Should I take time off work to go to a job interview without first interviewing by phone?

Companies today show little respect for job candidates.  Rather than schedule a polite phone call, it is easier to email a link to a timed, online test or a link to schedule an onsite interview.

I received this email:

Thank you for your interest in working at Optimal Satcom. We will be conducting interviews on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at our office in Herndon, Virginia. Please use the link below to make an appointment for a time slot suitable to you:

Please arrive 15 min early in order to have time to check in and complete required paperwork. Our address is 600 Herndon Parkway, Suite 100, Herndon, VA 20170. A government-issued photo ID is required. The interview will start at your scheduled time, and should last 60 minutes. If you have any questions regarding scheduling, please call 703-657-8800.

My response:

Sorry I didn’t respond to this. When presented with potential contract or full-time employment opportunities, I prioritize them according to the efforts the company makes to contact me. For example, an initial personal visit to my office or a phone call from the party in need of software development to discuss their needs takes precedence over an email request for me to take vacation time from work and travel to an office hoping to get an interview by people to whom I’ve had no contact.

The best programming teams have no problem attracting talent. I’m looking for a great programming team to join, to help a bad team become better or to a help a good team become great.

I doubt I will get a response but if I do I will post it.

–Robert Stevens, January 30, 2018

Job Interview Tips with Questions to Ask the Interviewer!

by Robert John Stevens, July 14, 2017

Here are HireStrategy’s tips for interviewing for a job. Emily Glezen emailed these to me. I particularly like the questions to ask that are listed at the end:

· Connect your experience to the job.

· We recommend providing detail and depth in all or your responses.

Thing to be prepared to speak to:
· The company and why you’re interested in working there.

· Your strengths.

· How you’ve overcame challenges in the future and examples.

· Why they should hire you (Speak directly to the job qualifications)

· Why you left past jobs

· Be honest about what you don’t know, but what you would do to find out the answer.

· Be conversational and do not give short answers! If you do not have experience with something, tell them something you do have experience with that is similar and explain your familiarity what that technology. We never recommend just saying ‘no’.

· Do you research on the company – Be able to speak to why you want to work there.

· If you worked with a Technology, make sure you can explain where you worked with it and how you used it.

· Remember to have a copy of your resume on hand for the interview as the manager will be referring to it and it will be easy for you to point out your experience as it pertains to the job description.

· Highlight key points in your resume that pertain to the job description.

· Be prepared to speak to every bullet point on the job description and your resume.

· Allow up to 30 minutes in the interview, it may go longer so please plan accordingly.

· Answer the questions clearly and concisely and stay professional and on topic at all times.

· Do not bring up any negativity about previous employers or positions and stay positive and focused.

· Close strong! Express to the Manager that you are very interested in the position and learning more about next steps.

Advice about when they ask ‘do you have any questions for me’:
Companies love to talk about themselves! The hallmark of a good interview is a 50/50 conversation. You want the interviewer to spend as much time speaking about themselves, the company and position as you should be speaking of your own background. The best way to engage an interviewer is to ask great questions, here are some examples:
1. What do you like about working here?

2. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of this role?

3. What type of profile do you think would be an ideal fit in this position?

4. How would you describe the team culture?

7 Tips to Quit Your Job and Become an Entrepreneur

by Robert John Stevens, June 20, 2016

  1. Only work with totally honest and highly ethical co-founders to avoid costly legal fees, broken promises, failed dreams and a great deal of stress. Discuss how you all will behave given a variety of unforeseen situations. Write it all down and have each co-founder sign every page.

  2. Experience the pain or need yourself—If you have your chances of success will be much higher especially if you are committed to solving the problem so nobody else will feel the pain as you did, and to provide a simple, elegant solution.

  3. Work with an entrepreneur who has succeeded. Learn all you can from him or her. Startups require a very different mentality than working for corporations.

  4. Choose something that enhances your skills to set you apart from the masses should you need to bail and get a job.

  5. Plan to spend most of your time doing tasks outside of your core skill set. The first thing I discovered after resigning from my cushy programming job at WordPerfect and building WriteExpress was that I had relied upon teammates.

    Without their help I had to learn to program software installations, write documentation and sales copy, build websites, create and test release candidates, replicate CDs, design retail boxes and CD faces, manage my online store, create shareware versions, design, test and manage online advertisement, work with partners, sell, listen to customers, support customers, ship product and more.

    Over time I lost interest in running an online store. I prefer a low-maintenance, scalable, re-occurring income model.

  6. Make sure you have sufficient money to focus. This doesn’t mean you need a competitive or high salary—just enough so you and your family do not stress.

    If no salary is offered, give yourself a set amount of time to succeed and don’t go over without future income. You may decide to burn through so much of your own funds for a given time and then some more to find a job should you need to bail. When I co-founded I had WordPerfect stock options, some other stocks and savings. Decide up front how much money you may lose.

    Get yourself out of debt and reduce your monthly expenditures. Now may be the perfect time to sell a home or assets into strength. Rent if it saves you money and frees up cash.

  7. Plan to get a job before you run out of money—you will have a great start on your new business and can finish it part time. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, short sales, and divorces happen when entrepreneurs gamble.

  8. Get something into your customer’s hands ASAP. They will help you perfect it.

More Tips

Commit to eating healthy, going to bed early, rising early, exercising daily, maintaining your spirituality, and working somewhere where you can focus. Failure in any one of these will cost you.

Most importantly don’t ever ignore your children. Whenever they request your attention stop whatever you are doing and give them your full attention. It is sometimes difficult to do so you must decide ahead of time to do it. Failure to do so may likely result in wayward children.

No startup success will compensate for failure at home. No sane person on their deathbed who has wayward children wishes they made more money in life.

Are Older Programmers Relevant?

by Robert John Stevens, June 13, 2016

A potential employer sent me an email today which includes these classic but insightful statements that are akin to firing a cannon bow over the bow of an old ship:

Andrew [their software development manager] firmly believes that years of experience and years of learning are not necessarily correlated, so in many cases, if the software engineer has not spent a lot of time in continuous learning, they are not valuable just because they are older engineers and have been in the industry for years. Many companies have opted to get rid of the older engineers and hire two younger ones for the same salary. We are seeing this happen all of the time, mostly at the larger companies.

As we get older we think and accumulate insights about our profession. Although I’m a programmer, I suspect these thoughts are relevant for many other technical professions:

Looking back on your career, did you become smarter and more valuable? How will that change in another five or ten years? Will you be more or less relevant? How will you compete with younger professionals?

Have you realized that 75% of startups and 90% of projects fail? These statistics apply to the companies you worked for, the projects you worked on and your friends’ resumes.

What makes a good programmer? Is success a result of hard work, passion, dedication, knowledge, teamwork, teachability, wisdom, drive, insights and persuasion? How could you have identified past failures and predicted winners?

Over time do you think more about correct principles than details such as programming language syntax?

Can you identify programming teams that spent millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars on projects that were challenged by one to six programmers who created a competitor offering in a fraction of the time and on a very small budget?

Have you noticed that new college graduates, although smart and fast, never learned in school how to perfect and release a product as we did at work?

Is programming really a career or a short-term opportunity for the young as is professional football ?

Is a programmer’s career a bell curve that peaks out at a certain age and becomes less valuable over time?

I haven’t quit to become a Realtor or a car salesman because I enjoy programming, have a genuine love and passionate for software development, am fascinating by emerging web technologies, am motivated to provide for my wife and young children, and am still passionate about doing something great with my life.

The best programmer I know is Dallan Quass, the former CTO of — a billion dollar software project. He’s in his early fifties and is rewriting FamilySearch all by himself using modern technologies. I’ve seen it. He can do it. He will do it. My goal is to be more like Dallan.

I know living near work is a huge benefit, especially for older programmers. Working outside my own startups I may learn a lot and feel great satisfaction working with other smart people. I’m sure I’d mentor others, freely share wisdom and help steer them better. I am also sure I’d fix critical problems where others gave up.

Corporate teams know what competitive salaries are and what motivates good people to join and become top contributors, but how do those rules apply to older programmers?

No interview will compensate for working alongside new programmers. We learn a lot after a day, more in a few months and the most in hindsight.

Are older programmers relevant? Maybe. Maybe not. StackOverflow reports only 2.4% of programmers are 51 and older. I think it really depends on how motivated we are, whether or not we’ve kept current, and our ability to focus.

Personally, I’d just like to find one other good programmer to work with, or perhaps a small team of programmers who are dedicated to a cause, on a project we mutually believe in, somewhere where we can work without interruption, for a salary that will relieve us from financial pressures, and for enough time for us to succeed.


From Dr. Phil Windley

The problem, as you point out is that keeping up with changing tech is real work. Many people don’t want to do it. Software development isn’t like bricklaying or plumbing where skills don’t change quickly. Heck, there’s a new JS framework every day. You can ignore some of them, but you can’t ignore the trends. You can’t stop doing new things. I’ve been teaching CS462 for 17 years. And I’ve redone it a dozen times.

Younger programmers are often more enthusiastic about learning new things. And so they come across as more capable in a world that rewards cutting and pasting stuff from StackOverflow or wrangling a new framework.

I’ve hired older programmers in my career and I was attracted to them for their knowledge of the fundamentals of computer science, including parsing, AST optimization, operating system design, etc.

One advantage of younger programmers is that they’re sometimes freed by what they don’t know. Consequently they enthusiastically push forward undeterred by the problems down the road. Provided they don’t work themselves into a cul-de-sac, that’s probably OK.

From Al Gregory, Hyde Park Pros:

Thanks Robert! It’s funny, when I was a younger recruiter (in my late thirties) I would chuckle at candidates complaining about age discrimination. Now, in my low 50’s, especially in IT, I see it as a rampant problem. I believe that it is primarily a result of hiring managers being lazy. You kind of know what you get with two young programmer – but you have to dig pretty deep to find out if an older candidate is a Dynamo, a Cruiser, or a Loser (concepts from a book I read by David Maister).

It’s definitely a challenge to find a hiring manager who is willing to take on the challenge of really determining the potential value of an older candidate!