How to be a great candidate
Purepoints hiring consists of a couple of steps. First the initial application is done, and if your profile matches certain criteria, they’ll send you a tech test. After completing the tech test, and if it is something we look for, the candidate will be invited for an interview. In the interview they’ll discuss the tech test, ask some technical questions and some general questions. And that’s it.
The reason I write this post is because of a large amount of people I went through were not up to par, and I thought this was a bit sad to see, as they could’ve upped their chances so much with few changes.
Your CV is your foot in the door
This seems like a reasonable thing to say, but I was astounded how a lot of candidates had just vague or incomplete CVs. Some CVs were all over the place, some included some really personal information, and others just didn’t bother writing anything coherently.
If you think your CV would need improving, then the first thing I would do is check CV’s of successful people. People you admire but are still in a position where a CV is needed (so no Elon Musk for example). If you look at those, you’ll probably see a large difference in quality. If not, well, then you’re on the right path!
All in all presume that somebody sifting through CVs will not spend more than 5 minutes on it to decide if you’re a potential hire or not.
Leave out the personal stuff
Don’t include anything that isn’t relevant. For example; you’re not going to be the chosen one just because you like cooking or long walks. It might make you relatable, but not hireable. Also don’t be tempted to add a photo to your CV. Some big companies will automatically decline any CV that has a photo, as they don’t want to be sued. It’s not really relevant how you look like. Unless, of course, you go for the position of prettiest person at the company.
Tailor your CV to the position
I know that this is said often, and it’s definitely true. Sending out a bog standard CV just because you’re too lazy to modify it would not make the cut. Unless of course, you are in a highly specialized area and all your work revolves around the same thing.
Leave out that three paragraph summary when you worked that summer at the farm picking apples. Instead, just put the start and end date of your time there, and forgo any details. If they want to know more about your spiritual ascension, they’ll ask.
Also please have a normal email address, I cannot stress this enough. Also check out the picture you use on the email address. Is it something you would be proud to show your grandparents?
Have verifiable information
One of the most common things I noticed among candidates was the lack of verifiable information. Having a bunch of companies on your CV, and then have nothing on there that physically points to what you have done is not a great way of showing off your skills.
As a backend developer myself, I know that it can be hard to directly show off products you have contributed to. However, just linking to the product and saying “this is what I contributed to” is still staying more than just a line saying “Backend Developer - Company ltd 2015 - 2018”.
If you cannot show any of your work done, then please, at least make sure that you have personal projects or code that show your ability to do the job you are applying to.
Make your tech test shine
Once you get to this stage, then at least your CV was matching enough to be considered. Read that line again. Somebody thinks you’re a good match because of your CV. All you need to do know is manoeuvre the ship and dock it. At this point you can already be proud.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do not wing the tech test. Usually I like to give candidates a tech test that is easy to do within an hour or two, but still has enough quirks to really let people think about their solution. I don’t like to give somebody a test that is “too” much of anything.
Somehow I’m amazed that there are always a few candidates who do not even complete all of the requirements. Think about this for a minute. You have your foot in the door and all you have to do is show people how good you really are. And what do they get? A half finished test that doesn’t even do what was asked.
There is no excuse for a sloppy tech test implementation. Zero.
Make sure that your tech test exceeds the level you would normally code under, as this is your time to shine. The company you are applying to understands just as much as you do that this code is (or should be) much better than your day-to-day code.
We have been there, we understand deadlines, meetings and other distractions. However during a tech test you have creative freedom and can really show off. Take the time and do it right.
The most important thing to start with is to be on time. Not that I have seen anyone that wasn’t on time, but it would definitely be a big bummer if somebody wasn’t on time. For me personally, I always like to be there one or two minutes early, so that when the interviewer arrives, I will already be there.
Second of all is see if your headset and microphone are working correctly. The thing I have seen a lot of times is that the candidates microphone or speakers aren’t working, which ends up with them fiddling for a few minutes to correct this. What I noticed was that this is something that happens a lot of to people who aren’t used to remote working.
Also try to relax, it’s not only uncomfortable for you, but also for the interviewer to see you sweating in your chair. See it more as a conversation between you and somebody else, try to distance yourself from the business transaction that is taking place. One thing to also avoid is talking over the interviewer. It’s not fun if you’re being talked over, but it is even worse when you do it to the other. Try to wait your turn, and in the meantime try to collect your thoughts into a coherent sentence.
Being chatty is good, it eases everyone in the conversation, but don’t be too verbose either. When they ask you what the difference is between X and Z, don’t deviate from the answer just to show how much you know of a subject. If the interviewer likes to hear more, they’ll tell you. And if you don’t know the answer, just tell them as that’s much better than trying to talk your way around it. Nobody can know everything.
Try to have a good time. It’s generally nice to meet new people, and especially if they are interested in what you have to say. Savour that moment, and bring some positive energy to the conversation.
Let me sum up some points that I think are important.
- DO be concise.
- DO check spelling and grammar.
- DO create a neat timeline of your employment history on the first page.
- DO include a video link where you talk in language you are applying for, it allows people to judge your communication. It definitely helps seeing if you possess the language right, but obviously will not matter much if you apply for a role in your native language.
- DO NOT be overly chatty or include some seriously personal stuff.
- DO NOT add a self-rated skill list, we are poor judges about ourselves and overconfidence isn’t pretty.
- DO NOT create a CV of more than two pages.
- DO follow best practices.
- DO have tests that pass, unit tests, integration tests, anything.
- DO provide documentation, for example function documentation.
- DO instruct on how to install and run the test.
- DO maintain a consistent coding style.
- DO NOT make it overly fancy if that isn’t necessary, a pragmatic approach wins over one with glitter on top.
- DO be slightly early; one or two minutes will do.
- DO make sure your speakers and microphone work.
- DO say if you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s much better than ramble over it.
- DO relax, you’re among people that have been through the same thing, at some point.
- DO come to the point quickly, unless asked to elaborate.
- DO be kind, everybody like that.
- DO NOT brag, nobody likes that.
- DO NOT talk over the interviewer(s).
All companies are different, they all look at different parts of your application to see if you’re the right match. Some might find your cover letter to be a big part, others only look at your education. You won’t know what it will be, and you cannot influence all parts of that either. What you can do however, is make sure that the company you are applying to gets an instant look into the “goods” they are buying into.