What a good developer resume looks like and how to write one - learnings from an Uber Engineering Manager
Your resume determines if you will be called in for an interview or not. It’s an advertisement targeted towards your future boss and it can make or break your application. Yet, most programmers fail to write a good resume! In this episode, you will learn to increases the chances that your resume makes it to the "YES" pile according to an actual Hiring Manager.
Who is Gergely? Gergely is the author of The Tech Resume Inside Out - a highly-rated book about what the hiring process look like inside companies and how to make sure your resume stands out. Before that, he worked as an Engineering Manager at Uber for 3 years.
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- Introduction (00:00)
- Most resumes suck so Gergely wrote The Tech Resume Inside Out (01:27)
- Remember: Your resume is a sales tool (07:52)
- Create a master resume template (14:26)
- The problem with using LinkedIn as your resume (15:20)
- How hiring funnels work from the inside out(18:35)
- Myth-busting Application Tracking Systems (26:20)
- Avoid photos on your resume (35:22)
- Why resumes should look plain Jane (35:25)
- References available upon request? Obviously (36:34)
- Internships and Computer Science degrees (36:48)
- Employment travel visa options for new programmers are few for a reason (39:12)
- The dreaded reference check (41:29)
- Episode links
- Gergely's book on writing a tech resume
Alex Booker (00:01):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak of successful developers about bear advice on learning to code and getting your first junior developer job. Today, I'm joined by Gergely Orosz, author of The Tech Resume Inside-Out and previously a hiring manager at Uber.
Gergely Orosz (00:21):
People love to criticize the hiring process of how it's messed up. But if you take a second, a lot of this frustration comes from people not understanding how this process works. The people who are rocking the hiring process, a lot of times they do understand how the process works in, they use it to their advantage.
Alex Booker (00:36):
In this episode, you will learn to rock the hiring process yourself according to Gergely. The really cool thing about Gergely is both The Tech Resume Inside-Out is about to includes advice from other technical recruiters at companies like Google, as well as smaller companies. Gergely brings it all together, including his decade of experience to offer proven and balanced advice on how to glide through the interview process, and we get a sneak peek of that today. Let's get into it.
Alex Booker (01:05):
In the Discord community, we see people praising your book to high heavens all the time, saying that it's helped them not only nail their resume, but understand the process behind the scenes a little bit. When you're a junior developer or changing industry, how technology companies hire can be a big mystery. I'd love to know from you though, what motivated you to write about this subject in such depth in particular.
Gergely Orosz (01:27):
There are not many books about resumes in tech. In fact, I only know one other, which is From 10 Years Ago from Gayle Laakmann McDowell. She wrote the Google resume. She wrote that way before the book that she's known for, Cracking the Coding Interview. So it was kind of a start, but no one has written since. I didn't plan to write about it. What happened was early 2020, the pandemic started. I worked at Uber and lay off started to happen across the industry. Someone created sites called Layoffs.fyi, and then layoffs hit Uber as well.
Gergely Orosz (01:59):
So on my team, people were laid off. About 20% of the engineering team was laid off at Uber. For the few people on my team, I told them, "Hey, send me over your resume. Happy to take a look and give some feedback." I mean, I couldn't do too much, but that was at least something I could do. I gave some feedback to people, and they said, "Oh, this is great. I never knew this." These were people with eight or sometimes 10 years of experience.
Gergely Orosz (02:21):
And then I offered on Twitter. I figured it's a really hard time for a bunch of people. I said, "Hey, I'm happy to give resume feedback for people, just send over some resumes. I'll do it for free." I was expecting maybe 10, 20, max 30 resumes, but I got more than 300. I started to initially just write feedback. So I read through them. I just gave some points because even having a few actionable things is better than having nothing. And as I did, I like to look at efficiency and automate myself out of a job, or work my way out of a job. This is what I did when I was a manager, I tried to help my job become redundant.
Gergely Orosz (02:58):
And so what I did is I started to just make some lists of common feedback. And after awhile, I started to copy paste this. After feedback number 50, I had a small PDF of 10 pages worth that I sent over. I said, "Look at point one, points 10, point 17, this is what applies to you." By the time I got to 150, I actually started to not change this too much that I was thinking. Someone mentioned that this could be a book by itself. And then I decided, all right, I'm going to make this a book.
Gergely Orosz (03:24):
Originally at this point at Uber, I was writing the book that I'm still writing, the software insurance guide book, which is a book about how to grow as a software engineer. I imagined there will be a section on resumes, a really short section. So I figured, well, I'll write this ebook. It's probably going to be 20 or 40 pages. I'll release it for free, and it'll be great for people to look at it, and it'll also be good advertising for this book when it comes out. So this was how I started to write this book.
Gergely Orosz (03:50):
But I kind of felt like a fraud. I mean, who writes about resumes? When I told my wife that I'm writing a book on resume, she's like, "Oh, don't go there. Don't be one of these gurus because when you associate people giving your resume advice is typically people who don't know too much about it. They tell you all sorts of random stuff. They sell resume templates for certain amount of money, or they do resume reviews, but they've never done the job." And I was like, "I don't want to be that person."
Gergely Orosz (04:14):
I actually felt this way despite being I was a hiring manager at Uber for about four years, I was a hiring manager before Skyscanner. I was in industry for many years. So I've seen tons of tons of resumes. But I figured, all right, well, if I'm doing this, I want to do this right. So I started to reach out to people who've actually seen a lot more resumes than I have. I've seen hundreds, but there are people who've seen thousands or tens of thousands. They're the recruiters. So I reached out to technical recruiters across the industry, people who I knew or people who I looked up to and I asked them to, first of all, critic the book and also give me feedback on what they see. This is how the book was born.
Gergely Orosz (04:48):
So I thought it would be 40 pages, it ended up closer to 200, which is a bit crazy. But it got there because as you said, a good part of the book is explaining how the hiring process works, breaking it down. People love to criticize the hiring process of how it's messed up. But if you take a second, a lot of this frustration comes from people not understanding how this process works. The people who are rocking the hiring process, a lot of times they do understand how the process works and they use it to their advantage.
Gergely Orosz (05:16):
Finally, when I finished the book, I actually had some publishers offer to publish it, but I declined all of them because I really wanted to give this book away for free, basically forever for people who don't yet have a job. Because five years is like, getting that first job is really hard and unfortunately no one can promise you that if you do this or if you write this you're going to get that job. It's just not how it works. Getting that first job is super hard. It's actually even hard right now.
Gergely Orosz (05:38):
In 2021 with COVID, I decided to distribute the book in this strange setup, where if you don't have a job and you can kind of prove it a little bit. So if you have a LinkedIn, you're willing to share it, you get the book for free. I don't ask any questions, but I'd still manual approve it. And then everyone else, they're welcome to pay for it or they can just read articles online, whatever they want. It's actually been a pretty good success. I've got a lot of messages from people who have gotten jobs later after they got the free book.
Gergely Orosz (06:04):
Again, it's not really just about the book, a lot of this is about people's own drive, their experience, how they sell themselves, how they do on the interview. It can give people confidence. Most importantly, if you're someone who does not yet have a job, just get this book for free. There's no catch, I've been there.
Gergely Orosz (06:23):
The last point on why I wrote this book, this was not really conscious. But when I moved to the UK, I still remember, I graduated from Hungary's top college. I'm from Hungary. I had two years of work experience. I had a really impressive resume. I thought at least I placed third worldwide on Microsoft Imagine Cup, the biggest student competition. I didn't hear from anywhere. I moved to Edinburgh. I was physically there. I submitted my resume to all these applications. I went to recruiter offices, dressed up in suits, I called the recruiters and they just hung up on me. They kind of went around.
Gergely Orosz (06:54):
10 years later as a hiring manager, I see where I messed up. My resume, it was not the UK format. I put my photo up front. I said, Hungarian. I put my birth date. I put all these things. I first of all screamed that I'm not a local candidate. It also induced a bunch of biases. I mean, do not put your nationality on there and don't put your birthdate, and definitely not your photo. And so all of these things kind of got in my way. If I would have had access to something like this, I would have changed how I did it. I think I would have seen better success. I eventually got a job, but I made it more painful for myself and I didn't even know it.
Alex Booker (07:25):
Let me say, first of all, that we will link the book high in the show notes. So anybody listening can either buy it, or if they're looking for a job, request to get it for free. I think it's awesome that you're doing that. And yes, I agree with you completely, Gergely, people think that just being a great coder is enough to get the job. Possibly that's why at the beginning of the pandemic you saw people with eight years experience struggling to nail their resume just because they hadn't really practiced it. It's almost a scale that your book teaches.
Alex Booker (07:52):
But what would you say to someone who's a new programmer, who perhaps doesn't quite understand the importance of a resume? In fact, maybe we should go one level higher and talk a little bit about what exactly a resume is, because I see a lot of people sometimes trying to put everything about them on one page and perhaps that's not the right way to do it. And then once they send their resume, what can they expect?
Gergely Orosz (08:12):
This is where it's really worth understanding how the process works. Most people, and this was me by the way when I started out, I think everyone starts like this, you're told you need to have a resume to upload to the website or a recruiter asks you to send a resume and then people panic like, "Oh, what should I do on a resume?" So you kind of Google a resume template, you see some things and then you try to put the most accurate things.
Gergely Orosz (08:35):
I get people asking me like, oh, my job title is this, but it's not quite what I do. How should I phrase that? They kind of want to make sure it's the absolute truth. They're thinking if people are going to get reference checks, like I want to make sure that it's there. Funny enough, that's not what a resume is. A resume is a sales tool. The goal of your resume is to get that call from a recruiter. You don't even need to put ... Well, I mean, don't lie on your resume, but you can twist things, you can hide things, you can change your titles. It doesn't matter because if you get to reference or if you get an offer, that's very different.
Gergely Orosz (09:09):
The point is your resume needs to sell you. When you're starting out, your resume needs to have you stand out a little bit from the crowd because the more entry-level a job is, the more applicants there are. This is something you don't see, but for entry-level jobs, they'll get 10 or 20 or 30 times as many applications as let's say a senior level job. So depending on where you are in your career, your resume serves different purposes. After a while, the resume becomes a lot less important.
Gergely Orosz (09:35):
But in the beginning, as a junior, the number one mistake that people do, the number one thing that you can do, just think about it, this is a sales tool that you want to get that recruiter to call you up. So there's two candidates. One of them has a resume, they kind of work on it and they perfect it and they send the same resume out to every single job. The other applicant thinks, it's a sales tool. So they'll probably call me back if they see that I have relevant experience for what they're looking for. They look at the job description.
Gergely Orosz (10:01):
Let's say for AWS, they say it's a plus if you have Kubernetes's experience and if you work with Java. They don't say it's a requirement as a plus. So they're like, "This guy has it." They actually shift the resume to start with Kubernetes and Java; here is all my projects, here is all I experienced. For the next job they look at, that was it for PHP. This person also did PHP. So they kind of move around. So for every job they summon a slightly optimized resume.
Alex Booker (10:25):
So what you're saying, Gergely, is that you need a document you can add and tailor to every job that you're applying to, and then take the things that the company are looking for and try and sell yourself by putting those keywords essentially higher-up in your statements or prioritizing them in your work experience and things like that.
Gergely Orosz (10:41):
You'll see a lot better success stuff. It's a lot of work, but the way I think of it is you have a master resume, which has all the things broken out and you tailor it to the position that you apply for. This is especially true if you're not sure where you're going to go. So you might be applying for, let's say machine learning roles because you have some experience there, but also software engineering roles, and you'll probably want to format your resume slightly differently.
Gergely Orosz (11:02):
So again, this is really important when you're starting out, because you're up against a flood of people. There's ways you can increase your chances by the way, applying for smaller companies, less [inaudible 00:11:10] companies, companies that honestly just don't pay as well, but again, getting your foot in the door. My first few companies, they didn't really pay well. And the example of ending up in Big Tech a decade later where it paid really well.
Gergely Orosz (11:22):
It kind of depends on where we're going to go. But the more competition you have, the better known the company, the more the prestige, the better known that they pay well or they have a high technical bar, the more your resume really needs to stand out, especially if you're someone who doesn't have outstanding things on your resume. Outstanding things could be the name of your college; MIT, Stanford, Oxford. Outstanding projects, core contributor to AngularJS, multiple contributor to React. You don't see that often. Again, this might not be you, you'll need to have things that stand out because a lot of resumes for new grads will be, oh, here's an institution that I graduated from, and here's a couple of projects which are all CRUD apps.
Gergely Orosz (12:02):
I'll tell you, as hiring manager you see a dime a dozen of those. And if you have 100 of those come in, you need to kind of decide on which are the five people you're going to call up. You'll look for some signals that stand out. That's also things where location might be interesting, which is, all in this full remote world, people expect that they apply to remote jobs and they'll get callbacks. The remote is great. It's a bit terrible for people who are starting out because companies are a lot more hesitant to hire remote.
Gergely Orosz (12:30):
And then there's a couple of other things. For example, referral is weird, but the best way to get your resume to do better is try to get a referral from a company. So basically someone who knows you or a friend of a friend who puts you in front of the hiring manager and says "Oh, hey, I heard of this person." And you're now way ahead of everyone else. So there's a bunch of different things, but it does go back I think to, you should think about your strategy.
Gergely Orosz (12:52):
A lot of people want to target these amazing companies. By all means, true for that, they're really hard to get into, especially when you have little experience. It is smart to sometimes narrow down and go to the places where there are fewer people applying for, or people don't even know about it. In the book, I also have some examples on how to find these places. If you tailor your resume for that, those people will be excited to talk with you because they don't get overwhelmed with applicants, and they know, hey, this person looks like an ideal fit for what we're looking for.
Alex Booker (13:20):
If you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba Podcast, please do me a favor and share it with your friends on social media. Word of mouth is the single best way to support a podcast that you like, so thank you in advance. Next week, I'm talking with Serhan, a Scrimba student from Istanbul who just got their first junior developer job.
I was really doing some interviews for the sake of getting used to hearing no. I know that they're not going to hire me, but I'm just like, this is just as an exercise for me. I was thinking to myself, was it probably going to be like 50 nos before a yes? So I might as well get through these really fast.
Alex Booker (13:56):
I loved Serhan's mindset on this one. He did a very, very good job securing interviews. In fact, he even had an interview of Microsoft. Although that didn't go well, it all panned out in the end because now Serhan is working and learning at a company he really enjoys. That is next Tuesday on the weekly Scrimba Podcast. So please make sure you subscribe in your podcasting app of choice to see it in your feed. Back to the interview with Gergely.
Alex Booker (14:26):
I like the term you used, which was a master template, and then you derive it. Do you use a specific tool for that? For example, Google Docs, to use a specific template, or do you think you have to approach it from the scratch for each individual person?
Gergely Orosz (14:41):
I personally, I'm a Google Docs person. So I do most of it in Google Docs. But if you have a preferred tool, just do that, but I think it'll go down to Word, Google Docs, anything that can export PDF. You read all sorts of stuff on the Internet about what kind of format your resume should be. In tech, at least all of the companies I've seen, PDF works great because the format is there. You'll hear some weird articles from people who've never been recruiters claim about the ATS parsing or not, which is complete rubbish. So PDFs are great. You can browse it on your phone. It looks all the same. I'd avoid sending DOC or RTX or some other. But again, even if you do, it doesn't matter really. It's not the point.
Alex Booker (15:20):
Would you consider using something like LinkedIn as your source of truth, and then as you apply to jobs, either using the Easy Apply feature or exporting your LinkedIn profile as a PDF resume to use?
Gergely Orosz (15:32):
Again, it depends on what career stage you're at. When you're fairly junior, you don't have many years experience, you don't have many jobs behind you, don't use a default LinkedIn one because it doesn't tailor it. You might as well just send the same resume. You do want to tailor for every job you apply. For the first few lines or the first few experiences, you want that thing to pop out what they're looking for. If they're mentioning, or you do a few minutes of research. If they're a go shop or if they have some open source projects that maybe you contributed, again, you want to put those upfront, and LinkedIn doesn't give you this.
Gergely Orosz (16:06):
Linkedin is a great tool in my view to optimize for getting reach outs. A lot of people what they do with LinkedIn is they kind of put their current experience. What you should do with LinkedIn is you should describe the things at least in your title and setup for what do you want to be found for? So I'll give you an example. If you're a software engineer right now and you're kind of leading a team at your current company but your title is software engineer and for your next step you would only consider team lead positions or tech lead positions, you just somehow incorporate your title, say tech lead, or have tech lead diverse.
Gergely Orosz (16:36):
Gergely Orosz (17:03):
Back to your question, I will be cautious with, apply with one-click or upload your LinkedIn resume because you were not able to tailor it. Also, one other thing to note, especially for junior folks, there's differences between job boards, where companies pay to post jobs that they're having difficulty to fill, and jobs scrapers that just scrape everything on the Internet. So the jobs that go to LinkedIn are companies paying LinkedIn big bucks. I don't even know how much it is. It's around 1,000 or even more pounds, euros to post a single job that they put there, and then they get applicants from LinkedIn.
Gergely Orosz (17:37):
Now, companies only do this for positions that they don't have enough applicants for. For junior positions, they're not going to pay LinkedIn a bunch of money to post something, that if they put it on their website they already get tons of applicants. So if you're refreshing LinkedIn and looking at the jobs, you're getting the jobs that companies actually have difficulty filling, which typically means senior level or the junior role, this is joke about the junior role, that needs five-year experience, they're going to post that on LinkedIn because they're not going to get the in bounds.
Gergely Orosz (18:02):
So you're going to be disappointed if you're waiting there. Instead, you want to look at job scrapers that scrape all the company websites. For example, Indeed.com is one of these. They get to give you a bunch of junk and you have to filter through it and you need to refresh every day. But you might see this junior posting that will never come to LinkedIn because the company gets ... Let's say at Uber, when we opened a junior position on our website, in three days we got three or 400 applicants just like that, just through the website. So if you're not a part of those initial ones and you didn't have a referral, sorry, you missed it. Because by that time you learned about it the position was already closed.
Alex Booker (18:35):
I can only imagine that the biggest drop-off is at the beginning when the recruiter is sort of eliminating resumes because they don't fit the criteria. It probably goes from 400 to 50 very quickly, I imagine.
Gergely Orosz (18:47):
Something like that. So at Uber, we actually did a bit less elimination. But regardless there's a lot of elimination. This is where, again, it's really popular. You read a lot of articles about the big, bad hiring process or why Big Tech, all this [licote 00:19:02] style interview, how it's super bad and all that, but those people who wrote these, they've never been hiring manager. So the challenge, and I'm not saying by the way, I don't want to get too much empathy for people, but I had been on the other side, the challenge you have is you literally have 500 people and you have four head count. So you can hire four people. How do you hire people who fit the criteria and how do you eliminate people who in some objective ways or not?
Gergely Orosz (19:25):
You can be certain, from this 500 people who are qualified I'm sure at least 50 you could have hired, but you need to make a decision. Typically, the way it works is, the way I've worked at Uber, and this is for university recruiting, and you'll see these type of numbers at the grad level later if you put an ad in one year of experience, you're not going to see this many people because people who have a job will not drop everything to run to get somewhere else. But first round is typically resume screen. So yes, that's being cut down to, I'm not sure how many, but we can assume maybe down to 115 or something like that. They might cut people who might be qualified, but they just don't stand out or they feel they don't have, in this case, for large companies that whatever extra that might be, so that you need to meet basic qualifications.
Gergely Orosz (20:07):
For example, for new grad hiring or for intern hiring there might be, you need to be in school for certain things. They're also all sorts of virtual things. The next one is the recruiter call. Recruiters typically call you up. So if you go through this and if you get a recruiter call that's great, but don't get too excited. At this point, they usually check for some basic communication skills. Especially for large companies, if you're not able to express yourself, that's a no-go because communication is a huge part of the day-to-day job. They might also check some things that are not clear on the CV. They rarely do technical screening, but sometimes these recruiters are given things that the hiring manager basically tells them, here's my requirement for people who we wanted before they can talk to an engineer.
Gergely Orosz (20:44):
The reason they have this is if we didn't have this, then work with Sapa the company and endurance, we'll just interview all day. We actually had this at Uber. When we were hiring, we barely had time to work. Once you go through that one, the recruiter thinks, okay, well, I gathered the signals that this person is good. They should be set up. And now is the technical stage for a non new grad hiring. Big Tech companies typically have you talk with an engineer, where you kind of do a coding exercise together.
Gergely Orosz (21:10):
For junior hiring, will be the dreaded coding challenge, where your Centrelink, you have the countdown and you need to do these things. It's super impersonal. It's impersonal because by doing so, companies can actually give a chance to a lot more people if you narrowed it down. So you're going to talk with engineers. If we're hiring four people, we would talk with ... Typically, the offsite drop off is maximum of three, so maybe 12 people. But this way we send out the coding challenge to 30 or 40 people.
Gergely Orosz (21:36):
Again, a lot of companies do this because they don't know any better. A lot of the Big Tech companies do this for typically very junior hiring, and they know that this is not a great experience, but they do want to get the chance. They'll look through the code afterwards. Someone's going to look through the code. Once people make it through that, and again, this can be stressful, but I kind of view it as, well, it's exercise as well. You get to practice being under a pressure situation. Because if you go to the next stage, it will be the same thing. You'll have a person there, you'll have less time and you'll still need to solve some sort of thing.
Gergely Orosz (22:03):
And then you kind of go through. In the end there's what we call onsite stage, which is kind of funny because there are more filters, you don't go onsite, but there's multiple interviews, including one with the hiring manager. That was me, where we checked some kind of motivation, behavioral, et cetera. In the end, the lucky people get an offer. Sometimes I was in position at Uber where there were more people that I wanted to hire, but we just didn't have the head count. That was a super tough call. I did have calls with people where I told them, look, I think you're really good. I'd hire you, but unfortunately we don't have the head count. So best of luck and happy to keep in touch for the future.
Gergely Orosz (22:38):
But getting that first job for anyone listening is very, very tough. It was tough for me. It's tough everyone that I know. The only people who it's not tough for is who just got lucky to get into either a family that has all these connections and they were able to pull some strings. Otherwise, tech is a booming industry. There's never been more people wanting to get in. It's never been more lucrative and maybe it's been harder, but it feels hard. The people who I talk to is hard. You need to pass through. After you get that first job, which by the way your first job chances are, it's not going to be that amazing job, but you get your foot in the door. A few years later you're going to go and get a better job.
Gergely Orosz (23:20):
The people who worked at Uber in Amsterdam, most of them took five, 10, some of them 15 years to get there. There were some people who came straight as new grads, but again, this is just setting some expectations. By the way, outside of tech, this is whole realistic expectations. If you start as an accountant at some sort of accountant firm, the way it's going to go is in your first couple of years, you'll be a bit above minimum wage. You will need to study for this exam. And then when you pass, you get a 10K pay rise. And then if you stay around for at least eight more years, you might become partner, but maybe not, but every year you'll go a little bit up.
Gergely Orosz (23:55):
Tech is this amazing place where some people can really [inaudible 00:23:58]. They can become seniors in two, three years, get these amazing packages and these stories go viral. So now people are having the expectation of like, oh, why is that not happening to me? Why is it harder to get into these amazing positions that actually pay more than in other industries people do with decades long experience?
Alex Booker (24:15):
Okay, Gergely. If you could go back to the very beginning with the benefit of all your hindsight, what would you do if you were to do the most efficient thing possible to get a job as a junior developer?
Gergely Orosz (24:27):
When I applied to position, I would have tailored my resume. Well, first I would have started with a simple enough template, just get rid of all the biases, the photos, all those things. For every application, I would have tailored slightly on what I highlight. I will try to mirror the languages, because for me that was the challenge. Personally, for me, once I got to interview stages, I did really well because I did tons of preparation. So I will still do that. I would over prepare for the interviews.
Gergely Orosz (24:52):
These are very well-documented, the coding interviews. Design is not even a thing for juniors, but coding, knowing the ins and outs of whatever technology that was reading a book about X, Y, Z in-depth. I also heard this later that I actually impressed a lot of people because I had very in-depth knowledge of technologies and apply to a lot of places. An early mistake I did, I had the stream company in the UK who I really wanted to work at, and I tried to apply and I emailed the founder and I never heard back and I was really bummed.
Gergely Orosz (25:22):
In the beginning it's hard to accept it. It's a numbers game. I think you need to machine gun it, in the sense of apply to a bunch of places. I wouldn't just randomly apply, I would apply to a couple of dream places, like high-end ones that are hard to get in, a couple of mid-level ones that you're kind of excited about, but also a couple of look around local companies who people might not know about research things that just seem like smaller unattractive companies. Because here's the thing, once you have an offer in your hand, you're so much more desirable for everyone.
Gergely Orosz (25:52):
It was really hard to get my first few interviews. But once I had an offer and I told the other recruiters or emailed the companies back, sorry, I have an offer, and then they actually wanted to interview me. It sounds really strange and ironic, but again, once if you're a hiring manager, you would understand this because it gives you a signal like, hold on, this person is actually valuable. Let's skip some of the checks because they might go off the market. It's a bit like one, something in the shop is on sale, you're more tempted to buy it even though it might not be better than what you wanted.
Alex Booker (26:20):
I think a lot of program has done the idea of selling themselves, but ultimately that's what you're doing in a very objective sort of sense. I want to talk a little bit more about this application tracking system that people seem to write about a lot, but I myself, I kind of believed a lot for I read them and I learned otherwise, quite recently. Some of that was new by the way, so thank you for that. I hope you can enlighten our listeners as well. What is ATS exactly?
Gergely Orosz (26:45):
I'll give you two definitions, one, and this is just for me. When I wrote this book, I learned a little bit about the resume industry. ATS is this mythical tool. It's a unicorn that people made up in stories. It's a story that helps a lot of companies sell their products; resume templates, advisory resume reviews, because they tell you they will make an ATS proof. It's nothing. They come up with this thing for reference that doesn't exist, they tell you there's robots scanning resumes and people don't read resumes. If you believe in this, it sounds really frightening. Oh my gosh, people might not read my resumes. And it also, you might be reassured. So that's why, aha, this is why my applications went back, a human didn't see it. You'll start believing this thing.
Gergely Orosz (27:31):
And then the last, for some money for something, you'll pay for it, you get something that is guaranteed ATS proof, and you'll be happy. You'll see a bit better results probably afterwards. What actually happens is this doesn't exist in any industry that I know, definitely not in tech. So in tech, what happens is when your application goes into a queue, you apply there if it's a company, it does go to a system called an ATS, which is like a database. You have to store all of the things. Recruiters read through a resume and they'll mark as progress to the next stage or not. But it's humans looking at it. For a couple of reasons, in the US this is legal. Google and every other company could get sued if a person did not look at it, and also it could be discrimination because of machine learning, bias, and some of those things.
Gergely Orosz (28:10):
But the other more practical thing is there is no system that actually can scan and give you a score. The only place where some of these might be used are like super entry-level non-tech jobs, like servers or wherever, but even then it doesn't really work well. So that it. There's this myth that there are some robots somewhere in the process, it's not. It all goes back to positions that do get hundreds of applicants, recruiters look through all of them. They scan through them. So they open the attachment, they look at the resume and they make a decision of yes or no, go to the next stage. There may be pile or no. It's all down to when they look at it, do things jump up in terms of qualification and years of experience. If a job lists four years experience minimum and you apply with the new grad resume, it goes to the can. They cannot do anything.
Gergely Orosz (28:53):
So, the hiring manager runs everything. So I'm the hiring manager. I tell my recruiters, I want these people to come on site. I want at least two years of experience. I want at least them to have worked in some sort of similar environment. I want them to have some proficiency with Java. Again, this might not be the case for Big Tech, but for some companies. Recruiters do their best to do that, and they will manually filter it. So you can kind of ease out and forget about the ATS. If you look at every single article that's written by them, there are people who've not been recruiters, they have not been in tech, and they're trying to sell something for the most part.
Gergely Orosz (29:28):
This is one of the reasons I really didn't want to sell my book, because then you could see, oh, Gergely, you're selling something else. Well, this is why I really don't want any money from people who don't yet have a job. Later if this book helps you get a job, all I ask you is just help someone else in tech in one way or the other, mentorship or giving them a resource or buying them a copy of this book or another book. It doesn't really matter. But I really don't like how people knowingly or unknowingly take advantage of people by making up stuff.
Alex Booker (29:54):
Yeah. It's like fear-mongering, isn't it? You hear it here and there and then people repeat it and they almost multiply it, then it seems like common knowledge. But apparently it's not true, it's all in it. It makes a lot of sense. I mean, I don't think we have to worry about computers taking over the world for a long time. I'm pretty sure application tracking systems can't even identify what programming languages if you posted for a system or something like that.
Gergely Orosz (30:15):
No, they're really dumb there. So a lot of companies build it in-house. Uber had an in-house system that we built, and it's a workflow system for the most part. Most of the ATS capabilities are for recruiters, hiring managers, to be able to look at stats, look at reporting, and also to make sure that you're not talking with the same candidate with two different people in the company. There are like 200 vendors. There's also some money to be made in this, not as much as you think, that has to do with regulation, compliance in certain countries as well. It's pretty boring.
Gergely Orosz (30:45):
ATS is such a disappointment because it's like when you go into data science, data science is get a job at, let's say Uber, and they're super excited that they're going to do all these models and they have to calculate post-mortem allergy numbers. Basically this system went down, how many users were affected. And they're like, "That's not what I signed up for that." I think a lot of people will feel this about ATS, because I thought is a big, bad robot, it's just a database. This is a really dumb one.
Alex Booker (31:07):
It's very encouraging. So it's like a CRM for salespeople, I guess, but it's the equivalent for hiring people, right?
Gergely Orosz (31:13):
Alex Booker (31:13):
I've been involved in hiring processes here and there. Well, as someone on a panel or something, you can use the system to leave your feedback on the Candidate and all this. I've never really seen it from the point of having posted a job ad and narrowed the candidates down. So early on, I think that's more for the recruiters and the hiring managers like yourself. Is there any truth to it?
Alex Booker (31:32):
I'm imagining a table with incoming resumes and maybe the ATS is extracted things like your highest education level or keywords if they relate to the job. Let's be honest, it is quite a lot of work filtering out hundreds of resumes. Even the most disciplined recruiters are going to get a little bit tired hearing that. So having as much as you can to go on, can it possibly work against junior developers if you don't have any qualifications or you pick the wrong keywords in your resume?
Gergely Orosz (31:58):
So again, and don't forget, it's not true that ATSs don't have any of this data. There's this joke and people like to post this on Twitter, that they submit their resume on some big company and the next field is please fill out all these fields. Now, those fields are for the ATS. So it took your resume. It tried to parse it, it couldn't. And even if it could, it will still have things pre-filled. Those are the fields that will show up in ATS system, things that you filled out.
Gergely Orosz (32:22):
Some of these, the only truth as to these things ATSs can include. So a recruiter can put so-called knockout questions. If you answer in a certain way, you will be disqualified automatically and get a rejection email. Most of these are to do with visas. The question is, are you authorized to work in this country? And if the answer is no, and if the company does not support sponsorship, you'll get an immediate rejection. I don't think it's unfair, you would never progress through that position with or without, but that's the only thing.
Alex Booker (32:47):
Is it really immediate if you apply and you don't give the right answer to one of those questions you get an email right away saying apply?
Gergely Orosz (32:53):
Don't forget, it's not the right answer, it's are you not qualified?
Alex Booker (32:57):
So it's not a task, they're more like a filter. They got ...
Gergely Orosz (32:59):
A lot of ATSs do have this thing called a knockout question where you put a condition. Typically, I've only seen it used for visa status as for the US. They just filter out international applicants who, if there's a position that will not sponsor visa, and then there's no point, and they typically put it on the job advert as well, they just make their jobs easier. Again, you can answer the header one, but then when you get later they still won't be able to hire you. So you're both saving yourself time.
Gergely Orosz (33:26):
But back to your question of qualifications, the truth is as much as people want to believe that right now, it's a golden opportunity for engineers to get into software development with no qualifications because there are not enough people. All things being equal, if there's a candidate who does have a computer science degree with zero years experience and a bootcamper who has zero experience and a bootcamping degree, the person with more experience will be the person with the computer science degree, because for five years or four years or three years, they've spent studying whatever the bootcamp did for a shorter amount of time. So inherently there will be some advantage to that person.
Gergely Orosz (34:02):
In today's marketplace, there's not enough grad. So it's not a disadvantage. But certainly in a way, if someone is thinking about ... Let's imagine that you can afford it and doesn't think, should I go to? At University, I spent three years there and then go to the job market, or should I do a bootcamp? I don't have the good answer because right now if you go to the bootcamp, and if you're able to get a job, you're probably a lot better off because you have three years of real experience, you'll be way ahead of that grad. But as a hiring manager, you will bias for people who have more relevant experience. I can't ignore someone who studied more time for the same amount.
Gergely Orosz (34:35):
So at the very least in ideal world, both of them will be considered and the decision will be actually after talking with the recruiter, getting the signals. But again, it is a signal. So people who have invested time in education, it's not completely wasted, but none of that matters more than having experience. Someone with a year of real experience beats both of these people. Which is why, if you can already do some things on the side, and that's actually something I [inaudible 00:34:59] in the book, built some things in production, do some short contracting gigs, even if you're not paid, don't tell people you didn't get paid. Oh, you've been contracting, you've been building, you've been shipping into production. Well, I didn't get paid, which is not great for my finances, but it is good for experience.
Alex Booker (35:14):
Gergely, we've got just a few minutes left. If I can, I'd love to throw you some really quick fire questions. So I think one of them you've answered already, just quickly. Should you include a photo on your resume?
Gergely Orosz (35:25):
Alex Booker (35:25):
Should a resume be a plain, boring Word document, or is it worth opening up Canva to bias templates that looks more autistic and is eye-catching?
Gergely Orosz (35:34):
Plain, boring works, don't bother with Canva. They look beautiful. It makes no difference in tech, unless you're a designer or some UX person, in that case designing it yourself potentially because that might be a signal. Otherwise, boring works better.
Alex Booker (35:47):
I see a lot of people praising, especially their own resume templates on LinkedIn, do you think a template will make a big difference to your success or is it really more about the contents of that template?
Gergely Orosz (35:59):
I could not care less about the templates, and I've seen hundreds of them. It's about the content. The only thing that template can help is can you spot the important things? How many years of experience do you have? Education. Do some technologies jump into my eyes? That's kind of it. I recommend a few templates as well, that are free as well. You don't have to use them, but as long as ... Simple works a lot better in tech because tech, it's about the content. The interview is actually testing for the things that you will be doing on the job, coding and those kinds of things. Resume, it's black and white. Yeah, try not to overdo it because you'll just confuse recruiters. They might miskey information.
Alex Booker (36:34):
What about references, would you put references on your CV? Would you write something like references available on request?
Gergely Orosz (36:39):
No. Everyone assumes that that's the case. Resume is for the screening. Once you're past the screening, your references are only interesting if you're about to get an offer when you're very late into the process.
Alex Booker (36:48):
Can people without a computer science degree gets an internship at a fan company, or is that only for people who went for the college or university roots?
Gergely Orosz (36:57):
No, you cannot get an internship without being on a computer science program. There are some companies, not necessarily FAANG who offer apprenticeships for people who do not have a computer science education. The reason you cannot do this is a very interesting one, internships are actually a recruiting tool for FAANG and for other big companies. So here's why, they want to hire some of the best graduates from university. They could just go on the old-fashioned way, show up when they're in their final year, they just got their degree and tell them, "Hey, come work for us." Do all these interviews. They used to do this, but then some companies came along and they went a year earlier saying, "Hey, you've got one year left, come intern with us, come on, it'll be fun."
Gergely Orosz (37:37):
So they go through interviews, they get to meet the team, they feel it's a really cool place. So when they graduate, all the other companies are coming to them and they're like, "Nope, I got a job. I know the team. I'm very happy." This is why, not only can you not get an internship if you don't have a computer science degree, if you don't have enough years left. So some companies have gone back. So I think Facebook or some other companies, they might only hire for internships even at least two years before, or at least a year before you're out, because for them it's a really expensive way to get some of the best people that they want. This is why these internships are not open.
Gergely Orosz (38:10):
It's not great if you're not in these colleges, because a lot of the entry-level stats are filled up. But again, they can do that because they have a lot of demand and they can cherry-pick on where they're hiring from. The only reason they're starting to make exceptions is because this is not great for diversity. As we know, computer science majors, they are full of young white men, but a lot of other demographics are missing, which is hurting the workplace as well.
Alex Booker (38:31):
Do some companies do apprenticeships, which might be more suitable, like Amazon, for example?
Gergely Orosz (38:35):
Amazon is the only one who I've heard, that they're having a deal with Lambda School as far as I recall. It's usually smaller companies. I mean, I'll be honest, the PEOPLE Companies who are doing it are the ones who are struggling to hire, and this is a way for them to get ahead and hire. It's also big investments. So a company needs to commit a lot of resources, meaning engineer's time budget to do this right. A lot of companies are not ready to do this. It's a multi-year plan. I think we'll see more companies do it. It's especially true for companies who are not as central locations, not as well known. I think it's great. I think more companies should do it, but it is hard. It's not as simple to set up as like, oh, we'll do this tomorrow.
Alex Booker (39:12):
Do you think that junior developers or new developers at all have any chance of getting a visa to work at their dream company?
Gergely Orosz (39:18):
With no experience, the answer is no, because to get a visa for a company, this is the riskiest way to hire someone. If you decide, all right, we're going to hire this personal a visa, they need to wait a couple of months, the companies needs to wait a couple of months. If it's in the US, they might never get a visa, by the way. So it's super risky because of the way at H-1B system works. During the time, that person might say, you know what? I got a better offer, a different offer, I'm not taking it, and the company cannot say anything. I know a lot of companies who've gotten burned by this. They applied for a visa for a person, they waited for six months and that person didn't show up because midway they said no.
Gergely Orosz (39:49):
As a junior person, the only time you do this, if you couldn't hire any other way. But that means there's no one in your country who doesn't need visa, who is a junior and needs this, or you cannot hire remotely these days. Especially with remote, visa is going away. My prediction is, it's going to be harder for even experienced people to get visas. It's so much easier to hire someone remotely than to get a visa for them. The people who I know who got them visas, all had past work experience, and they also applied at times where remote was not a thing and companies were very desperate.
Gergely Orosz (40:18):
So for example, employee number five at Uber, engineer number three was a guy from France who I know very well because I worked in the same team as him, who applied to a bunch of companies, including this small company called Uber Cap, who invited him back and they got him a visa to move to the US. And later he asked him, he had two years of experience. And he did, I think, back in development and he was hired to do mobile.
Gergely Orosz (40:39):
He later asked him, why did you hire me? They said, "No one wants to work for us literally, we asked all our friends and family and no one." It was a small company with one or $5 million of funding called Uber Cab with a funny logo, and no one wants to work there. They thought it's too risky. So I would not hold my breath. I would, as a junior person, look for local opportunities mainly after you have one or two years experience, the game changes radically.
Alex Booker (41:03):
And some companies, you can't join. Even though they won't relocate you right away, if they have the ability to hire in another country, they can't put you on a plan to potentially move there and get a very specific visa. But it all of course depends on the country and your situation.
Gergely Orosz (41:16):
Absolutely. I mean, companies will prioritize internal employees all the time; they're cheaper, they're more loyal, they have more domain knowledge. It's just common sense. If you're able to join a company that is international, that can open up these kinds of doors later.
Alex Booker (41:29):
Last question. It's one for me because I really have never learned the answer. What is a background check exactly? Should I be scared of it?
Gergely Orosz (41:37):
Oh, the famous background check. You shouldn't be scared of it. It's something that companies need to do by law, or sometimes by law, sometimes not by a law. Sometimes they do it for protection. They hire an external company. It checks that you've not lied on your resume, in the sense that you have worked where you said you worked and you have no criminal record. Usually almost always outsource to a company who calls up or tries to get contact details for your last one or two employers for the last five years. That depends on a policy. They call up and say, has this person been here? Is this their a title? Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. That's kind of it.
Gergely Orosz (42:08):
Now, the other thing that people won't talk about but it's a bit more important is reference checks. So background checks, I don't think you should be scared about. The only time you might want to be scared though is if you left on terms where you were very unprofessional. For example, you skipped your notice period. You handed in your notice and you did not complete your notice period. You disappeared, and someone might call back and the employer might say, "Oh, just want to flag this." And this might come back. So that's the only case. So don't burn bridges in a very obvious way. I'm not talking about not liking your team, it's just like, don't do crazy things, especially early on.
Gergely Orosz (42:41):
The other one is reference checks. People don't really talk about it, but especially at more senior positions, more companies are doing it. They will call up, they'll offer reference and then they'll have really end up conversation with you. They'll kind of decide the offer based on what they hear. It's not just like, do I recommend this person or not? Sometimes they'll try to figure out like, would you be a good fit for this team? They might decide to not give an offer if they feel that something's not there.
Gergely Orosz (43:03):
Again, not much you can do about this. Some companies are more picky. It's a tricky situation because you have to go through reference checks before you get an offer. So the only thing is, don't do anything rash before you get an offer. And if the background check is before the offer, wait for that. Negotiation usually happens after the offer as well, but don't be scared. It does sound intimidating, but it's emotion and it's pretty impersonal, even from a company perspective. When I was a hiring manager, I knew we did the background checks. I never did one myself, I just like, is it was a complete? Complete, and they always completed from my perspective.
Alex Booker (43:35):
Oh, nice. Well, Gergely, that's all of the time we have for today. Thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast.
Gergely Orosz (43:41):
It was great being here. I hope this was helpful.
Alex Booker (43:45):
That was Gergely Orosz, author of The Tech Resume Inside Out, a link for which you can find in the show notes. I was intending to angle and ask Gergely for a special screen but discounts, but it sounds out that the book is free for anybody who is not currently employed and looking for work as a developer. So definitely check that out and get in touch if that sounds like you.
Alex Booker (44:06):
Remember to subscribe to the Scrimba Podcast, both to see interviews with inspiring and insightful gas like Gergely, as well as to support the show. This episode was edited by Yan or Santa Vague, and I am your host, Alex Booker. You can follow me on Twitter @bookercodes, where I share highlights from the podcast, as well as other news by Scrimba, and occasionally participate in Twitter Spaces about starting your developer career. See you next week.