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How to increase your chances of getting hired as a developer

How to increase your chances of getting hired as a developer

Encore is growing fast, which means I’ve been in the process of hiring developers for nearly four months straight.

In that time, I’ve seen a lot of candidates on a variety of different platforms (we really like Hackajob, Hired, and Angellist) and I’ve gradually become more and more frustrated by the lack of individuality in developer profiles.

Here are the five things I wish more developers would do when looking for their next role:

1 / Show me your personal side

What makes you unique? What gets you out of bed in the morning? How do you spend your evenings and weekends? I’m specifically looking for people who love music, so some mention of music in your biography will do wonders for anyone wanting to work at Encore.

If you want to work at a sports company, talk about your sporting side. If health is your thing, talk about what it means to you. You get the picture.

2/ Build your own personal website

This is one of the best things you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. A fantastic personal website earns a lot of brownie points, and differentiates you from the other twenty people I’ve seen in a given day.
Your site doesn’t need to be flashy or extensive, just make sure it:

  • Does justice to your front-end abilities
  • Behaves nicely across all screen sizes
  • Doesn’t comprise of a completely uncustomised Bootstrap theme 😉

3/ Showcase your projects

I love to see the projects you have worked on, regardless of whether they were labours of weekend love or projects from previous jobs. This gives me an insight into your ability to craft a user-friendly product and present information in a clear way, and good projects stay with me long after I’ve looked at your profile.
“So, who are we interviewing today?”
“The girl who built that really nice one-page React app for doing X”
It’s a talking point, and we really enjoy going through previous work in interviews.

4/ If you can’t show me a live demo, show me screenshots

I go through the following thought process on a daily basis:

“Ooh, they’ve linked to a GitHub repo. I wonder what they built…”

“Okay, haven’t been able to find a URL so far. Maybe there are screenshots…”

“Oh, they want me to follow a 10-step process in order to run a server locally on my machine. And still no screenshots.”

I don’t really have time to install every project I see, so it’s really really helpful if you can provide live demos of your work. I don’t care if your URL still contains herokuapp.com or github.io, as long as I can play with the code you’ve built.

If, for some reason, you’re not able to host it online, or if it’s unfinished, then at least include some screenshots in the README.md of your GitHub repo or in the Portfolio section of your website.

5/ Be specific with your ambitions for your next role

If you’re looking to work on hard machine learning problems in your next job, then please say so in your profile. It’s quite common to read through someone’s profile, talk to them on the phone and only discover after 30 minutes of talking that they’re not looking for the work you’re offering.

I really like when people mention the following:

  • Do you prefer front-end, back-end or both?
  • What size of team do you want to join?
  • Do you want to (are you ready to) lead a team in the near future?
  • Are there particular types of business that appeal to you i.e. marketplace, e-commerce, deep tech?

I hope this has been helpful, and if you have suggestions for how I could improve this guide, please fire them in my direction: jm@joinencore.com

And just to demonstrate that I practice what I preach: the last developer we hired had a fantastic personal website with a Labs section showcasing 41 different projects he had built, all with live working demos. He mentioned music in his biography, and was specific with the type of company he wanted to join next. Perfect. 👌

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Facebook: Please Don’t F*ck with Instagram

Dear Facebook

I have an intense affinity with Instagram. As far as social networks go, the mobile UX i̶s̶ was exceptional, and it’s an app I use regularly throughout the day.

Scrolling through my carefully curated feed is a joy: with only one photo occupying the screen at a time, the pace feels relaxed and my attention doesn’t feel like it’s being frayed at the seams.

The introduction of ads to Instagram doesn’t actually bother me. They’ve been tasteful, so far. I read somewhere that the founder was carefully vetting every single one in the early days, and it showed. Companies typically make more of an effort with the aesthetic of their ads on Instagram. Instagram is a business with big ambitions, and an ad model makes complete sense for the platform. I’m cool with that.

Reordering the timeline bothers me.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days of chronological news-feeds. Opening the app and seeing something that JUST happened is exciting! I like being able to respond quickly to things at the top of the feed. Most of all, it just makes sense. It requires no extra mental work on my part to figure out when something was posted.

If you know anything about good UX, you know that good experiences are designed to minimise mental strain. The latest change to the feed breaks this fundamental principle. Instagram have moved the timestamp from the top of their posts to the VERY BOTTOM. The user has to make an effort (both mental and physical) to figure out when something was posted. I hate this. It frustrates me a lot.

“Let’s move the timestamp to the bottom of the photo”

“Why don’t we put it below the comments so the user has to scroll past them to find it?”

“Great idea! We’ll massively increase engagement and session times!”

“Score. What should we put in its place?”

“How about a chevron linking only to a ‘Report’ button?”

“I love it. Hey, pass me another beer. I’m sobering up.”

Instagram redesign comparison

Left: timestamp in the top right corner. Right: Timestamp is offscreen, replaced by a useless chevron. WTF!?

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how much I love Instagram, but I can summarise it very quickly.

I used to hate the idea of Instagram. Filtered photos of hipster coffees and meals that don’t need to be photographed? No thanks.

But then I tried it, and I loved sharing the highlights of my day. Instagram is designed to be experienced one photo at a time, and that encourages people to share only their best photos. Over time, I started to curate a visual highlight reel of my life, and with 400+ posts on my account now, I have a wonderful photographic account of the last two years.

Instagram Map feature

My favourite feature. Spot the “meal that doesn’t need to be photographed”

I cherish my Instagram account dearly, and would be reluctant to switch to another platform, but that doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate reductions in product quality.

This new change bothers me a lot. I don’t use the feed as much as the average user, but these backward steps don’t signal a promising future for everyone’s favourite photo app.

Dear Facebook,

Please don’t f*ck with Instagram.

Kudos to Giulio Michelon for providing the inspiration (and call to arms!) for this post.

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If you use Gmail, you should be using Streak

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I’ve talked to a surprising number of people who have never used or even heard of Streak, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on why it’s awesome.

Having Streak is sort of like having Gmail on steroids. It’s actually taken me about a year to start using it properly, but I’m saving so much time now that I am.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order:

1. Read receipts

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That little r is Rapportive, which shows you people’s LinkedIn profiles beside their emails. It’s awesome.

This one is slightly creepy, but really useful. By sneakily adding a 1px by 1px image to your emails, Streak can let you know when they’ve been read by the recipient. Useful for deducing whether someone’s ignoring you or whether they’ve just not opened your email yet.

I claim no responsibility for the crushing disappointment you’ll experience the first time Streak tells you somebody’s ignoring you…

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2. Snippets

Ever found yourself sending the same email again and again? Streak’s snippets are basically templates you can drop into your Gmail compose window with just two clicks.

Or, even better, you can set up shortcuts! Watch this:

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You can also use these snippets in conjunction with Streak’s Mail Merge feature, though I’d advise sending no more than 500 emails in a single day if you don’t want your account to be suspended. I learned that lesson so you don’t have to.

3. Pipelines

This is, without a doubt, Streak’s killer feature. I’ve used this in various scenarios, from customer support to fundraising to hiring, but it’s easiest to explain in the context of sales.

When selling, you take your prospects through a funnel. They begin as leads, you make that first cold email or phonecall, and after a demo and some negotiation, they hopefully become a customer!

Tracking all of your prospects at once is a hassle, though. Thankfully, Streak makes this really easy WITHIN GMAIL.

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I’ve been talking to a lot of wedding planners recently (110, to be precise) about how Encore could save them time, and this is the pipeline I’ve been using. Each row is a “box” which can be associated to an email thread.

Boxes can have notes, files and more attached to them. You also add tasks which automatically appear in your Google calendar. Here’s what one of my boxes looks like:

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If someone else is working with me on this sales funnel, we can share this pipeline and assign various boxes to various people. Everything syncs really seamlessly, and it’s something we’ve found really useful when dealing with inbound customer support, which we spread evenly between all members of the Encore team.


So, those are the three things I really love about Streak. You can install it at streak.com, and I’d love to hear how you get on! I can be reached @jamsusmaximus or by email.

Oh, and if you’re booking musicians for an event any time soon, come on over to joinencore.com where we’ll find you them in a matter of minutes.

Over and out.

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My first foray into the Open Source world

Encore’s in an exciting place right now, and we’re gearing up to launch at Oxford next week.

Part of our preparations today involved adjusting our signup flow for Oxford students, and seeing as each student’s email address contains an indication of their College, I set about writing some code to fill in the College field as soon as an Oxford student hits the second part of our registration process.

The code is simple, but the process of gathering all of the email suffixes was laborious, and so to save time for anyone attempting this in the future, I stuck the code in a public GitHub repo

The code is essentially one huge Javascript switch statement. It could probably be more efficient, but it works, and hopefully someone will one day make use of it. Let me know if that someone is you!

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