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We often advise graduates to get involved in open source software development and have been involved in various schemes and events to encourage involvement in the industry.
We were recently asked by an undergraduate what the best way to get started was and one of our members, Denise Wood, kindly pointed out this post which is highly recommended for anyone interested in open source software development.
I would also recommend reading Ben Evans description of open source software.
Finally it’s also worth having a look at my reasons why it’s a bonus to get involved while still at university.
Earlier this year we started running a free service to graduates whereby we will give free interview advice. It has been very successful and we have had a lot of positive feedback from it including this today from Pedro Francis:
“I would like to thank Barry and his team for all their help and advice, which has resulted in me having been offered a Junior Java Developer job. All the great interview advice and the telephone advice sessions have been so useful in my interviews”
One thing we were frequently asked about was help in putting together a CV. It can be very tricky knowing what people expect to see in your CV so we have teamed up with several graduate employers from a variety of industries to put together what we consider to be a fine example of a Graduate CV. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/gradcv
Please feel free to use it for inspiration or as a template for your own CV. It is worth considering that you should take the time to adjust your CV to make it suitable for each and every application you send, but this should serve as a good starting point when putting together your applications.
We would love to hear from you as to your thoughts and any success you have when using it.
Barry Cranford runs ClearView IT Recruitment Solutions Ltd: A recruitment consultancy specialising in the Java Development industry.
I recently advertised a job and received 150 responses – only 1 stood out.
One of the first pieces of advice I ever got when it came to applying for jobs was “It is important to stand out!” These days you face one of the most competitive times for graduates to get a job, it has become increasingly important to find an edge or ‘stand out’. It’s far easier that you may think to stand out and can be done in very little time.
I recently ran an experiment with a senior position I was recruiting for. I advertised a role on 4 separate internet job boards on the internet and received around 150 responses, only ONE stood out – why? Because it was accompanied by a personally written concise covering letter! It was the only application that made me open the CV immediately and I was on the phone to the candidate within 15 seconds…
The problem with internet job boards these days is that they make it very easy to be lazy, it’s easy to click a button and automatically send 20 applications or more – the problem is that while you are doing this so are hundreds of other candidates.
With the Graduate market being so competitive you need to stand out by writing a brief covering note, (not a lengthy cover letter) I want to offer my opinion on the best way to write these. The first principle to remember when you’re writing one is that the ONLY reason to write such a letter is to nudge the reader to read your CV. It is not about giving a lengthy description of your attributes, experience or qualities – just enough to encourage them to open your CV and consider your application. The best way to do this is to keep things brief and relevant.
Every single job application you EVER make should be accompanied with a brief covering note. Here I will explain my opinion on the best way to write one:
TAKE THE TIME TO WORK OUT WHO IS THE PERSON RECRUITING, IF IT’S NOT IN THE ADVERT THEN TRY USING GOOGLE – TRY TO AVOID WRITING SIR OR MADAM. ONLY IF IT’S REALLY NOT POSSIBLE THEN WRITE GOOD MORNING/AFTERNOON.
Hi (first name),
WRITE WHAT YOU ARE APPLYING FOR, WHAT YOUR CURRENT POSITION IS AND WHAT YOUR AVAILABILITY IS
I am writing to apply to the development position/internship. I am currently studying for an MSc in Computer Science at the University of *** and am available to start immediately.
WRITE HERE WHAT YOU CAN OFFER THE COMPANY – DO NOT START WITH WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. FOLLOW ON WITH SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ IN THE AD AND WHY YOU WOULD BE A GOOD CANDIDATE (SEE BELOW)
I am a Java developer passionate about delivering well structured and easily manageable code. You mention in the ad that you are looking for (e.g.) someone with a passion for Open Source Software, I have used OSS and have researched a few projects on Sourceforge I’d like to get involved with but have yet to become a committer – I am currently investigating this with the Graduate Development Community.
I am a Java developer passionate about working on Server side development. You mention in the ad you are looking for someone with an interest in Networking technologies – I completed a 3 month project in my final year and worked heavily with TCP/IP – I’d love to pursue a career along this route.
HERE IS THE CHANCE TO WRITE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR AND WHY – IF YOU CAN ACCOMPANY THIS WITH A ‘REAL’ REASON FOR WANTING TO WORK FOR THEM SUCH AS A NEWS ARTICLE ETC YOU CAN ALMOST GUARANTEE AN INTERVIEW
I am ideally looking for an internship with a chance to work with experienced developers and am looking to give 100% to the project.
I am passionate about development and am interested to get the first step on my career as a developer. I have read about (company name) on (this site), it stands out to me because I have read about the high standards you have with Unit testing which I too am passionate about.
ADD SOMETHING HERE ABOUT YOUR COMMITMENT TO SOFTWARE OR YOUR CAREER. E.G. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO STAND OUT
Incidentally I am also trying to learn more about Hibernate and Spring as I find them very interesting technologies.
Incidentally I am also involved with the Graduate Development Community in London as a way to try and improve my outlook on technologies.
FINALLY SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE NEXT STEP – THE BEST BET IS TO OFFER TO CALL TO FOLLOW UP, IF YOU ARE TOO NERVOUS TO CALL THEN WRITE THAT YOU WILL SEND A FOLLOW UP EMAIL.
I will endeavor to call you at some point on Monday or Tuesday, if you would prefer to get in touch at your convenience please call me on (your mobile number)
Finally here are a few extra tips to help improve your ratio of applications to interviews:
– Consider it your responsibility to follow up. It will be easy for a recruiter to ignore a standard email as it could be one of 200, but if you follow up with a second one that is personally written and just a few lines long (Did you get my CV? What did you think?) then people will be far more likely to reply.
– Write each note personally – at the very least change the section that says “I read in the ad that you were looking for a…”
– Keep it concise, it is far more likely to be read than if it is a long letter.
– Consider including the note as the first page of the CV. Add the title “Covering letter to XYZ Ltd”. I would also save it as a word doc and include that in the email too.
– Read the advert thoroughly – some ads will ask for you to do certain things if you do not do them you stand a good chance of having your CV not being read.
Good luck guys – I really do wish you the best of luck – don’t hesitate to let me know if you can add to this with further advice.
It’s difficult to know exactly the right way to prepare for an interview. I have successfully coached many graduates and developers to new jobs and preparation is essential to succeed in any interview. The question is what should you prepare and how much? Read the website? Check the latest news articles? Speak to people who currently work there? Download accounts for the last 5 years? It’s hard to know what information and how much to prepare on, and essentially how to use that preparation to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the company. I am going to offer my opinion and some thoughts on this subject.
Yesterday I had a meeting with several technical members of a top London Consultancy. Each have been involved in interviewing graduates so I was keen to know what they look for and what makes Grads stand out to them. What was quite interesting about our conversation was that it started to help me deconstruct something that I have long thought about. How can you measure how bright someone is?
Most companies recruiting Graduates are looking for a ‘bright’ candidate… but what is ‘bright’? What does it mean? It is an ambiguous word that I have found hard to measure. In the past I have relied on my gut instinct when speaking to someone to decide if I feel they are bright enough for a job. Speaking to the consultancy yesterday helped me to start breaking this trait down into measurable qualities.
They spoke a lot about good questioning skills, candidates that could ask the right questions, listen to the answers and were able to process the information. I believe the raw skill here is in being inquisitive. Some people are naturally inquisitive – they naturally know how to ask the right questions, but many people simply aren’t sure what they should be asking. I believe simply by being honestly interested in the opportunity it’s possible to demonstrate these skills in an interview, whether it comes naturally to you or not, which brings us back to the preparation necessary for an interview.
Very early in my career, when I used to prepare for interviews I’d rack by brain trying to think of a question to ask at the end. I would think I don’t want to ask anything obvious because they will think I should know that already. Preparing for an interview you should not be thinking “What will make me look good” or I’ll learn the website inside out – that will show my enthusiasm”. You should be asking yourself questions that you really care about. The fact is that you may actually get a job at this company… If you get this job it will make a difference on the rest of your career and life. Hopefully you will be looking to stay with this company for at least a few years, you may even want to stay with them for the rest of your career. If you get the job it will occupy most of your time, these people will become your friends. When you start thinking about the opportunity in this way the preparation becomes far more focused around “what do you want to know” instead of “what could you tell them to show you’ve prepared”. If you really think about it you should already have an honest interest in them and the questions will be obvious. These are good starting points.
– What will I be doing Monday to Friday? What is a typical day?
– What are they really like to work for?
– What is the industry like? Who are their competitors and what makes this company better than them?
– What is progression like in the company – What will I be doing in 3 months, 6 months, 2 years or 5 years? What have previous grads gone on to do?
– What is the team like? Is it a big team? Are they young/old? Social? Will I fit in?
A lot of the answers to your questions you will find on the internet from reading their website, industry news, google, blogs from other members that have worked at the company etc. but you should be left with a long list of questions that you can ask at the interview. Interviews will be a lot easier as they become more of a fact-finding meeting.
The strategy is to start developing an ‘honest’ interest in your career. Don’t think “I just want to get a job”, think “I want to get the right job for me”. Remember interviews are a two-way exercise and it is important to treat them as such. When you get further through the process to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round interviews, a lot of your initial questions will have been answered but this is an opportunity to meet and question even more people within the organization to get an even better feel for what the company will be like to work for.
– How did they get into the organization? As a Grad or with experience?
– How quickly have they progressed through the ranks?
– What is their personal perspective on where the company is going over the next 2-5 years?
– What are they looking for in their next recruit?
If you use this strategy properly, not only will it enable you to make the right choice in your career but it also carries many other benefits.
– It will ensure you come across as bright because of your ability to ask the right questions and be interested in the answers.
– It will ensure you come across as enthusiastic because of the effort you have already put into finding out about the company.
– It will help with interview nerves as you should be excited about going in to an interview to find more out about the job instead of trying as hard as possible about making a good impression.
– It will help build rapport with everyone you interview with as it will enable them to speak about themselves and their company – effectively selling it back to you…
I am keen to hear feedback from you. Perhaps you approach every interview like this already or perhaps you have a completely different strategy when it comes to preparation. I am not advocating that you do no other preparation than this, merely that you take an ‘honest’ interest in every opportunity and use that as a starting point.
Good luck to you all.