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I Have been looking for a job in the past 10 years. Since I believe the subject I know better is programming, I have been trying to find a programming job.

I send my curriculum to a lot of companies, and they basically don't even reply. Lately I sent my curriculum to a php job and I got no answer. When I am called to an interview (yes, it happened) the interview doesn't even lasts 5 minutes and I am quickly dispensed. Sometimes they give a test for the position, and they tell me to go away without even bothering to test me. I have applied for jobs to work with Delphi and PHP.

Basically the positions I have applied to, are for internships or first jobs. I never applied to a "senior" or "advanced" position. I am still undergraduate (from university) in compsci.

Am I doing something wrong? Do I really need to finish my graduation or get a certification?

Is there any tips for having a curriculum that gets you to more interviews? Does this problem happens to everybody or just me?

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Do you have recent programming experience? –  ceejayoz Oct 13 '11 at 4:16
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the weird thing is that I heard a lot of people asking "Why it's so difficult to get proggrammers!??" –  Rudy Oct 13 '11 at 4:29
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Is the gap in employment history becoming the single obstacle in getting back into work? –  rwong Oct 13 '11 at 4:47
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I'd be quite hesitant to hire someone who hasn't used PHP for seven years for a PHP job. No open source experience during that time or anything? –  ceejayoz Oct 13 '11 at 4:47
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@Victor As a fellow Brazilian (and a fellow Vitor as well ! :)) I'd say it's time to take a look at the mirror and try to understand what's going on. The largest time I've been without a job was about two months: and half of it was a self given vacation time in Fortaleza. And I'm no better than the average programmer, you can be sure (I've been doing mostly C++ and C#). PHP is not a good thing in Brazil, most of the time the gigs are low paying, you'd be better doing something else. Same goes for Delphi, it has been mostly exchanged for .NET in the corporate environment. Good luck! –  Vitor Oct 13 '11 at 9:55
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closed as not constructive by Walter, GrandmasterB, Vitor, Robert Harvey, Michael K Oct 13 '11 at 21:51

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16 Answers

up vote 102 down vote accepted

No offense intended, but the answer to your question "am I doing something wrong?" appears to be "yes". However, you haven't given us enough information to determine what it is that you're doing wrong. If they kicked you out of an interview after five minutes, you clearly did something that they thought made you not hirable. What was that something? Think hard about what happened during those five minutes of an interview.

I don't feel like we have enough information to give you an answer explicit to your situation. I'll give you some general tips that might help you identify your weakness.

Resumé

You state that you send your resumes to companies and never get a response back. This means that either:

  1. You have a poorly written resume (most companies will throw out a resume if it is ugly or contains any spelling/grammar mistakes).
  2. Your resume is not very impressive.
  3. These companies are swamped with resumes and haven't gotten a chance to look at yours.

Solutions

  1. Have someone (or several people) that is a very good writer review your resume. Tell him to be hyper critical and you will not be offended. Spelling errors and the like are not tolerable. Don't feel that this is a shameful thing to do...if you're a bad writer you ought to accept that and ask for help.
  2. Perhaps you don't have a lot of accomplishments. However, since you say you've been coding for 10 years, I'm sure you have some impressive accomplishments. You need to sell yourself. Remember that the point of a resume is to make yourself look impressive and not to give your life story. Highlight things from your previous experience that you would find impressive if reading. Have an intelligent and analytic friend read your resume for how well you sell yourself.
  3. Really, I've found the best way to get yourself noticed is at a college career fair. If this isn't a possibility, then you should make an effort to contact the company after submitting your resume. Give them a call after a week and try to talk to a recruiter. Or, find out the best person in the company to send your resume to. Instead of just sending to a general HR rep, maybe find a hiring manager in the exact department you're interested in. Just submitting your resume online and hoping for a response is not enough.

    (For more detailed tips on writing your resume, check out this blog article I wrote)

Interview skills

You state that after attending an interview you were kicked out after five minutes. Why was this? Here are some potential reasons:

  1. You're a horrible programmer.
  2. They thought you seemed scary or crazy.
  3. You said something that immediately disqualified yourself.

Solutions

  1. To be honest, if you've been programming for ten years and are on a programming forum you're probably not "horrible". If you really are a horrible programmer then you need to work on your skills. Practice exercises, get other programmers to review your code and give harsh but necessary feedback. Study from this book. However, since you say they kicked you out after five minutes, I'm doubting you even got to the programming part.
  2. Maybe your appearance is scary or crazy. To solve this, make sure you're looking good! Shave, brush your teeth, wear some nice clothes. Get someone else with good fashion sense to evaluate your appearance. Also, make sure to smile and be friendly when you meet the interviewer! You want to make him think you'd be a cool guy to work with.
  3. Tough to think what you might have said. Best solution is to just practice interviewing with friends and have them point out if you say anything that makes you seem like an unattractive candidate.
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+1 for "swamped with resumes". Most online jobs now are getting 600+ resumes for each application (and that's probably low at very well known places). –  jwernerny Oct 13 '11 at 11:48
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I'd also suggest calling up a head-hunting group, (I've worked with Robert Half, and TEKSystems in the past, both are good at what they do). Most of these groups are looking for people with skills, and in the past they've gone out of their way to suggest what I'm doing wrong with my resume, job search. Even if you never accept a job they offer you, or even if they never offer you a job, it's worth your time just to get a third party opinion. –  Timothy Baldridge Oct 13 '11 at 12:06
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This detailed answer is a Sherlock Holmes-esque feat given the scarcity of clues in the question. Kudos! –  Konrad Rudolph Oct 13 '11 at 12:57
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Do I really need to finish my graduation or get a certification?

That'll help. You said in a comment that your most recent experience is a 3-month internship in 2004. Anyone looking to hire a programmer would look at that and move on to the next résumé. If you can finish your degree, and if it's in a field that's relevant to the jobs you're applying to, then you'll be a more attractive candidate.

Another thing that will help is to get some experience in addition to finishing you degree. If you like PHP, use it to build something interesting and/or useful. Make it something that you'd be proud to show people, because that's exactly what you're going to do.

If you can finish the degree and build one or more good-looking projects, you'll go from the "no degree/no experience" résumé pile to the "he's got a degree and some experience and he's finished something" pile, and that's a much better pile to be in.

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It seems that a complete lack of experience is the core problem in your case, since you stated that you had last job 7 years ago.

It is extremely easy to get an experience in programming: just start your own personal programming project.

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If you are obtaining your undergraduate degree, how have you been searching for a job for 10 years? That seems like it could be a bit of an exageration.

As for why it takes a while, it's the reality of the game. You have to get a lot of no's before you get a yes. But in the meanwhile, find what is making it hard for you. Is it your technical prowess? Could it be your soft skills and maybe how you relate to the interviewers.

Also, if you aren't getting many phone calls back then maybe it is your resume/cv that is lacking. Have somebody look at it. A laundry list of technology that you know isn't always the best approach.

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@Victor - What did you do during those years. If there is a hole in your programming experience you either need to explain it or fill it in. You had to be doing something all those years. –  Ramhound Oct 13 '11 at 11:58
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I'm based in Ireland, I once got a Resume from an American with a 5 year hole in his work experience that he explained with I hitch-hiked around USA for 5 years. My first though was "What was he in prison for?". You need to be able to explain holes in your experience, and if you have to, be colourful & creative doing so (obviously without telling outright lies, I could never condone lying to a prospective employer) –  Binary Worrier Oct 13 '11 at 16:00
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1- Ask those companies why, that can give you some idea.

2- Ask friends / family to read your curriculum. They may find few things to improve.

3- Get practicing, the first interviews are not so easy, with times. You will improve.

4- Don't forget that people who hire are not always a programmer. HR often look more at your "social skill", even if you're a rock-star programmer.

But 10 years without a job in IT?

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Please note victor 7 years in programming is a VERY long time. (refresh required every 18 months?) Industry changes very fast and you need something highly up to date to keep a possible employer interested in you. –  MaxSan Oct 13 '11 at 15:40
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[Others have mentioned experience, etc., but I am looking at a different angle -- How to look for the job.]

My "training" suggests you should use another strategy for finding a job. [The training was state sponsored and "strongly suggested" by the state if I was to continue to get unemployment while looking for a job.]

First off, when a company lists a job online, it will usually get 500+ resumes/applications for that 1 position. (I expect the number is actually higher, but that's what we were told.) To sort through all of the resumes received, most places now use computer programs that look for the right key words and phrases.

TIP: Find out what key words and phrases are important to the employers you are looking at, and put them in your resume!

If a resume passes the computer sort, someone sits down and reads it. This person probably is in HR and probably has no idea about the technical aspects except that they have been told to look for these "things."

Assuming the resume makes it through HR screening, then it goes to the technical people who usually consist of a manager or two and possibly some peers. They will be looking for specifics that may have never been well translated into HR's requirements.

When I was reading resumes to find co-workers for a project I was on, it was done in addition to my other duties. Therefore, I tried to be very expedient in looking at a resume. Typically, I would decide within 10 seconds of starting to glance at the resume whether or not I was going to continue and possibly read it. In practical terms, that means I would scan the first 1/3 of the first page and decide if there was something worth looking at. Talking with others who have looked through resumes, this seems to be the norm.

TIP: Write your resume so it captures the attention of the reader in the first 1/4 of the page. (i.e. Put "the Good Stuff" up front. Bold important words.)

A Different Way In

The biggest problem these days is really trying to get your resume to be one of the ones that gets really looked at out of the hundreds that are submitted, and then to get an interview. To the people reviewing your resume, you are just a piece of paper.

But, what would happen if "Bill" who is working a Frobitz Corp (where there is an opening for a SW engineer) were to take your resume to the hiring manager and personally ask him to look at it? You may have just bypassed the sorts you wouldn't have gotten through. Maybe the hiring manager may just interview you as a favor to Bill because Bill is a good friend of his.

To that end, many experts in job search no suggest networking is a better way to find a job. They throw around statistics like 80% of the jobs are never listed and filled through people who know someone.

TIP: Build a network of people you know who might be able to place those resumes where they will be seen. Also remember to be looking out to do the same for them.

Does this work? For some people, yes quite well. In fact I know someone whose contract just expired who got an offer the same day at another company. She asked if she needed to get an interview and was told by the hiring manager, "I talked to some of the people who worked with you at your old company, and I do think we need one."

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from my opinion please make some projects or apps(can be just dummy) in the language you know and give their reference in your resume . there are two benefits from this approach

first you can improve your skills by making project and projects idea should be real .

second your interviewer can get idea that you are capable of doing work but you didnt get the right opportunities.

i personally suggest these methods to some of my friends and Juniors and it works for them

and please continue to study basics of language you are going for interview

all the best dear and hope for best

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Build stuff and show them what you are capable of. –  marko Oct 13 '11 at 5:53
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@Caleb - By "dummy" projects, I think they mean "demonstration projects". The point isn't that they're useful, it's that they're well-written. What exactly is the ruse? –  Brendan Long Oct 13 '11 at 16:45
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It could be anything much of it external and out of your control such as the local job market, technology fads etc.

However I think the single thing about your CV that is putting people of is the gaps in your CV. These scare employers big time. They fill in the gaps with thier imaginations and mostly what they imagine is not good "He was in prison or maybe a mental institution","He might have been doing arms training with a neo-nazi militia" -- you get the picture.

You need a really good (and I mean really good) story to account for gaps in a CV -- but don't lie just make whatever you were doing sound interesting and constructive.

The second thing which will scare employers is you started a degree but have not yet finished it. In the eyes of a personnel officer this is actually worse than not going to college at all.

There is not much you can do about this apart from actually finish the degree, and, they are not necessarily show stoppers, but, be aware that these are problems as far as interviewers are concerned and be prepared to counter the negative impression. Have a story to tell and tell it with confidence.

In the meantime finish that degree!

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Since you mention that your last job was around 10 years ago, companies look for what work you have done in these 10 years. Lets say you have done some freelancing or worked on some personal projects, does your resume mention this? I think what is probably happening is companies see a gap in your resume for all these years and become doubtful if you are up-to-date in your skills. (probably that's why they written tests).

Another thing is to polish your basics and get them right.

I believe that instead of getting bogged down, you can always make a fresh start:

  1. Do some freelancing or personal projects
  2. Mention it on your resume, this indicates that you are upto date and done some work.
  3. Get your basics right. (this is where we stumble most of the times)
  4. Start Applying and interviewing. Learn from each interview.

Rather than just relying on PHP, also learn new technologies like HTML5, Javascript, CSS3 etc., and become well-versed in them.

HTH and you get a new job soon.

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To find out whats going wrong put yourself in the shoes of an employer and start asking questions like these:

  • Will you call this person for interview having looked at the resume and job responsibilities?
  • Will I be comfortable working with this person?
  • Is he/she technically competent enough to become a contributing member of the team in a short period of time?

If you can answer them honestly, then you will have identified the areas you need to work on. If you find it difficult to answer these questions without any bias, ask your friend or mentor or someone you trust to do it for you. Try giving mock interviews. If you university have a career center, go talk to them.

In this day and age of the internet, you might want to take a hard look at your internet presence too. What I mean by that is, take a hard look at what you have been posting in social networking sites, blogs, etc...

If you can afford, start doing some free work and start gaining real experience. You can use these as references in your future interviews. Eventually it will help you find a permanent job that pays you.

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Dude, I can feel for you.

My best answer for you might be to use whatever time you have to volunteer your skills either for:

  • A non-for-profit organization that needs to update their web site
  • An open-source project that you are interested in

If you are able to make a successful contribution to either, that will give you something to show from your portfolio when you are trying to convince someone to hire you. In this business, degrees look good, but experience looks even better and counts for more. You need what they call "street-cred" in the ghetto. Of course, unless you were lucky enough to be born into wealth, you probably also need to make some money. So you will have to manage your time wisely and hopefully not burn out.

By volunteering to work on something that you are passionate about, you will very likely meet other professional contacts that will help you later. One of the things about non-for-profits that someone else noted to me once is that their Boards of Directors are usually staffed by people that own or have access to other people that own for-profit businesses. Those are the folks that can help you!

It may not sound fair, but success in this world usually depends on a combination of skills and who you know. Who you know will get you a foot in the door to have five minutes in front of someone that can actually hire you. Skills will allow you to stay in the door and get a place at the table.

When I was starting out, I thought that my new degree and "skills" which I learned from Programming Languages classes were all I needed to get and keep a job. Man, was I wrong! Even Steve Jobs got kicked out of the company he started and didn't come back until he had mastered some skills about handling and grooming his fellow primates that he probably didn't think he needed when he started Apple with his buddy Woz. Right now he's probably up there already making new friends and influencing people. When I get to Heaven I want to work for him!

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Start asking for feedback. I'm not saying there haven't been instances of personal bias in your rejections, but there is something consistently wrong. You've been able to tell during the interviews that you're not getting an offer. Ask why they are cutting the interview short. Find out what the problem is. When you walk into an office, is the receptionist put off by your appearance?

Sometimes a job recruiter can be more objective about your ability to be hired. They may not be able to find you a job, but the insight may help you land one on your own after better preparation.

Write some code! Get it out there. Join a local tech group. Finish your degree. Ask a professor about writing a recommendation. Maybe they won't and can tell you why.

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Perhaps you're looking in the wrong area. Have you considered relocating? The region I live in (USA - MidEast/Great Lakes) is always hurting for programmers. Especially Java. Jobs here are going unfilled for really long periods of time due to lack of qualified applicants.

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"Hurting for programmers", meaning that the lack of programmers inflicts pain upon the companies in the region. –  Brian Knoblauch Oct 13 '11 at 18:37
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How do you know programming? What qualifications could you show someone to prove that you can program? Do you have examples of code in Delphi and PHP? This is just the tip of the iceberg but I'd think how you'd answer those questions would show a lot about where you are.

Another thought is the question of how are you networking. When you send your curriculum to a company, how are you sure that they want it? Are you joining in the masses that apply through an on-line job board of some kind? Think about what networks do you have where you could find out about companies looking for programmers and try to get your foot in the door earlier rather than later. If you can find out that a company wants to hire a programmer and be the only applicant, then that is your dream spot. The key is to be available and know who has the power to hire you rather than wait till messages come out that cause thousands of people or more to apply for jobs. Consider what you are and aren't doing from a network and tactical perspective.

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PHP is almost more for designers to throw up quick sites. I believe to get a PHP job, you also need to be good in CSS, Javascript, and HTML.

I think the best way to get into PHP is to have a portfolio. You should create your own website, so you can show your skills to prospective employers. You can also volunteer to create for charities.

Have forms that need are validated on the website. That is very practical.

Delphi is kind of an odd one to get into, I don't have good advice for you.

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I am still undergraduate (from university) in compsci.

If you are still studying, then it is a good reason for serious employers to turn you down.

Do I really need to finish my graduation or get a certification? Most probably yes.

Basically the positions I have applied to, are for internships

Such positions sometimes don't follow regular hiring rules. Some bias for personal skills may be involved.

When I am called to an interview (yes, it happened) the interview doesn't even lasts 5 minutes and I am quickly dispensed.

No offence, but either you look too young to be taken seriously or you have looks issue as mentioned by @Casey Patton

I have applied for jobs to work with Delphi and PHP.

Did the employers you wanted to work for want these skills? Did you have any evidence that you know enough about this? Have you built anything you can refer to in your resume? Is your resume good?

Focus on market needs and try to distinguish yourself. Also, some companies hire only via recruiters only. Try to build a system for your college or university. Work with one of your professors in a project and try to use his/her connections. Ask your friends about what they did? Try to build some reputation in vWorker or similar sites. You could earn some money and get more skill.

Don't give up.

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