Do you think you have what it takes? We accept only the brightest. NorthWest Data Solutions is based in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage offers young software engineers wonderful recreational opportunites while also affording the ability to further careers. Call (907) 227-1676 or email Chris Howell to learn more.
So how do we select the best candidates? It can be extremely hard to tell much about a candidate from a resume.
There are several fairly objective measures that we look at, solely for the purpose of sorting resumes so that the first people we interview are the ones that are most likely to work out.
We look for evidence that the applicant is passionate about computers and really loves programming. Typical evidence of this:
Jobs with computers or experience programming going back to a very early age. Great programmers are more likely to have spent a summer at computer camp, or building an online appointment scheduler for their uncle the dentist, rather than working at Banana Republic folding clothes.
Extra-curricular activities. People who love programming often work on their own programming projects (or contribute to an open-source project) in their spare time.
Sometimes certain programming languages or technologies on a resume indicate evidence of someone who loves programming enough to explore new technologies. At the time I’m writing this, seeing Ruby on a resume is a good sign of the kind of programmer who loves to check out the latest thing and try to improve their skills because they’re passionate about programming, because not so many employers are really demanding Ruby yet. You have to be careful here; in 1996 Java on a resume was a sign of the same passion, but today it adds almost no information.
We look closely at the cover letter for evidence that the applicant really wants to work for us. We don’t want to see a generic cover letter talking about me, me, me: we want to see a coherent argument as to why they’ve thought about this seriously and concluded that NorthWest Data Solutions in Anchorage, Alaska is the place they want to work. There are two reasons for using this as a clue. First, it’s a sign that the candidate is not applying to hundreds of jobs at the same time. The fact that they took the time to learn about NorthWest Data Solutions and wrote a custom cover letter just for us means that they have a lot of confidence in their abilities, so they’re applying to a select few employers, not bulk mailing a thousand. A bulk-mailed resume can be a symptom of desperation. More importantly, a custom cover letter is a sign that if we do make this candidate an offer, they’re likely to accept it. That improves our yield. If I only have time to interview six people, all else being equal, I’d rather interview six people who really want to work for NorthWest Data Solutions, not generic smart people that are also applying to a hundred other jobs. All else being equal.
Scoring resumes by English skills was a hard decision for us to make, because computer programming is one of those fields where an immigrant who doesn’t speak English can still be a brilliant programmer. That said, years of experience working with programmers have taught me that programmers who can communicate their ideas clearly are going to be far, far more effective than programmers who can only really communicate well with the compiler. It is crucial for documenting code, it is crucial for writing specifications and technical design documents that other people can review, and it’s crucial even for those meetings where you sit around discussing how to do something best: brilliant programmers who have trouble explaining their ideas just can’t make as much of a contribution. In this particular category, we also consider the neatness and orderliness of their resume. A disorganized resume rife with grammatical errors where nothing lines up is a pretty big red flag for a disorganized thinker or just general sloppiness; for many jobs this can be fine but not for software development. In particular we usually completely disqualify resumes that are full of English mistakes. It’s not that hard, even for a non-native speaker, to find someone to check your resume, and failure to do that usually reflects a profound lack of concern over the quality of the things that you do. That said, we try to be considerate of non-native speakers who are nonetheless excellent communicators: leaving out articles in that charming Eastern European way, or starting every paragraph with “So” or "Like" in charming Western American way, is not a showstopper.
In this category we’re looking for evidence that a candidate is, well, smart, or at least, the kind of nerdy brainiac that went to math camp. Signs of this include high GPAs, high standardized test scores, honors societies like Phi Beta Kappa, people who participate in Top Coder competitions, play competitive chess, or go to AITP Programming contests.
If you think you are interested in working for NorthWest Data Solutions as a top-notch software developer, call Chris Howell at (907) 227-1676 or email [email protected]