How to get your dream job: Resume & job hunting tips

Target Audience:

Everyone, even Brent.

Abstract:

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a DBA, a teacher, a blogger, and a world-traveler. I’m living my dream.

In this session, we’ll talk about how I got where I am, and how you can get to where you want to be. In addition to sharing my journey, I’ll give some helpful tricks to getting your next job. You’ll learn how to write a resume that gets you noticed, and how to avoid writing a resume that lands in the trash. I’ll finish by teaching you how to navigate interviews, and how to decide if a potential job and employer is right for you.

Audio podcast:

Enjoy the Podcast? Don’t miss an episode, subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher or RSS Leave us a review in iTunes

Why I Want to Present This Session:

I’ve gone from aimless college drop-out to having my dream job. I’ve either been incredibly lucky, or I’ve figured out how to navigate the job market.

Additional Resources:

https://github.com/amtwo/Presentations/tree/master/How%20to%20Get%20Your%20Dream%20Job

Full Transcript:

ERIK DARLING: Up next is Andy Mallon with how to get your dream job. Take it away, Andy.

ANDY MALLON: Thanks Erik. So we’re going to talk about how to get your dream job, and if you are interested, I have a copy of my resume that is annotated and available for you guys to download and look at and follow along with. I’ll paste a link here in Slack so that you can follow along if you want. Also a copy of the slides are up there.

So who am I? I’m Andy Mallon. I’m a product manager at SentryOne. I work with Aaron Bertrand who spoke earlier today. I’ve been doing SQL Server stuff since 2003, first tech support and then as a DBA architect and now as a product manager. I am super lazy and incredibly impatient and yes, I talk about those things when I’m on job interviews. So we can – we’ll talk about that later on. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me or read my blog or tweet me. I’m on Twitter a lot. Sometimes that is the fastest way to get in touch with me.

If you forget, you don’t write this down now, you want to pay attention later on at the bottom of the screen I also have my contact info on that recent slide. I’m going to be following along in Slack. I’m also going to be in the Slack channel afterwards if people have questions, feel free to DM me, I’ll be hanging out on Slack for most of the afternoon in the GroupBy channel or DM.

Since I’m talking about getting your dream job and resumes and job hunting, I want to remind people that I’m an American who works in tech. Some of the things that I talk about are going to be specifically related to that journey. There are things in different industries or different parts of the world that are handled a little bit differently. So some of my advice will be skewed towards being an American. I’m going to try to call that out when possible, when I’m aware of it, and in the Slack channel I’m sure there will be some lively conversation from the international attendees to tell me how I’m giving terrible advice and please do.

So let’s start with me and what I’m doing and why I think that I have my dream job and how I got here. And then I’ll tell you how you can get yours. So like a lot of people, I started out going to college in New England. Beautiful college in Manchester, New Hampshire, Saint Anselm College. I was a major in computer science. I last did one full year before dropping out. I really wanted to drop out after the first semester but my parents had already paid for the year and insisted that I go and then I just didn’t register for classes at the end of my first year and didn’t register for classes the second year.

I was not interested in school. School did not work out well for me. Instead, I wanted to just get a job. I wanted to work 40 hours a week, that’s what worked for me. For some people, getting a degree is real useful and that’s what they want to do. For me, it wasn’t part of my path. Yeah, I know Erik didn’t quite make it through high school either…

ERIK DARLING: My piece of paper is good enough, Andrew, thank you.

ANDY MALLON: So I got my first job after I dropped out of school was at Target. I was the what they called guest service team lead, which means I was just in charge of the registers in the morning. That was my job. I was working there, I thought that maybe I’d move up and become a manager there because I was doing pretty well and you don’t need a degree to do that. I’d also learned that in that one year of computer science that I hated software development and I was not going to become a programmer, so I’d kind of – was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life because I was going to be a developer and I thought that that’s what I wanted to do. So I was working in retail and then one day I got out of work and I kind of stumbled onto my first tech job because my brother’s ex-girlfriend was temping at a software company and while I was working my shift she called me a couple of times and over the course of the messages had progressed from she wanted to talk to me, she wanted to set me up for a job interview too. I had a job interview and I basically just had to show up and have the job.

So my first tech job was at this company, Point and Click Solutions, where they hired me because I was a warm body. They were a startup, they really needed some cheap labor to help them with installations that they were really starting to sell software and they needed people to go on site to these colleges and universities to install their software. Keep in mind I was college age because I’d just dropped out of school and I was working at all of these colleges and frequently confused for a student, rather than someone that was working there.

But I was there for five years. I worked my butt off. I learned all of the things that – I shouldn’t say all of the things. Many of the things I would have learned in college. I met SQL Server there, I started doing a lot of database work, tech support work, and I decided that while I didn’t want to be a software developer, I realized that there were a whole bunch of other jobs in tech that I liked and that I really liked SQL Server, and I would probably – I wanted to do something with SQL Server. I actually thought I’d like to be  a DBA someday, which most people don’t say – yeah, I know, Erik. I am the rare person who became a DBA on purpose.

So after a few years, I worked a few different jobs. I actually worked with Oracle for a while. I came back around, I got my first DBA job where I was working at a company called Blackbaud. They make fundraising software for non-profits, probably a few people out there have heard of them. And it was my first DBA gig. It was another scenario where I started the job not really knowing what I was doing, I certainly wasn’t a senior DBA. I was in a little bit over my head. I learned tons there. Moved on, got some other jobs, I’ve worked other places, you’ll see them on my resume if you take a look.

But it was at one of those other jobs when I decided that I’d found SQL Saturday and started to attend SQL Saturday and I kind of thought that I wanted to get up on stage and teach some. So I made a conscious decision that one of the things I wanted to do for my career was to start speaking and to do more community work. So I had this kicking around in the back of my head and we were doing a software release one morning and my boss said to me that I should write a blog post about the thing that we had just talked about.

So I went out and I bought a domain, impatientdba.com, and I started blogging. So that was May 2014 I wrote my first blog post and I wrote three blog posts that year, all related to stuff that I’d done at work. Then I wrote a few more blog posts at the start of the next year. I know the first 12 months I’d written a total of a whopping six blog posts. But I had this thought that if I started blogging, that was really important for me to move down the path and speak more.

The next 12 months I picked up the pace a little bit and I wrote 33 blog posts, and then I also started piecing those blog posts together into sessions and I started speaking at user groups and SQL Saturdays. After I started speaking at user groups and SQL Saturdays, I set my eyes on working for SentryOne, quite frankly. So I was blogging more, I started doing guest blogging at SQLperformance.com. I won community influencer of the year award, I started my own user group here in Boston, I helped organize SQL Saturday Boston, I got my MVP award, and then earlier this year I started working at SentryOne as a product manager.

So that was – Alex said it a couple minutes ago in between that sometimes our goals change, our dream job changes. My dream job went from software developer to doing something with computers, to being a DBA, to having a specific company that I was kind of interested in working on. So that’s my path, that’s how I got here today.

And one of the things that I know I talk about helping you write your resume so that you can get your dream job, but before you write your resume, you need to figure out what you want to do with your life. You need to set some career goals. The first thing that you need to think about is what do you want to do. Erik, what do you want to do when you grow up? What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m going to put you on the spot.

ERIK DARLING: Bartender.

ANDY MALLON: That’s actually a pretty good one. I had a time when I was thinking about did I want to do software development before I went to college and chose computer science, I’d actually thought about going to school for culinary arts because I really liked food. Interestingly enough, I decided that I liked cooking and eating far too much to do it for a career. Like, if you do it all day at work and you go home and you’re tired of it, I thought that it would ruin it for me because I wanted cooking and eating to be something that I really enjoyed, and I do still enjoy, which is why I decided that I want to work in software.

This might be thinking to yourself about do you want to be a DBA someday, are you working in a software company and you’re not a DBA but you want to be? Do you want to be a CTO? Do you want to be something completely different? Whatever that is, it’s a very kind of personal thing for you but think about what you want to do, and that might be what you want to do next year in your next job, and it might be what you want to do dreaming big. But think about it. It’s a good excuse to go on vacation somewhere, take a notebook and sit down and either go someplace quiet or go someplace loud or whatever you do to help you think. Figure out what you really want to do.

And people say things like you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and that’s totally not true because I’m never going to be an opera singer, I’m never going to be a star ballet dancer. You can do most things but be realistic and dream big. You can kind of do both of those to answer this question.

The other thing is where do you want to be, and this is a fuzzy question. In my case, in my most recent job move, where I wanted to be was I wanted to work for SentryOne. There’s this specific company I wanted to work for. Erik’s boss Brent wanted to live in southern California, that was something that was on his goal. There’s this physical spot he wanted to move to. This can mean different things to different people. Maybe you want to have a corner office, maybe you want to be some big manager and be in a skyscraper with city views. Tara says that it’s because Brent wanted to be closer to her. I think that’s probably accurate. I wouldn’t be surprised.

I also think that he wanted to be further away from Erik and I on the east coast, because that would make a lot of sense too. So James is asking if he wants to be an IT manager one day but he’s never managed an IT department and managed other departments, can you plan around that? Yeah, that’s actually one of the things that I’m going to talk about in a minute is taking some of the experience that you do have and figuring out how that experience helps you get where you want to be.

In fact, that’s the next slide is how can you get there. So you’ve thought about what you want to do and where you want to be, and if you want to be an IT manager, how can you get there? What is – if you think of it like navigating a map, you’re here, you want to be over there. If you punch into Waze, it’ll give you four different routes that you can choose from to get where you’re going. It’s the same thing in your career. There’s a bunch of different ways to get to IT manager, and you just have to kind of plot some of them out and figure out how to go in that direction.

So if you have management experience and you have IT experience, then IT manager isn’t too far of a leap. You can draw all the parallels between manager and IT manager so that you can get there. If you have management experience but no IT experience, then you need to figure out how to make that step in that direction and a lot of times people will do things where they want to be IT managers so they take the opportunity to be a manager in a different department. They go from IT person to manager in some other department, and then they look for the opportunity to go back over to the IT department because that other experience gets you where you want to go.

Or similarly sometimes people take a step down in order to get where they want to be. If you are a senior DBA but you’re tired of being a DBA, you want to be a software developer and your company has a whole bunch of .NET developers, you as a senior DBA probably are not going to be a senior software developer unless you’ve got the experience to back it up. So you might take a step down and go from senior DBA to mid-level software developer so that you can get that position as senior software developer. Sometimes the route there isn’t linear. Sometimes you have to do kind of a circuitous path to get there.

The other thing that’s really importantto think about when you’re thinking about how you want to get there is who can help you. Networking is really important. The other thing is referrals and references. I can’t remember the last time I got a job where either I didn’t know someone there or they didn’t know me. At my current job, I was a good friend with SentryOne, I worked with the company as a member of the prod advisory counsel before joining, I’m good friends with several of the people, several coworkers outside of work so I knew them before I started there. But even at prior jobs, from speaking and blogging, sometimes there’s someone there that knows me even if I don’t know them. And a lot of jobs before that were because I knew someone there. It was a direct referral where I sent my resume to my friend, my friend shared my resume to the hiring manager, and then I came in for an interview.

The other thing that I want to talk a little bit about is sponsorship or mentorship. If you are a company and you want to work in a different department or you want to work – become a manager and move up the ladder, having someone that has that job that can help you figure out how to navigate that path can be really helpful. A lot of management would love to help you become a better employee and grow so that you can move up the chain and become a manager. In some cases, your path might mean that you’re going to leave your company and you know that. Your sponsor or mentor may be at your company or may not be. A good manager knows that if you want to be a manager and there’s no management opportunity at your company, you’re going to leave someday eventually anyway. So if they help you become a manager and that means that you might leave the company, that’s fine. Good managers kind of don’t mind that. They know that you’re not going to be there forever but they will help you achieve your career goals.

You often can’t be quite so blatant as being like yeah, I want to be a manager so I can get the hell out of here, that’s not a good way to go about it. But identify those mentors that can help you get where you’re going. People at other companies that might be able to be a referral or a reference, past coworkers who can be referrals and references, and networking. If you go to the SQL Saturday, if you’re hanging out in the GroupBy Slack channel right now, there might be someone there that works at a potential future employer. Not you Erik, no one’s going to need you as a reference.

ERIK DARLING: Before you go on, there’s a question over on the GoToWebinar panel that sadly these always tend to kind of fall through the cracks. But someone is working as a DBA but they’re afraid of public speaking because they’re worried about their grammar. Any advice on how to improve in those areas?

ANDY MALLON: My grammar is not always the greatest.

ERIK DARLING: Sure ain’t.

ANDY MALLON: Yeah, it sure ain’t. That’s fine. You want to be decent but you’re not going to be the best. I’m going to make the comparison to that first DBA job that I got. My first DBA job I’d never been a DBA before, I was in a small team administering a lot of databases. I was learning as I went. My teammates were very understanding that I was learning as I went. Being better at public speaking, when you start to do it, people will know that you’ve not done it before and people will help you along the way. People are understanding if your grammar isn’t the best. You’ll work on it, you’ll become comfortable with it. You’ll either become more comfortable with your skill because your grammar’s not as bad as you think it is, or you’ll polish yourself up, you’ll figure out the spots where you can learn and you’ll improve.

Just like anything you do in work, when you go from one thing to the next, you’re not going to know what you’re doing. I’m a product manager now, I’ve been a product manager for a couple of months. I have no illusions that I know everything about product management. I’m learning as I go. My coworkers are understanding that I’m learning as I go. And I’ll get better with time, so if you want to do public speaking, you don’t have to. But if you want to, you can do public speaking, get started. Especially the SQL Server community, people are really great about helping you through that and helping you to understand where you’re going.

So the next thing that I want to talk about is how to write a bad resume. I think it’s a lot easier to talk about bad resumes than it is to talk about good ones. And a good one is the opposite of a lot of the bad things. So if you understand the bad things, you can note to not do that. In my time, I’ve read a lot of bad resumes, I’ve made fun of a lot of bad resumes, and if the resume is that bad, I’m not going to bring you in for an interview, which is my first point. The purpose of a resume is just to get an interview. Each step along the job hiring process just gets you to the next step.

So you have a resume so that you get a call so that you can schedule an interview. In your interview, you can convince them to give you a job offer. You don’t have to get a job offer from your resume. Your resume is just giving enough information so that they can bring you in for an interview and then you can do the rest of the convincing then.

ERIK DARLING: You know, whenever I get a stack of resumes I just throw half in the garbage because I don’t want to hire unlucky people.

ANDY MALLON: I hope that you never review my resume, Erik. I’m super unlucky so mine would definitely end up being the half that ended up in the garbage. But bad resumes, they’re sloppy. They’re really long. They’re repetitive, they say the same thing over and over again. They’re inconsistent, there’s the spot where they added something in to update their resume and they copied and pasted from LinkedIn and it’s a different font.

Or they’re unprofessional. I’ve seen a lot of kind of resumes where you look at it and you say, are you trying to get a job as a DBA or is this you’re applying to work retail?

ERIK DARLING: Thank you for describing the Blitz scripts in one slide.

ANDY MALLON: No comment. So there’s some things that you want to avoid. Common things that I see all the time on resumes, don’t include an irrelevant job on your resume. If you’re applying to be a developer or a DBA, perfume counter at Macy’s probably isn’t relevant. You don’t need to include that. If you’re applying to be a DBA at Macy’s it might be relevant that you’ve worked at the company before and you understand company culture and it can be a selling point, so go ahead and put it on. Or if you’re doing something in the perfume industry, you can show experience that might be relevant to getting that job, by all means.

But in general, it wouldn’t be general to a DBA hire. Don’t repeat the same thing. Responsible for backup and recovery I’ve seen resumes, I’m sure Erik’s seen the same one where every single job is responsible for backup and recovery. If you’ve been a DBA for 20 years and had 20 jobs, I know that you’ve done it 20 times. Like, you don’t have to tell me that, especially if you’re a senior DBA. Put it on the most relevant job. When you’re the junior DBA and they gave that to you and you did it, put it on that job but don’t put it on the more senior one where you’re talking about architecting high availability solutions.

Be professional and be yourself. Like, it’s okay to let your personality shine through on your resume and a lot of times people feel like they have to -I suppose these are poorly worded on this common pitfalls slide. You should be professional and you should be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. And make sure that you’re professional. Comic Sans is not a professional font. That’s probably something you shouldn’t use on your resume. You shouldn’t have a picture of you on LinkedIn for example, it’s your electronic resume. You shouldn’t have a picture of you in your Tough Mudder t-shirt covered in mud necessarily.

But you should be yourself. It’s okay to have your personality come through. One of the things that people forget, professional email addresses. Use a professional domain, use your name ideally, and I’ll talk about this more later. Avoid giving away your age. You shouldn’t have something like hottieguy666@butz.com as your email address. My email address is andymallon@gmail.com or andy@am2.co because I have my own domain. I definitely remember getting a resume where it was like, princesscutdiamond69@aol.com. And I looked at that resume and thought that that was not the professional attitude that you want to see in the first line at the top of someone’s resume. And it just gives a bad first impression. So think if you’ve got a cute email address since you were in college or high school or something, consider having a more professional one you would use on your resume.

So good resumes. They are the opposite of all those other things, and the last bullet point is the most important. Tell a story. Your resume should tell a story. It should tell that story of who you are as a professional and why someone should hire you. And the most important thing to keep in mind, even with a good resume, nobody wants to read it.

Nobody wants to read your resume. Erik throws away half the resumes in the trash because he doesn’t want to read them. There’s no reason to make it harder on that person to read your resume. You want to make sure that you get their attention, you give them the information that they need so that they can make a good decision. Because if you don’t get to the point right away, they’re just going to throw it in the trash and go onto the next one, especially if they’ve got a big stack of resumes.

In journalism, they talk about the inverted pyramid style of writing. You’ll often hear the phrase, “Don’t bury the lead.” The inverted pyramid style of writing you should use on your resume. You start with the most news worthy things first, the most resume worthy things first, who you are, what you do, when you’ve been doing it, those things, the W questions. Then go into other important details and then talk about your complete relevant work history, all the other stuff you’ve done at the end.

If you follow the inverted pyramid style of writing, all the important stuff ends up in the first half page of your resume. So I would encourage everyone to take your resume, take the first page, and fold it in half. If you would be upset that someone – you applied to a job, they read that first half page of your resume and then they threw it out and kept going, would you feel good that they made the right decision? Did you give them enough information in the first half page of your resume for them to decide you’re probably not a good fit?

If the answer is no, you would not be happy because you wanted to tell them something else, you need to work on that first half page of your resume. It is the most important thing. The other phrase that they use in news is above the fold. When newspaper used to be paper and came folded up, above the fold was the first half page of the newspaper. There’s a big picture and there’s one or two articles. That’s what you’re doing on your resume.

So this is the first half page of my resume that I used to get a job at some point. It’s a little bit dated now but this is it. I start out with my name, my contact info, when I got my MVP award, I added that to the top of the first half page because I thought that that was important. Professional skills, technical skills, and because it’s important to me because I had the goal of contributing to the community, my technical community contributions were up there. If you’re not interested in doing community contributions, you wouldn’t have that section, but you’d have something else that was the most important thing for you to get across.Maybe if you’re a developer maybe you have open source contributions. Maybe you’ve got special projects you’ve worked on. That would go there.

It’s pretty easy to read. I’m going to say that on mine, because I was trying to cram stuff into the first half page, I cut some corners on how easy to read that database technology and technical skills section is. I would rather have that be spaced out a little bit more, bulleted, but I made the decision to squeeze that in and be a little bit les easy to read in order to fit stuff on that first half page.

As you keep writing your resume, you need to make sure that you put details in it. So when you’re talking about the specific words that you’re using on your resume, it’s really boring if you tell me that you’re responsible for backups and restores of your SQL Server databases. News fest, I know If you are a DBA already, I expect that you can do that. But it would be exciting if you worked on a special project related to that restores. So if you said something like standardized backups across all 100 servers and implemented an automated process to regularly test restores, that would be super exciting. That’s something that not everyone has done. You should put that on it. It doesn’t take that much more space. Maybe this would take two lines of text versus the one that fits on a single line going across the page, but this will catch someone’s attention. If this is a special project you worked on that’s going to go on that first half page, put the exciting version there.

Or another example that I see, performance tuned queries. That is an exact bullet point from resumes. I would guess in Slack right now, raise your virtual hand if that’s on your resume because that’s boring. And I’m not saying that to shame you. I’m saying I know that there are 800 people in the GroupBy channel, I would bet that of those 800 people, if all 800 were DBAs and T-SQL developers, I would bet that 700 of them have this bullet point on their resume. And it’s not – because it’s a common thing, it’s not special. It doesn’t make you stand out. It would be really awesome if you could put something on your resume that said what you did that either had a big dramatic effect or something about what makes you special. Why is that something that you do that is special?

If you worked on a project where you did a lot of performance tuning and reduced CPU utilization by 20% over six months focusing on performance and code review as well as proactive monitoring and tuning, that would be something really special. That should go on your resume. Those are the kinds of things you need to think about, how you say it, how you word it in order to make your resume special.

So the second half of the first page of my resume, I have notable projects and accomplishments. And like I said, this might be on the first half page of your resume, it used to be on the first half page on mine. I take specific bullet points from other jobs further down my resume, the bullet points that were most exciting and I put them here. I pulled out three that were I felt reflected me really well, and I put them right up top in my resume.

Now, the other thing is these notable projects and accomplishments, they are probably something that you put on your self-review at the end of the year at work while you had those jobs. When you’re doing your self-review, it’s a great time to make note of those special things that you did at work so that you can put those on your resume. Because if you’re trying to convince your boss to give you a big raise at the end of the year or to convince your boss that you achieved your goals and you deserve to get your bonus, it’s the same thing as trying to convince someone to hire you. You want to convey the same message and convince them that you are awesome at your job and that you can kick ass and you can do stuff.

So those things that reflect that the best move up to the notable projects section. And then, only now three quarters of the way through your first page I have my first job, or my most recent job. Not my first job. I have my most recent job. That job fits entirely at the bottom of this page and does not go on to the next page. I list things from what I’m doing right now. And I’m going to assume that nobody is going to read any further than that. They’re going to read this one page and if they’re not already convinced that I might be a good fit, they’re not going to keep reading. There’s nothing on page two that’s going to convince them that I need to tell them in order to convince them that I might be a good fit. If you’ve read my resume and you saw all my community stuff, these three special projects that I called out and my job as a database architect at BCG, if that doesn’t convince you that I’m a good fit for the job that you’re hiring for, then cool. I’m happy with that. I’m probably not a good fit, either culturally because I want to have all this speaking time, or technically the stuff that I’ve accomplished, if I haven’t convinced you then that’s fine, move on. Nothing on the second page of my resume is that important that I’ll convince you after that.
ERIK DARLING: Everyone is either swipe right by the time they get past that first couple paragraphs anyway.

ANDY MALLON: Exactly. They’re going to swipe right and they’re going to be interested and they’ll read the second page to find out more about me but they’re already interested hopefully, in scheduling an interview by now. They’re not going to read something on the second page and be like, oh, you know what, we should bring this guy in, because I took that stuff from page two and put it in that notable projects and accomplishments section.

The next point is really important and you probably aren’t going to think about this. A lot of people don’t think about this. Sometimes there are really important facts about yourself that you should hide, that there’s no reason to put on your resume and you may want to actively not put it on there. If you’re a woman, a minority, particularly young or particularly old, anything where legally you’re a protected class, as they say, you should not put that on your resume. There’s no reason to put it on there.

Someone might have an implicit bias against you. There’s a lot of studies that show that the same resume with a woman’s name is less likely to get a call back or that people make decisions based off of race. If you’ve ever seen – I saw on the news recently Avenue Q is closing and I am terribly sad. It is a great irreverent Broadway musical. There’s a song in it called Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, and I think it’s true because we all make judgments based off of things that we don’t know, things that we don’t think of. Yes, everybody’s a little bit racist sometimes is the lyric.

It is completely work inappropriate. If you listen to it, make sure you’re wearing headphones, but people make decisions based off of race, based off of your gender. They’re going to question a woman with a degree from MIT but not question a man, not intentionally, it’s what society teaches you.  So I’d describe implicit bias, the short version is if you’re not a straight white dude, someone might hold that against you and not even realize it.

So there are things that you might put on your resume that would give that away and people would not even realize that they’re making those judgments against you and they’re not going to bring you in for an interview just because of something that was on your resume. So stereotypical names around gender or ethnicity that, for where you live, might throw you off. So the two examples I have here are J. Jones instead of Jamal Jones, or K.D. Lang instead of Katherine Dawn Lang. Don’t be afraid to use initials on your resume.

If you’re a woman or have a name that is ethnic for where you live, so if you’re in the US and you don’t have a traditional Anglo name, or if you’re in other parts of the world and your name is not from there, don’t be afraid to use an initial of some sort. Historically, black or historically female colleges, years of graduation, it’s okay to put that you have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. You don’t have to put that you got your bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1982. That gives away – Smith’s College is a historically female college and 1982 gives way how old you are. People will make judgments based off of that and not realize it.

So it’s okay to take some of those details out. Andrea Allred makes a comment that she started going by Andy instead of Andrea. That is totally fine. And there’s a benefit here too because if you’re Andrea Allred and you get a phone call and there’s a voicemail for Andy Allred, you know it’s a recruiter. They gave themselves away because they used the name that you only use on your resume. And no one will think anything of it. Think of how many people go by, you know, K.D. or they’ve got some sort of initial that they use. That’s fine. Or if you have a middle name – if your middle name is Pat, go pat J. Pat Jones. It’s totally cool and it gives it away. Andrea mentions photos on LinkedIn. If someone has read your resume and made it to LinkedIn, they’ve already made that decision. They’re going to find out that you’re a woman eventually.

The second they call you to schedule an interview, they’re going to know that you’re a woman. You can’t hide your gender forever. You can’t hide your race forever. If you’re trying to, on your resume, you’re going to use say J. Jones instead of Jamal Jones, when you show up, they’re going to notice that maybe you’re not white. That’s fine, your resume has done its job. Your resume’s only job is to get you that interview. If they’re so interested in you that they’ve gone to look you up on LinkedIn or they’ve called you on the phone, then you’re good.

Martin asks about employment history dates, because that can be an age giveaway. One of the other things is the length of your resume. So I mentioned that long resumes suck. Your resume should not be more than two pages. You should be able to print your resume on one sheet of paper front and back. On that one sheet of paper front and back, if you’ve been in the industry for 40 years, you’ve got a long work history, you don’t need to put all of the old jobs on your resume. The stuff from forever ago isn’t going to be super relevant anyway. It’s not relevant to your work history.

ERIK DARLING: You might inadvertently put a company that went out of business a long time ago on there. Like, I used to work for Wang Computers and people are like, wait a minute, you might be 100 years old.

ANDY MALLON: If you worked for Wang Computers, what you did at Wang is probably no longer relevant and you’ve probably done a whole bunch since then that is way more relevant. And if you’ve been at the same job for 15 years or for 20 years, then just don’t put anything else. Don’t put dates on those older jobs; that’s fine. You can either leave the jobs off entirely or not put dates on. You put dates on your current job to show that you’ve been there for 10 years, then you’ve got two or three jobs additionally that you list, and then that’s it. That’s all you need to list. You don’t have to put dates on those. If each of those jobs were 10 years each and you’re showing a 40 year work history, the only one with dates, put on the current one so they know you’ve been there for 10 years and that you’re a loyal employee.

Lee makes a point that it’s sad that we have to think about this, hiding gender, age, ethnicity to get a job interview, and it sucks that that’s something you have to think about on your resume. But, in fact, you do, especially in the United States, unfortunately. But it’s important to know that you’re looking out for yourself on your resume. You’re trying to get an interview. Once you’re in the room for the interview, you can sell yourself and you can make people realize that you’re awesome. But you need to give yourself that chance. So you need to look out for yourself because you don’t get a chance to talk to them unless they call you back from your resume. So you have to take things under your own control so that you can get your message across.

So, navigating a job interview – the most important thing is to be prepared. Be a Boy Scout. Do your research. Research the company. If you’ve never heard of the company before, study up on the company, read their website, check LinkedIn for connections. I can’t tell you how many times I have been contacted by a recruiter for a company and then go look on LinkedIn and someone you worked with 10 years ago works there now, or you find out that that guy from your last job that you hated, he is the reason you left your last job, he’s there now, or the person that you loved from your last job, they’re there now. And you can contact them or not to find out more about what it’s like working for the company. Even if it’s in a completely different department and it’s not someone that is on the team that you’d be working for, you can still contact them and find out how they like the company. You can find out stuff about – maybe you talk to a software developer and you want to be on the DBA team. The software developers probably know the DBAs. They may have some sort of candid feedback and it will probably be way better feedback about the company than you would get if you just went to the interview and just talked to the people that they put in front of you.

And research the position if it’s a job that you’ve not done before. When I applied for my product manager job at Sentry One, I researched the hell out of what does a product manager do. That is the kind of thing that you want to – maybe it’s the industry that the company is in, maybe it’s a new job for you.  Look up those things, be prepared. What do you want to come out of all of this research with? You want to know what do you want to learn form them and what do you want them to learn from you? Your interview when you talk to them, whether it’s a phone interview or an in person interview, it’s an opportunity for you to push information about yourself as well as to ask questions and learn from them.

There was – I think it was – I took notes forever ago, I think it was Kendra Little when she was at Brent Ozar, she had a class on a bunch of questions to ask for a DBA that was interviewing for a job. I remember, I think I still have it, all of the questions, so that if I go on a job interview, these are the things I look at. I might ask those specific questions. I might ask something different, but it gets my mind going about all of the things that are important to me. And in addition to figuring out what questions I actually want to learn from them, what do I want to learn about, whether I’m concerned about the on call or the work life balance or what their upgrade process is like, what their backups are like. One of the things that I actually ask about is maternity leave. I ask what the maternity and paternity leave policies are. My husband and I are not going to be going out on maternity leave. There’s going to be no surprise maternity leave. But one of the reasons that I ask is that it gives an insight into other benefits. So I’m not – if they’ve got a generous maternity leave policy, then a lot of their other benefits are going to be probably really good.

You don’t have to ask about every benefit. You can pick some of the specific benefits that you want to ask about. Ask about them. If they are generous, then it gives you some insight into other benefits and you can guess – how much vacation time do you get? If they tell you that you get five days of vacation, it’s a warning sign that other benefits might be stingy as well. And also, what do you want them to learn from you? If you’ve got some of those projects that you’ve worked on, something that’s really important to you that you think, like, they’ve got to hear about this, know about that before you go in. Know who you want to tell that story to. If you’re speaking to a developer, another DBA, and your manager, and someone else from the IT department, pick the person that you want to tell that story to. When you get to the end of the interview and they say, do you have any questions? It is 100% acceptable for you to say, I don’t have any questions, but there is this one thing that I wanted to mention, and then tell your story. Talk about that thing that you want them to learn from you. That’s your opportunity to push information to them. and sometimes, that is an even better thing to do than to ask a question because you can convince them that they should hire you.

You’re not just trying to get info at that point, you’re still selling yourself to them. Be yourself while you’re in that interview. You are better at being you than you are at being someone else, and they’re going to hire you and they’re going to meet the real you eventually. Erik is not going to go in and pretend to be a super formal buttoned up kind of guy. Erik’s a pretty casual guy. The neck tattoo kind of gives that away.

ERIK DARLING: I always get my bowtie on. What are you talking about?

ANDY MALLON: But just be yourself. You want to be professional, but you want to be yourself. A really good example of this is how you dress. You want to dress appropriately. That does not mean you have to wear a suit to a job interview. It’s been a long time – a really long time – since I wore a suit to a job interview. I would say that whatever the best dressed day you would have at work is the day you should dress for. This is the best dressed Erik ever has to be. He has to wear a black t-shirt when he’s on camera. He has to actually get dressed. He can’t be just in boxer shorts.

ERIK DARLING: I went from being a bouncer to doing this in a black t-shirt my entire life. Never missed a beat.

ANDY MALLON: Fun side story, Erik used to bounce at a bar that I used to go to, so I am 90% sure that Erik checked my ID someday when I was 20…

ERIK DARLING: Probably threw him out.

ANDY MALLON: I never got thrown out of that bar, so you let me through with my fake ID when I was 20. Anyway, dress for the best dressed day. At my current job at Sentry One, I have to sometimes do client visits. I should dress for one of those client visits, probably. To be honest, I’m pretty sure that I wore a polo shirt and shorts and boat shoes to my interview at Sentry One. But that’s because I knew them. They’ve seen me when I have to be put together and dressed up. If I didn’t know anyone there, I probably would have worn a button-down shirt, maybe a blazer and jeans. I’m comfortable dressed like that. It brings my personality through. I’d probably wear super cute shoes that I really like.

Let your personality come through in what you wear. If you like to wear booties and get super dressed up, wear booties and get dressed up. If you are a t-shirt and jeans kind of person, if t-shirt and jeans is appropriate for that job interview, then that’s fine. For most people at most companies, the appropriate thing to wear if you’re unsure is probably like, for a man, a button-down shirt and maybe a blazer or jeans, maybe. It’s really hard to tell. You should err on the side of being a little more dressed up, but definitely don’t get caught up in you have to wear a suit because, here’s the thing, if you’ve got an old suit that’s in the closet that you pull out for weddings and funerals, it might not fit you. You might not be comfortable wearing that. Don’t wear it. That discomfort is going to come across in your interview and you’re not going to be you. You’re not going to be yourself. And it makes it a lot harder to get that job if you can’t be yourself, if you’re worried about that tie cutting off the circulation and you can’t breathe, don’t do it.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to wear a super colorful shirt if that’s your personality. Don’t feel like you have to wear a plain white shirt. Just be you. And the most important thing is to make sure that you tell your story. On that interview, you’ve used your resume to get an interview, and that’s it. You only have stuff on your resume that will get you an interview. And then, you use the interview to get the job. And you can’t get the job if you don’t tell your story. Talk about what you do at work, what you want to do. Talk about your career goals, what you want to do. I mentioned at the start, I talk about, in job interviews, how I’m impatient and lazy. I talk about how that leads me to do performance tuning and how I like to do automation. It’s a little bit of a shtick, but it helps me tell my story.

I’m also very clear in job interviews, I do not want to manage people. I’m not interested in becoming the director and having this management type of job. I want to have a more technical type of job. Be okay with saying those things, because if you don’t tell that story about what you’ve done and what you want to do and what you like doing, you might get the job, but you might not like it. And it’s really important that you figure that out so that you get a good job, so you can get a job that you want, because it’s not good enough to just get a job. You want to be able to figure out if you want the job. And the interview is your opportunity to find that out too.

So, that is the end of my slides. Does anyone have questions? Are there any more questions queued up along the way?

ERIK DARLING: GoToWebinar, nope. You did I good job of fielding questions as they showed up in Slack, so I don’t think there’s anything uncovered there.

ANDY MALLON: Cool, so if you grab the slides from GitHub, I have these resources in it, or you can take a quick screenshot. There are blog posts on my blog. Steph Locke has a really good one-page CV. So one of the things I glanced over is I talk about having a two-page resume. In some parts of the world, in Europe, a one-page CV tends to be much more popular. The two-page thing is partially me and partially an American thing. Keep it tight, but Steph’s one-page resume is really good. Write a killer resume in five steps – that is a blog post on brentozar.com. I saw Erik put the 10 questions to ask in a job interview in there. And [inaudible] talks more about some of that implicit bias in her Let Her Finish webinar. So check those out. I’m going to be hanging out on GroupBy for the next several hours. If people have questions, feel free to ask them. I will field them between now and the next session. I will also hang out. We can slide into DMs if you want to ask me some specific questions about your resume and don’t want to do it in the public GroupBy channel. But yeah, thank you all very much

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Andy Mallon

Product Manager at SentryOne
Before joining SentryOne as Product Manager, I was a SQL Server DBA that managed databases in the healthcare, finance, e-commerce, and non-profit sectors. Since 2003, I have been supporting high-volume, highly-available OLTP environments with demanding performance needs. I am a past organizer of SQL Saturday Boston, and speaker at many SQL Server user groups & SQL Saturdays.

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3 Comments. Leave new

It’s true, for the record. I was also an aimless college drop out (3 times,) so I could have used this.

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