First job: getting the interview.

wincity (toad)
本文发表在 rolia.net/zh 相约加拿大网上社区枫下论坛
I've worked as a programmer in Canada and the US for many years through quite a few jobs. I've been interviewed many times and have also interviewed a lot of candidates. I always wanted to share my ideas with new comers. Recently I found Rolia and thought it to be a good media. At first, I thought to write a big article. However, I never found a nice chunk of time to sit down. Now I feel maybe I should just write something down whenever I have a moment. Here's the first installment.

Sorry for writing in English. It kills me to write in Chinese. Even a short sentence could take me 2 minutes to type. Besides, I feel anyone who's looking for professional job here should be able to read English.

The most important thing in your job search is to get the interview. Normally, you won't get the interview unless you have the relevant experience. So if you don't have the experience, you have to make it up.

Many people object to this, but it's a necessity. Everybody does it and if you don't, you'll likely stay jobless. A few years ago, we had to hire a few programmers. We got hundreds of resumes, many of them with excellent experiences. However, lots of the "better" ones we selected for phone interview couldn't pass even the basic questions. Most of these people are Indians (sincere apologies to some Rolians). With so many great resumes out there, your resume goes directly to the garbage bin if it can't pass a 15 second scan.

Making up experience isn't as wrong as it seems. What matters to the employer is whether you can do the job. If you turn out to be the best person for the job, even without the required experience, isn't it good for the employer? A guy I know applied for a job which required experience in a database software. He didn't have but he borrowed the software and worked on it for a few days. To his surprise, he got the job. To his bigger surprise, the Indian girl who's been there for a while didn't know how to do things (again apologies to some Rolians). He ended up being the go-to guy there. When I applied for a job which required a certain hot technology, I bought a book and read it for a week. After I got the job, my boss told me that the interviewer said he's never met anyone who understood the technology so "deeply". If I understand the technology better than anyone else there who's got real experience, isn't it good for the employer that I lied in my resume?

You probably don't have to meet all the requirements of a job. A perfect resume raises suspicion. But you have to meet all the major requirements.

How do I pass the interview if I really didn't have the experience, you might ask. Well, that's your responsibility. One guy applied for a database job for UNIX environment. During the interview, he admitted that he's got no experience in UNIX. Obviously he didn't get the job. He's wasting the company's time. Whatever claims you make in your resume, he have to back them up. Go read a book. Get the software and play with it. Talk to friends about their experience. Otherwise, you're likely to fail the phone interview, like many of the Indians I came across.

What about references? Many places don't check references. None of the jobs I got in the states checked my references. I figure technical people trust their own judgement: as long as you pass the interview, references don't mean much. If they really like you, even a failed reference may not hurt you. When I got a job in a Toronto bank, my former manager in the states offered them some honest opinions about me. It didn't matter in the end. You can also get a friend to be your reference. I once acted as the "manager" of a co-worker and praised him mightily to one of the biggest companies in the world. The guy got the job and worked happily there for many years.

Of course, you can get real experience from volunteer work or from working for non-profit sectors. Should definitely help. But probably not as strong as things you can make up.

Other than relevant experiences, a professional looking resume should also help. Over the years, I've seen way too many sloppy resumes. One resume from a Chinese candidate had 5 spelling errors. One word he spelled wrong is EJB which is the name of a major technology required by the job. Imagine where his resume went. Read many times to correct any spelling or grammar errors. Ask other people to read it for you. Read resumes of people who already got jobs in your field. Format your resume nicely and make sure it's not too crowded or too sloppy. I've read lots of resumes from Indians who frequently leave spaces before punctuation marks. I tend to throw these resumes in the garbage bin. Maybe it's just me but I feel they're likely to be careless.

An English name should also help. Don't cry discrimination. For non-Chinese, it's difficult to pronounce names like "Qiutang". Most people probably couldn't even try it. If a guy named Steve has a resume similar to yours, you can't blame the hiring manager for passing you up. I could never understand why many Chinese still use their native names on their resumes. Even if you don't have a legal Enlish name, pick one for your resume. You can always use your legal name in formal documents. So everyone in the company knows you as Jerry, but accounting sends checks to someone named "Zheqi". It's perfectly normal and very beautiful.

With all my ramblings, I'm not saying you can't find your first job honestly. You might. But it's a lot harder, especially through conventional means.

So long for now. I may write about other things when I get time. Just try to help. If I offended someone, apologies.
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2009-5-25 -04:00
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