Story of your life

It is long overdue to reflect on the job applications we receive; a reflection echoed in many articles: bright people and compelling CVs are not connected. I all too often read CVs and have to second-guess if there is a bright person behind a bad CV. And second-guessing is not a very good approach to anything, especially not to finding new talent.

I actually don't mind reading about, and meeting people that might not fit into our company; working at Propellerhead is not for everyone. I do mind reading CVs that don't care about fitting into anything. It is your life (the V part in CV), don't you care where you end up?

This is not intended to be general advice about writing CVs; some of the advice here is going to get you excluded from other companies. This advice is about working with us, Propellerhead.

So where do we start?

Visit our website

Before you even put down your (virtual) pen, visit our website and determine if we are for you. Seriously. We put a lot of effort into making our website reflect our company's philosophy, approach and goals. We do that so you can figure out what we do, and why we do it.

So, after all of this:

Why do you want to work here? (cover letter)

It shouldn't be surprising that we expect that anyone who is applying for a position actually wants to work for us.

I understand that when you are looking for a role as an application developer, or an analyst, then at some level jobs are the same: you sit down, open your IDE, or meet with clients to talk about goals and drivers.

We are more than that, though: our choices of languages, tools and processes reflect on how we like to work.

For example, we like to work with different useful languages and tools. This is because we don't like to be hamstrung by technologies not suitable to the domain. We like agile processes because we don't want to spend our youth writing requirements, and then fighting for years for these not to change. We see these as a waste of time.

As good as this sounds, though, not everyone likes being challenged and challenging in the same way. Do you really like continuous learning, creating value above all things, and constantly pushing for improvements to the way we work?

Yes?

Good! Write that in your cover letter - and please try not to be cheesy. (We prefer something like "I'm interested in working for you because you are pragmatic", rather than "I believe agile processes are a godsend, I have retrospectives with my kids every week, or hail to Lisp and all its successors")

You could almost leave it at that - we tend to be more interested in your cover letter than in your list of skills and experiences. Your cover letter will tell us that you want to work here, and why - from which we likely can already get a good impression of what you can bring to the party.

Your skills

If you have been through some recruiters, then you'll know the drill: list all your skills, tools, technologies, processes and whatever you can think of, and rate them from 0-9.

What does that tell us?

Well, you've experienced a recruiter. You have a good memory of what you did 15 years ago. Your Perl skills from 20 years ago are a little better than your C# skills; you are well versed in RUP. And you send the same list to everyone.

If you have some experience then you'll know that skills aren't that hard to acquire - the experience is. We want to read about relevant experiences with your process or programming languages of choice.

Please, spare us (and yourself) the list. What does a perfect 6.5 even mean?

Your experience

Does your CV make a sound when it hits the table? I guess that makes you very experienced - so many pages. And all the effort that went into compiling the list of brand names, projects, timelines, approaches, technologies, and achievements ...

You should know by now that we value ... value. An extensive list of "implemented X using technology Y and process Z" doesn't tell us much - in fact, it is mostly a longer version of your skills. This means you expect us to infer the value you provided; how well do you think this will go? A simple list of "worked at company X between September 2012 and June 2015" is sufficient.

Instead, tell us what excited you; don't worry if it isn't perfect - it never is. We'd like to hear stories like "I worked on the API with a team of 5. We chose Node.js and found it wasn't type-safe enough for that domain. So I proposed and created a test framework in Python to ensure we don't accidently break the contract. It turned out to be useful in many other uses cases, and is now an essential part of development.".

And if it wasn't exciting, and that's the reason you are applying ... just tell us that, and then what really excites you.

Your qualifications

So you have a slew of SAP courses, agile training, and a MSCE certificate?

Keep those for companies that require these as part of their hiring process, and ask for them in their job listing ... and start asking if you want to work for a company where you are qualified if you have a certificate.

Of course, we are interested in your bachelors or masters degree - because it is relevant to your own story, and what you are doing (but don't worry if you don't have one). We might even be interested in one of your certificates - as long as they are related to your passion and what you want to do.

Summary

What we are looking for in any application:

  1. Cover letter describing why you want to work here, and what you bring to the table that is relevant to the job description
  2. A short CV outlining relevant experiences, with the "why, how and what"

For every word you write in your cover letter or CV, ask: what is the relevance to the job I'm applying for. Considering relevance is a skill you'll need here every day - and something we are actively looking for in every application.