One of the reasons I want to move to London. (Taken by Tim Porter.)
Tomorrow is my last exam of my BSc Computer Science degree, and then I’m finally done! Baring any terrible exams, I’ll be a graduate in a few weeks.
I decided to start looking for work at the very beginning of April. The first thing I did was posted my CV onto jobsite.co.uk, which immediately got a lot of interest. You can see the copy of the CV I submitted here.
It’s not all that fancy, although I got one or two comments saying that it’s a very good looking CV. All I did was use persistent formatting, and a non-black text colour. Still a very dark colour, but definitely noticeable when in a stack of CVs. I also went with two pages, completely ignoring people who said “stick to one page”.
As I said, my CV got me a lot of attention. Each time I posted my CV (updated revision, based on what people are looking for and feedback) it must have been bumped to the top of some queue and I’d get at least ten or fifteen phone calls over the next couple days, which usually ebbed away after a week.
A few reasons why I think people liked my CV:
- Placement year. Employers definitely like that I’m graduating with a year’s experience under my belt already. Especially in a place of responsibility. Definitely take a sandwich year, or do a year’s work before you start university, if possible.
- Listing technologies. Saying I’ve used various APIs (Facebook, Google), even on small, personal projects just lets employers know you’re interested in learning. Many people I know from university just learn what they need for their final year project, or for an exam, and stop there. Show you’ve done some self learning.
- Motivations. Talk about why you care about the job you’re looking for. It’s okay to say what you want from a company. I mention wanting to have an impact on a service which thousands of people use. A company won’t want you if your only motivation is financial (because you’ll be expensive to keep happy).
Recruiters were 100% of the respondents to my putting my CV online. There are definitely pros and cons of this. The good is that you’re outsourcing your job hunting. They really do all the leg work, and can probably sell you better than you can, since they know what the employer wants to hear. They’re also financially motivated to get you a well paid job (they work on commission).
The most annoying part of this recruiter rush was constant phone calls. (My first world problem from these weeks: I had to drop out of a number of Starcraft matches because my phone rang.) Often they don’t read your CV until you’re actually on the phone with them. (Despite this, I really recommend putting your mobile number on your CV, and footer of all emails.) It’s incredibly annoying. After the first ten phone calls of recruiters asking simple questions – where are you working now? well, no where, I’m a student – it gets very annoying.
This obviously lead to recruiter calling hoping to fill senior development positions with salaries of upwards of £50,000. Not a likely match.
If you’re hoping to work somewhere that isn’t your current address (I wanted to work in central London), make sure you put that very clearly at the top of your CV. I bolded the third paragraph to make that clear, but I was still getting West Midlands based leads. (So there are jobs around there!)
Throughout April, the feedback I largely got was surprise that I was looking so early. The average notice period is about four weeks, and so I should have started looking around May.
I did get one interview in April, which went very well. It was my first ever job interview and the experience was invaluable. I was surprised to find that companies often spend a chunk of the interview selling themselves. Good junior, web developers are in short supply, apparently.
Often the interviewer would talk about a project they worked on recently. At this point, it’s important to have an idea, or at least ask a relevant question. You said you’re using MonoDB, are you having any troubles with the way it does delayed writes? Asking a question like that just shows you have an interest in new technologies, and are keeping up.
A common request of you will be “tell me about yourself.” This is a bit ambiguous at first, but what they actually mean is “what brought you to be sitting in my office today?” If it’s an interesting story, maybe start back with “I started programming terrible PHP scripts when I was 15″.
Interviews are fun. (I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to do more.) Don’t worry about them. (My biggest worry was that I couldn’t afford a suit. I had to do with spending £50~ in Topman on a smart-casual shirt and trousers. It worked fine. Everyone I interviewed at had a very relaxed dress code.)
I let the hunting calm down throughout April on the advice of recruiters, and kicked off in full force in May but it was largely the same procedure: reupload to jobsite, and wait for calls. This time I got many more interview offers, since it was closer to the date I could start (June). I had two days of interviews lined up within a few hours, largely thanks for recruiters.
I also sent a direct email to a business about a position they were advertising. They got back to me very quickly, offering an interview and asking me to do a quick code test. A code test isn’t common, but often aren’t much of a time investment, and can be quite fun. You can also use it as a reflection of the type of code you’ll be expected to write.
I ultimately accepted the job offer from the business I emailed directly.
This is something you must do. Many businesses do not work with recruiters for a number of reasons, usually because they’re incredibly expensive (they’ll probably get around 15% of your earnings for the first year), and sometimes aren’t the nicest of roles…
When you’re given a job offer, it means that that company really likes you. They’re probably willing to wait a few days for your answer, and so there’s no need to say yes immediately. If you’ve still got interviews lined up, definitely take them. I had an issue with the recruiter I used, who pressured me into giving an answer within an hour “or the job may go to someone else”. Don’t accept to deadlines that short; they’re just a tactic to pressure you into a job they’ll profit from. Take your time.
There’s definitely a lot of jobs in and around London. I’ve had web development job interview offers from York, Brighton, Croydon, Southampton, Telford… I really think this is a wonderful job market to be going into for a graduate. So long as you know at least one language pretty well (they’ll train you if not, usually), and keep up to date (you know what Boilerplate, and Boostrap, and Backbone are, and who Paul Irish, and Matt Mullenweg, and Jeffrey Zeldman are, right?) then I promise you can find a job in days.