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Denis Gobo

The Sad State Of Programmers Part 3: General Tips

The Sad State Of Programmers Part 3 : General Tips


This is the final part of this series. You can find the first two parts here


Part 1 The Phone Interview

Part 2 The face to face interview.


As far as the resume and interview tips go, I only focused on stuff I have encountered. You can find many tips on the internet and I did not want this post to be a copy of those.



Resume tips

Don’t repeat the same line

If you had 4 jobs and you did more or less the same thing then try to have a different description.  If you have to read the same sentence 4 times it gets very boring fast. Try to emphasize what you did at one company versus another. Maybe you worked with a lot more data at one company, maybe your stored procedures had a lot more error checking or had complex business logic. If you list the same thing four times then you are not really differentiating yourself from other people to the prospective interviewer.


List variations of the same keyword

Some companies will feed your resume into a keyword matching program. So in addition to having SQL you also need T-SQL, Structured Query Language and Transact SQL. The first time a recruiter told me this I was baffled, “it is all the same” I told her, she then told me that they used programs and if you don’t score high enough they won’t even consider you.


Do not lie on your resume

If you don’t have experience in SQL Server 2005 then do NOT list it on your resume. It is better not to list it then to be asked about it and admitting you don’t know it. One person admitted he put Java on the resume because the recruiter told him so. Did this get him a job? Of course it did not. Once you have one thing that is not true on your resume the interviewer will wonder what else could be a lie.


Do not try to impress the interviewer on paper

If you have Impressive Object Oriented Skills listed on your resume then you can be sure the interviewer will ask all kinds of OOP stuff. If your skills are really not that impressive then it won’t look that good.


Don’t list your certification right below your name

I saw one resume where the person had the certification right below his name; a certification is not a Ph.D it doesn’t take a lot of money and years to get one. I did notice that the more certifications a person has the less the person knew. I don’t know why this is, maybe it is to compensate for lack of skills, and it is puzzling to me. Your certifications should be listed after your education.



Try to keep your resume concise

If you have a resume which spans 8 pages then try to make it into two or three pages if possible. You can accomplish this by using a smaller font, cutting out duplicate sentences and leaving out sentences that don’t really show any skills. A sentence like the following does not add anything to the resume at all: worked with third party development tools. What does that sentence tell someone? You can use an application or development tool, doesn’t everyone? If you are a web developer then do not list FrontPage on your resume, this will make you look like an amateur.


Use nice paper

Buy yourself some high-quality paper. Your resume is a summary of what you have accomplished so far, don’t use regular paper for that, be proud of your accomplishments use good paper! Keep your resume in pristine condition, buy a folder so that your resume doesn’t get wrinkled.


You worked at the same company for the past 15 years

List all the different positions you have held separately. Listing the positions separately will make the job progression within the company much more obvious.



Interviewing tips

Dress for success

I mentioned it before and I will mention it again: show up for the interview dressed in business attire.


Dress conservative

For women this means the following:

No miniskirts

No high heels or platform shoes

No revealing shirts

No excessive jewelry

No 80s hair styles

Don’t pour gallons of Chanel No 5 on yourself, some people are allergic to perfume and might cut the interview short.


Men should be equally conservative

A navy or black suit is your best bet. You should wear a white shirt; my wife who worked in the banking industry told me a story once about a perfect candidate who did not get hired because he wore a blue shirt. I know it sounds ridiculous but you never know who sits at the other end of the table. I do have friends who over the phone find out about the dress code and ask if they can come in without a suit. I wouldn’t do it; if you have a suit wear it.

No neon colored ties, pick a conservative color.

No excessive jewelry; a wedding band and a watch is all you need. Keep you Cartier love bracelet at home until you get hired.

Don’t be a walking perfume factory, this is not a date.

Shave and trim your hair, if you have long hair keep it out of your face, if you have a beard then keep it neat.


Do your research

Here are two true stories. One person asked if we made shampoos because she passed Johnson & Johnson on the way to our building, she assumed we were a subsidiary. Another person did not know we got acquired by News Corp. it is okay if you don’t know what we do and we did not ask you but do NOT ask what a company does, you should have looked that up before the interview. Do ask what direction the company is going to, how they plan to deal with competition etc.


Behave proper

What you consider normal might not be considered normal by other people. Some people have phobias; they don’t want to be touched for example. I asked a person to explain to me what a deadlock was, he told me to grab the phone then he grabbed my hand and told me to pick up the phone. He said I couldn’t pick up the phone because he locked it. Don’t chew gum. Don’t say “What?’ but ask the interviewer to repeat the question.


Ask questions

Don’t just answer question but also ask questions. Ask about the team, development style, growth of the department and anything else you deem important.


Technical skills and how to keep them up to date

Not everyone works with the latest versions of SQL Server or Visual Studio. Maybe you don’t have a MSDN subscription at work to download the latest versions. When asked if you used the latest version of SQL Server do not say “no because we don’t use it currently at my job”. Some companies will see this as a sign that you are doing the same stuff day in and day out. Download the latest CTP or free express versions, use it at home, build stuff on the weekends. This way you can say that even though you have not used it at work you were still exposed to it. You initiated this yourself and this is an indication that you are willing to learn even in your free time.

I always ask the candidate how the skills are kept up to date. A lot of people have a very tough time answering this question; it might be because they don’t keep it up to date unless they are sent to a training class by their current employer. Instead of paying $40 for a video game or the new HD DVD directors cut invest in a book, this $40 investment will pay itself back very fast (of course you need to read the book and not use it as a paper weight). When you are the one at work who people ask questions to then this will get noticed and you might get promoted sooner. If your employer does not reimburse you for books then keep the recites; if you itemize on your tax return you can use them to lower you marginal tax rate.

Get a RSS reader and subscribe to blogs. There is great content from the SQL Server team, from book authors and from trainers. SQLBlog is a great blog to subscribe to and also check out the roller ( there are some great blogs there. Visit forums (fora) and newsgroups, here is the SQL server programming one

If you are not comfortable answering question then lurk, read what the masters answer and you will remember it when you have the same problem later on. Don’t worry if you get flamed, I myself answered a question a long time ago and some MVP answered to my answer “Hello table scan anyone”. This brings you back to earth very fast and also makes you verify code for next time. It makes you a better programmer because who wants to get flamed or criticized every day? Not me.

If you have a thick skin then start a blog about programming. Post something bad and you will get comments; this also will make you a better programmer since you will be more careful later on. I remember when I started my blog and I had a post about DBCC PINTABLE, Hugo Kornelis posted a comment how that was being deprecated and should not be used. I could have easily deleted the post and the comment but I did not, this reminds me that I have to double check before I post if I don’t want to get some comments telling me that I am a n00b. Here is the link to that post


This concludes this series, hopefully you learned something from it and look past the negativity to get something positive out of it(wow if that is not a self-help sentence then nothing is)


Happy New Year




Published Thursday, December 27, 2007 1:21 PM by Denis Gobo
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Denis Gobo : The Sad State Of Programmers Part 2 : The In Person Interview said:

December 27, 2007 12:32 PM

Denis Gobo : The Sad State Of Programmers Part 1 : The Phone Interview said:

December 27, 2007 12:32 PM

David Markle said:


An excerpt from one of my --favorite-- interviews ever:

Me: "I see here [from your resume] that you've done some .NET Remoting work.  What sort of problem were you trying to solve?  Why did you choose Remoting over Web Services?"

Candidate: "I have never used .NET Remoting."

Me: "That's OK.  Do you have any questions for me before we wrap up...?"*

Notice that I didn't call the candidate out on this one.  I felt so angry and disrespected at such a blatant lie on his resume, that I really didn't figure that he deserved me giving him a helpful hint on what not to do when interviewing for a job.

But Denis, you missed one big point here, often overlooked, in my experience as an interviewer:




December 27, 2007 9:32 PM

Adam Machanic said:

Wait -- you actually had someone take a call in the middle of an interview?  I presume, for a non-emergency situation (i.e., not something like, "This might be my wife, who is supposed to give birth to our child tomorrow")??

December 28, 2007 7:51 AM

Alexander Kuznetsov said:

Hi Denis,

I completely agree with you on certification - currently I kind of disregard it.

I cannot agree with you on your business attire recommendation. IMO if the goal of your interview is to get hired ASAP, then yes, I agree that the suit is the way to go. If, however, you also are interviewing the company and figuring out if the company is a good fit for you, if you are looking for a good fit for you, then it's up to you. If the company rejected a perfect candidate based on the color of his shirt, then it might not be the right company for the candidate. You know, good professionals may very choosy too. From this perspective it is better to get rejected than to get hired and become disappointed in the company soon.

Anyway, here in Midwest it is kind of relaxed - one can land a great job at a great company with top notch compensation without even having a suit at all.

December 28, 2007 3:31 PM

andyleonard said:

Excellent series Denis!

:{> Andy

December 28, 2007 6:19 PM

Denis Gobo said:


The reason I said to wear a suit is that it is a safe bet, when I interviewed at a company in Silicon Alley they did ask me if I have jeans since nobody wears suits at the company. At my current job we have a relaxed dress code (sneakers, jeans, tshirts). By looking around during the interview you should be able to get a good sense what the dress code is (unless you interview on a Friday)

December 29, 2007 7:22 PM

Adam Machanic said:

I always wear suits on interviews, even today when I don't interview for fulltime jobs (as a consultant I get the luxury of referring to interviews as "sales calls" <g>).  In a suit, you look nicer.  And when you look nicer, people think you're more trustworthy.  And if they think you're trustworthy, they're more likely to hire you.  In the end, you really have nothing to lose by putting on a suit, except the hassle of putting on a suit.  And you have everything to gain.  It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed in any situation -- if you find yourself truly overdressed and it's awkward, simply take off the tie, hang up the jacket, and you're good to go.

December 30, 2007 11:43 AM

David Markle said:

Adam & Denis:

I completely agree.  You can't go wrong with a suit, though many places are far more casual and wouldn't bat an eye.  But why take the chance of showing up to a place woefully underdressed?  What if the Big Man wants to give you the "final interview" after a technical interview?  A suit's the only way to go, unless you absolutely KNOW that everyone there from the lowest tech to the CxO is casual...

And Adam:  

Yes, I had someone take a call during an interview.  The funny (very very upsetting actually) thing about it was that I'd been told that the interviewee had been told that he would only need to interview with us for "an hour", and that his company expected him back.  So he took this call in front of me and I admonished him that it was extremely bad form to do so (I liked him, actually).  He passed all of the technical questions, and I figured that my admonition had stuck.  So he goes in to interview with the CIO to get a final vetting.  AND HE TOOK A CALL WHEN HE WAS IN WITH THE CIO!  Never have I felt so disrespected and embarrassed by an interviewee.  He was asked to leave, and I had some serious egg on my face that day.  

But even without such an extreme example, I do get people from time to time whose cell phones go off and they have to apologize and turn it off.  Better to check that your phone is fully off when you go to interview than have to apologize...


December 30, 2007 3:20 PM

Alex Kuznetsov said:


Of course I agree that a suit is a safe bet if you don't have enough information. However, I guess there might be some differences between regions and industries - in my experience it can be perfectly acceptable to ask what is the perfect dress code for an interview. The last three times I went to interviews, I asked that question, came in business casual, and got nice offers two times out of three. Of course, these are just a few cases, not enough for any conclusions, not enough for statistics. But I know other people with similar stories. Many candidates I am interviewing myself come in business casual and that's OK.

December 30, 2007 7:43 PM

Regan said:

Just a comment on the suit topic. I agree to wearing suit, and did so at my previous company. Walking into the building, and fairly quickly realized I was over-dressed. I went into interview with the technical architect, the IT director, the production SQL-DBA and a senior project manager. The IT director, when meeting me, looked at the suit and said - "Do people still wear those?"

Still, after removing the tie and jacket, we sat down and after a fairly hair-raising interview, and a few more (included aptitude courses etc.), I was hired.

Also, that experience once-again proved the value of honesty - if you get asked a question you don't now the answer to, or having only read about, then say that... otherwise you are likely to get caught out at guessing (which imho is a interview-killer).

January 6, 2008 4:17 PM
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About Denis Gobo

I was born in Croatia in 1970, when I was one I moved to Amsterdam (and yes Ajax is THE team in Holland) and finally in 1993 I came to the US. I have lived in New York City for a bunch of years and currently live in Princeton, New Jersey with my wife and 3 kids. I work for Dow Jones as a Database architect in the indexes department, one drawback: since our data goes back all the way to May 1896 I cannot use smalldates ;-( I have been working with SQL server since version 6.5 and compared to all the other bloggers here I am a n00b. Some of you might know me from or even from some of the newsgroups where I go by the name Denis the SQL Menace If you are a Tek-Tips user then you might know me by the name SQLDenis, I am one of the guys answering SQL Questions in the SQL Programming forum.

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