Practical Tips for your WordPress Job Application

Standard

I’ve been increasingly involved in hiring at my company, and I’ve learned a lot about the job hunt from being in the seat across the table, so to speak. I’d like to pass my experience and perspective on to you to help you get an interview.

I’ve come up with some tips to help you land a job, specifically in the development field, and even more specifically if your application comes my way. Most of these tips would apply to any job search, and I’ve also included some more information on what development employers are looking for.

These are all things I wish I would have known earlier in my career. I truly hope this helps you put your best foot forward with your prospective employer!

Perception is Everything

Perception is everything. It’s not fair, but it’s a psychological fact: employers get a “feel” about who you are based on your communication. And, for as hard as I try to overcome that bias, it’s just naturally going to happen. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Rock your Initial Email

Your initial contact email to an employer is critical. You must make a statement as quickly as possible, and this means attaching examples of your best work in that email; don’t just send a written message.

It’s easy for an employer to make assumptions about you based on that initial contact, and you want to give me access to as much information about you as you can provide to help with that first perception.

It goes without saying that you must ensure you’re using good grammar and spelling in your email. This speaks a lot to your professionalism and attention to detail.

Attach a resume, functional code sample, and links to your best work. Having quick access to these items will help me have an objective view of what type of developer you are.

Bonus points for links to WP community contributions, including core patches and your own plugins and themes.

ProTip: don’t use your KurtCocaine@SofaKingCool.com email address to send this.

Your Resume

Make this look sharp!

It’s impressive to have a great design. You can find some great help with this on GraphicRiver.

Include a cover letter with a bit about yourself and your personal philosophy about development and what you are doing to grow.

Avoid overly general and/or convoluted wording about your former responsibilities. It just looks like filler or complete BS to me.

Outline relevant work experience. It’s irrelevant to me if you were a cashier at Wal-Mart, so in my opinion, you can ethically leave that off. These minor facts don’t take points off with me (unless you used to work for Comcast), they just add more data to scan through. I only use relevant development work experience in my own personal resume.

In our field, a solid portfolio of work is much, much more important than degrees or awards. List those, to be sure, but be aware that your actual work experience and quality is much more important.

Code Sample

Attach a code sample in your initial email. Make sure this is functional code that I can install and test, not just a few code snippets. I know how easy it is to pull some fancy looking stuff off of StackOverflow, and you don’t want me to even have that thought in my mind when I’m looking at your work.

Do some advanced stuff in your code sample. For Front End folks, use CSS3 transitions and keyframes. I also like to see Object Oriented Javascript. On the Backend, I like to see WordPress-flavored Ajax, API interaction, and Object Oriented Programming.

Whether Front End or Back End, all of your work should adhere to WP Coding Standards, including details like proper spacing on all code, as well as docblocks.


Online Presence

It’s been my personal mission to find out everything I can about a prospect before writing a response email to either set up an initial interview with the developer or writing the dreaded (but kindly worded) rejection email.

Even more than what you say about yourself, I want to find out who you really are. Having a positive, teachable team player is even more important to me than dealing with a snobby but talented code-jockey.

I’ll be all over the internet to find out everything I can about you. I think I’m reasonable enough to know that all of your online interaction isn’t going to be “professional” or development-related, but I will be looking for insight into your personality.

Google Yourself

30 Rock Google YourselfWhen researching a prospect, the first place I go is Google — sometimes before even digging deeply into their code. Your online activity says a lot about your personality, and to me, who you are is more important than your skillset.

Take some time and check out what Google has to say about you. I’m not saying you should try to have Google wipe undesirable facts about you, but if you have an old personal site that would look bad to a potential employer, you might want to take it down, edit your SEO settings in your robots.txt, require authentication to view the site, or even use Google Webmasters to block certain pages of the site from being crawled.

ProTip: I usually start with a search on “John Smith Developer,” or “John Smith Kansas City.”

Focus on beefing up the sites that are the top results for your name. This means things like your personal site, WP profile, LinkedIn account, etc.

By the way, I understand if I find an ancient Blogger site that was barely used at all. Don’t sweat it; I have those myself.

Social Media

The next thing I do is stalk you on social media to gauge your personality and interests. You don’t have to post a lot about development, I just want to get a feel for you.

Start by maintaining a social media presence. If you don’t have one, it looks like you live under a rock, and that’s not going to work in a media-driven field.

Remember that prospective employers will read everything you post. You don’t always have to be dressed in a suit in your pictures, but be mindful that your overall personality will be revealed by your tweets and posts.

Facebook is a common place I search. I like being able to read about your daily life. If you have questionable activities you don’t want me to see, change your privacy settings; if there’s a bong on the table in the background of a pic, I’m going see that. 😉

ProTip: Don’t let me find your Reddit username. We both know you don’t want me to see that.

Your Personal Site

Keep your site up to date. It doesn’t matter if it’s about your passion for N-scale model railroading. I just want to get to know you.

Remember that perception is everything to get that first interview. The design of your blog is a reflection of your work and attention to quality, even if you didn’t build it yourself. You get major bonus points if you did build it yourself. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the code needs to be tight.

You don’t have to update your blog regularly; we all understand how hard it is to maintain a personal blog. However, if your posts are focused on your development, include some stuff about your passion for the work. Post helpful code snippets and your opinion about development tools and issues.

Also, it looks really good to host examples of your work, even if they’re not linked from the main blog. Full demo sites are great. They give you the power to make your own decisions about sweet design and technical features that you may not have on sites built for clients and picky designers.

If you’re not a designer, go and download a PSD or HTML template then build it out yourself. There’s no shame in that at all. Ultimately, I care more about your code than visual appeal, but once again, keep in mind that initial perceptions are important.

Github/Bitbucket

I love to see activity on your GitHub and/or Bitbucket accounts. This shows me that you’re developing your own personal projects, and that’s a big plus. These serve as code samples that you haven’t polished up before submission to an employer, so they reveal how you typically work.

Smarterer Score

There is debate about the reliability of a Smarterer score in relation to actual development skills, but it helps people like me get a feel for your knowledge of WordPress. Take the quiz on CodePoet and work to get your score over 700. I’ve known some incredible PHP/JS developers who I’ve been unable to hire simply because they don’t know the WP system. This score will give us both a quick glance at your proficiency.

Final Thoughts

Your work and online persona are an opportunity for you to shine before a prospective employer. I’ve included this “insider” information to help you make a great impression when you first reach out for a new position.

These are all things I wish I’d known several years ago, and I hope they will help you make a powerful first impression to those considering you as a new member of their team.

By the way, if you’re interested in working with me and my teammates on big projects with lots of fun challenges and opportunities to grow, hit us up at xwp.co. I’d love the chance for us to get to know each other!