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Ask HN: very qualified but can't find a decent job. What do I do wrong?
44 points by throwaway1001 on Sept 16, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments
(using a throwaway account)

I'm in the middle of a very painful job search in London and here for help. My background is Java, I used it for 10 years in a very latency- and performance-critical environments, so I can say I'm very familiar with the nuts and bolts of language and the JVM. As any HN oldie, I know that just doing your job is not often enough, so in parallel I launched my own iPhone app (which as of today grew to 20 KLOC of C and Objective-C) that was covered by major news outlets and featured by Apple themselves in the Education category. I'm very proud of the work I've done. I can do Python (wrote a Twisted-based backend for collaborative app) and Haskell (when asked, can code on a whiteboard). I did Andrew Ng's course online last year. I REALLY can deliver.

At the moment, I work for a major bank in a position that drives me nuts. Everything about this job is wrong but most important is that I don't feel that I use my skills at all. I started my job hunt this spring, applied to all attractive companies I know of in London and pinged every available contact in my network.

The results were underwhelming. Google UK rejected me after an on-site interview. Twitter UK were hiring for a very relevant position but listed Scala as a requirement — I wrote a small RE matcher in Scala in a few hours and sent the code and my resume directly to their engineering manager whose contact I got from my network. No reply. Facebook UK and Amazon UK didn't want to even do a screening interview with me. 90% of other companies didn't bother replying. As a net result I got one offer from a startup I liked but refused it because I didn't feel we're on the same wavelength with the founder who interviewed me.

I'm pretty desperate at this moment and feel that I'm doing something wrong. If you're running a cool software company, what do you think a senior guy from a major bank must write in his resume to stop you from shredding it on the spot? Thank you for any advice.




You're an old-skool developer on paper but every place you mentioned sounds more like an environment of younger developers. We don't know anything about you but you may or may not physically appear to fit with the culture for these places. For instance if you show up in a suit and a tie looking like, well, a programmer at a bank, the younger devs may not feel like they would have fun hanging with you for the whole 14 hours days that you'll be working. The management may see your experience, do the math and figure out your age, and assume that you're likely to grumble about working 180 hours per week, sleeping in the lounge and eating pizza in order to "change the world" with/for them.

Assuming you truly want to work in an environment of a fast-moving startup and all that entails... Perhaps try some A/B testing on your resume. Remove some of your experience and omit the years of graduation, etc so that it isn't obvious you've been working in the field for 15 years. For example, just list your iPhone accomplishments and your work with Python. Maybe even re-send it to the same places. My guess is that you'll get more interviews. Then when you show up make sure you don't shave, wear some skinny jeans and a plaid shirt, get some dark-rimmed glasses and put stickers of underground bands on your macbook. Optionally get some tattoos. I bet you'll have better luck.


Being fit into the culture is easily fixable — surely you don't go to Google interview wearing suit. I did the opposite once though.

A/B testing sound like an interesting idea to try, thanks.


As a dinosaur in this industry myself, it's a bizarre feeling when your skills suddenly becomes too much experience! It can be a positive though because you have the luxury of being selective with the skills you present and still be 100% truthful. I personally try to customize my resume for each job and leave out any parts that I don't think will be relevant for the interview.

Good luck!


Work on your network. Your _social_ network. Most companies hire based on the following priority:

1) Can we hire someone internally? 2) Can we hire someone we know via a connection? 3) Who has the best resume?

9 times out of 10, someone is found in the first two options. So, the first step should be getting on the radar of companies you'd like to work at, then let the resume be the ammo to help seal the deal.


I recognize that you're trying to be helpful, but "work on your network" is an over-used trope heard on the job-hunt. It's about as useful as telling a depressed person to "snap out of it."

Better advice would be given by a local in OP's job market. "Come to such and such event, which is every Thursday at X pub – many tech folks mingle there and it would be a good first step."

Absent such concrete guidance, "work on your network" is stating the obvious.


I'd disagree. "Work on your social network" is not obvious to many people. I've mentored people who explicitly told me they did not think of it. Nor is specific information necessary. If you know what to search for, such meetups might be a web search away.

London Java User Group. http://www.meetup.com/Londonjavacommunity/

London Python User Group http://wiki.python.org/moin/LondonFinancialPythonUserGroup


I agree, it's an over-used trope. Because it works. And I was implying exactly what you stated. Go to meet ups in the field of your choice, etc. The whole point of that is to expand one's social network.

It's second only to "update your resume!"


Yes, work on the network. Inspired by a conference 'open session' on job hunting a few months back, I wrote a blog post explaining this with some more specifics which may be of help to the OP (or ideally anyone) at http://michaelkimsal.com/blog/working-your-network/

In a nutshell, spend time in small groups - explicit networking groups, or networks of friends/colleagues with similar but disparate interests. None of this will be 5 minute job, but the OP has already invested months cold-emailing for jobs and that hasn't worked. Spend time investing in keeping your own network connections going - meet up with people regularly, etc.

Perhaps more importantly - start your own group if you need to. People will end up finding you and reaching out to you with job offers because they want to access your network. You'll sometimes hear about gigs before they're available anywhere else (not often, but it happens).


Did you look into Microsoft? I know we're supposed to think they're uncool, but being less hipster they might find your background interesting. Ditto Nokia (yeah, they're supposed to die Real Soon (which I don't believe), but does that really matter to you?)

You might want to split your move out of banking into a cool company into two phases: first move out the bank, then move to one of the "cool" companies.

I'm kinda in a similar boat as yourself, and afaik, except for enlightened pockets, our industry suffers from a deep suspicion of experience and expertise in anything except the rage of the day.

In a black humour sort of way, at least you're a Java expert. Imagine plight of the C++ expert. :)


C++ experts actually have it good (in London at least). Almost without exception, low latency trading systems are built in C++ and being an expert will get you an exciting and lucrative job pretty easily.


There actually a lot of low latency stuff being done in Java now. Using the Azul Zing JVM and tricks like the Disruptor you can do some amazing stuff.


Yes, I did. More precisely, I applied to Skype in London for a pretty relevant position. No reply.


Imagine plight of the C++ expert.

Met a guy working as a private contractor in the aerospace sector recently and he was desperate to hire expert C++ programmers at almost any price. I wish I had the 'plight' of being a C++ expert.


Perhaps you could help me out here, your quest is to find a 'decent job', what does that mean to you? Clearly you pay your rent, clothe and feed yourself on the bank job so by some definitions it is 'decent', no doubt it has some sort of retirement plan you can contribute to and some days of paid vacation.

What you don't say is what you want to do. What are you passionate about? You know that "just doing your job is not enough" so you start a side project, great how did you pick it? Are you more passionate about it than your current job, if not why not? You had complete freedom to work on any side project you wanted. Do you even enjoy programming? Why do you do it? Why not gardening, or auto repair, or architecture?

People who are passionate about what they are doing are 10x better employees than ones who are doing it for some externally generated reason. Ask yourself what you really like doing and pursue that. You've got a job (great) and if you discover your passion is something else use your job as a springboard to cover expenses why you develop enough runway to leap into what your passionate about. Don't try to do that at a start-up though, its really really hard to be passionate about something other than the start-up's mission and be successful.


As I wrote below, working in a engineering-driven company with product would tick all boxes. This is the goal of a whole quest. What you're saying about passion was reiterated on HN countless times and something to be passionate about is the main thing I lack in a job.


I'll try again, starting with this:

"... something to be passionate about is the main thing I lack in a job."

This is backwards. A job generally won't give you something to be passionate about, passion comes from inside of you. Passion is the thing you choose to do when you can do anything, passion is the thing you invest in when there is no obvious 'reason' for doing so, investing in your passions is its own reward.

Small anecdote, worked with another engineer at Sun who was struggling, and he asked me why it seemed so easy for everyone else and so hard for him. We talked about passion and its not 'easy' for someone who is passionate about something but it is 'fun' so they exude happiness digging into the problem not pain. At its root there is a attitude difference, just like people who are passionate about fitness aren't excited about doing exercise, they are being excited about how this exercise is giving them new capabilities in fitness. They look past the means and luxuriate in the ends. That is following your passion [1].

The engineer I knew realized his passion was helping folks get ahead in life, he was always happy seeing someone get past a challenge an on to something more fulfilling. He ended up following that passion and last time I heard was living in Mexico helping folks build sustainable communities without the stigma of 'technology backwardness.'

Ok so back to your observation, there are lots of 'engineering driven companies' they make all sorts of things from sex toys to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Its a wide range and 'engineering driven' doesn't say a whole lot about passion other than solving problems. But if solving problems in an engineering context is what you like to do, then you might start looking at jobs for program manager rather than engineer. I don't know of course, I'm not you. But its a way to approach your question which I suspect would get you further down the path.

[1] A litmus test might be, imagine you've been in a car accident and you're paralyzed from the neck down. What thing did you wish you were doing yesterday before the accident? Lots of self help books suggest pretending today is the last day of your life, what do you want to spend it doing? Etc etc. The bottom line is people with passion make a difference, and folks can tell that in an interview from a mile away if you're pursuing your passion or just marking time.


A job as a vector for your passions is [maybe] a better framework to think about [sales pitch]. But this needs to be convincing. Jobs are limited for a variety of reasons [even good ones]. This demonstrates situational awareness on your part. Because you have studied XYZ related problems, for example outside of the context of work. And you will, therefore likely have more to add to your new work than [the conventional wisdom]. Lastly, investing time in a passion reassures your a [credible committment] to the subject matter, so people will be more confident investing in you. But, you need to be in a position to demonstrate this. For it to be convincing. And this is just one idea. There might be other frameworks.


1) Contribute to, or publish, open source, the more the merrier (it's a very good way to get judged by coders)

2) Keep a technical Blog and write about interesting stuff you did. Try to offer a service for your readers covering topics and explaining things to help them along, attracting an audience.

3) Get a twitter account to tweet about technical things that interest you, get followers that like what you tweet.

4) Participate in other coding communities (like stackoverflow) where you can help people along.

5) Make sure that your entire presentation is geared towards steering people towards your blog and your software.

6) Forget resumes. Nobody reads them. Polish yours leaving everything but the bare essentials out, try to smuggle in your blog and open source software links.

7) Cultivate a larger network, go to local or nearby meetups of the crowd doing stuff you're interested in.

8) Publish more software on the app-store (or anywhere), write about your software on your blog.

9) Participate in standard bodies.

10) Freelance and/or run your mini company besides, be sure to write about the awesome stuff you did while doing that on your blog.

In short, get known for doing things. Don't think people read the resume and show an interest.

And if at all possible, let people come to you with offers. Not the other way around, if they come, you already know they're interested.


This is all really great advice.


Its a great advice !!!


First, it is very hard to hired by just applying - you need to find somebody in the company to introduce you. In relatively long career as a dev manager in a big corporation, I have not hired a single engineer via job post (HR will forward resumes that were never even near match - it was so bad that before I left VP hired a special recruiter just for his team).

Second, find a good recruiter. They do help to find an exact match.

Third, you probably need to be looking into Informatica, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. - companies which are "product development" oriented. It seems like Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Twitter are really not "product development" oriented companies: they use technology but technology is not their product. So my feeling is that they are looking for more "very very smart and sharp people" than "I can ship people" (I read somewhere how it is easier to get hired in these companies if you are "smart and did nothing" then "smart and here is what I did"). [ I'm just saying that they weight candidate characteristics differently - nothing wrong with that approach ]


Thanks for the advice. Recruiters are a specific pain point. When looking for a bank job, they help a lot because they push candidates ahead and because bank jobs are all alike. During the current job hunt, I encountered recruiters that were trying to place me as an IT person at Heathrow Airport. I don't apply to positions advertised by recruiters any more — descriptions are always misleading and they care very little about what you actually looking for. Do you think it's a wrong thing to do?


Meant constructively:

1. You didn't say how old you are. After 30 you should rely on relationships and reputation more than your ability to describe skills. Tech employers want malleable underpaid wage slaves.

2. Perhaps working at a bank makes you look unattractive. I wouldn't want to hire anyone that was brain damaged from working at a bank.

3. Perhaps you are too narrow and apply for broad jobs.

4. Perhaps the inverse of 3. Consider what job you are applying to and customize your approach to that.

5. It's a numbers game. Keep on trying!


1. I'm 31, this is not stated in my resume, but can easily be concluded from my education info, etc.

2. What can fix this image in your eyes? Github account?

3. Maybe this is the case. When I was searching for a job last time (and landed this job in a bank) I noticed how differently banks and non-banks react to my resume. In short, for banks I have worked in a company they know and did the things they want to do too. For a software companies, I worked in a boring BigCo and did some things they never will deal with. It's all great but it's not clear how to fix this — I wouldn't say there's loads of attractive tech firms in London compared to SV, so if I'll narrow my search to try to find better suited companies, I'll be left with that Twitter opening.

5. Thanks for that!


I never had experience interviewing someone with your background, but I will try to give my thoughts.

They are two steps here, first to get the on-site interview and then to pass the interview. You talked about problems in both of them.

First, how to get the interview. For me, the trick is to get a reference and apply to the right position. You have specific background in some languages and environment. It is hard for the companies to decide where to put you. If possible, start with networking with people in your target companies. Get to them to know you first, they will help you on finding the right position to apply to.

About the Twitter manager who didn't reply. Try again, with other methods. Find a direct reference instead of simply email him. Or you can hang out with some other Twitter engineers first and they may help you out.

Second, for the interview part, there is little description here so I am not sure if you did anything wrong. Generally, solve the problem by working and discussing with the interviewer; showing your passion; and relate yourself to the company. It is hard for the interviewer to see the value of your project and weigh them during the interview, solving the problems they give is more important.

Also, there might be a bias since you have the major bank background. I cannot elaborate or back that up though.


Thanks for the advice. I think I have less trouble passing the interview (Google — I hope — is the case where false negative has happened) compared to getting there. On the HN I read a lot about smaller companies looking for all-rounders and I try to position myself as such when I apply. The trouble here is that I see very little positions of that sort being advertised. Startups seem to like RoR and Django juniors the most. I guess, networking is the answer here, as you point out.

Finance industry in London is very insulated (i.e. people never leave banks except for other banks because of the huge salary difference banks able to offer), so networking is a hard thing to crack quickly. I'm working on it though, so at least this I do right.


> Startups seem to like RoR and Django juniors the most.

Then why aren't "Django junior" and "RoR junior" on your resume, with links to your portfolio? Never mind faking it, it's not hard to become a gonzo Rails artisan who knocks out agile websites more often than most people wash their car. And you get to the interview and they are pleasantly surprised to find you are a hardcore backend engineer as well.


I don't believe you have really given us any points that would help us give you any advice.

From my past experience interviewing java developers with LONG runs developing java such as yourself was extremely boring. All of their resume's looked the same. Full of java related keywords. All with the same experience. None of them had soul. None of them seemed to develop anything out of their comfort zone. NONE of them knew what github was nor had an account.

Out of 300 people, over about 6 months we found only 2 java developers that seemed to be worth anything outside of their extremely large teams they were used to working in.

Now I don't know anything about you nor have I seen a resume of yours but I will say that when I see Java developer with 10 years experience writing java, it sort of already puts a negative connotation on the experience right away.

If your trying to sell yourself for a startup, your going to have to do some major overhaul of your selling points.

You are really going to have to highlight your experience with other technologies and things you are doing to keep yourself current with the times. What have you done in the past 10 years besides java? A lot has changed since 2002 in the world of development!

Last but not least, I can't believe you turned down an opportunity to work in a new environment. If all you have is years and years of java and someone (even if your personalities don't match) offers you a job doing something else and you don't take it! Its obvious that times are really not that tough in your current position.

Your going to have to suck up your pride a little and get some relevant experience in the job type you want before you can become picky about personality matching. You should be happy for the opportunity to even get considered.

Knock that AOL syndrome out of your nose and dig in. If you really want out of the banking industry, get a job for the experience. NOT to meet your new best friend or be on extremely hipster wavelengths with your boss...

To me you don't really sound all that desperate if your passing up job offers.


I can't comment on me refusing startup offer here without revealing too many details so I won't.

Regarding your other points: I think from the description it's clear that I was doing something meaningful after 2002 (Haskell and Python should be at least noticeable).

Regardless of that, during that 10 years I did lots of stuff. I implemented a blazingly fast key-value storage backed by file-based B-tree from scratch. I wrote a concurrent distributed pool. I'm not a J2EE/Spring/whatever guy. Now one thing I hope is that people reading resumes prefer this type of experience to 20 line Node.js hacks.


I'm just not sure what sort of position you are looking for, which is why its going to be near impossible to tell you the magic word that will keep your resume out of the trash bin.

I will tell you from personal experience, its a daunting task reviewing resumes.

I believe that most have it right, if you want into a big player your going to have to figure out the inner workings of the company to figure out how your resume gets to the people in charge.

Its really a numbers game, don't get discouraged and send your resume out a hundred times over. Tailor it to each position you are trying to get. If you want a backend dev position, then make sure your resume looks like your a backend dev. Also try to figure out what recruiter companies the business are working with. Every company uses recruiters, figure out who they are using and get in the door with them first. find out how many people they have placed at said company. If they havent placed anyone there then you probably don't have that big of a chance. However, if they have placed someone there before, then try to get some inside info as to what the managers are looking for.

Hiring managers are more likely to give feedback to recruitment managers than directly to the candidate. Candidates tend to get emotional when told they don't have the position. No one wants to deal with that.

Another thing to do is to work with a professional tech resume writer. Your a professional developer, not a professional writer. Have a professional take a look at your resume to make it clear, concise and to the point and seriously nobody reads a 10 page resume!


>Now I don't know anything about you nor have I seen a resume of yours but I will say that when I see Java developer with 10 years experience writing java, it sort of already puts a negative connotation on the experience right away.

This statement raised my "shallow language hipster" alert.


Not that GP didn't provide explanation for this. Personally I'd never hire anyone who has 10+ years experience with one technology and none with others.


Well, the OP clearly stated that he can do other stuff than java, so IMHO this "java bashing" doesn't seem to apply to him.


I didn't mean for my statement to turn into java bashing at all. I was just stating that after interviewing over 200 java developers for java related positions, I found that MOST of them "Senior" and with > 10 yrs experience were not very well rounded at all and stuck in their java bubbles. I would ask that any other recruiter/interviewing managers to comment here. I know from other people I have talked to, they felt the same.

And it sounds like this guy is trying to get OUT of java and into something else. Does his 10 years experience in java directly translate to being a senior/expert person in any other language?

So with that being said, the OP is going to have to do something with his resume to get above that stigma. Developing Java for 10 years at the same company and the exact same project just raises flags at every single level for me.

Now he did say he did some personal projects where he made some stuff on his own. I will honestly say that really doesn't make him qualified to be a senior level person on an iphone/android/something/anything development team.


There are several points here where, I think, you share what recruiters think about my resume. I'll comment with my vision of the situation.

> Does his 10 years experience in java directly translate to being a senior/expert person in any other language?

Yes, it does. Given a Python project, I spent half of the first day (literally, half a day) using Google in parallel with coding to find some syntax-specific things out. I.e. how to declare an empty map, how to declare and use a lambda, how to throw/catch an exception, how None is handled, etc. After this half a day, the difference between me and your Python hacker is 5 times less compared to what it was before. Add a week of Python coding and I'll be familiar 90% of most used libraries or a framework you use. My capacity to write a Dijkstra algorithm from scratch, on the other hand, stays with me forever.

Having said that, I understand that if assigned to a Haskell project, for example, I'll have some harder time, of course. Python is just really simple.

With this regards I like Google interviews the most. They take essentially the same approach: choose the language you like to solve our problems, we'll be testsing you for some more serious things anyway.

> Developing Java for 10 years at the same company and the exact same project

Not sure how I made this impression: I worked in 4 companies throughout those 10 years, in very different Java projects.

> I will honestly say that really doesn't make him qualified to be a senior level person on an iphone/android/something/anything development team.

It's too bad you don't have a chance to interview me and compare to your senior iOS guy, really.


So you'd never hire someone like Paul Graham after he has worked for 10 years in Lisp projects, or some guy doing 10 years of embedded C work, etc...

Using "lots of" technologies is a meaningless metric, except if you want a code monkey to work with whatever for some startup where everyone has to wear 10 hats.

If I was building the Curiosity I would get a guy with 20+, not 10, years of experience in just embedded C (or Ada or whatever).

If I was planning a new JS heavy web app, I would get a 10+ years Javascript wizard. If he had the JS chops I could not care less if he also dabbled in Haskell or APL.


If I was trying to find the best Lisp developer out there I would hire Paul Graham, and if I was trying to find a senior person in C I would hire someone with 10 years of C.

So I think you are just clarifying my point here.

The OP has 10 years of experience in java. so I would consider him for a java developer position. I don't believe that is what the OP wants though.


Hi, feel free to mail me direct.

B2B telecoms, highly available low latency systems. Zero brand name but fantastic engineering driven culture. Small enough for individual impact but big enough to have some very interesting projects and clients. London based.


I can't speak for the people who have interviewed you and rejected; but a couple comments spring to mind:

1) You're in London. Most of the companies you're thinking about are based in the San Francisco bay area, and this is where all the truly exciting stuff goes on. Now, I'm sure there's a technical community in London; but there are very few places in the world where technical people are in demand and where there is a lack of supply. And those places each have different prominent industries. In New York City, the smartest minds become Wall Street Quants. In San Francisco, they make web-technology startups. I imagine in London, the default is in the financial industry.

Concluding my point; this may not be a possibility for you, but if it is, you may want to look outside of London. You'd probably get something in a heartbeat in San Francisco, and I'm sure you'd do fine in NYC, too.

2) You're an "old school" guy; as you said. I'm doing a startup in SF which has grown tremendously (now >30people and barely a year old) and the growth has put us in a situation where we're desperate to hire more smart and skilled people. I have interviewed and rejected many people (including Googlers) who were much smarter than myself, having experience with Big Data, Java, C++, and even artificial intelligence. Pure skill is nowhere near as important as your mindset, and how you will fit within the company culture. People who come from an environment where they sling Java for a big company have a tendency to not fit well with the way we all take responsibility for our projects, iterate and release fast and often, etc.

Now you may be looking for a change of pace. You may be into the idea of switching methodologies and toolset; but that's something you need to make clear to your interviewers. Your experience is like a background check. It tells us that you're a good & smart programmer. But the hiring decision is going to come down to the question: "How well do we think this guy is going to fit in here?"

That said, if you're looking for something in San Francisco, we're hiring. Shoot me an email at kenneth@ballenegger.com.


I disagree completely with your first point, there's a programmer shortage pretty much everywhere in the world at the moment.

I have no idea what makes you think otherwise.


There's a huge startup community in London. Huge community of VC's, angels, accelerators and startups. The government is aggressively pushing startups through TechCity and is redeveloping apart of the city for startups. http://www.techcityuk.com/#!/home

Most major US startups are basing their international offices in London.

Of course you are right, until a few years ago most development was for the financial industry but it's all changing.


Couple of thoughts:

Build your physical network: The best way is to attend User Group meetings and Conferences. With time try to get involved as a speaker and with the organization of these groups.

Built your online network: I would recommend contributing regularly to an open source project or two. Also you can blog to help build your online presence.

Code outside of your work more: Glad to hear you launched your iPhone app. I think working on another project is not a bad idea. This is not to say that what you have already done is not enough, just more of a 'always be delivering code that is not necessarily on your employers schedule'. You seem to have a background in 'big data' projects - I would try to build something on a similar topic but using some of the open source projects (like Hadoop, or Twitter Storm).

Type of company: You seem to be a little in between. Good coders want to work for software companies (as opposed to being part of an 'Enterprise IT' shop). Your bank background might mean that people in 'Software Companies' will not pay as much attention to you. You can make the transition, but it is not as easy.

Headhunters: Try talking to one or two of them. They can help find you a company that is a good fit.

There are lots of points above, just choose the ones most in line with you.


Are you tailoring your job application process to each company? If I'm at Amazon see a bunch of Java I might think "Ok, I can find 20 people with these Java skills." Instead of showing Amazon why YOU are indispensable for THEM.

Also, I'm guessing that Google, Twitter, Facebook & Amazon get several applicants a day. So having a contact on the inside might be more helpful.

A somewhat similar story was I tried to work at a consulting company here in town, and got turned down. Two years later I had worked with a couple of their consultants at another job, spoke at a user group meeting (where the leader was another of their consultants). When I left my job for a different one I had 2 people from the agency talk to me about applying with them.

I had already accepted the offer from another place, but in that time I was able to showcase my skills to the point they were at least interested in talking to me. Whereas 2 years prior they weren't.

The lesson? Network, if you're as good as you say you are, do some user group speaking or showcase your code to some people. Hit a couple local/regional conferences and start talking to people. As they get to know you, not only might they hire you, but they might also pitch your name to someone else.


Perhaps other HNers will correct me, but I can't think of too many startups that are Java shops. In fact, I can't think of any. Java's a big corporation language and it just doesn't map well on a hacky nature startups.

Another thing is not the resume itself, but its format. The most effective resumes I've seen (those that get the interviews) were quirky one- or two-pagers. Can you perhaps strip yours of all personal info and post here?


Java as a language, maybe, but Java as JVM - lots of interesting stuff going on there that many other people leverage - big data plays, big search (solr, elasticsearch, pure lucene), mobile (android), alt.java stuff (jruby, clojure, groovy, etc).

Someone who is 100% just a Java-the-language developer may be stuck at a bank or other bigcorp. Someone who's got a lot of Java experience and can use the best aspects of the JVM ecosystem while also leveraging other non-Java tech should be able to do much better than the OP is saying he's doing.


Thanks — that's exactly somethig I wanted to reply with.


Thanks. Good luck to you. Have you considered going independent/freelance? You may find there's a market for someone with your skills, but there's no full-time employment options for someone with your skills, drive and experience.


"Java's a big corporation language and it just doesn't map well on a hacky nature startups."

What about Android development?


Java is a useful language if you want to use things like Hadoop.


Have you tried http://hackerjobs.co.uk/ -- it's ran by a HN user.


Looks good, but:

- Java: 0 results - iOS: 3 very junior positions, only 1 London based - Python: 5 results, 3 of which are very junior + 1 discloses zero info about the opening.


Update your LinkedIn profile. I am getting something like 1-2 proposals each day there and some of them are really really interesting ones. If I'd be looking for any new roles or contracts that would be a really nice source of leads.


Please drop me a line on me@mo.md. I am CEO of a UK start up that uses Java.


First thing that comes to mind is maybe you're underselling your successes in your resume. In particular, if you've been working a long time in the banking sector and you don't mention sufficiently prominently that you have experience outside of that domain, then you could get pigeonholed.

Second would be that there is something about your non-technical skill-set that is sending up red flags. What feedback did google UK give you after the rejection? Was it a bad fit technically or culturally?


I think the issue must lie in your CV - usually they're just way too long! You should be making it to at least initial interview stage every time, especially with your experience.

If you'd like to do an interesting A/B test, I'll gladly re-write your CV for you, set up an extra e-mail address & see which gets you best results! If it gets you a job you can give me great feedback.


Without seeing your CV or code examples, it's difficult to tell where the main areas of concern may be. And that's if there are any areas of concern at all, you could just have hit a streak of bad luck. But, I will tell you something I've learned about when selling yourself to potential companies.

A while back I ran across a TEDx video titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action given by Simon Sinek.You can watch it at the TED website, but the summary of the talk is "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

The idea is what can you do to make the hiring person get excited about you? You're a Java developer - there are a lot of those. You have a lot of experience - so do a lot of other candidates. Education - others have it to. Basically, what makes you a unique and memorable candidate?

You even said it yourself - you didn't take the job with the startup because you didn't feel you and the founder were on the same wavelength. Well, that's what the hiring company wants to get from you. They want to know you're on their wavelength. You can't communicate that by telling them what you can do, or how good you are at it. You communicate that you're on the same wavelength by telling them why you do what you do. You have to give them something that gets them excited about you as an individual, something that makes them forget about the other candidates.

That's my perspective, and it's worked out fairly well for me. Especially now that I'm a senior developer, I rarely talk about what I do. I've had years of experience, it's just expected at this point that I have the skills. I wouldn't have been so consistently recruited or promoted if I didn't have the skills. That means the skills I have aren't worth talking about at all. On my own site, and how I present myself in general, I don't talk about my capabilities. I talk about the WHY.

Note: "to get a paycheck" will not suffice as an answer to why you do what you do. You have to have a real answer for this question, and it is a problem. A lot of people don't know why they do what they do, which is why there are a lot more people who can't figure out how to get to the top. This may even require you figuring out what it is you really want to do, and switching job types or careers completely. Any company that hires someone who just wants to collect a paycheck isn't a company where anyone is going to be happy. You'll just be in a cubicle next to dozens of other unhappy people who only showed up that morning so they can continue to collect their paycheck.


When I was searching for a job, I made a CV that looked different and would maybe catch the eye of the poor guy flipping through hundreds of resumés. Worked great for me. Make a great first page/impression, and a regular second page. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2938449/CV.pdf


That description sounds like exactly who Twitter would want to hire. Knowing Scala beforehand isn't a requirement; I certainly didn't. It's possible that by sending the resume only to a specific engineering manager, it got lost in the shuffle. Have you tried following up, and/or contacting recruiting?


Do you work for Twitter? Can I email you privately (there's no email in your profile)?


Are you stating current salary on your application letter/CV or anything else that might make them think you might want banking-level remuneration? Remember that the City-startup transition is likely to halve your annual income or more, especially if you're quite senior at the bank.


I don't state my salary but I heard from tech firms something in the vein of "we can't match a City salary". Sure, I'm ready to take a salary cut for an interesting opportunity.


But do you say that you are willing to take a non-City salary?


Only after a discussion starts (i.e. not in my resume). Salaries are usually not stated for the positions anyway, so this seems like a fair game to me.


Sorry to resurrect after three days... I think it might be worth saying something upfront. I agree that you shouldn't be precise and say how much you're looking for, there's no need to throw away a negotiating point early. But something in the cover letter that hand-wavingly made it clear that you understand that startup salaries are lower might help.

For example, "I'm looking for something that pays me back in work I enjoy, rather simply financially like my current high-boredom, high-remuneration City job".

...OK, that's pretty terrible. But something along those lines, maybe?


Anecdotally, I know some recruiters who are timid on recruiting technical people for engineering roles under the premise that after being in industry this long the person should have become a manager or a VP of Eng. type or CTO type more than a senior engineer.


I don't know if you have any TDD etc? I'm looking for good people right now: http://www.linkedin.com/jobs?viewJob=&jobId=3652085&...


I wonder if some of the issue is that maybe that a lot of the people running startup type companies are perhaps younger and maybe less experienced than you.

So in a sense it might be frightening hiring someone with more experience, they might also be worried about your salary demands.

There also seems to be a (probably unfair) stigma that banks are where mediocre programmers go to die. So there may be a fear that you have been hopelessly tainted by Enterprise SOAP or whatever and need a 2000 page spec document to get anything done.

If you have skills writing performance sensitive code there is a market to be exploited in terms of contracting/freelancing as this might be a gap that can't be easily filled by more general programmers?


I'd suggest going through a reference rather than to push your way in the front door. If someone is told by someone they already trust that you can deliver that's going to be a lot more effective than you telling them yourself.


tl;dr: Bank guys are not cool, hey they caused the GFC! - how would you in with the team at a "cool software company" (your words).

Without even digging in, I wouldn't hire you for the following reasons:

1. We don't use Java, it's too enterprise based

2. You've worked in banks for 10 years? Can you be creative?

3. Banks pay very well, you salary expectations are unrealistic.

4. Whilst you appear to be very capable, you also come across as having a huge ego.

I would recommend going after a job in one of the big consulting firms. You would be a far better fit for them. Oh, wait! It appears, that's not what you want to do.


Go to Silicon Drinkabout (http://silicondrinkabout.com or Hacker News London and talk to some startups. There are many highly funded startups that would love to have you on board. There are a number of big web startups in London with hundreds of employees and many of these founders go to these events.

As another user said http://hackerjobs.co.uk is also a great resource. Look past Twitter, Facebook, Google.


I've been to all the meetups you mention. Some of the contacts I got there were incredibly useful, but nothing led to an interesting opportunity.

I see you're very integrated in the community, could you maybe mention couple of companies you think are interesting? Maybe they went past my radar.


Here's some: Lyst, Songkick, Box, Moshimonsters, Peerindex, Smarkets, GoSquared, Nuji, Hailo, StylistPick, Duedil, GoCardless, Moo, Huddle and GroupSpaces


In terms of networking, go to web dev type meetups Rails, Django etc they tend to have a lot of people hiring or looking to hire. You also gona meet a lot of independent contractors who tend to have large networks, tell people you can make iPhone apps.. profit

Big problem might be that bank in UK pay A LOT, so people do not expect you want to take a pay cut. Pay cuts suck.


Nowadays just having java and or .net or your resume can get you turned down, specialy at hipster startups.


Those hipster startups will probably fail then. That is an amazingly bad criteria.

Check for creativity? No. Check for passion? No. Check for problem solving ability? No.

No experience in the dominate internet development language for the last 15 years: Awesome!


Why do you want to work at a startup?


I'd like to work in a company to which I can contribute in a more meaningful way — not necessary a startup. A company with a real product and respect for engineers blended into their culture (or even better, engineering-driven) would be a dream place.


OP applied to Google and Facebook. He's not looking for work at a startup. He's desperate for a place of work, and that's it.


He isn't desperate for a place to work. He already has a job. Like everyone else, he wants to be feel like his work matters. After developing for a long time, I feel like thats what you crave the most. Working with other passionate people, hopefully most can be smarter than you and working on something that is meaningful that you can be passionate about.


If you want to drop me your CV I can probably give you some feedback.

If you're happy with Java I'd recommend applying to the big data startups in London (Datasift, Acunu, Causata, Plantir, etc.) as they're probably be most compatible with your skill-set.


The problem with IT people is that they expect a recruitment process to be like a set of algorithms...Your attitude / sense of entitlement probably irritates people...work on your personable side.


Have you contacted any recruiters? If your resume is as rich as you say it is, I can't imagine it taking much more than a week or two for a recruiter to find you a suitable position.


FWIW we are a Java-based startup that just hired our first London engineer, so there is stuff out there.

He was someone that had actually contracted with us awhile back.


Hi there, please drop me an email (toby@timetric.com), we're looking for a Java dev now for Timetric for data crunching/visualization.


Hey - I'd be interested to chat about jobs. Could you do me a favour and drop me your email address at tom@gocardless.com ?


You don't network enough. It's not just about skill or resume, you have to come across to someone in a good way.


Move to SFBA?


I'm not a US citizen




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