Know YOUR Code – Not Just for Developers

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<INTRO>In this new world, we all follow certain people online, people we feel add value to us. For example, I follow the articles of Sid Clark and Bruce Kasanoff. But one person I follow is Mike Locke, a talented UI/UX Designer. He does video blogs (his chosen format for sharing) and his video Job Descriptions and Intimidation in UI/UX Design (Advice) really touched a nerve with me. The part of his message that touched me was not specifically about UI/UX Design but more about presenting our skills in job interviews. I will tell you the take-away early. It is: Play up the skills and abilities you do have while down playing the skills you do not have. </INTRO>

<STORY><SETUP>I have a very experienced colleague and friend who was laid off and was applying for a QA position. One of the requirements of this position was automated-testing skills. Now, many of us in Quality Assurance for enterprise software for some reason always think that the words “automated-testing” means coding-skills. More than that, we really think it means we must have extensive experience in programming and scripting languages such as Python, Perl, Java, C++, etc. We think it means that we must have written a piece of software or a published and app, or that we should have worked as a developer. My colleague and friend was very concerned that he did not know coding or did not have enough experience in coding to fulfill the stated requirements of the position.</SETUP>

<INTERVIEW>Well, he applied for the position anyway (so good, +1 for that). During the phone interview he was asked how much experience he had in automated-testing and what scripting languages did he know. So, my friend downplayed his coding/scripting abilities. Well, he did more than that. What he actually told them was that he had NO coding abilities or experience in QA testing. Well, he did not get the position.</INTERVIEW>

<AFTERMATH>I spoke with him afterwards and I explained that he DID, in fact, have the skills to do that job in QA for that company. For years my friend used many of the tools and frameworks that required him to understand, organize, manipulate, and work with APIs. Also, over those same extended years he had to analyze the results in the JSON and XML formats. Yes, this is not coding in the sense of a developer writing a program or app but his vast experience in working with APIs, JSON, XML, and other formats. He also has extensive experience working with the tools that use these things such as SOUP UI, JUnit, and other tools was invaluable and totally replaced the requirement for coding. We realized that in using these tools over the years he was putting a series of commands into a file and running that file in the tools. Well, that is technically a form of automated testing. He would have gotten the job if he emphasized those things versus downplaying coding.</AFTERMATH></STORY>

<POSSIBILITIES>I think we kill our chances by shooting ourselves. According to these hiring managers, here’s what we should do . When confronted with a question about a skill you do not FEEL you have: answer the question by emphasizing what skills you DO have, what you can do with them and what skills might replace the need for that missing skill, at least initially. In most case, according to these hiring managers, they will interpret that as “Wow, you have many other skills, and with that I know you can quickly learn what is needed to fulfill the job.” Or they will say, “Well many of the skills you just spoke about are what we actually need too.”</POSSIBILITIES>

<STEPS>Last, every human interaction or effort is about learning. “What’s the worst thing that can happen? We learn something!” Take the interview as a step towards learning what we need to work on. It may be our interviewing skills (as discussed above) or a skill that is truly required that we might feel we need to work on or need to learn. Mike Locke emphasizes this in his video blogs. Additionally, he comments that we should find that skill we need to work on, make some time to work on it and add it to our portfolio. Now, we have what they want when we go to the next interviews.</STEPS>

<CONCLUSION>So, I think we should take a breath and step back. Really look at your skills and you experiences. Although you might feel you do not have a certain skills, check yourself:

  • You may actually have the skill and just have not called it that over the years.
  • You may not have the skill but you might have used closely-related skills. Take the time to understand this and then be able to explain this in an interview. This means more to a hiring manager than you think.
  • You may not have the skill nor the related skills so take note. This feedback should be used to sharpen your skills by working on them immediately. Taking courses and working on a project (even a personal project, Mike Locke speaks on this in his videos series) is a great way of getting that applied knowledge and experience so that you have the confidence in the next interview to say I have that skill and can demonstrate it.

Don’t sell yourself short. In most cases, especially for job-seekers with years of workplace experience, you have the required skills to do the job effectively. You just have to sell it. Play up the skills and abilities you do have while down playing the skills you do not have.</CONCLUSION>

I hope the tags were not a distraction. I wanted to make a visual point that the code/coding thing is not the important part; it is the content in and around it that is important.