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Hi there,

I was laid off from my position as a Java/Scala backend developer last October (40% company wide lay-off) and, aside from a referral to Lyft[1], have completely failed to get past the résumé screener. Do any of you have suggestions on how to be noticed when applying? Are there common pitfalls? Would anyone be willing to look at my résumé and tell me what might be wrong with it?

Some facts about me:

  • No college degree. I strongly suspect that this is why I’m not getting past the screens, and probably played a large role in why I was in the 40% who was laid off.
  • 30 years old.
  • My experience is largely in the Bay Area but I’m only applying to jobs in Seattle. This is largely because I haven’t been able to command a large salary and my partner and I are struggling to make ends meet even when I was employed in the Bay. Rent is high.
  • Tried hired.com, a service I had used to get my first SF job, and literally got zero interview requests.

I’m kinda at the end of my rope here. We’re about to be pushed out by my landlord because we’re no longer eligible for the apartment after I lost my job and my money is about to run out. Help a friend out 🙏🏻.

[1] Made it to the on-site and then a follow up on-site (that’s right, TWO on-sites) but ultimately it was a no from them.

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    I’m happy to do a resume review - itamar@codewithoutrules.com. In my experience there are some very common mistakes people make in resumes, but it’s hard to say without actually seeing it.

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      Another suggestion: write a tweet saying you’re looking for a job with link to resume, pin it, then tweet https://twitter.com/sehurlburt - she tends to be good about sharing links for people who are looking, and is also in Seattle. I’m happy to retweet too, but have … less followers :P

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        The tweet is here in case anybody else wants to retweet it.

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        About to send it—thanks again!!

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        In addition to all the resume reviews, I’ll add that your location strategy might be working against you as well, namely living in the SF Bay Area but applying to Seattle

        In Feb 2017, I was living in Portland, decided to move back to SF, and started my job search only for SF. I was interviewing for 3 months finishing the move in May 2017. I had a few onsites which involved flying but the response rate always felt low for the initial application

        After moving back, it felt like the floodgates opened back up. I had the same amount of onsites in those 3 months in 1 month

        The message here is:

        • Recruiters might be filtering against people who aren’t local (reasoning might include interview process taking longer, no desire to pay relocation, might assume you improperly applied) so conditions might improve once you move
        • Applying to Seattle instead of SF Bay Area might be working against you
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          Some companies assume relocation assistance would need to be factored in for non-local candidates (if the position isn’t remote friendly), and thus higher acquisition costs.

          My guess is that you are right and this would indeed be a strong filtering criteria.

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            I’m surprised that would figure strongly, given what tech salaries are, unless people are being offered much larger relocation packages than I have been. For a non-international move I’ve been offered $5k usually, maybe negotiable up to $10k, which is basically in the salary-negotiation noise, a single-digit percentage of the first year’s pay.

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              10k is single-digit %? I’d love to talk to your agent!

              But yeah, otherwise this accords with my experience.

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                “9” is a single digit.

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                  That it is. I may ought to have had more coffee before posting.

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            I don’t know how much of the following applies in the US…

            If the problem is that they won’t consider you because you’re not in the area, then if you have friends or family in the area, you might be able to use their address e.g. on your CV to get through the initial “not in the area” filter.

            The company I work for is always a little suspicious of applicants who aren’t local, mainly because:

            • There’s a good chance they’re either just doing a countrywide search, or a recruiter is on their behalf. If they don’t really have any intention of moving, then it’s a waste of time interviewing them.
            • Especially for young graduates, there’s a fairly high chance that they’ll spend a year or two here, then decide that the area isn’t for them and move back home / to the cities. (There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but if a company thinks you’re going to leave, they’re less likely to invest time and resources in you than in an identical candidate who’s likely to stay for longer.)

            The way to get past these blocks is to tell a convincing story about why you want to move to the area. If you have family in the area, that will look promising. If you’ve lived in the area before, that’s also worth mentioning.

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            I’d just like to say that it’s really cool to see so many people willing to help this person out.

            I’m wondering what the opinion of this kind of post is. I’m finishing up my PhD in physics, but I’m looking to get into software engineering when I’m done. Would it be okay to make a post like this when I start looking for jobs, or would it be frowned upon?

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              I think it’d be fine? It’s a reasonable thing for people to ask of a community they’re a part of, in my opinion.

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                My first reaction was kinda rollercoastery, first it was “oh, it’s nice that everyone is helping”, then I was like “well, but where we draw the line? It would be sad if the site turns into a job board”, then I thought “well, admittance is restricted, so the community is small and filtered enough that I don’t think this will happen”.

                So, yeah, I vote for go ahead. Worse case if too many posts like this start to show up, maybe there could be a periodical one like the “what you’re doing this week”.

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                  I had a lot of mixed feelings posting this myself. Certainly took a bit of swallowing my pride to explain my situation and I didn’t know if people would (fairly!) dislike this content on their homepage.

                  That said, I’m really thankful for how many people are helping me. 🙏

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                    This type of post is not so much as a job board (“Hire me, looking for job”) as “I need advice for my resume and job search” which are different. I’m not against either, though I can help out more with the advice. What would end up problematic is “I’m looking to hire” - that’s a very different dynamic.

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                      If it gets to be a regular or constant thing, I assume people will do the usual thing and make a weekly thread for it rather than clog up the front page.

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                    The lack of degree probably isn’t doing as much as you think it is. The biggest problem getting past recruiters is probably keywords on the resume that they use to filter/scan. Scala is not the hotness it once was. Also don’t say XP, say Agile (it applies to more methodologies that people are scanning for). I can help with interview stuff as well, I’m doing 200+ interviews a year right now to help grow our org.

                    I really suggest getting internal referrals. It’s why you got the interview at Lyft. FAANG/etc hire 60-70% based on internal referrals. Because you were part of a large layoff, you should have plent of people that have started new gigs that would be willing to give you a referal.

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                      Happy to look at your resume. paul@nathan.house.

                      edit: this goes for anyone else as well. I love giving resume feedback, People often just don’t sell their best selves in resumes - even though I can feel & sniff glimmers of excellence, I can’t conclude the excellence enough based on clear indicators to justify investigating further, particularly when there are other candidates who do sell themselves better. I’m sure other people feel the same way.

                      about me, in this context: I’m a software engineer who has helped with hiring for the past 7 years at different companies at levels from intern to dev manager. I’ve seen a lot of resumes, done a fair bit of interviewing

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                        Sent 🙂

                        Thanks so much!

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                        Also, time of year may be having an effect? I was applying/interviewing around this time last year, and didn’t start getting callbacks until January. I’m sure lots of companies are hiring throughout the holidays in the US, but many just leave the positions open and start sifting through resumes after (from what I’ve gathered).

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                          I’m a hiring manager (albeit in Toronto) and I’d be happy to take a look at your resume as well.

                          ETA: lobsters@homonculus.net

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                            Awesome! I’ll send an email your way.

                            Also—we’d be open to moving anywhere in Canada if we could secure visas. Just saying 🙂

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                            The lack of degree might get you filtered out in large automated screens. Have you tried going to relevant meetups? They are often filled with people from companies wanting to hire. Also, smaller companies might care less about formal degrees than larger ones. Finally, make sure you have a current side project going to show that you have been active since the lay-off; this will go a long way in the eyes of a hiring manager who might otherwise see an employment gap as a big risk.

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                              I’m happy to do a resume review and perhaps even a mock interview with you. P.m. me if you’re interested.

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                                I’ll look over your resume. I’m not in java/scala, but I agree with itamarst that most resumes have simple problems, and I’m happy to be a neutral eye. Will PM you my email.

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                                  I’m a hiring manager, feel free to message me a copy of your resume and I can give feedback.

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                                    Thanks!! I’ll send it to you in a second.

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                                    Have you tried triplebyte? They’re pretty good.

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                                      What have your experiences with Triplebyte been? I’m just curious. As a non-CS major in college, I found their process pretty difficult.

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                                        I thought it was reasonable but this was a year or so ago. I haven’t tried it since then so process probably has changed.

                                        I think what happens with all these hiring marketplaces is they start off good but when they scale fall into the typical recruitment agency traps. It’s probably unavoidable because in the beginning you are talking to actual programmers on both sides but then over time you start talking to recruiters who basically go through a checklist.

                                        Oh this reminds me. There’s also interviewing.io.

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                                      Happy to take a look at your resume as well. I’ll PM you my email.

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                                        Please email me at herman.j.radtke@nordstrom.com.

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                                          Great to see all these offers of help! It would be interesting if you could sum up the “findings” if they lead to success.

                                          All the best!

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                                            Good point! I’ll do my best :)

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                                            You might also be interested in searching other areas in the Midwest or the South, since the cost of living is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay lower and they’re hungry for devs.

                                            Down in Houston, off the top of my head you might want to try EOG Resources–they’re hiring frontend devs, React/Redux right now. Really good pay, adult company (none of that startup nonsense), etc. Various medical center academic groups might also be hiring.

                                            Oklahoma also offers a stipend for tech folks to move there right now iirc.

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                                              Hey friendlysock,

                                              The secret sauce to Seattle is that I have friends and family I can crash with while we get back on our feet.

                                              It’s interesting that you mentioned the midwest—we were actually looking at St. Louis for a while but I couldn’t find software positions that weren’t defense contracting jobs for Boeing or otherwise. Do you know of anything in the area?

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                                                I don’t know St. Louis, but I’ll throw in another Houston shoutout (because cost of living is so low) that matches your recent experience (Scala and JavaScript): iOFFICE.

                                                I know some of their engineers personally and their team culture seems great, and some of them are involved in the local Functional Programmers meetup.

                                                I also know some of their engineers don’t have a college degree, and others have a degree in something nontechnical and are self-taught in software. So they understand alternative paths toward practical skills.

                                                And a quick search shows the are hiring.

                                                EDIT: After reading my link a little closer, they explicitly say:

                                                Our only requirements are real world experience and passion. Don’t worry about your resume (we don’t care) tell me why you love coding and send over your github, twitter and whatever else you can talk about and lets talk!

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                                                  Ah, gotcha gotcha.

                                                  I don’t know of anything out in St. Louis, unfortunately. :(

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                                                    I have some software engineer acquaintances in the STL area: there’s not much. The more ambitious feel trapped unless they are on a good track at one of the few premier employers.

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                                                  While you’re waiting, I would hit up practice interviewing sites too. My favorite is interviewing.io, but Pramp is good too.

                                                  And practice being the interviewer, not just the interviewee. It helps others and you get to sit on the other side and see what you think a good interview looks like.

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                                                    I’ve been on the waiting list for interviewing.io for a while but no love yet. Is there a way to send invites if you already have an account?

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                                                    Would you take a job in the Bay Area if you could find one? Or are you set on moving to Seattle?

                                                    Also, if you haven’t already, you should take a look at HN’s “Who is Hiring?” thread

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                                                      Hey Vosper,

                                                      I probably wouldn’t take a job in the Bay Area unless the pay was above what I’ve been used to. Long story short: My partner is working towards her MSW and I’m taking online courses to finish my BS so we really don’t have a lot of free money to be living in such a HCOL area. My dad is in the Seattle area so we have a lot of support (financial and otherwise) up there.

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                                                      If you are at all interested in the Eugene, OR area, I’d be happy to take a look at your resume.

                                                      (PM me a copy/link to your resume)

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                                                        PM me your resume, I can refer you to my org. We are based in the Bay Area, but there’s a very good chance that the pay would allow you to stay should you choose to do so.

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                                                          Try angel.co - plenty of startups in Seattle looking for Devs. I’m in the same boat (no CS degree). Still, I feel like if you play up the buzz words recruiters want to hear you’d be set.