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Dear HN "Who's Hiring" responders
363 points by ComputerGuru on April 1, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 205 comments
This is just a friendly note/advice/rant to everyone responding to the HN Who's Hiring listings.

I've been asking around and I hear the same thing over and over again from people/startups/companies that list their positions in the HN Who's Hiring: applicants are putting zero effort into their emails.

Just in the past hour, I have personally received 8 responses for a business development position that were simply "Hi, saw your listing on HN, here is my LinkedIn. Call me."

Guys, this kind of email does not get you hired. It will especially not get you hired when your LinkedIn profile is set to super private and the only thing I see is your picture. Even worse is when you don't even bother to send an email to the poster directly and it's instead just BCC all the emails in the Who's Hiring thread. And even worse is when you apply for a position that's not even the one being offered. Take the time to actually read the posts: just because a listing contains the word "developer" does not mean it's a software developer. Business Developer != Software Developer!

Some friendly advice: if you at least click on the links in the posts, take a look at the startups' sites, and just mention in your email "I see your product/service X, and think it's interesting" the value of your email and the chances of getting contacted in regards to the job shoot up infinitely more.

HN Who's Hiring is not CraigsList. It's mainly quality people posting because they know there are quality readers looking to get hired. Put a tiny bit of effort into the emails you throw out, it's an investment that will pay back greatly! Remember, this is the first impression you are making on someone who might be your future employer! You're often not dealing with HR staff/agencies, and will be likely directly in touch with the person you'll be working with/for should you be hired. Show some effort, make it look like you at least care.

Yes, it's not easy to sit there and read about each of the companies and what they're working on, but it is a hirers' market and if you don't show the initiative and stick out as someone who is earnest about becoming a valuable member of the team, why would anyone bother replying? Especially when startups are looking for the top talent (whether they need it or not is besides the point), HN is full of A-list developers/founders and A-listers only hire other A-listers. Your "meh, here's my info, you do the research about me and if you're interested call me up" is not the kind of attitude that inspires confidence and will not get you a job.

I know for a fact that HN is chock-full of quality talent both hiring and looking to be hired. It is sad that this is the sort of response people posting job listings have been getting. For the sake of the entire community, put a little bit of effort into your email shots. It's better (and is a smarter investment) to look through the listings, get a feel for what companies are working on stuff that would interest you, and spend a couple of hours drafting 10 personalized emails explaining why you are the answer to the question than to simply ctrl+f "developer", ctrl+c, bcc, ctrl+v, rinse, repeat, send.

tl;dr if it'll take the company more effort to reply to your email than you put into sending it, you're doing it wrong.

I was absolutely with you until

  but it is a hirers' market
which, even if it is (and that's debatable), is not the correct reason for anyone to behave differently. In this case, applicants should not be reading the actual postings because it's a hirers' market and hirers are now somehow considered royalty. Instead, applicants should be reading them because it's basic curtesy and not doing it ends up wasting everybody's time. If it became an employees' market over night that rule would still apply.

Having the upper hand (imaginary or real) should not play a role here. This is a bad place for expectations of entitlement.

fwiw, I'd take that back if I could. It came out wrong and definitely was not intended to imply entitlement on anyone's behalf. I'm willing to put in crazy effort to find the right fit for our company, and I expect the applicant will do the same to find the right workplace/job. I'm not going to waste my time on someone that doesn't value it.

I guess like you said: common courtesy, don't waste my time or yours. Why send an email if its' not worthy of a response?

What you're receiving is a bunch of Minimum Viable Job Applications. It's a rational strategy that maximises coverage and minimises disappointment.

> What you're receiving is a bunch of Minimum Viable Job Applications. It's a rational strategy that maximises coverage and minimises disappointment.

The former is certainly true; the latter, probably not.

I'd simplify to: "It's a rational strategy that maximises coverage."

I meant it when I said "minimises disappointment".

Being rejected is unpleasant in any context; one way to minimise the unpleasantness is to downplay the value of any one interaction.

If you make a big effort, the disappointment is magnified. This is why the first and most important advice to folk on dating sites is "message and move on". Otherwise you're going to get bitter, which is even more self-defeating.

I suppose that you were thinking of the disappointment of rejection, while I was thinking of the disappointment of not getting the chance to participate in something you care about.

I consider the latter to be part of the former.

Rejection is painful because of the "simulation heuristic" -- imagining yourself enjoying working at the place / going on dates with the person.

The simulation heuristic works the other way too. You can easily imagine being disappointed by the new restaurant. You know what? Let's just go to Shmookey's, we always go to Shmookey's on Thursday and get the steak.

edit: actually, no, simulation heuristic isn't quite right. Sunk cost fallacy? Someone help me out here.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket" seems appropriate.

Of course, the counter to that is that taking a dump in a thousand baskets also leads to no eggs.

>taking a dump in a thousand baskets also leads to no eggs

While the quote is very funny and I give you that, the analogy doesn't fit. A more apt analogy would be - throwing your eggs without care in a thousand baskets, chances are most eggs will break.

Well, you are assuming that the candidates have eggs to start with.

How would you describe emailing a hiring manager/developer with something like "lol, give job pls?" Not very egg-like at all...

That strategy requires that you have brass eggs.

I think if you have "brass eggs" you go start a start up.

It is absolutely a hirers' market if the market is for a low-level coder. Many people, especially coming from an engineering background, have the requisite programming and computer science experience to do what you need.

It's a hirees' market at the rockstar level, as always.

As someone who's recruited heavily at the entry level, you're mistaken. Even substantial number of computer science graduates lack the capability of basic coding (i.e. "here's the detailed specification of this function; go implement it"). There is substantially more demand than available talent.

SF, New York, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, etc. all have huge talent shortages. Even developer markets that were relatively soft in the past such as Poland and India are starting to become competitive as the war for talent becomes more global.

I have read that 30% of Standford CS freshmen change majors or dropout because they don't get programming at all. Do you see such a thing in recruiting? That you fear the hire doesn't actually understand the reasoning of algorithms and basic programming structures, and is maybe the type who bullheaded through college memorizing solutions as recipes?

I'm not familiar with that stat but it's perfectly believable. Many people are clearly getting by with a mixture of memorization and trial-and-error rather than understanding.

I think of those who understand algorithmic reasoning (i.e. understand loops, assignment, etc.) they also fall into two categories. Those who can understand more abstract programming concepts (indirect referencing, recursion) and those who can't - you can definitely still be a good programer without understanding those but it will limit the areas you can work in.

I might have interviewed a very different subset of the programming world than you, but I wouldn't make the categorization in this way.

Indeed, I haven't met any programmer who couldn't understand recursion when explained in clear terms, same goes for indirect referencing.

If I had to divide the programmers who really understand algorithmic reasoning into two categories, those would be

- A: those who program because it's their job,

- B: those who program because it's their passion.

I believe this grouping is more helpful to explain differences.

It's a relatively well studied area of programming pedagogy, numerous studies have shown students struggle with those concepts:


Thank you for the link.

You wrote students, while I meant professional programmers. It's not because some people have a tougher time learning those things (whatever the reason can be) that they have no change to get them by the moment they are active professionals.

This said, if I tried to apply your grouping to the people I have been interviewing last year, I would have approximately 100% of them in one category, hence my comment.

Recursion isn't hard, it's just not taught correctly. It's fairly easy to break it down into rules.

Because they are shown examples, instead of taught how, people memorize how to do stuff, instead of learning it from principles.

Take the classic question, recursively reverse a linked list.

You will see a lot of people making false starts, or trying to reverse the list in some way like they would reverse an array, or even repeatedly walking the list to the end.

But if you understand some simple rules about recursion, it's fairly easy to figure out how to do this on the fly. And that is so much better then memorization, because you can explain why you are doing things.

first you are reversing, so you're moving backward, which means you calls your function, then do assignments. If you were doing something moving forwards, like printing in order, you'd print first, then call the function.

Now we need to worry about the end, and the beginning.

First, the beginning, which happens after we have recursively walked the list.

Now, we want to walk to the last node before null, and we need a place to store what we return. so assuming we have something like this in c 'node * recursivereverse(node * current)' and a node structure with next as the next link (we never touch our data)

our test is if (current->next) node * newbeginning = recursivereverse(current->next); else return current; //some assignments go here;

return newbeginning;

Then we just need to figure out the assignments.

Now, people may get tripped up and try to use the new beginning... but then they have to walk it to the end... but the current node already knows the node that comes after it.

so we assign current->next->next = current; IE the node that was previously after the current node now points to the current node as it's next. And that's fine for all the rest of the list, until we get to our original beginning node. We need to worry about the new end.

Since it's going to the end, we need to point it to NULL, otherwise it will point to it's predecessor, meaning we'll have an infinite loop at the end of the last two nodes.

Easy way to deal with it is to just assign the next of the current node to NULL, for each node.

so we add to current->next->next = current; current->next = NULL;

and then you have a reversed linked list. This makes certain assumptions about the list (like it has at least one node, and isn't circular), so don't just copy this for your interview.

So with some simple rules, I figured out how to reverse a linked list. But those simple rules aren't taught, or at least, I came up with them for myself after I became a computer science tutor at my college, because I needed people to understand recursion.

So I guess my point is, it's not that people can or can't understand recursion, it's whether they are taught to think about things in the right way.

Now to a certain extent, we need to teach people to generalize, but if you teach people a general rule (always worry about the beginning and end of any data structure, and that's important for everything, including memory management and debugging) and a recursion specific rule (call the function first to reverse, call the function after to use the current order), and they can generalize.

Too often people come to program with the ability to copy code and get it working (and that isn't anything to denigrate, because it's not simple), but lack the understanding of how to think about things in a deeper way.

Because it was lunchtime and I wanted to make sure I was still employable...

static MyLinkedList<T> ReverseLinkedList<T>(MyLinkedList<T> linkedList) { if (linkedList.Next == null) return linkedList;

  var newTail = linkedList.Next;
  var reversedList = ReverseLinkedList(linkedList.Next);
  newTail.Next = linkedList;
  linkedList.Next = null;

  return reversedList;

Agreed about recursion being taught the wrong way. Recursion is implicitly fundamental to learning basic arithmetic (what is 5? it's just (1 + (1 + (1 + (1 + (1 + 0))))). Reasoning by induction is just recursion. I think children have a recursive intuition for counting (at least from watching my 3 year old) that quickly gets squashed when they start learning 'math' in school.

I've always thought of reversing a linked list in a visual way.

In my mind, a link list is a bunch of nodes with arrows pointing right. To reverse the list, all I need to do is point the arrows to the left.

6(ish) lines of code later, and I've got a recursive reverse method.

Replying so that i can go back to this and understand it one day

Mark, when you come back to this, this might be helpful for you. https://github.com/gryftir/recursivereverse

Thanks! Sorry for asking this, but why the strange (to me) indent?

8 spaces?

Probably because this is similar to the Linux kernel programming style. Many of us learnt C from the kernel or projects that follow it's coding style.

Assuming you mean the code on github, I use tabs for indentation in vim, but have tabstop and setwidth set to 2. So if the code has 8 spaces, that is github or the browser. Feel free to make a pull request, or I can try to fix it (though I am kinda focused on my portfolio for internship applications atm). Should be a simple regex though.

  perl -pi -e 's/^(\t+)/"  " x length($1)/e' recurse.c
seems to do the trick; vary the number of spaces inside the "" to taste.

Programming is not the same as understanding algorithms and data structures.

If that statistic is true, I would say that they probably understand algorithms very well, can prove the runtimes, know which data structures to use and why, etc. What they can't do is actually implement it in working code, or write anything else outside of those concepts, like writing a graphical user interface or writing a simple website using some popular language + framework.

For London I strongly disagree.

When start-ups, profitable ones, are offering £35k + bonus + stock options (worth £0), for senior developers, in Central London, there's not a talent shortage.

Similarly skilled developers are getting £35k+ & bonus outside of London, where the cost of commuting/living is significantly cheaper, in established companies with full benefits packages, that don't expect them to work 50 hour weeks. Inside London, those devs who are working in finance are getting paid £45k+, big bonus, gym, laundry, etc. thrown in, with the same workload expectation.

Experienced (and good) Senior iOS developers in London are regularly being offered less than £40k.

No surprise many talented staff have left London, for equivalent salaries, less stress and cheaper cost of living (especially as they hit the age where kids appear in the picture).

No surprises many younger devs look at the £25k starting salary in London, where transport and rent will cost them £1000/month, vs. £25k out of London, where it will be more like £500/mo, and decide that London is not worth losing £6k/yr after tax.

As it happens I also used to run a developer recruitment startup (CoderStack) in London, so I'm intimately familiar with the market.

While there are certainly companies trying to hire iOS developers at 40k, there are also companies trying to hire iOS developers on 80k+ and iOS contractors on day rates of £500/day.

What you're probably seeing is selection bias. That is the crappy jobs (i.e. low pay) stay on the market far longer than good jobs. Hence you end up thinking that crappy jobs represent a large proportion of the job market than they actually do simply because they stay around longer.

You are right, I'm almost certainly exhibiting selection bias. As we all know, the best jobs don't even go on the wider market, such as jobs sites, but are filled by word of mouth referrals, or conversations at events.

But if I go and search: http://www.technojobs.co.uk/search.phtml?page=2&row_offs...

You will see most senior dev roles advertised with a range, that seems to average out about £45k. That's for the whole country, and London seems no different.

Personal experience with London based recruiters was that despite jobs advertising £60k, the number that the recruiter had from the client was actually lower. When asked about the requirements for getting the top end of the pay scale, "Well, they really only want to pay low 40's", was something I heard time and time again, and caused me to not apply, time and time again.

Crappy jobs? Maybe.

EDIT: Also, I've seen an expensive corporate salary survey (shh, don't tell HR), and whilst London mid-senior people have seen a good bump to their salary in the last 2-3 years, the averages there were approx: junior ~£28k, mid-level ~£36k, senior ~£47k, architect ~£60k, dev lead ~£72k).

"Inside London, those devs who are working in finance are getting paid £45k+, big bonus..."

As someone working in finance in London, this seems way too low. I'm on 97K and bonus has been 50% for the last 4 years. Contracted before and made more after tax.

I can't believe that startups hope to attract talent with 35K + bonus? But I also doubt you're right about 45K jobs in finance being anything but entry level.


(me? c++, perl, python, unix, front office, could price an option with Hull open, or an IRS, but not going to try anything like a Vol swap without Quant Assistance. There, another vague datapoint).

That sounds wrong to me. I've seen lead/senior JS devs on £85k (~$130k) in London and mid-level generic PHP/Django/Rails developers seem to start in the mid-40s, with senior devs getting 60-70k.

That's before you start looking at contractor rates...

Numbers I see for "generic PHP" rarely go above 40...


There are a few above 40, but they don't sound mid-level/generic.

As someone who lives and has worked in London this is really incorrect.

All of the people that I know who work in London (not just in banks) are earning at least £35k+, almost always more than that. These are newly graduated developers, with lots of room for advancement.

Conversely I know very few developers outside of London who are earning close to £35k, outside of London its much more likely to be research (ARM etc) and they tend to pay ~£28k

So a post based on "who you know".

Most grad jobs in London will top out at £30k.


Those that are higher are not real "junior" jobs - there's one that advertises "up to £50k", but then asks for 3-5 years experience. 5 years good experience puts you at the top end of mid-level.

There are a few finance jobs, that are looking for junior quant. developers. Yes, they are advertising above £30k. But they don't make up the bulk of the jobs on offer.

(And yes, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence too, for outside and inside London, having spent my early years working for a company with offices in Bath/Bristol/Reading, and the obligatory London "HQ").

This doesnt sound right to me. I know senior dev's in London getting paid at least double of that (and in some cases even more). It is not in the NY or Bay area range, but it's not £35k either.

Again, I know senior developers that were pulling down £65k and generous bonuses. I know software architects with 15 years experience who are earning about the same too.

But to me, they are the outliers, of what is a market that is generally not paying much of a premium above outside London salaries (I knew some architects on £70k, waaaay outside of London, and many seniors on £50k + bonus).

And I didn't want to make the comparison, but yeah, these numbers are terrible compared to what you will find in the major USA cities.

What regions outside London are you referring to? Genuinely interested.

Particularly, Bristol and Bath, Oxford, Reading, Manchester/Warrington.

"Even substantial number of computer science graduates lack the capability of basic coding"

You misread my statement. A competent mechanical engineer graduate attending college in the past 5 to 10 years has more CS experience and coding ability than most CS graduates. The talent shortage, as it were, comes from restricting your view to the CS and CE fields.

To review, this is what i wrote (emphasis added): "Many people, especially coming from an engineering background, have the requisite programming and computer science experience to do what you need."

I also interviewed many Maths and Engineering graduates and didn't find their abilities to be substantially higher. Also from my experience talking to students at careers fairs most Engineering graduates (other than Elec. Engineers) aren't interested in pursuing software development as a career path.

I think there might be some selection bias going on there. I know plenty of (non-software/computer) engineers who know very little about programming. The non-software/computer engineers who are interested in programming may be as good as or better than the average CS major, however.

I might agree if you change your statement to "Many people, especially coming from an engineering background and who have an interest in programming, have the requisite programming and computer science experience to do what you need."

> A competent mechanical engineer graduate attending college in the past 5 to 10 years has more CS experience and coding ability than most CS graduates

what fractions of ME and CS graduates would you say are competent, out of curiosity?

Too bad you're located in London otherwise I would love to show you how good I am at reading a man and then implement the function :-)

That's excellent news. I'm close to graduation at the most intense hacker school in SF and definitely have a solid grasp of the fundamentals and domain expertise in JavaScript.

I'd be very appreciative of any leads you could offer to top tier companies (FB, Google, Amazon, MS, mid-sized YC companies). My contact info is in my profile.

That sounds weird. There's an "intense hacker school" in the SF area that lets people graduate without being absolutely flooded with leads to at least FB and Google?

In the one an only class to graduate prior to mine, several people were hired by McKinsey, but for whatever reason Facebook and Google were more conservative and failed to appear at the hiring event. I don't know any details, but a lot of companies are stuck in the "only hire CS majors with a GPA > x" mindset.

The school does do quite a bit to get us in front of people, but students also take the initiative to get intros. Many in the initial class went to start-ups.

This is the school: http://hackreactor.com/

Given that this is a brand new thing, it sounds a lot like they are failing you massively on this bit of the promise - at the very least, and given you're paying for this, it's not FB and Google that failed to show up - it's Hack Reactor that failed to make them show up:


> Breaking into the tech industry can be hard on your own. We’ll help you craft a portfolio, guide you through practice interviews, introduce you to companies at our hiring day, and walk you through your job application process.

Let's stop the misunderstanding right here. They've done a fantastic job, both in terms of teaching and connections. 100% of the recently graduated first cohort is hired.

Their connections have brought top-rate speakers from Heroku, Pinterest, Twitter, TapJoy, Coursera and others and the connections did get more companies in the door than we have graduating students. That list just doesn't include some companies that stuck to more conservative screening practices.

I commented here to connect with those seeking skills I and my classmates have to offer, not to solicit criticism from the peanut gallery. I love Hack Reactor.

I wish you all the best, but all I'm saying is that it's a strange world where McKinsey are progressive (if ever there was an employer famous for blindly hiring high-GPA grads) and Google and Facebook are conservative.

"most intense hacker school... in JavaScript". Does not compute.

I've found it's the exact opposite. If you're fine with a low-level coding job and are a competent coder, you'll have no problem getting a job in any major city in the US. The demand way exceeds the supply. However, despite there being far fewer good coders (let's say the top 1% of coders), good coders all want to work for the same thirty or so late-stage startups in the Bay Area (or Google). Those companies want exceptional coders (let's say the top 0.1% of coders), so good coders tend to have trouble finding jobs.

Rockstars are a myth. So are low-level engineers who "know what they're doing." Hire smart people who can learn new things instead of resume bullet points and/or mythological creatures.

> Rockstars are a myth

No they are not. One would think it's easy to find smart people who can learn new things, but I've dealt with both young and senior developers (by senior I mean writing code 15+ years) and was amazed how most of them feel comfortable being completely ignorant of new technologies/libraries/frameworks/best practices/whatever.

I've met a rockstar the other day, and could feel him being the one I'd hire immediately. It happens once or twice a year for me.

You might not call them rockstars, but in my book, they are.

...and was amazed how most of them feel comfortable being completely ignorant of new technologies/libraries/frameworks/best practices/whatever.

I don't know how to judge that comment.

It is true that if you take anyone who is competent and ask them to teach you something that they learned in the last year, they should be able to come up with something. If not, then you've likely got "1 year of experience, 15 times". However my experience of people who think that they can judge people in the way you are judging them will judge by asking random questions about random technologies. Which is basically rolling the dice - if the person is exploring the same things that you are, then they get the gold star, otherwise you are convinced that they don't.

Let me give you a concrete example. You ask me what my primary language is. Perl, but right now I'm doing a bit of work in C++. Now you know that I'm a dinosaur because I'm using archaic languages. But don't notice that I have actually programmed in a host of other languages, and at this point learning the latest language is not going to help me be better at what I do. If I need it, I'll learn it then.

You ask me something about promises and jQuery and I draw a blank. I never liked front end work, and I've been working on back end stuff for the last decade. Boom, I'm a dinosaur in your books. But ask me what I'm reading, and you'll find out that I'm working through a book on hierarchical Bayesian modeling. I've also been doing some thinking about how people fail to understand the statistics behind A/B tests, and have been working on a series of articles that a lot of people seem to like.

In short, it is likely that you would quickly judge me poorly. Yet I believe that this reflects more on your judgement than my abilities.

It's so easy to wrongly screen out senior devs for the reasons you mention. I've seen JR devs want to ask tricky algorithm questions, because that's still fresh in their minds from school... I've seen mid level devs ask the framework gotchas because that's the world they're in...

Coders have misconstrued fizzbuzz into a whiteboard pissing contest because they want a binary yes/no interview framework... But that causes them to miss the forest for all the trees.

From what you have written I can see you don't suck (I'd need to meet you and see some of your code to actually assess you're good :). You see, you used words like "Bayesian", "Promises". Guys that I was writing about not only don't know what promises are, they don't give a fuck either. A rockstar (in my book, at least) would hear about them and google them as soon as possible.

So at the end of the day, it's not really about experience, it's the attitude.

The Bayesian stuff that I'm going through has zero pretensions to being the latest and greatest.

I only know "Promises" because I saw that on HN recently. However the concept behind JavaScript promises is one that I've seen before (I first saw it buried in a sideways way inside of http://search.cpan.org/~karasik/IO-Lambda/) and the name "promises" already has a spot reserved in my brain for their use in infinite streams. Therefore if someone mentions JavaScript promises to me again in 6 months I'll draw a blank.

There are some code samples linked in the articles in http://elem.com/~btilly/ab-testing-multiple-looks/index.html if you want to look. I wasn't writing that code for anyone except myself, so it isn't particularly pretty. (It did get the job done though.)

By your criteria, everyone on HN is a rock star. I think that might be too broad. :)

> and was amazed how most of them feel comfortable being completely ignorant of new technologies/libraries/frameworks/best practices/whatever.

They are probably equally amazed that you are not able to discriminate between fads and/or half-assed rehashes of decade-old technologies and actual new technologies.

Do these people stand out by building better products that they can show to you, or do they just use trendy technologies to build products of the same quality as anyone else?

He/she may have just successfully communicated their passion for the craft.

Trying to hire rockstars is a waste of time.

You should hire someone if they will create more value than it costs to employ them. That's it. It is irrational to do anything otherwise.

So many SV companies seem obsessed with creating islands of purity.

I'm not a rockstar at all (I'm barely passable) but I would never work on a project not understanding the entire tech stack, from the base language to all libraries in play. That is how you get security gotchas where you dump your passwords in plaintext or let anyone into the admin panel.

I've spent the last 3 weeks reading documentation around qt 5 in preparation for some 5.1 mobile development I plan on doing, for example.

Down to the programming language is hardly the entire stack. There's also the VM the language runs in, the operating system, the assembly language the CPU executes, so on and so on down to the transistors in the CPU. At some point you realize you can't understand the entire stack.

(In case you thought these issues didn't affect you: http://bugs.python.org/issue13703)

You can, and you should. Learn how an ALU works and how an instruction runs on bare silicon. Learn what silicon doping is and how transistors work to actually create a digital logic gate out of analog concepts. Learn how to design your own processor in a simulator, and how the clock frequency affects your whole chip.

First and foremost, it's fun for anyone interested in engineering to begin with. Second, for programmers, it gives you a tactile experience of programming, and a real respect for what Assembly language really is and what it does, why a compiler is important, how interpreted languages are run differently, and why optimizing your code is important.

You will never know the direct effect that this secondary understanding will have, but the unknowable effects here will be wholly positive, I guarantee it.

I remember one semester in college where it clicked for me... I was taking CS61C, machine structures (basically learning C and how it translates to Assembly) and EE40 (basically learning electronics and how silicon works, and how processors work at an electronic level) and suddenly I understood at least on a basic level how everything worked. The code you type in gets compiled to ASM which gets loaded into memory which the processor loads instruction-by-instruction into registers which are represented by the states of transistors which are loaded each clock cycle by the switching of voltages on a germanium-doped silicon plate which causes the voltage to swing at a certain predictable speed at a given frequency which is controllable and engineered to tolerances which put the whole thing in sync. Holy shit. And each part can be understood in isolation, combined, and it makes sense. It's engineering at its best—break down the problem, understand the tolerances, rinse (with a HF acid wash) and repeat. No single part of it is beyond the realm of understanding, but together they build a system of such complexity, and it's amazing and beautiful that it all works as well as it does.

Knowing this—yes, it makes me think about programming differently.

When you say new technologies, do you mean actual technological inventions or innovations, or just the latest trending web framework to spawn a fad of conferences?

Because, yes, I'm relatively comfortable not caring about technologies that will return to complete obscurity within 6-18 months.

Smart people who can learn new things are the rockstars. (Even though in actuality this term is a joke turned into a marketing term to attract confident developers.)

"Smart people who can learn new things"

That seems like a pretty low bar.

Depends what you define as smart, and what you define as new. Also who is accessible and verifiable.

I consider it a low bar to have repositories on GitHub or answers on StackOverflow yet the fact is that in London this group numbers in the thousands. This isn't all of the talented people but it gives you an idea of the rarity.

Maybe look at it as can and will learn new things. Plenty of people are not so motivated.

The correct thought to have next is "Why?"

The answer makes that into a complex statement, and if your company can solve that problem, then it has solved a great many problems.

"Rockstars" may be a myth... but developers who are exponentially more effective than others, with more maintainable code are not.

Exponentially more effective, meaning that what Joe writes in 3 years Jim can write in one day?

That's entirely possible. Joe spends 3 years writing a program. Jim realizes that the program doesn't need to be written, and that if you frame the problem in a different way or use other resources available to you, you can come up with a better solution without writing any code.

Okay... more like, Joe can get done in a day what would take Jim a week.. or Joe can do more in a month, than Jim could do in a year. Perhaps the exponent is a bit off.. but more than cumulative output was implied.

A lot of this coming from being able to expect/plan for future enhancements/changes than the one-off output. My own personal reference with this comes from managing several projects with local and overseas teams with varying degrees of experience.


Exponential effectiveness can only come from improving maintainability, readability and reducing code size. Fact that minimalistic approach also diminishes original development time is only a minor side effect. By the way, a true rockstar developer most of the time reduces code size and improves readability while adding features.

So when you see next time a commit, that adds features and reduces code size, - you know who you are dealing width.

Maybe not that extreme, but factor in things like future maintenance costs and lost productivity due to Joe's code being slow, unstable and buggy and you're probably not too far off.

i always thought that rockstars are smart, driven people who were able to achieve substantial results because of favorable circumstances. The term itself is laughable at best, especially when self proclaimed!

I thought the same until I actually worked with one. This guy can build things in a week that a group of 5 competent programmers will do in a month.

But, as `sybhn said, did that guy call himself a rock star?

My manager is very similar--his mind works about twice as fast as mine, and he's very productive. He'd never, ever call himself a "rock star" though.

He will not call himself a rockstar but he is quite aware of his skill.

And yet he doesn't get paid proportional to that ratio. He probably makes 20% more.

Nop. He is one of the company founders and he is probably getting a lot of money out of his job.

if you spend enough time in industry hopefully you will cross path with some "mythological creatures"

I'm confused as to what is meant by "low-level coder" here. Is it programmers who work with C or assembly and maybe on embedded systems or programmers who lack much ability? (My intuition and a google search suggests the former, although many comments and the contrast with 'rockstar' (unless that refers to another programming domain :)) suggests the latter.

Edit: It is especially weird when the post then refers to people with an engineering background, since those people are more likely to be working on low-level embedded coding.

niggler is referring to a low level of talent, though the word choice was less than ideal.

Please do not propagate that "rockstar" word. Recruiters are bad enough as it is.

As someone who has tried to hire a competent entry level programmer, no it is not a hirers market. Finding someone who can pass fizzbuzz is a huge challenge.

It's a bilateral matching problem, not a clear buyer's or seller's market.

The first part of the story is convexity, also known as the "10x phenomenon": http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/gervais-macle... . This is generally a good thing, but it's bad in the context of rapid scaling (which is what most VC-funded startups are trying to do) because convexity creates a need to fill specialized job queries fast. In a saner world, companies could hire a generally smart person and give her 6 months to train up. Most VC-funded startups either can't afford that, or don't think they can. They want "plug and play" and that necessitates purple squirrel queries, which creates a job market that leaves them just as unhappy as employees.

It sucks for both sides, but the upshot is that when you get a job, you're generally paid well (perhaps to compensate for the wonky purple-squirrel queries, companies going out of existence, and high turnover).

Incidentally, as bad as our job search latency is, I think it's worse for regular managers at the same pay level. In managerland, the going assumption is that it takes 1 month to find a new job per $20k; for us, it seems to be 1 week per $20k if actively searching. The biggest mess for us is the stereotype that makes active searching dishonorable because "good developers never look for jobs" (which isn't true).

Thank you for that anti-myth - good developers never need to look for jobs

It's an excuse to read resumes with the Bozo Bit in the "on" position; if he were any good, he'd have found a way around the HR wall and into a channel that actually works. In which case, why read them at all? Oh, because it's something to do while drawing a monthly salary for it.

The reason for the Resume Blizzard is that it's free to send one. It also gives companies the right to indulge in the myth that they're hyperselective because "we only give an offer to 1 in 500 candidates". It's technically true, because 485 of those were resumes merely scanned for some bullshit reason to reject (e.g. last job was too long/short, state undergrad, lack of buzzwords).

Here's an idea that I had: an online-ed website where you get credits for completing coursework, and sending a resume has a non-zero cost in credits (which is refunded if unopened). It's the best way that I can come up with to make front doors work again.

Perhaps you should interpret it as feedback that its not a hirer's market. In a market where most people have many opportunities the incentive to respond with a high effort response is very low. The better thing to do would be to consider the casual emails you get as leads to a potential hire - you'll have to put the effort in. Additionally what you are seeing is likely not by mistake - its an indication that hiring right now for applicants is in many cases more of a numbers game than it is about crafting a great cover letter. That being said I honestly don't think you are doing yourself much good with this sort of message - I'd just do the best that you can with what you get back.

There is a difference between "low effort" and rude. Not taking 30 seconds to actually comprehend the position and have enough background to actually write a meaningful email basically would rule you out of me hiring you since it says a lot about how you would be to work with.

You should see the kind of messages I get from recruiters.

   "Dear Anthony, Thankyou 4 ure notes in LinkedIn about
    contacting u - much easier to know that you're approached
    all the time. U r too experienced for my role, but if you
    know of any mid level Python / Linux developers happy 2
    discuss referral $$if I can place them:) Happy Friday!"
(Actual recruiter message on LinkedIn - I keep it around to remind me why I don't talk to recruiters)

I had a good laugh at that quote, but now I'm thinking: is it legit to cite one or more persons doing their job poorly to dismiss the entire profession? Do you keep around bad code to remind you why you don't talk to programmers? Examples of quack medicine to remind you why you don't talk to doctors?

Essentially every recruiter message that I've received on LinkedIn follows one of two patterns:

a) Hello, you do Python, do you want a job? (with no position details, salary, reason to join, etc.)

b) a) followed by a clumsy attempt to fish details of my contacts (I don't connect with recruiters).

So, er, yeah - "Ha ha, profession!"

Oh, I forgot c), which is usually just a raw, unadorned "I'd like to add you to my professional network." from random recruiter scum. Kinda of a b) really, but without the work of having to have a position available...


In LinkedIn I've been contacted by recruiters from Amazon, Google, Toshiba and Voyer International and all of them have been quite professional.

My favorite is when they CALL ME AT WORK to network at me, especially since I specifically say "don't call" on my LI profile.

I don't doubt the abundance of bad behaviors. I was just doing a literal parse of your logic.

There actually really wasn't any logic in that statement.

I'm not saying "I have this message from a recruiter, therefore all recruiters are scum." It's a reminder.

Most of which I doubt have even glanced at my resume. From the job listings outside of programming, and those for entry level positions, to those well below what would be a reasonable salary for anyone in the area they are looking (Usually coastal cities for less than is common in Phoenix).

I like this: tl;dr if it'll take the company more effort to reply to your email than you put into sending it, you're doing it wrong.

I don't particularly care whether it is an employer's market or an employee's market. My rule of thumb is that if your email is going to jobs@foo.com, you can send anything you want. But if you are sending an email to a person by name, it is a matter of courtesy to write a personal note.

Likewise, if that person replies to you from their personal email, you deserve more than an obvious form letter, even if it's just a single sentence.

Totally. Your scraper/emailer for Who's Hiring should at least include a sentence like, "I particularly like the part about [random string from posting]". I mean, come on, that's not much harder than fizzbuzz ...

agree with this, actually I prefer to write to people who post <name>@<company.com> rather than jobs@.

I feel it is a more personalized chat :)

Agreed. It only makes sense at minimum to say why you're interested in the position.

I completely agree that it's courteous (and often more effective) to give the communications you send the level of attention you'd like them to receive.

But is this true?

> it is a hirers' market

I hear a lot about the war for talent and devs having to beat away recruiters with a stick.

> Take the time to actually read the posts: just because a listing contains the word "developer" does not mean it's a software developer. Business Developer != Software Developer!

Fun fact: this mistake apparently gets made on the hiring side too -- last November there were some jobs posted on StackOverflow Careers with titles like "Children's Development Programming Executive" (it was for developing children's tv/video programs).

I don't think it's even meaningful enough to be false. Buyer's Market/Seller's Market is a phenomenon of markets with easy substitution and very sticky prices, like houses or street vendor hotdogs.

Both the jobs on offer and the people applying are quite specialized and mostly just looking for a very good match given the massive up-front costs of hiring or taking a new job.

I don't think it is true. Sure there are more people than jobs all together but not when you're talking about those over a certian standard in a specific area applying for a specific role, otherwise those employers probably wouldn't be searching via anything but normal channels.

Personally I think it's mostly silly too. If we cut the BS we're talking about a trade of money for skills. If the linkedin has relevant information which you can see, I think it does the job. If it doesn't, then that's a good reason you can probably skip that candidate.

Also I'm sure I won't get any fans here for saying it but I rarely apply for jobs that don't talk remuneration in the ad. Sure I want an employer that fits and I'd rather be working on something I find interesting but ultimately if I wasn't after making money, I wouldn't be working for other people.

I totally agree with your rant, but the fallacy is that you are posting with the absolute expectation a certain level of talent to apply, when this is not the case. HN attracts under-qualified programmers along with high-quality programmers, and I suspect there are far more of the former than the latter. You're more likely to get the low-quality programmers because they are more likely to be looking for work, especially in a field where who you know can get you a job easier and with less effort than sending off resumes to companies.

I didn't apply anywhere, but if I had, I would certainly write a well thought-out cover letter because I would rather not apply to everyone and I understand my chances are quite a bit lower than the company's expected talent level of the baseline applicant, so I would want to focus on places where I have a semi-decent chance. If you are applying to a job via HN, then it is a given that the company is setting a high bar for talent.

That's totally true ! Moreover when you know for sure that the guy who read your mail is himself a very good programmer, that he saw dozen of little guys like you, we really have to make intensive efforts in our letters.

But we also have to keep in mind that's only a mail : an article won't be read. So, even if we fall in love with some startups (HN startups have such amazing projects, I spend hours reading your blogs about your work), even in this case we can't send a poem in your honor. The letter have to be well balanced.

... and that's how I spent four hours for sending only one letter to one company. Faith in the fact that the good work pay, you know what it is.

I've applied to many positions (internships) advertised in these threads with a lot of effort to craft each email for each of them. I don't speak english so often so it took me a very great amount of effort to do this. Got only 1 reply, the others didn't even bother saying "Thanks for applying" or anything.

I don't know if this behavior is normal but I would expect a bit more from hirers advertising on HN. Especially when they ask for very specific things that I know I got on my CV.

I don't think that's an "HN employers" thing as much as an industry thing.

I've been unemployed for nine months, though I've only been seriously applying for jobs in the past three. (I consider the first six months a well-deserved vacation. Employers apparently consider it the mark of the unemployable. C'est la vie.) I've received exactly zero (0) replies to job applications that weren't automated "we got your application" e-mails. Even at a company where my CV was handed directly to a manager by a friend who worked there, the manager stopped communicating with me after his initial "we'd like to set up a time to talk to you" e-mail.

I completely understand that employers get bombarded with applications for every single position they post. (When our department posted a [low paying] Linux sysadmin position, we received over 100 applications, of which maybe 25 had anything to indicate that the applicant had ever used a computer, let alone Linux.) But a simple "thanks but we're not interested" e-mail would certainly be nice when you've been eliminated as a candidate for a job...or were never actually a candidate to begin with.

The silence of the job search quickly becomes deafening.

I almost stopped replying to HN job posts because of that. One time I even tracked a personal email on the company as their jobs@ email was bouncing and I wrote to the ceo (only email I could find) to let them know about it. Forget about a thank you, not even a reply.

I've found most organisations are absolutely terrible at responding to applicants. Large corp are somewhat better in a strange twist of fate - the bureaucracy that comes with having dedicated HR departments means that you will probably at least receive an acknowledgement. I find many smaller companies just don't bother to reply if they have filled the position or just don't find your CV a perfect fit.

It can be disheartening, because when I'm looking for work, I also spend a lot of time on applications and generally only apply to one or two companies at a time so I can devote attention to the interviews et al. Also I'm not usually looking for any job so trying to hit as many companies with my CV as possible is not my modus operandi, but it feels like that would be more appropriate, or at least get a better rate of return on effort applied to the process. :/

I sort of agree with you, but there's also a form of over expectation from recruiters and HR services. In order to pass the screening tests, sometimes applicant must have demonstrated skills to save the world, and have proven track records of having done so. 3 times. I read this linkedin blog entry a few days ago where it was said that in order to be considered worthy of an interview, the applicant must show how much of a difference he brought in his previous job. This is completely silly. Not everyone can claim to have raised the company income by 235% by successfully reorganising from scratch the workflow of the engineering team. I am only slightly exagerating. Maybe that's just me taking things too literally. Or maybe I suck at what I do, but everywhere I worked, success was more the result of good teamwork than of the efforts of one single person. Yet simply stating that one is a good team player is not enough.

Yeah, everyone can say: I am a good team player. And every HR can say: Our company provides the best working environment. Hypocrisy on either sides leads nowhere, but it seems like it's still the expected standard.

I think that a linkedin profile can be enough. And if the profile isn't publicly accessible, there might be a good reason: privacy. So why not simply ask? At least it would show that the application is being processed. Or perhaps there's an option somewhere on Linkedin which let a user directly grant access to his profile to people handling job offers when they apply, and you just rant about those not seeing that option.

Can we make a trade? Who's Hiring posts will have a clause that says, "Sorry, but we're only looking for folks willing to relocate to X. Don't contact otherwise", in exchange you get better emails? Sounds fair to me.

Most of the posts specified a location, and mentioned whether remote workers were acceptable.

Some did, though yeah - that can mean effort you put ends up wasted unnecessarily.

That's rather unfortunate.

I'm not sure if it's now a hirers' market or not; I'm not out for a new job at the moment, but I would never, ever send an email without tailoring it specifically for the place I'm writing to. At the least I'd go to their site, see their products/services, look at the demos and look into their history.

  >"Hi, saw your listing on HN, here is my LinkedIn. Call me."
  >...just BCC all the emails in the Who's Hiring thread.
This is just plain rude! It shows not only a lack of respect to the company they're applying to, it's just a lack of manners altogether. Even if someone isn't serious about applying (and by the looks of the emails you got, they weren't) there should be some basic etiquette at play when communicating professionally.

Email isn't Twitter with more chars.

Completely agreed. I'm trying to hire software developers who are willing move to Amsterdam (at the company's expense, complete with work permit!), and respondents show all the enthusiasm of a dead fish. The company I represent repeatedly rejects candidates who don't seem excited about the opportunity and if they saw these original emails, they'd reject many of the candidates out of hand.

Instead, we work with the candidates to coach them on how to present themselves to a company and how to improve their CV/resume. As it turns out, most of our applicants are excited about the opportunity, but they've never been taught the basics of how to hunt for a job. I'm not sure why that is. Are programming jobs always so plentiful that people assume no effort is required? (Actually, that is sort of true. I came to programming after a decade of mostly service jobs and I'm inundated with recruiters without even trying, but I still remember my days of living on pot pies and ramen, so I put effort into applying).

TL;DR: many people dream of living and working in Europe and I'm handing them the opportunity on a silver platter, and I still get the "here's my CV" three-word emails.

Are you insane?

What kind of place do you come from in which jobs are rarer than developers? Aren't you normally paying recruiters through the nose to access me?

(For the record, I'd write a good message if I felt like the job was for A-listers, but the reality is I just read a lot of them and I can tell that most of these places aren't there.)

Your second line sounds self contradictory, so I'm not 100% sure which imbalance you think is implausible, but I've live in 2 US cities that definitely had a surplus of developers, and 1 that definitely had a surplus of jobs (the latter being the one I believe to be more common). They both happen.

I meant that jobs are in greater supply than developers - developers are rarer than jobs. This is true where I live at least (in London.)

Having said that good jobs seem as rare as good developers...

I tested this and when I send two line replies to the ads in the hirin thread I get a better response than when I send my CV. Go figure.

Probably because once you send the CV they have enough (!) data to make a decision on whether you would be good fit, but with a two line email they can either disregard it or ask for more.

That's probably it. Plus there is an added benefit of a reverse filter. I don't want to work with any company that will, at the least, exchange a couple of emails with me. Any company who disqualifies me from just looking at my CV is not a good fit. Team chemistry for me is very important. I don't want to work in a place full of incompatible personalities. Not fun.

Most of the time filters are "all of", not "any of". A lot of companies may disqualify you if either you lack the necessary skills/talent or if you're a bad cultural fit. Disqualifying based on your CV just saves you time in this case - if they aren't going to hire you anyway, it's better if they let you know quickly rather than drag things out.

Plenty of places with good teams may have poor hiring practices.

Experience has shown me that poor hiring practices == poor team (in general).

How can a place get a good team if their hiring practice is poor?

Hiring practices aren't a constant. They may have changed their practices for the worse.

> I don't want to work with any company that will, at the least, exchange a couple of emails with me.

You like it when they play hard to get, eh?

From your experience, does this two lines reply works as well when you address it to a named email instead of job@company.com ?

Names do provide better results. If they are not provided in the ad, I just send them a quick email asking who is in charge of hiring. Then address the email to that person.

So you put zero effort into a attempt to reach the top-echelons of software developer/entrepreneurs and you expect the applicant to customize a resume? The person you'd like to hire most likely has a job, as well as a few offers a week from people that are actively seeking them out.

If you really want to reach this type of employee, you'll have to send individualized notes saying you have an open position, that you already understand the person's capabilities and why your company would be a great place for them to work.

tl;dr If you expect to reach the best employees by putting a few paragraphs on Hacker News, you're doing it wrong.

I've talked to some people who have tried, and the ultimate conclusion was that adverse selection works against you: the people you think are really bright on HN don't end up applying, and the people who reply usually have some problem that makes them unappealing. This is true of all places you could look to hire people, though, so you shouldn't have any higher expectations.

"the people who reply usually have some problem that makes them unappealing," said the obese and unattractive man about the dating site he uses to find dates.

My excuse for not applying is that I'm effectively locked into my current job for the next year or so, and after that I will probably remain locked in due to the difference in medical benefits, and the possibility of paid retirement within a short 8-10 years after that.

I've always wondered what might have been though... I had received a very tentative hiring offer from someone at Intel about 9 years ago... which had been just a few weeks after I'd finally joined the nuclear Navy.

As one additional data point to consider, anyone who has had their information posted to any of the job boards, or ever submitted once to a consulting company, gets dozens of solicitations a day where it is obvious that the person (if not robo mailer) saw a keyword and thought it wouldn't cost anything to send a "personal" request for you to reply. Even if you are a 100% match you often won't hear anything back.

Given that, I can't say I'm surprised that many people feel that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander...

I should probably post a "Dear HN 'Who's hiring' posters". And put following content.

With the same token that you say HN is not a CraigsList, when an HN-responder puts an effort in going through their product and writing a personal note inquiring about a possible opportunity at their company, posters should have the courtesy to respond to the responder acknowledging that in-spite of their good/bad profile they can't hire him/her.

I know these two advices are from me to you and you to me. All the remaining folks who have been one-liners will continue to be so.

Btw, I am a graduating student from IIT Delhi, who have applied to many startups that interested me with a personal-note and list of projects I have done with clickable-links. While about 10% of posters responded saying that they did like my profile but can't take it further because of visa, remaining 90% never responded.

While I am not the best engineer, when my detailed & clear personal application doesn't get an acknowledgement reply, I can imagine why responders are just sending one-liners. If posters want to hire, they will hire from one-liners. No point of detailed-personal application.

On a side note, my profile with links to projects is https://gist.github.com/sravfeyn/13534c67812183235a2c/ I am hunting for an engineering position at a start-up with product-innovation.

You should get someone to proofread your writing. Your English is very good, but there are still a few things that sound weird. People spend 30 seconds skimming your CV/profile/resume. If you can make it more readable, it can only help your cause. I'd recommend going to fiverr.com and finding someone with a lot of good reviews to proofread your CV, profile, and cover letter.

Hey, thanks for taking the time to read and give such a valuable insight. Can you tell me what sounded weird. I have made a Google Doc, if you have minute please leave comment in the Doc. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mab-wHgNyTzGGBTdRiiY9yKZ...

I will have it proofread by my friends.

Consistency is important. There are multiple styles (Chicago, APA, MLA, AP, etc) - picking one and sticking to it makes your writing more readable. Subconsciously, a reader will come to expect certain constructions or a particular flow (e.g., serial/Oxford comma or not). Think about consistency in areas such as document layout/structure (bullet points or prose), sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation.

Well I have posted this on HN! https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5478064

There is then the other scenario when candidates put out a well thought out letter after few hours and only to hear no response, black hole. I, for one, do not really get systems like jobvite and no email and direct human contact for hiring developers who you "value".

> tl;dr if it'll take the company more effort to reply to your email than you put into sending it, you're doing it wrong.

No no no, they're doing it right.

All those lame responses? You think you're gonna get better behavior after hiring?

It's not a response so much as an organization intelligence test. You hire 'em, you get what you deserve.

Cuts both ways. Stupid hiring process - you think you'll be treated better after getting hired?

> "it is a hirers' market". It's NOT a hirer's market; what planet are you living on!

It is in most of the world. You're presumably living on planet Valley?

Agreed... it is definitely NOT a Hirer's market... there's a serious shortage in good in developers most major cities ( SF / NYC / London ). Low supply / high demand.

It's not a hirers' market or a hirer's market :P

To those who are applying for a biz dev role like this: do you honestly expect to get a job where you will be selling for your company (whether it be vision, product, etc.) when you cant even sell yourself to get a job?

Finding a job isnt a game of percentages. Or atleast finding the right job isnt (imho). Find the 2-3 jobs you really want and spend the time to make the recruiter believe you could actually sell for their company one day.

I found out about my current employer (Monetate) through a HN "Who's Hiring" post, and we've hired several other developers who first heard about us here. I agree with OP that HN readers have a reputation for quality, and I'm surprised that he's seeing so many low-effort responses. I've seen several employers set up "nerd hurdles" that require potential applicants to do something that takes a modicum of effort (and talent) before they can apply -- e.g. coding challenges. Maybe that can help weed out less-serious applicants.

> "I agree with OP that HN readers have a reputation for quality, and I'm surprised that he's seeing so many low-effort responses."

This shouldn't be that surprising - if indeed you're looking at a pool of highly qualified people you should expect to see less effort in applications.

There's a line to be drawn at being professional, but if the individual is experiencing extreme demand for his/her services, do not expect them to sell you that hard.

> "I've seen several employers set up "nerd hurdles" that require potential applicants to do something that takes a modicum of effort (and talent) before they can apply -- e.g. coding challenges"

I'd be careful about this. I've done some of these when they tickled my fancy, and I've done them when I was impressed by the company enough that I actively wanted to work for them.

Almost everyone in the HN Who's Hiring posts are not in the above category. I'm sure you're working on cool stuff, but one paragraph is not enough to get me to salivate at your position, and not enough for me to invest a considerable amount of time.

If you want applicants to put in more effort, consider marketing yourself as someone worth said effort. It is most certainly not a buyer's market right now (not in the HN crowd anyways). Most Who's Hiring posts don't even include anything meaningful about the employer.

"We're in SF and looking for a Rails guy" is not a very compelling sell.

Your advice is basically common sense. I would find it hard to believe that you are actually reaching anyone here, though. :( If you're the type of person to send out the "meh" emails, are you really likely to be the type of person that reads this kind of post and says "AHA! I shouldn't do that?"

Where does one draw the line? How is one guaranteed on the ROI of drafting a good response.. I used to go the extra mile, spend time writing a good cover letter, personalizing my resume for the job and most of the time I did not even get a response.

And while you (the hirers) are at it you might as well put in your listing if J-1 interns are welcome ;)

I lost a couple of hours (yes, I bother to write an proper answer) writing mails only to find out that interns from overseas are not welcome.

Yes. Please do that, dear hirers. That's such a deception to know that "It would be OK, if only you were an US citizen".

That hurts.

>> tl;dr if it'll take the company more effort to reply to your email than you put into sending it, you're doing it wrong.

from my side of the table, when I was interviewing (about 6 months ago), probably 8 out of 10 startups that I applied to and interviewed for didn't bother to contact me again - not even a polite "thanks but no thanks". I'm not arrogant enough to think I'm the perfect fit for every company I apply to or even that I aced every interview, but I would think common decency dictates at least a response or acknowledgement after an in person interview.

Two sides of the same coin, in my opinion.

I constantly hear people complain about how few applications they get a response on. Yet, I've always had a pretty great response rate when I start applying.

This advice/note/rant just clarified a potential reason for the differential.

Yea I discovered this from the seeking freelancers post, I had to stipulate that people drop at least a link or resume, otherwise I was getting emails like "I write Python. Email me. Thx."

Please folks I get that you are in demand but not pasting even a link in the email is just plain lazy and a little rude. You don't realize it but you are actually competing with 30 other people per listing, HN gets more exposure than you think...

the people you want to hire don't need to be told this

Poor cover letters are really one of my pet peeves.

Dear Applicants: Why would you send me what is very obviously the same cover_letter.doc that you send everyone? What do you think it says about you as a candidate if you couldn't be bothered to replace "Dear Hiring Manager" with my name? And that little informal note in the body of your email ("Hi, saw your ad on X. See my attached cover letter and resume"), that effectively becomes your cover letter. It's the first thing I read when you apply. Make me want to open your resume right away.

So what should you write in the cover letter? Not single right answer, but here's an idea: Most jobs--especially at startups--are really about solving a problem that the hiring company has. Sure, the job title might say "DevOps Ninja" but if you read carefully you can figure out that what's really going on is the company has grown rapidly and needs to get serious about its messy, hacked-together infrastructure. Address this in your cover letter. Talk about how organized you are and how you once recabled a data center in a weekend, etc.

If you want someone to get serious about your messy, hacked-together infrastructure, then please put it in the job ad rather than requiring people to become psychic or claim they are Gods of Engineering in the cover letter in order to pique your interest.

Because we demand that everyone guess what you want and turn the sales knob up to 11, you are getting a lot of applications from people who could better disqualify themselves, and lots of dishonest bullshit to filter in applications. If we would all be more honest and just say what we mean then this would all be easier.

Funny, as all the emails I get from recruiters are basically one-liners with some fluff and they've clearly not read my profile. However, I agree with you, except that it's not a hirer's market for good engineers. I know. I've been trying to hire as many people as I can for the last few months. I've found a few.

I feel like, with a few word replacements, this post and all the replies could come from /r/OkCupid.

I came to roughly the same conclusion from the emails I received from my "How to Hire Me" post. People make all of the mistakes there that they make with online dating. From an abstract point of view it is the exact same problem.

Right, with similar failure modes. For example: people firing copypasta emails to reduce the writing cost per-application / per-message.

When I have an OKC account, my strategy is just to write the first half-funny sentence or two that come to mind, shoot off the message, and move on.

Even when I apply for jobs and write a cover letter, what do I do? A dating site message with a funny accent.

    Dear Companyboss,

    I write in reply to your advertisement of <date> in the Foobar Herald.

    I am <skills/titles>. While working at <previous employer> 
    I used <technology/skills>.

    I have included my CV and I look forward to your reply.

    Yours &c &c
Writing short messages isn't because the writers are lazy. It's a rational strategy that maximises coverage and minimises the emotional cost of being rejected after making a large investment.

Absolutely - you need a minimum of a cover letter to indicate which job you're going for and where you saw it. The resume should then do the talking for you - if it's nothing but a dot-point list of skills, it needs rework.

That sort of email only doesn't work if the resume is bad, or like you say, if they have their profile settings wrong. If it's a good resume, a brief email is preferable.

That was my thought, and has been my experience as well... In the past when looking, I've usually done about two sentences, and attached my resume. My personal site has my resume in a few different formats, so they can take their pick... I haven't updated it in a while, as I'm pretty happy where I am, and the past 3 jobs I've had started without any down time after the prior job.

I would say it's definitely an hiree's market. I've removed my profile pretty much everywhere I have ever put it up, and still get 3-5 contacts a day. This is without the newer projects I've been working on (and newer technologies/frameworks).

I think that given how much developers are simply pursued by recruiters who put in no effort, I think that a few sentences and an up to date resume are an appropriate introduction.

It's funny how both hirers and applicants think they are the ones who set the rules. This thread is as bad as the "if you're a recruiter..." posts.

Whenever I send a "cold" email trying to illicit some type of response that is good for me, I like to add some product/company thoughts and ideas. First, it shows that you've spent a bit of time thinking about the company. Second, you've delivered value to that person and create a situation where the person feels they SHOULD respond to you.

> if it'll take the company more effort to reply to your email than you put into sending it, you're doing it wrong.

Oh so true.

I completely agree. If I'm looking for a job seriously, I won't make my first impression saying "call me" it will be an email asking questions about the person posting the information's thesis research...

TL;DR's should go at the top of the text, not the bottom.

I totally understand it's frustrating.

But I don't think you can change them with a post like this and I don't think you should, or that you even want to. People that would be doing this (regardless of whether they follow your advice or not) aren't the people they want to hire anyway.

If this post is the reason why they try, then they're not good candidates either way. If they follow this advice they're only making it harder for you to weed you out. Sure - that's what they want, but not what you want when you're hiring.

I'd take the opposite approach: be glad when applicants send such poor cover letters because it immediately lets you know you should NOT waste your time on them. Some one who would send such a bad boilerplate cover letter is lazy for not sending an actual letter, technically inept for sending links to a private LinkedIn profile, and has a poor theory of mind regarding what an employer would like to see. This especially bad for a communication-heavy position like BD.

The much scarier prospect is if that applicant actually read this and sent you a real cover letter. The applicant hasn't actually improved their poor skills, they've merely learned a trick to conceal them. This makes it harder to filter them out and you'll end up wasting more time on them if you brought them in for an interview. Ever scarier, while juggling 100 other startup tasks, you might let a bad candidate slip through the cracks, into the interview process, and then actually hire them. You just lost about 1,000 company workhours across your team in trying to cajole the bad person into being useful before you finally give up and let them go.

People who don't read the job ads for GrantTree, and therefore don't send a video, corrected text, etc, make my filtering job easier by automatically filtering themselves out. We don't even respond to those who don't bother to read the job spec. I think it's fair.

Sadly, when posting the spec to some of the worse job forums (e.g. Gumtree), almost all the applications are like that. Some do not even bother to write a note at all. They just attach their CV, and that's it. It's hard to believe that there are people out there who think that such an approach will get them any kind of decent job.

Cover letters are useless. Really, try to have some empathy for people trying to get jobs in a tough market (I guess this doesn't apply to the currently employed or developers...). You have to apply to a LOT of stuff, and employers almost never give the courtesy of a confirmation or any sort of response/rejection. It takes a LOT of time to put contact info into Word, change around your cover letter template, save, and attach.

Ask for a resume, that's it. You can shoot a note back asking "Tell me more about yourself." if you want to know more. Then it's worth the time to write one up. Then you can ask for references, and transcript, etc., if that's your thing.

They're not useless. I discard any application I get that doesn't have a cover letter. I'm WAY more interested in your cover letter than your resume as it tells me a lot more about you than your dot-point-resume will ever tell me.

To be fair, the job ads I place specifically tell you what to put in a cover letter. So if you reply without one, then it's a super quick filter to see that you didn't even read the ad.

If you don't want the job enough to read the ad, I don't want you enough to read your resume.

I discard any employer that requires a cover letter. Cover letters don't tell you anything. If you think they do, you don't know how most people write them, and you probably miss a lot of good candidates.

It's an unreasonable demand. You're not the only place that I am applying. Either I send all fifteen of you a generic cover letter (which is likely no better than not sending one), or I customize it for each of you, which probably takes about another hour per application. It takes you 5 minutes to read.

If you like my application, I have to cut time out of my work day for everyone at your company to call me back, usually at least three times (recruiter initial contact, manager contact, technical phone screen). After that, I take a couple of my paid vacation days off work for on-site interviews. I have to make arrangements for someone else to look after the kids because I'm out of town overnight and the wife does shift work. I have to work a few more weeks to replenish those vacation days if it doesn't work out. All the while, I still have timelines and can't tip my current manager off that I'm looking elsewhere. Again, multiply this by a few companies - maybe three or so get to that point. That's costly, but necessary and understandable. At that point, there is serious consideration for a working relationship, so such demands on a candidate's time are more reasonable. And don't forget, at least one of you likely has some sort of programming assignment or problem set that you use after the phone screen, which I will spend several hours on.

To top it off, I'm going to guess that you don't even have the decency to post salary range in your ads. And, your recruiter is going to try and ask me about my salary history, but fail to mention the budget for the position, and my first indication won't come until there is an offer letter.

So, anyone who does this, thanks for self-selecting!

You're doing it wrong. I just want a quick note explaining briefly who you are and why you're applying. It shouldn't take more than five minutes.

Seriously, try hiring someone, the influx of irrelevant applicants and those who won't take even thirty seconds to read your ad is truly dispiriting. If you make even the tiniest effort with your application, you will stand out, guaranteed.

I dont think I'm doing it wrong. I do what you say, a quick note. Maybe two sentences. That's not a cover letter though, like GP is requiring. It's certainly not more information than is on my resume. The thought of a cover letter that exhaustive is a little bit crazy, frankly.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, it's not because I'm frustrated, but because it's slightly offensive to see that being demanded. In my experience, their internal recruiters monitoring inbounds are usually ringing me before my finger is even off the send button. They don't seem to look for or care about a cover letter, and I haven't had trouble getting offers, even from top tier companies. And honestly, I don't even think I'm that impressive. From what I can tell, anyone who has fogged a mirror at a half-respectable tech company already will at least get a phone screen these days.

When I was previously involved in hiring, I don't recall ever seeing cover letters on inbounds either. When asked in person by potential candidates, I always told them not to.

I dont think I'm doing it wrong. I do what you say, a quick note. Maybe two sentences. That's not a cover letter though, like GP is requiring.

You and I may disagree on this point then; I consider what you describe to be a cover letter.

In my experience, their internal recruiters monitoring inbounds are usually ringing me before my finger is even off the send button.

Honestly, I think you include more than you're letting on. Whether it's a short sentence in your application email, something tailored in your CV, or a short cover letter - basically, stuff you think is unimportant because it takes you 30 seconds to do, for maybe a grand total of a few minutes per application, and so you assume that other people are also doing this.

I think that the sheer number of people who make zero effort means that even small stuff like including the person's name, if listed, at the top of the email really does make a difference.

> it's slightly offensive to see that being demanded.

Interesting - I don't see this as an offensive request at all. As I see it... the company is looking for a new employee who best matches their ideal description. A cover letter merely gives you another opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the position, in a format that is more personal than a CV.

When I made "writing targeted cover letters for each role" part of my application procedure my success rate increased dramatically. I know there are specific instances where I got asked for an interview based mostly on my cover letter, and not on my CV.

I guess different parts of the industry have differing expectations in this regard.

I didn't ask for more information. What you decide to tell me in your cover letter is way more interesting than your exhaustive list of every piece of software you've ever used.

I'm not a recruiter who throws resumes at a text processor and sends through useless people to the employer because of some random keyword. I'm the employer who's looking for quality people who are interesting.

In judging that, your resume is fairly useless compared to a cover letter.

I've applied for about two dozen jobs in my life. I have about a 33% success rate getting an interview and have got the job at every interview but one. Having now been a hiring manager for the past five years, I believe that's down to the fact that I don't just pump out bland useless resumes to people. (And I avoid recruiters!)

TL;DR; Here's my advice: If you're applying to a large corporation or via a recruiter, the cover letter is probably useless. But if you're applying directly (or to a HN post!) then spend a few minutes explaining yourself.

Seriously, try hiring someone, the influx of irrelevant applicants and those who won't take even thirty seconds to read your ad is truly dispiriting.

The average time of inspection of a resume is 15 seconds, so it seems it's a two-way street.

The average time of inspection of a resume is 15 seconds, so it seems it's a two-way street.

Heh, quite. Although from my experience, receiving a hundred CVs featuring C# application development alone when you've requested PHP will have a significant effect on the average reading time ;)

Not too sure how many C# devs would wanna move over to PHP but that doesnt mean that they cant.. I seriously believe hiring should be language agnostic and you should hire a good programmer.. if you hire the right person he can adopt to any framework/language..

You can combine the two. I learned a trick from a friend - for your employment history, have a prose section that describes what you did. At the bottom of that, put the skills used in a box. The checklisters can look at the box, and the people who want to know more can scan the prose.

I've hired developers whose middle-of-the-road CVs I otherwise would have ignored, thanks to their cover letters.

A line as simple as "I like the sound of product X and think my skill in Y could be useful." makes you stand out way more than you might think.

>It takes a LOT of time to put contact info into Word, change around your cover letter template, save, and attach.

Why are people writing their cover letters in Word? Unless it is specifically stated otherwise, the cover letter should be in the body of the email. (http://jobsearch.about.com/cs/coverletters/qt/emailcover.htm)



Not sure what you expect when you're seeking "business development" applicants. These are normally the kinds of guys who'd rather bullshit with you over the phone than give up any real details about themselves.

Perhaps it was an April Fools' joke, because if anyone were serious about the position, they wouldn't put:

"Hi, saw your listing on HN, here is my LinkedIn. Call me."

in related news, "Report: Unemployment High Because People Keep Blowing Their Job Interviews" http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-unemployment-high-be...

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