Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Resumes, interviews and truth in advertising

OK...what's the deal with resumes that say one thing (so that a candidate looks nearly perfect) and then you interview them and find out they can barely spell Oracle? I'd think that if your resume says you've been working with Oracle since 1988 and have worked extensively with PL/SQL, you'd know what a REF CURSOR is or maybe even know a bit about collections or something, right? I asked one candidate these questions and they said they'd never ran into those 'features'. So finally, just for fun, I asked "On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being expert, where would you rank yourself in terms of your PL/SQL proficiency?" The answer: "Well, I suppose it's a bit conceited to give yourself a 10, so I'll just be humble and say 9."

Are you kidding me? Really?

Personally, I think my resume is lacking overall. I seem to have a hard time distilling over 20 years of experience into a couple of pages and making the "real me" show up on paper. But, if you get me into the ballpark (i.e. an interview), I'll hit most every pitch you throw at me. But, I'd be terrified to try to over-sell myself and get caught unable to deliver the goods. So, it's just a bit scary for me to look at resumes and think "Wow!" and then talk to the person for 3 minutes and think "Yuck!"

At what point did this become the norm and not the exception? Or, am I just in the midst of some weirdly skewed tilt of the interview universe? It almost reminds me of my reaction when reading an ad that claims "World's Best" or "Indescribably Perfect" or some other line and knowing it's just a ploy. I'm not a fan of those that skirt the edges of "truth in advertising". But when it comes to selling yourself, I'd really hope the claims you make could be backed up. Sigh...

Here's hoping that the rest of this week's interviews are with folks who match their advertising.


Noons said...

"At what point did this become the norm and not the exception?"

At the point Oracle decided to flood the market with "certifications".

You may not have had the experience of seeing an "OCP" unable to use a command line interface and asking for EM to be able to do anything.

I have...

moleboy said...

I think there's also a question of perspective.
If you work with oracle, and every task you get is, basically, query the data in two tables, then you might think that the only thing oracle people do is query two tables at a time.
So, in that sense, you might think you are an expert.

The same can happen in reverse, too.
I'd had one serious oracle job, and I'd assumed I was really still something of a novice in many ways. I kept seeing jobs requiring "experience with oracle stored procedures, functions, packages and triggers" and I'd simply assumed that there was something I didn't understand and that I was unqualified for the jobs.
Why? Because the vast majority of my work had been in stored procedures, functions, packages and triggers. I simply couldn't imagine doing the job without those. In my head, it was no different than requiring knowledge of SQL outer joins. So I just assumed that they were talking about something very different than I was talking about, because otherwise it would go without saying.

Eventually, I learned that I was just wrong, and that I wasn't the novice I thought I was, and that there were lots of people out there who did nothing but write queries and updates.

Brian Tkatch said...

Resumes are a bit of a game now. Keyword searching/scanning, head hunters looking for the impossible (like ten years java experience when it was only five years old); false-advertisers are looking for expected liars, so to play the game, you have to lie.

I try to be honest on my resume. I want the keywords (not the experience) to pull up my resume, and the interview will tell the person who i am. I am not hired as much for my experience or knowledge because i can usually search online or read a book, but for the hirer's confidence in my ability to learn it. Experience is then a plus, not a requirement.

I've asked prior employer's what made them hire me. For a tech support role he told me it was when he asked what computer i had. I responded p-166/64 MB memory/2.1 GBHDD, and do on. He said since you didn't say (!sic) "Compaq this or Dell that" he knew i was a technical person, and therefore could do the job.

For a job in DBs (moving from SQL Server to DB2) i was told it was the way i answered an interview question. The question was something about how i would do my job and perhaps a specific question. My answer was that if he provides "Point A" and "Point B", i would get him from "Point A" to "Point B". If *either* was left out, i was not the person for the job.

He told me it was because i wasn't a yes man, and i knew clearly what i wanted.

Was that on my resume? No. If i did put that on my resume would that help? Probably not. So, like messages on a public forum website, the title is meant to grab attention, but may have nothing to do with the content.

On a scale of 1 to 10, i'm afraid to answer that one. For one, i am working with SQL Server now, and two, i never finished reading the help files. I think a 6 would do it. When i am into it, i can get the job done, i know most of the keywords, where to look for more, and i like reading and understanding people's posts on Oracle subjects. But expert, that's not me (yet!), so 8 and above would be too much.

Your question intrigued me. :P

Gary Myers said...

"so I'll just be humble and say 9"
That's one problem. Once you think you know everything you stop learning. Someone who answers 3 probably knows how many built-in packages they've never looked at, let alone used.

Brian Tkatch said...

"Once you think you know everything you stop learning."

I think that matters on personality. Once you know everything, you are more apt to experiment. Going where noone has gone before and the like.

"Someone who answers 3 probably knows how many built-in packages they've never looked at, let alone used."

And is possibly content at that level, not valuing total knowledge, or considering the effort too daunting.

Yes, 9 is a problem, but so is 3. Unless he tacks on a hopeful "right now".

varsha said...

A good post on "Resumes, interviews and truth in advertising".An important point is a resume and cover letter should be the marketing tools that help candidate to land the position that is perfect for him.


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