How to Get A Job at a Top Ruby Shop
Despite whatever’s going on in the bigger world, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of jobs in the Ruby and Rails worlds - at least, not in certain cities. There also doesn’t seem to be a shortage of Ruby and Rails developers, but employers are still desperate to find people to fill positions. A few employers complained to me that the quality just wasn’t there and that there were a lot of tire kickers about.
My take is that perhaps people who are eager about Ruby (and Rails) and who want a job in the industry aren’t exactly sure what employers are looking for - especially since there seems to be a lot of “in-community” hiring going on, where people already know each other. So I decided to ask a collection of employers what they’re really looking for beyond what’s mentioned in the job ads.
Several great responses came back and it seems there are a few key points..
Open Source Contributions and Being Known
The biggest point that came back in e-mail after e-mail was that being an active and visible member of the community who contributes to open source projects or maintains projects of their own is a really big deal.
Some of the best quotes:
What we really care about is what you can do so open source contributions are bar none the most important thing we consider and analyze when we’re hiring. “Code samples” are great, but they’re generally just clever pieces of code to show how awesome you are. [..] Open source code that people are using is a great qualifier because it shows how well you’re able to integrate things together into a cohesive piece of software (or are able to contribute to an existing project with momentum), it shows how much you actually care about testing and other important practices, and, even more important, it shows how well you’ll fit into the culture around here since, well, that’s just how we roll.
If we haven’t already heard your name, there’s a really good chance your application is simply going to be ignored. If we haven’t seen you at conferences or meetups, hung out with out on IRC, read your blog, or followed one of your github projects, you’re probably wrong for the job anyway.
Bulleted lists of skills on a resume are just talk. Open source projects and community participation are real proof of who you are and what you do.
If it’s a Rails job, contributions made to the Rails core would score more points than anything else. More than 5 patches and that’d speak more than 500 words in the resume. That’s about only 200 people though! Next would be evaluating source code of the plugins they’ve written and looking them up on github/twitter/rails mailing list. I’d look for people who are NOT tied to a single methodology, be it tdd, bdd or pair programming and can bend the rules to get things done.
Pratik Naik - Action Rails
Communications Skills Are Key
Second on the list was communications and soft business skills. You don’t need to be an MBA or anything, but being able to understand customers, their requirements, and being able to communicate well within your development team is a must. You have to find a way to work this in to your resume (and then your interview!).
Robert Dempsey and Seth Walker summed it up best:
What I really want to know is will the candidate fit in with our culture. They need to be able to self-manage, work with our team, and work directly with our customers, using the phone, skype, IM, Campfire, etc. Ability to communicate and fit in with us is #1, skills are #2. I check the usual offline and online spots - references, personal blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, GitHub, etc. - to see what they portray online, but I don’t rely on it. I prefer to speak with them over the phone or in person if possible. I then combine my gut reaction to them with the other information and make a decision.
It’s more important to us that a potential employee know and understand our clients and their needs over knowing the ins and outs of all the latest Rails technologies. That said, we look for someone who can integrate into our team quickly, using the tools we use, and can provide value as soon as possible [oh, and be a vim user].
Seth Walker, Radical Designs
Passion, Enthusiasm and Talent
And, of course, being passionate about what you do is a pretty big deal too. It comes lower in the list just because if you’re passionate about Ruby and Rails, you’re probably already doing the #1 thing, which is to contribute code back to the community..
Still, there were some interesting things said:
“Young Guns” are the key ingredient at Dr Nic’s firm Mocra. Recruits are inspired by love of coding: attending local dev groups and RailsCamps, have contributed to open source, and are prepared to tell other guys in the office that they’re wrong or doing something inefficiently. Especially their boss.
Dr Nic Williams - Mocra.com
We look for people with passion and talent, who get a rush from building great software with great people. [..] Having helped create and ship a product is important. We also look for people who think about what our customers would want, who focus on the success of the product and the business, and don’t get wrapped up in fighting religious wars over development processes.
Lew Cirne - New Relic
A Nice Wrapup
Austin Putman of Radical Designs came in with a great mail that summed up pretty much everything relayed above:
We’re a pretty small shop and we’ve only hired one dev in the last year. We didn’t hire the guy who tweeted.
Because we’re focused on servicing grassroots community organizations, we are looking for someone who identifies with that mission — someone who will be a long term asset to the team. Be prepared to stay a few years — we aren’t looking to get bought by anyone.
We picked someone who gave full, clear explanations of their programming choices while we were pairing. Pairing is a requirement for us and we paid our top candidates to spend hours with us working on tasks derived from our ongoing projects.
Blogging is awesome - it provides a window into how the candidate thinks and works. If you have a blog — show code! If your blog is all about opinions on the cover designs from the Pragmatic Programmers and the latest awkwardnesses in the high school dance that is the Rails community — I think, “You aren’t that into code”. If you have no blog, it could at least mean that you are *too* into code to blog.
We also follow the often-repeated advice and ask for code with tests before inviting candidates for an interview. This filtered out a number of borderline candidates, saving us time and effort. Many people are just responding to every ad with the word Rails, especially in the current climate. This group simply didn’t respond to a request for a sample.
Austin Putman, Radical Designs
Best of luck in your future Ruby and Rails job endeavors - whether you're the hirer or the hiree! Don't forget to check out the Ruby Inside Ruby jobs board.