At Damibu we like to hire graduates. By hiring local graduates and training them up to be developers we can help young people come into the industry. It stops the vicious cycle of asking for lots of experience and references for a junior-level role when the candidate hasn’t had the opportunity to gain that experience yet.
The most important qualities that we look for in a potential employee are quite cliché things. We need someone who would fit in with the team, enjoy the role and want to be a part of what we’re trying to do as a company. Somebody who shares our vision.
We’re most interested in people who are constantly improving their skills – the perfect employee will push the company to keep up with them, rather than us pushing the employee to improve. We want problem solvers, which is why the most important part of our interview process is a practical problem solving exercise.
No professional experience is usually required, although it does, obviously, look really good. University experience is less interesting because, very often, it’s based on group projects where it’s very difficult to discern exactly what the candidate did from the rest of the team.
We’ve had interviews with graduates who have achieved a first in their degree, but did zero programming and provided evidence of experience for projects where their role was as project manager. Not to say this isn’t a good experience to have, but it doesn’t reflect the skills that we’re looking for in a developer role.
The best experience comes from having a pet project, something that the candidate is passionate about and have been working on in their own time. This best reflects what working life is like: you need to be self-motivated, find solutions to problems yourself and work independently to goals you have set.
Any experience that can demonstrate a person’s work ethic is always good. Sometimes people leave things off their CV because they feel it’s not relevant, but if you’ve been pulling 12hr shifts in McDonalds whilst doing your degree, that’s very important information that we need to know – it says a lot about a person’s character.
There are some common myths and interview advice that many applicants believe, such as turning up really early to an interview. We are a small company: we all work in an open plan office; there’s no reception or waiting room; and usually if we’re doing job interviews we’re trying to cram as many in each day we do them. If you turn up 45 minutes early for an interview (yes, it’s happened) we’ll tell you to go away.
If your interview is at 3pm, the appropriate time to press the door buzzer is 2.55pm or later. And if you’re running late, that’s fine, give us a call or drop an email to let us know.
Nobody ever contacts us prior to an interview but our office is hard to find, parking is basically impossible, public transport is not particularly easy. Why not ask about this kind of stuff before the interview? We work here every day, so we can probably advise the best places to get a parking spot or which buses to avoid during rush hour.
We have a very relaxed dress code, but people turn up in very fancy suits on very hot days. We’re doing the interview in shorts and t-shirts, whilst the poor candidate is being cooked alive in his three-piece skinny-fit suit and clip on tie. If people sent an email asking what the dress code was, they would probably be much more comfortable in the interview.
There are some university-inspired traits that aren’t actually that helpful in a real job. There’s a big challenge with trying to make graduates realise that universities are money-making organisations. Obviously, many students are paying for their studies with student loans, and are at a point in their lives where those loans don’t really mean anything.
The truth is, if universities stopped making money, they’d stop being open, so much of what the university tells the graduate has to be taken with a grain of salt. Often candidates have completely unrealistic expectations because the university has told them things would be a certain way, but that’s not how it works in real life.
Throughout academia you are told to not copy other people’s work, to not talk in class, to not use Google. This is because they want to test their students’ independent knowledge but in real life, building on other people’s successes, communicating as a team and the ability to research before spending time on something are super valuable skills. Again, this is where real life practical experience comes in. A pet project can solve many academic issues.
Here’s our top tip. We’re looking for programmers – people who are passionate about solving problems using computer code. We’re not interested in people who have learned the language and are just after a nice job. Passion about what you do is important to us.
There’s a big difference between someone who can read and change code that somebody else has written (in the older days we’d call this a ‘script kiddie’) and somebody who writes code from scratch. To be fair, in real life you spend a lot of your time adapting things that other people have made, often the manual you are following will suggest certain ways to do things – of course you should follow that suggestion. But the most important skill for a good programmer is to know that one day you will face a problem that nobody has faced before, the answer can’t be found on Stack Overflow, the manuals aren’t going to help you – and in that situation you must have the skills to sit down and write something from scratch.
You need to be able to solve the problem. All of our recruitment cycle is about trying to find a person capable of this one skill (that you will rarely use) but it’s what separates the script kiddies from the real developers.