Drifting on a Life Raft 60 Days after Being Laid Off

Relics of My Failed Yahoo! Interview My previous post marked just seven days of unemployment. Since then, I have journeyed though a brave new world of IT job searching. It’s important to remember that I have not been “on the market” for almost ten years—so monster.com and dice.com are a new set of tools to me.

Were it not for the patient care and feeding of my resume by the technical recruiter that ‘discovered’ me back in 1996, the kind and lovely Nattineque McClain of Technical Connections, I would have hit the ground crawling. Right about now, I am not quite running over new ground but jogging. I have collected a few remarks:

  • I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the code I have published on SourceForge.net and CodePlex.com is actually be download read by potential employers. This is the most respectful act a potential employer can perform on my behalf.
  • Apart from the worst economy in (almost) the entire history of this nation, one of the reasons why there is serious delay for my employment is the fact that the jobs offered to me are “senior-level” positions. These spots seem to be watched very closely. It’s understandable—and of course I am, so far, a terrible interviewer.
  • At least two different head hunters have given me some free advice (not including non-validated parking in some places) that I find very important: I need to answer interview questions quickly. I tend to nervously wander about trying to drown the space with my years of experience. This is a sickening habit coming from me that needs to stop.
  • According to one guide of “effective interviewing techniques,” I have often failed to: relax, be brief and succinct but not cryptic, listen and be forthright in my answers, make sure to let the interviewer know I want the job or, worse, avoid providing trivial reasons for wanting the position.

Interview Highlights: Yahoo! Music and Northrop Grumman

Just for my record, it’s important to me to remember that I celebrated a personal level of maturity in my career by semi-ceremoniously interviewing at Yahoo! Music in Santa Monica with Alex Sirota. I have very little PHP projects listed on my resume (I do not include my extensive Songhay System work, dating back to 1998) but was still called in for an hour-and-a-half chat with pen and paper (using a keyboard makes me a terrible scribbler). I was quick to express my appreciation for Douglas Crockford—and I even took a picture of the Santa Monica campus trashcan.

Out of respect/celebration for my father, I interviewed at Northrop Grumman. The military security aspect of the place was very, very present. Yeesh! The reception there alone made me nervous. I was asked a technical question by the interviewer that I flat out could not answer. It was totally my fault. The framing of the question ‘forced’ me to answer using technologies I would not use in the ‘traditional’ way. I should have answered the question using my XML and XSLT experience with .NET instead.

And, speaking of technical questioning, potential employers are asking very, very tough technical questions. A few weeks ago, I took a 45-minute test online with some the hardest questions about C# I have ever seen—I actually had to take notes afterwards like this one: “C#: the differences between readonly and const; MSDN; l-value.” I thought for sure I failed this particular test and was pathetically surprised to find out I was wrong. For another online music outfit in Santa Monica, I just spent the last weekend building an ASP.NET MVC application simply for the possibility of an interview. I see what I learned in this trial as personally rewarding for the long run but, right about now, extremely unpleasant gains.