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Job search advice amid COVID-19 pandemic

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We are at unprecedented times, in terms of the pandemic, and the economy aftermath. The IT software dev job market is not impacted as much as some of the hard hit ones such as. travel and leisure, but nobody is also insulated when there is a typhoon. For example, locally here in St. Louis, Enterprise rent a car, the largest car rental company in the US and in the world, has laid off more than 2,000 people, IT division included. I recall about 10 years ago I wrote a post about job search, and I like to update it, amid the time change and this specific pandemic change.

Some obvious things

No onsite interviews, remote or video interview only these days. Zoom is the most popular choice, and for developers there are some white-boarding online software. Realtime white boarding is actually quite challenging, from my personal experience, on both ends. It also depends on the friendliness of the interviewer, some interviewers like to be “above the interviewee”, they give the problem, did not like to talk or give hints, and expect a quick answer right away. On the other hand, there are some other interviewers who are more open and friendly, and sometimes they will throw a dog bone to rescue. As interviewer I always try to be the former, as I personally have been in the receiving end of “bad interviewers”, and don’t like the experience. Once at an onsite interview (long time ago), a guy who maybe quite sharp, made this comment: it sounds like you did much better than the other guys came in earlier, they really don’t know what they were talking about. And at least you put up this and that, blah blah blah… is this a compliment? I guess my English is already good enough to appreciate the underlying tone there. On the other hand, I can always appreciate good / friendly interviewers, once (not in coding or white boarding) during an onsite interview, the interviewer saw my schedule and saw that I was stuck in the little room all day, he offered let’s talk a walk, and talk in the company cafeteria. It was year early / winter 2005 as I recall, in middle of New Jersey.

Websites

Below two the most popular websites now.

Indeed: note Indeed.com is No. 1 in terms of the number of jobs. I found my last job and current job via Indeed.com. This is mind boggling when you think about it. I am not sure whether it exists in 2010. It’a an aggregator website. A bit like Google for information search.

LinkedIn: linkedIn became more meaningful too, I got a job offer in my last round job search and the lead is from LinkedIn. Many companies now post jobs at LinkedIn. Besides the number of jobs, we all know LinkedIn is the top 1 place that recruiters congregate. And as I built profile at LinkedIn, I also received more unsolicited messages or requests from mostly recruiters or website SEO people. Most recently I decided to be more discreet on accepting recruiters request. Most recruiters are young enthusiastic people and I bet they send out things blindly. This brings to another point.

Also, stackoverflow has a job portal, and some of the jobs are looking good too.

Recruiters

I think recruiters are still useful, if we are more discreet and we ask what we want. I have some recruiters friends from both ends as well: job search, or candidate technical screen. And I keep in touch with them from time to time, as a part of relationship building. Sometimes this could be a simple “hi” when the recruiter is in the hallway or in the office. I do understand, on linkedIn, or via database, sometime some younger recruiters will cold call (the reason I pick up the reason was probably the call from number is an agency I know). And we need to keep things in perspective that’s a part of their job and paycheck too. Also keep in mind we live in a small world especially in the St. Louis IT job market, and sometimes the table can turn quickly. I recall seeing a former coworker at two separate places (and I remember he was not being nice to me 🙂 I don’t have grudges against him, but I just know I probably won’t use him as reference, and vice versa.

Code Test

Not white-boarding or pairing either remote or on spot, but something like hacker rank, or filtered.ai. Those are okay as they are usually not overly difficult, they are fair test in other words. There is some random ones, which is usually some problem a tech lead, an architect came up with. And some of those can be nasty. Once I spent 24 hours on a problem, and could not solve it. I solved it a day later. Also noted the behavior type questions on filtered.ai or company recruiting website. Those are easy ones to score points, so don’t waste the opportunities. Usually they let you re-do if the first recording does not look good. The coding test, if done properly, you can run the unit test on the editor and you know it’s failed or passed.

(Update 05-19-2020) There are a lot of online code playground or white boarding tools for code testing on the spot. Those are mostly collaboration tools, with some syntax highlighting. But it’s usually not as powerful as the hacker rank or filterer.ai as the latter ones usually have the build-tests, so basically you will know your code is good enough or not by passing those tests (tests are usually hidden though). Tools such as code labstack are still pretty useful. One thing I am not sure is how they manage the sessions. From interviewer (hiring side) point of view, it maybe helpful to give a heads up if a quick code test is expected so that the candidate is aware. I have seen candidate just bail out without even trying. I have been on the receiving end of this kind of test as well. Again the interviewers friendliness (more precisely helpfulness, do they just want to see the candidate fail, or they want to be as human as possible) varies. (sample java code question here). Also JavaScript code playground such as codepen.io and jsbin.com .

My javascript code samples.

Last but not least, problem solving questions. One example: Suppose we have 8 balls: one is heavier than the other 7, the other 7 are identical. Now we have one balance (or scale), and we can put balls on two sides to weigh and compare. Use as few attempts as possible, to find the heavy ball? A follow up question is, if we have 2 or 3 attempts, how many balls can we handle (again one heavy ball with many identical lighter balls). 

About me. Also you may read about my other post on related topic.

Also, please note this guide on job search. I haven’t read the whole thing but it appears good. Much longer than this blog. Last but not least, this post is a good read too (Helen Anderson @helenanders26).

The Science Behind Making Software Engineering Interviews Truly Predictive of Job Performance by Geoff Roberts.

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