme guide, a project I did a while back
  • Quality over quantity, you don’t need to have many projects on your list. A few well-documented and polished projects will always win out numerous projects that were put together without much consideration and dedication. Pick 1, 2 projects that you care about the most, and build them to their fullest, and sell that project as it’s your killer app
  • Remain active on Github

Resume

  • You have a lot of work to be done on this part I will discuss them section by section
  • I’d personally put the resume in the following structure, it’s an opinionated thing and it’s up to you to decide. The easier for the reviewer to understand your tech background the better the layout would be. As you gained more experience, I will move the skills section down below projects
    • contact info
    • summary
    • skills
    • experience
    • projects
    • education

    Summary(Optional)

    • I would consider putting a short two-line summary on your resume to showcase your core competitive statement. Ex: Software engineer that has 1 year of experience developing web applications, owned multiple projects that involved both client and server-side that have served 500+ clients, and generated 100,000 user impressions.
    • Don’t do: have descriptions that do not give context for your contribution and impact. Things that are self-proclaimed like a team player, passionate, innovative, hard-working, and so on. You show these qualities by your work/experience descriptions, not just stating them out and does not give useful information and wasting precious space on your resume.

    Skills(A Must Put)

    • List out your technical skill sets, to help the reviewer quickly know your tech stack and checking the requirement list for ATS(Application Tracking System). You could swap the skills/keywords ins and outs, order them accordingly for different job requirements. In general, there are two common ways to group them. Either by proficiency or domain, I would put them like this:
      Language: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, C#, Python…
      Front-end: WordPress, JQuery, React, SASS, Webpack…
      Back-end: Django, Ruby on Rail, .Net, PostgreSQL, Heroku, AWS…
    • Don’t do: put something trivial for a developer, unless it is stated in the job description. Like MS Word, Powerpoint, macOS, Linux, and so on

    Experience/Projects

    • Not sure where to begin, you are lacking in this section, and this is where you need to put a serious amount of time to figure out. This is the most important part that will get you into an interview
    • In my opinion, the perfect descriptions of your experience would satisfy the following
      • Have a brief context of what you are doing
        • I generally understood the context behind your work/project, so this point is checked
      • Be technical
        • Projects: You’re really missing the mark on this point, the key point of having projects on your resume is to supplement technical skills because of lacking industry experience. It would be pointless to put some of the projects that are not technically sophisticated and doesn’t match job requirements at all. You don’t need to have 10 different projects to be presented, 1 or 2 extremely polished and the requirement matching project could be all that you need. Extend your projects to the fullest technically, and present your project well by upselling your technical highlight
        • Experience: It might be hard to demonstrate since you’re limited to the requirement. Try to push to use more tech sophisticated skills on your work, so you could demonstrate it thru your work.
      • Demonstrate that you’re taking the initiative
        • Project: It will be less important since it is mainly used to demonstrate that you are technically capable. And most likely all the projects you listed were solo projects. It would be a great plus if you’re contributing to an open-source project and could easily nail this point
        • Experience: Could be done better, like adding in some point that you are in the driver seat, where you were the stakeholder and you have led and planned a project
      • demonstrate the impact of your work
        • Project: Less important since you are using it to demonstrate your skills, but it would benefit greatly if you could put down some purposes on why you did what you did, and what’s the business value of doing so
        • Experience: You did put info about the impact on past non-tech work. But you are lacking it on your tech work
      • Include keywords
        • You did list some but could put more. And you also swap these keywords accordingly to the different job descriptions, this is where the ATS(Application Tracking System) could filter you out before getting to an actual human reviewer.

      Example experience(Just some rough idea that you could work toward):

      Edesign Chicago
      Software Engineer, Contractor
      Contributor to an e-commerce application owned multiple full-stack features, optimized application performance, and development process that have served over XXX users
      • Implemented new payment system features that deprecated legacy payment system, handle over 1,000 payment transactions daily. (Python, Django, Stripe API)
      • Architect the integration of CMS platform and user-facing client which improved internal product update process that saved each XXX team 10 hours of weekly routine work. (Python, Django, PostgreSQL, React, Redux)
      • Led on optimizing code deployment process, setup CI/CD pipeline followed by code review that has resulted in 60% fewer errors in weekly bug reports. (Jenkins, Circle CI)
      • Introduced linter to core service for solidifying code standard that improves on both code quality and developer collaborative experience(Eslint, Webpack)

      Example Project(Just some rough idea that you could work toward):

      Requested Time Off
      A human-resources application that provides multiple automation features and AI-powered filtering functionalities that improve the pain point of managing employee’s calendar on a large scale implemented in SOA architecture
      • Implemented middleware and setup auto-scaling groups for caching, reverse proxy, and load-balancer that optimized server performance and fault tolerance(Nginx, AWS EC2, AWS ECS)
      • Implemented search functionalities that capable of full-text search, with vectorization and key-value caching (Redis, PostgreSQL)
      • Designed and integrated a data pipeline service that handles scheduled jobs that process up to 1,000 entities per second. It offloads request asynchronously and provides scalabilities without coupling with the main application(Python, Kafka, PostgreSQL)

Again this will be a long and evolving process, it’s a true test of your endurance and dedication. But you will see your progress with each step you have taken and the result will be very rewarding. Wish you the best of luck.

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Yeah, they have gone out of favor a bit. But it can’t hurt and I received some compliments from hirers about having one. It allows you to personalize your story in a way that a tight resume can’t. But you’re probably right that most of the time it is ignored. Of course, each cover letter should be customized to the position, giving back language from the job description.

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@yuchiu Thank you for the critical review of my work. Your time spent looking at my materials is deeply appreciated.

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@kevinSmith Thank you again

https://www.linkedin.com/in/erin-claudio/

All in all, I things look pretty good, but people make some good points.

I will say that I think your resume looks kind of dated, old-fashioned, like something from 1997. I don’t like crazy designs, but maybe a little color and formatting. Look on the internet for ideas. Again, don’t go crazy, but a little big can make an impression.

I would also want a better explanation of what you know. Remember that recruiters are going to spend 5 seconds deciding in which pile your resume goes. I would want a skills section to tell them quickly if you are a potential fit - don’t make them “figure it out”. This can just be a bunch of bullets of tech, languages, libraries, higher concepts (SSO, encryption, etc.) Space may be limited on your resume, but you can fit a little. But I definitely want a large skills section on your web site.

Maybe I’m old fashioned (definitely am) but the stick polygon thing at the top of the portfolio site - I find that a bit much. Number one, I’ve seen it before, and number two, it seems gimmicky. It seems like something you learned in a tutorial or just grabbed in a package somewhere. And I (the old fashioned man) find it a little distracting.

On the portfolio sites, the titles are a bit odd to me. Why is the last one called “WordPress”. It should reflect what the site is, not what the tech is. Below that you can list all the techs used in it. And how is the user to know that pressing on the title will take them to the site? Are they just supposed to experiment? Again, we want to make it as easy and intuitive as possible - I’d want buttons to go to the site and to the code.

Just some thoughts.

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Ms. Claudio, you have a strong resume and candidacy.

I have three specific suggestions for you, based on my experience screening applicants.

  1. Where do you live? I don’t want to have figure out where you live by looking you up on the `toobz. Give your city and province/state of residence, please. Even for all-remote jobs, this is important. And, if you’re applying for a job requiring you to be local to the company, mention in your cover letter that you intend to relocate.

  2. You lead your resume with the phrase “requested time off” in bold face. Somebody skimming your resume might, like I did, think it means your current job is “time off.” Can you rephrase that to say “Web app for handling PTO requests” or something making it clearer that this is an app.

  3. Your resume indicates significant experience with teaching and leadership. “Exceptional teamwork” is a very valuable skill. Try to figure out how this might help each potential employer, and play it up in your cover letters. They are employer-specific, right?

You’ll do fine. Keep trying.

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@Ollie Thank you again! You have responded to a bunch of my questions in previous threads. Your time is appreciated. I am reworking the resume based on your feedback and a couple of other folks. I am also going to push hard into growing my network. Happy 2021 and Thank you

@kevinSmith Thank you. I asked a designer friend for some advice on the visuals and coder friends for feedback, and I am currently reworking the document. Thank you for your time and review of my work.

Hi @greenking49!

You have already received a lot of great advice.

I just want to stress one key point.

Don’t think about how you can get a job.

Think about how you can add value to that company.

Employers care about people who add value and are an asset to the company.

So, if you can’t effectively communicate that then they don’t care.

Why would they spend time, money and resources if there isn’t going to be a long term benefit to them.

So, if you lead with how you can add value instead of I am looking for a job than I think you will start to see different results.

Good luck!

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I’d also like to chime in and say that solid networking can be incredibly powerful in the job hunt.

You mentioned attending conferences and participating in events such as Ruby for Good - are you building meaningful relationships during these activities?

Make connections with fellow developers. Find projects that you can contribute to. Start building a sense for what it is like to work on a large project with other developers. The idea here is not to start asking people “Hey can you help me get a job?”, but instead forge some working relationships - if you’re contributing to someone’s personal project, and their employer posts a new job opening, it can be incredibly helpful for you to have people in your circle who know what your work is like. If I was working with @jwilkins.oboe on one of her personal projects, there then becomes a chance that she might say to her employer “Hey, I know this developer @nhcarrigan who does solid work and would be a great fit for our new opening.”

Like others have said, if you’ve sent off 200 applications and not received any positive response, something is wonky with your approach. That being said, IMHO this is a very challenging time to be trying to get in to the development industry through the front door. Having a solid network can open unexpected opportunities for a back-door approach, instead.

(Thanks Jessica for being my example :stuck_out_tongue:)

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Are you blindly applying to jobs online? If you are, your lack of results might be due to an incomplete resume for these reasons:

  • Lack of contact info: you already have a phone number and email, but you also need to put down a LinkedIn profile here along with a GitHub profile link.
  • You have no technical skills listed. This is probably a big reason. Companies put resumes through Applicant Tracking Systems that match on keywords. You have to list the technologies that you know to get these keyword matches.
  • None of your project links should point to GitHub. These should all point to deployed versions, not your repo on GitHub.
  • When you’re describing a project, keep it high-level and in terms of what type of business problem it solves or emulates. Delete anything technical. Also to this point, you don’t need to list everything you’ve done. Only list the best ones.
  • Your date formatting is inconsistent, when it should be consistent. You only use a month once. Add the months to the rest of your dates.
  • Location is missing from your education institutions. I’d also suggest changing “Master of Science” to “MS”.

Also, your cover letter reads too much like a formulaic stereotypical one. Discard convention and write something unique! Also the shorter the better on a cover letter. Keep it to 3 paragraphs max.

Lastly your website needs to be proofread. Make sure it’s properly edited to eliminate all writing mistakes.

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