Jobhunt

For a while I had been thinking about what I would like to do next, professionally. Most of my career has been writing desktop applications, and besides getting a bit bored at it it is also pretty clear that most applications will live on the web in the future. Another interesting trend (to me at least) are mobile devices. So I spent roughly a month exploring both web application development and mobile application development with personal projects, and then started applying for jobs in earnest.

I don’t have much experience in interviewing for jobs, but it is a skill that can be improved by studying and practicing. I received a bit of formal training back in 2003 which was a big help to familiarize myself with the US way of doing interviews. The biggest help with the technical part of interviews was the book Programming Interviews Exposed, and practicing based on the advice in the book. And of course doing a lot of interviews is important as well, which was why I applied to some positions that I didn’t consider ideal for me but I cast a wider net in the hopes of getting experience interviewing.

Geographically I limited my search mostly to the San Francisco Peninsula from San Jose to San Bruno, and positions that were offered with 100% telecommuting option. I was also more interested in smaller companies. I found most of the job postings on Craigslist. I did not use services like Dice or Monster.

I applied at 22 companies. 11 positions were mostly web development, 6 positions mostly mobile development, 2 positions hybrid and 2 other positions. I never heard back from half of them. One said they would get back to me and never did. One I had to abandon because they were too early for me at the moment. One I had to abandon because I had already received offers and needed to give my answers before being able to finish with the ongoing interviews. One company informed me they did not have a suitable position now but to check back in a few months. In one interview I realized the company was looking for a different person than they had the position description for. I realized in one phone screen that the company wasn’t right for me. Of the remaining 5, I did badly in two phone screens: one was an algorithm question in a problem area I had never thought about with huge datasets that I don’t have experience with (relevant to the company and position, though) and in the other phone screen the interviewer was mostly interested in seeing how I would optimize an internet connection which seemed kind of strange and I apparently didn’t come up with enough convincing ideas. I locked up in one face-to-face interview during an algorithm question (note to self: never interview last thing Friday evening) and the remaining two lead to offers.

It is kind of interesting to note that I had some sort of “insider connections” to 12 of the companies, which may have helped me get some interviews arranged. As far as I know it did not play a role with the company that I accepted the offer from, though.

When I compare my job hunt now to what it was in 2003 things were dramatically different. There were a lot more jobs available now, for one. I had more marketable experience this time. I wasn’t in any particular hurry this time. I had also more experience being a hiring manager myself. There was also a big difference in the quality of interviews that I went to this time. Almost all companies asked algorithm questions, and most were reasonably good questions at that. Back in 2003 the questions were much more scattered. One company used an automated online programming task system like Topcoder. One phone screener asked me to go to a certain URL and explain what was wrong with some programming samples. Nothing like this happened in 2003. It seems like there could be market for some company to provide a system similar to Topcoder to companies who want to ask coding questions. On the other hand, the interaction between the interviewer and interviewee is also really important, so I don’t think it would be a good idea to replace the face-to-face time with an automated test.

I had two financially comparable offers for very different companies and positions (both of which I found interesting), which made it very difficult for me to make my decision. In the end I decided for SpikeSource, where I started on March 31, 2008.

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