One Minute Bottom Line
|Take it straight from a hiring manager's mouth: Go get this book and do what it says! You might say, "But I already have a tech job that I love." My answer: You'll need another job one day. Go get this book and do what it says!
A little over a year ago, I ventured into the world of software development management, and at the time I inherited a team having a few open positions. Previously I had been involved in numerous interview teams for developers wishing to join our team in various capacities. At one point I was even able to say that I had personally interviewed every member of my team, including my boss! As one who has personally been a part of (according to my rough estimation) close to 100 interview teams, I can safely make two assertions:
1) Less than 5% of software developers that I have encountered have put any of the concepts in Andy Lester's book into practice;
2) Of those who did, all of them either landed the job or declined an offer!
I could probably just end the book review right now. It's hard to argue with results. However, I certainly don't feel like I've done the book justice yet, so I'll continue.
Andy's target is the technical professional "unhappy with his or her career or working to move to a better place." At the outset he acknowledges that he doesn't necessarily know your specific situation or that of the company for which you're interested in working. However, after talking with many folks in exactly this state of flux, he's found that the ideas and principles undergirding this book seem to be universal. At the very least, applying them is more likely to get you the job you love than not applying them.
Like any good author, Andy begins with basic principles. Consider these the "Seven Habits of the Successful Job Search," each of which is expanded upon in great detail throughout the book. He follows this section up with a chapter that asks a very probing question, one you should never begin a job search without asking: "What Do You Want in a Job?" These two chapters form an incredible foundation for the rest of the book. The first sets the tone - that your job search is less about you doing this or that and more about you BEING the ideal employee that I, as hiring manager, am looking for. Chapter two is the yang to chapter one's yin - if you're going to be that ideal employee, make sure you're the ideal employee for the right job.
Chapters three and four are alone worth the price of admission. They surround what Andy describes as "your first work product for your new company," otherwise known as your resume. Over the course of my career I've probably scanned hundreds of resumes, and rarely have I seen one that made my job easy. Why should I hire you? Why should I print your resume rather than dragging it to the recycle bin? What value are you going to bring to my company? Andy walks you through how to answer these questions. Chapter three focuses on the content of your resume and chapter four focuses on the presentation. Send me a resume guided by Andy's principles and I'll guarantee you at least one foot in the door.
You'll find plenty more gold nuggets as Andy rounds out part one of his book by guiding you through your job search and the application process. And now, the moment we've all been waiting for - I want YOU to come in for an interview. Do you want to nail it? Do you want to make it nearly impossible for me to not jump up and cheer? (SIDEBAR: I have a confession to make. I really don't like recruiting. And I REALLY don't like interviewing. Why? Because the vast majority of candidates that I've seen across the interview table are drastically unprepared. I remember especially grueling seasons of recruiting during which most of the interviews really should have ended after less than five minutes.) Then be the candidate that I often daydreamed about. I remember imagining the candidate that would walk in and energize the room by her very presence. I remember his technical proficiency, her problem solving skills, his impressive work portfolio (most don't even bring one!). Chapters seven through eleven tell you how to be that candidate. From interview preparation, to crafting your work portfolio, to crafting prepared answers to difficult questions, to treating everyone like the CEO, Andy shows you how to be the uberinterviewee.
So now you've nailed the interview and you're waiting. You're asked for references - Andy tells you what to do. The phone rings - there's an offer on the table. How do you negotiate? When should you accept? How do you leave your present company? Andy answers all of these questions and then some. Closing out this section of the book, Andy tackles a topic that you don't find in too many job search books: how to handle rejection. It's an important topic to tackle because unfortunately, even if you implement all of Andy's advice, it will still happen. And if you and your prospective employer aren't an incredible fit for one another, you should be glad when it does.
In his final words, Andy addresses those who already have the tech job that they love by admonishing them to stay hirable. He briefly walks down the road that Chad Fowler traveled in The Passionate Programmer
and Jared Richardson navigated in Career 2.0
. Andy's unique contributions include his advice to use your resume as a tracking tool for self-improvement and assessing yourself by always looking for your next job.
What's incredibly refreshing throughout is that Andy doesn't pretend to have all of the answers. At the outset he tells you to consider his advice, and that of other job search texts, and to take what makes sense for your situation. He's incredibly humble, and yet he speaks with the authority of one who has been down the road that you're traveling and has arrived at his destination successfully. He speaks as a mentor, gently guiding you through the entire job search process from figuring out what you want in a job all the way to getting that job.
To summarize, my job as a hiring manager is hard, but for the wrong reasons. These days I have to uncover the talent. It's usually hidden behind a poor resume or a nervous interviewee. They don't teach these skills in any computer science program or trade school with which I'm familiar - up until this point you could plead ignorance. Now you're on the hook. Make my job hard for the right reason - showcase your talent and tell me how you can help me by reading and applying Andy Lester's book. I'd much rather have a hard time choosing than a hard time finding someone worthy of it. I can't tell you if Andy's advice will work for you. However, from where I sit as a hiring manager, I can make one definite statement: if you apply the techniques in this book, it will absolutely set you apart from 99% of the prospective candidates that cross my desk. That alone is worth the effort. In today's employment climate, anything that can set you apart as a better value add than the next guy is worth its weight in gold.