Recently I received word via a recruiter that a prospective employer* would not be offering me a job for which I had interviewed. The reason wasn’t because they didn’t like my skills or personality. No that would be easy to understand. Instead, their reason was that they didn’t “feel” I had the passion or commitment required for their company.
Now when I heard this, my mouth dropped like I was a cartoon character rendered speechless by something completely unexpected. As I went through this with the recruiter, I barely kept from either letting loose with an awful tirade of expletives or chucking my phone down my parents hallway**. Sure, I’m well aware that I can come off as “low energy”, as political pundits would put it. I’m from the rural midwest, so I’m already a slow talker. To someone more used the “rat-ta-tat-tat” of the Northeast (or even the urban Upper Midwest), I probably sound like I’m barely awake.
Putting aside that, I still though my words conveyed an awareness of the situation, and a sufficient level of “passion” and “commitment”. For starters, it wasn’t like I just wandered in off the street for the interview. The recruiter brought the lead to me, and I considered it. I already had a phone interview, which I requested because I didn’t want to waste any time (theirs or mine) if it was not a job I’d be interested in.
Fortunately the phone interview went well, so an in person interview was scheduled. Now, it’s not like I just took this interview because I was going to be in the area that day, and would just take it to see if it had any appeal. To interview in the Chicago area at the current time, I have to drive at least three and a half hours. Add in traffic, time for the interview, and a meal or two, and an entire day is expended (not to mention the cost in gas and food). To agree to an interview in this situation (particularly one where there is no hope at compensation for the expenses) is to take a significant degree of commitment more than those prospective employees who have a ten minute train ride or half an hour drive in for the interview.
After the phone interview, and the information given to me by the recruiter about the company, I knew full well what type of company I’d be working for if I got the job. I knew it wouldn’t be a strict “9-5” job***, and that things would require wearing many hats, moving fast, and having to pivot frequently as the situation demanded. I know this because I said this was what I was looking for in my next position. I assumed that we were on the same page regarding my enthusiasm for the opportunity this would be, and how this would be very beneficial to the company (while also being a great experience for me).
I suspect part of the problem may have been a lack of experience dealing with programmers (and technical people in general). Perhaps I should have spent some more time explaining the advantage (less time spent fixing bugs) and benefit (better ROI on each iteration of your app) of unit testing, instead of just saying that unit testing was a crucial part of any app I worked on. I concede I could have been more proactive in explaining my ideas and thoughts for how I saw things going.
With that in mind, I’m going to make sure that my “philosophy” of how I write code, how I manage code, and how I manage my time is known and on record. I’m also going to share my thoughts on how best a development team can do its job. I do this because I’m aware that what I’ve often gone over time and time again in my head may not have been conveyed quite the way I intended it to in the past, whether while working or while interviewing for jobs. I also do this so I can better articulate myself when applying for jobs in the future. From here on out I may lose out on a job because they want someone with more experience, or someone who is cheaper, or don’t know what the hell they are doing and decide not to fill the job after getting me to drive over 100 miles to interview with them (thus wasting everybody’s time).
I don’t presume to state the upcoming posts will be The One True Way to Code™, as there are plenty of ways to do it right. I also must state upfront that a lot of this I’ve not actually put into practice, and are thus theoretical. However, while the thoughts may not have been practiced directly, they are almost all built from analysis of the dysfunction of the many projects I’ve worked on in the last 15 years. Almost all of these ideas spring from some level of idiocy I achieved in the haphazard world I’ve lived in since the first time I wrote print(“Hello World”) into an index.php3 file and got back the ever lovely Parse Error.
* Passion and Commitment – Value over Replacement Programmer. Not sure how this would actually be figured, but I imagine Steve Wozniak in 1977 would be like Babe Ruth in 1927.
** The employer shall remain nameless.
*** I refrained from doing either of these. The former because the recruiter was an innocent bystander, and didn’t warrant that verbal awfulness. The latter because my phone is already in bad enough shape as it is.
**** As if those truly exist anymore, particularly in the Programming/IT world.
***** Yeah, this also happened to me for a different job and company. Job Search 2015 hasn’t gone so well.
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