Thoughts on website ideas, PHP and other tech topics, plus going car-free
Tech Job Seeker’s Howto
Categories: Work

Following my musings on the quality of PHP roles in the Midlands, I thought I’d record some of the problems of looking for IT work, and offer some notes on how I’m tackling the search. If you’re a techie with itchy feet, and would be interested in a fresh set of ideas, read on!

To start with, some 90% of roles I consider have been found in feeds, or a site browse, from the likes of IT Job Board, JobServe, Indeed, TechnoJobs, JobIsJob, Inqjobs and TotalJobs. Sadly, their keyword-matching systems are usually pretty scattergun, since I seem to be receiving quite a few roles based in Lincoln (only 100 miles out, but credit where it’s due: at least it’s in England). Many of the roles are grad or mid-level,  and yet I’m wary of setting salary filters lest I miss out on the many roles that don’t include one at all (“competitive”, “market rates” etc). One day a smart tweenager will apply fuzzy matching and Bayesian analysis to the problem, he or she will become Very Rich Indeed, and this socialist will cheer from the sidelines.

OK, so of the roles found in job boards, they are almost entirely submitted by recruitment agencies. Now, if you’re a recruitment agency researching me via links on my CV (which I generally applaud) then feel free to skip a few paragraphs. Or, feel free to read and smile! For everyone else: my major problem with agencies is that the process of job hunting is slowed down; really, quite considerably slowed down. One of my primary tests of the suitability of the role is how commutable it is, and yet agency ads won’t provide decent location info, ever. I can’t ring the agency and ask them straight off, since they will presume I’m a sneaky competitor intending to snaffle clients from under their nose. So, one has to go through a lengthy process, in which a CV is submitted, together with a covering note. Then, the recruiter will call in a day or two, and want to spend half an hour during office hours (!) discussing the caller’s current role, their reasons for leaving, what the search parameters are, and so forth. Several further days may elapse before the recruiter kindly reveals the name of the client, and the postcode – only for the role to be an hour car drive away, and not otherwise commutable.

What then might be termed the rogue agency consideration is rather helpful for agencies, who need up-to-date CVs to survive. After all, they’re working for free until they place a candidate. There have been one or two situations recently in which I’ve applied for a vapourjob that mysteriously disappears, the agency sheepishly apologises for not calling back, and I’ve been inclined to suspect CV hoovering i.e. the advertising of a filled position to lure more CVs into the inbox. I claim that British libel law prevents me from naming names.

An extra dilemma with agencies is that, given the amount of role adverts they generate, all with high page ranks and SEO whatnot, direct roles are much harder to find in the search engines. Perhaps this is the idea? However I’ve hit on a technique to counteract this, having noticed that many directly advertised roles will include a request not to be contacted by agencies. These days I frequently web-search for PHP Senior Developer “no agencies” and hey presto: a phalanx of direct roles, from real employers, with easily deduceable locations. Eureka!

So, job seekers are in something of a bind here, especially if they want to be careful who they send their CV to. Perhaps I should start an Internet meme for jobseeking geeks? – when you finally get your shiny new job, bulk-email (via blind cc) every agent you’ve dealt with in the current round, and ask for your CV to be deleted under the Data Protection Act. Even if it doesn’t cut down on the hoovering, it might still cut down on post-search spam (“I am sorry to contact you in this way, but I was wondering if”…). Ha!

To be fair (recruiters, skip to here) I don’t want to tar all agencies with the same brush. I’ve had extremely helpful ones who’ve advised on CV presentation, and decent ones who’ve actually called me with jobs that I might not otherwise have found.

OK, another good titbit of advice: check the user groups for your particular skillsets. As a symfony framework user, for me this means lurking on Symfonians Jobs, and the Symfony Jobs Wiki is worth checking every now and again. Ditto the language groups, such as PHP Developer, PHP Women, PHP West Midlands and PHP London; whatever your technical niche, there’s bound to be a focussed board for it.

I’ve also found a number of sites where a high proportion of visitors thrive on technical excellence, and they often have jobs boards; for examples see Stack Overflow, CrunchBoard and Geekup. The only trouble with these is, given that rock stars will usually relocate, some sites are prone to capital-centricness. But a high nerd-rating often makes for technically mature roles with plenty to interest the advanced coder.

For web developers, it is worth considering boards that cover the whole of ‘new media’. Here, it is worth bearing in mind that these often relate to design agency work, which usually comprises of lots of small coding projects rather than the larger-scale projects preferred by classic application developers. 38 Minutes is busy, and offers a good number of full and part-time coding situations. No Agencies Please is another example, and like Geekup, specifically only accepts directly advertised roles.

Consider also what features you’d like the role to have, and modify your search terms accordingly. If you’ve a good CV, I think there’s no harm in adding a skill that you don’t actually have but would be interested in acquiring. For example, I am looking for senior PHP dev roles, but would be keen to cross-train into another language; my search terms are therefore “senior PHP developer Java”, even though my Java experience is positively antique. This makes search results much more interesting, and then I determine for which roles, apart from the new skill, I am otherwise a strong match.

Lastly (for now) I’d recommend considering remote working, given that this is becoming possible with technology. It’s not for everyone, and some go stir crazy, but it’s worth looking at. Try appending “remote working” and “telecommuting” to your search engine terms.

Leave a Reply