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A few words about CVs and portfolios

We don’t ask for any kind of application form. Candidates are asked to provide a CV with an optional cover letter. A well written cover letter, which shows that somebody has actually researched the company, the role and taken the time to write a heartfelt response – will guarantee a good look at the CV.

CV

The first thing we check is qualifications – it is possible to get a job without a degree, but it’s going to be much more difficult to demonstrate that you have the knowledge required for the role. Although that’s a double edged blade, because a good degree does not mean you’re a good programmer.

We have to check the candidate’s location, because as a company we’re just not in a position to sponsor visas. Sadly, we have to disqualify many talented people based on that.

The overall quality of the CV is important. Some universities will essentially have a class during the curriculum where a student will be given a template for a ‘good CV’. When you’re reviewing over 100 CVs for a position, these ones are really obvious. It gets to a point when you think ‘If you can’t be bothered to spend time on your CV, why should we bother reading it?’.

Attention to detail is where lots of people mess up: making sure the text is correct and the dates all make sense. Generally if there’s an error, it won’t get your CV thrown out, but it will definitely come up in the interview. It’s super awkward when a candidate gives a 5-minute talk about the cliché, ‘my biggest weakness is my superb attention to detail’. Then has to squirm in their seat whilst they explain that they actually graduated in 2018, not 2008 as stated in their CV.

List what you did on your degree, we’re interested to know what modules you studied. This is even more important now that we’re seeing less computer science graduates and more unusual qualifications, like games design.

Realistically, anybody looking for a job in a software company should have enough skills to make their CV look good. Even if you’re awful at design (which is probably not great for a small company like ours, programmers with an eye for what looks good are very handy), you should be able to find a template to use.

Portfolio

A healthy library of projects showing code is the best way to showcase your ability. Bigger projects are preferred to smaller ones, because it’s more likely that the person will have actually done the work. Often, we see portfolios that are full of tiny ‘tutorial style’ projects, but in these circumstances you’re normally told what to do and you’re essentially following a recipe and adapting it a little. This doesn’t actually reflect real-life programming experience where you’re trying to solve a genuine problem.

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Working with Damibu has been both great and really interesting

“Working with Damibu has been both great and really interesting, Kate and John have been extremely helpful and professional whenever we have worked together. They have happily met with us on numerous occaisions so we can both share what we do and what work we are currently working on and discuss how we can work together”

 

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Jessica Anderson, 
Digital Health Team, PSS
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“Damibu have a very creative and collaborative approach”

“Damibu have a very creative and collaborative approach, supported by extremely efficient project management skills. This has been a great project to work on together, and the Damibu team have brought a dynamic and engaging new approach to interpretation to the Lady Lever Art Gallery.”

Jane Skinner, 
National Museums Liverpool
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“The sessions applied the human centred design process”

“The sessions applied the human centred design process and the way in which they engaged with the particular group of service users was admirable, this was always carried out with patience and empathy”

Anna Richards, 
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
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Do you want to work for us? Read this

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.