Joel has been talking about resumes and the hiring process lately, a subject which fascinates me. Something he said today really struck home:
The number one best way to get someone to look at your resume closely: come across as a human being, not a list of jobs and programming languages. Tell me a little story. […] “We yanked our son out of high school and brought him to Virginia. I am not going to move again until he is out of high school, even if I have to go work at Radio Shack or become a Wal*Mart greeter.” […] And now the dynamic has changed. I like you. I care about you. I like the fact that you want to work in a real software company. […] I like the fact that you care more about your teenage son than your career. I just can’t care about “C/C++/Perl/ASP” in the same way.
When I was interviewing for jobs, I got more questions about the very oldest job on my resume than any other. Interviewers would say “Monkey Boy? You put Monkey Boy on your resume?!”
“Well, sure. I spent a summer in high school in charge of the care and feeding of 120 juvenile new-world monkeys. And I learned plenty that was relevant to the software industry. Like, when someone is being really disagreeable, you can just pin their little arms behind their back with one hand and control the legs with the other. Just keep their teeth away from anything you don’t want bitten.”
Joel is absolutely right. No one hired me because I was Monkey Boy, but they might have remembered me because I was Monkey Boy.
As an interviewer, I am totally dedicated to ferreting out which candidates are really, really solid developers — but I also want someone that I’m going to have fun working with. Coming across as a human being helps, provided you’ve got what it takes technically.