Posts from "January 2011"

Opower Labs

How to Get Hired: Polish

  • By Dave Copeland
  • January 3, 2011

It’s been several months, but we are still hiring like crazy, with no chance of stopping. We get a ton of résumés, and there are many internal hoops a candidate’s application package must jump through before we bring someone in for an interview. Our goal is for anyone who’s brought in for an in-person interview to have a very high likelihood of being extended an offer. To that end, everything is reviewed by OPOWER developers directly. Résumés go through an initial screening with our recruiters, but everything else goes straight to us, and we look at everything closely and carefully.

One thing I’ve noticed about successful candidates is polish. This isn’t a word thrown around when discussing developers a whole lot, but I’ve found it to be a strong indicator of a true software professional. The OPOWER application is more than just a résumé; it’s a written quiz and a coding assignment as well. Sloppiness at any point is a negative; it shows that the candidate just doesn’t give a shit about getting the job. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it has a huge effect on how excited we get about a candidate, and it could be the deciding factor between two otherwise identical candidates. It’s our version of “hire the better writer.”

So, what do I mean by “polish”? Here’s a few examples:

  • Make your code better than you would “at work.” Don’t make me download the JUnit jar and type javac `find . -name *.java` to compile your code; give me a pom.xml or Ant file with Ivy support.
  • Send PDFs instead of MS-Word; they are so much easier on the eyes (and processor). This is dead simple on OS X, there’s some free options for Windows, and there’s always LaTeX (which will definitely earn you some geek cred :)
  • Don’t send me the functional spec of your last project and call it a résumé. Use bullet lists, short sentences, and formatting to create an easy-to-scan CV.
  • Format your writing; compare this, to this. Even though they both are excerpts from correctly-answered quizzes, which one is going to be easier and more engaging for me to read?
  • English: do you speak it?. Being able to communicate effectively using the written word is absolutely crucial for being a good developer, especially at OPOWER. It doesn’t need to be your first, or even best, language; you just need to wield it as effectively as you do Java

A lack of polish won’t get you refused, but putting an extra shine on your application can make you stand out quite a bit…

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