16 January 2008

CVs and CVS

I really enjoy Johanna Rothman's Hiring Technical People (the blog, and the book). But her mindshare in France seems miserably low. I'm reading a lot of CVs these days. Here are some conan perspectives on hiring:

Dear CV authors:

You are fond of adding a long string of gibberish at the end of each project description:

CVS, Eclipse, Maven, Ant, Spring 1.2, Hibernate 3, Java/J2EE, Servlets/JSP, taglibs, Struts, Design Pattern, MVC, blah, blah, yawn ...

It's a kind of free-association game. Ladies and Gentlemen, here is some news:

Knowing how to use version control is not a marketable skill

Your IDE is doing all the work on your behalf anyway. Please cut out the noise! "Eclipse, CVS" doesn't enhance my knowledge of you, except that you fill your CV with unimportant details. Maybe you do the same in code.

Worse, in your project description you tell me almost nothing. You tell me,

  • Involved in development
  • Wrote tests in junit
  • Used Design Patterns

Please, tell me this instead:

  • In a team of four, I single-handledly migrated the entire widget management platform to Rails thus enabling our client to speed up inventory turnover by 250%.
  • I introduced test-driven development using JUnit despite initial resistance from other developers. Within three months, our defect injection rate was down 99%.
  • After I read Kerievsky's Refactoring To Patterns in one weekend, I presented the core concepts to the team, and over the next six months we identified and refactored dozens of hotspots in our code that were causing the most pain. The bad old days of agonizing over broken tests are now a distant memory.

Spot the pattern? "I did ${some concrete, amazing thing}, and consequently ${realised a lot of value}". The value part is particularly important. If you "wrote tests in junit" but don't tell me why, I'm not really sure you know why. And if you don't know why, then I'm certain you're not doing it right. And I have a hundred other CVs to look at, and my main job is being involved in development anyway, so in a spirit of humility and respect I turn down your CV, wish you the best for the future, and turn over to see what the next author is involved in ...

If in your project you can't do ${some amazing thing}, then find another context where you can. You owe it to yourself, and to the rest of the world. Good luck!


  1. Hi Conan,

    Very interesting post.

    About long keywords list, I feel that you have to give some for indexation purpose. It gives your technologies awareness level, which, even if less important than your design skill, is valuable.

    See the post of Martin Fowler I read this morning:

  2. Hi Etienne,

    Thanks for the excellent link. I agree that there is market pressure to get keywords on the CV for indexing purposes. But CVS? Subversion? Ant? I think a lot of people simply mention any technology that was used in their project, regardless of whether they personally have any skill with it. That makes noise ...

  3. Much appreciation for this blog post. Pretty absorbing and well penned article. I will return in future.

  4. When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any manner you'll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      I don't know how to disable notifications, it's blogger behind the scenes, do you know if blogger has an option to control comment subscriptions?

      If I find anything I'll be sure to let you know