Photo by dragonflaiii.
As you (likely) know, at mirRoR, all we do is Ruby on Rails. It is our life. We live it. Breathe it. Sleep it. Sometimes even dream it. But the truth is— there is more to life than Ruby on Rails. Specifically, there’s more to landing a RoR gig than just your Ruby skills.
Today we’d like to discuss some of those offline intangibles that can affect your candidacy, oftentimes in a serious way.
Attitude. Before there is time to dig into the details of someone’s code or to examine every bullet on their resume, the first thing you notice about them (as long as they aren’t wearing a goofy outfit) is their attitude. Think about it: the first thoughts going through a hiring manager’s head have nothing to do with your coding ability. They are asking (and your attitude is instantly answering) these questions: ”Is this candidate excited to be here? Is this someone I might want to manage? Would this person fit with our team?”
For an example of awesome attitude, take Jack. He’s part of the mirRoR crew and he’s got the best attitude. Ever. He has a genuine enthusiasm for all things technology-related (and some things non-technology related, too). Upon meeting him, his awesome attitude is the first thing you notice. He’s always the one offering to help and never the one to say it’s not his department or it “probably isn’t possible.” Sometimes I want to ask Jack to cure cancer or do something ridiculously impossible. Why? Because I know he’ll tackle the problem with all his might. (By the way, he also has mad coding skills. And the point is, that is an afterthought when I think about the value he brings to our team.)
Drive. Drive relates to attitude but it has more to do with an internal motivation for success. Do you do your work because you’re told to? Do you do only the things you’re told to and nothing else? Do you take responsibility for your work and for the work of your entire team? These questions are also on a hiring manager’s mind, even if subconsciously. We’ve seen candidates get turned down because they lack drive and instead display a refusal to accept responsibility for past or present situations.
If you were recently let go or left a job because of a bad work environment, lousy manager, or flawed business plan, own it. Don’t blame someone else for your current circumstances. Yes, others certainly contribute to your current situation but an employer wants to see you take responsibility for your current situation. What did you do to make the situation better? Anything? What was the result? (These answers will likely translate at your future job.) Drive and ownership are particularly important in startups which are generally founded by entrepreneurs with enough drive to lead a small country.
Teamwork. No man is an island. No one codes in a vacuum. Ok, enough with the metaphors. Even though coders sometimes feel that they can hide behind a screen and get things done, that’s not how (good) companies are really run. Especially with the popularity (and effectiveness) of pair programming and other collaborative coding behavior (e.g. GitHub), coding alone is so 20th century. Seriously. How you work with others, both technical and non-technical managers and coworkers, is a serious factor in your job candidacy. Do you play well with others? Do you raise the level of excellence on your team or are you dragging it down?
Bottom line: Do developers get turned down because of their (lack of) RoR experience? Absolutely. That is expected, understandable, and generally fixable. Offline problems like attitude, drive, and teamwork are more tricky. If you’ve got an awesome attitude, the drive to get things done, and a team-first mentality, you’ve got, at the very least, a major head start over other candidates and that X-factor that makes you instantly attractive to any good employer.