[Chicago-talk] Qualify Skills?

Matthew Landry mbl at lelnet.com
Wed Oct 6 07:29:30 CDT 2004

On Mon, Oct 04, 2004 at 11:25:43AM -0500, Chris McAvoy wrote:
> I ran across a few Perl jobs on craigslist.  After contacting one of the
> recruiters, she asked me to grade myself, as in, am I a B+ Perl
> developer?
	Interpret that question as a request to describe what you can do,
that's either intrinsically hard, fundamentally interesting, or directly
related to the needs of the prospective employer, and under what

	One of the best jobs I've ever had was clinched with an answer to a
comparable question ("scale of 1 to 10") where my answer amounted to
"Well...that all depends...I've always been really good at X, and was able
to use that to particularly good effect for Y employer when Z happened, as
I imagine it sometimes happens to you...I'm not as strong in A as some
people I know and respect, but I've found that by carefully doing B and
relying on good references that isn't a big hindrance in the real
world...I've known some 10s and had the good fortune to learn from them,
and I'd call myself a 9...what do you think?"

	You want the punchline to indicate confidence tempered with
realism...but the most important thing is to turn the answer into a story
about what a great guy you are and how your skills are a perfect match for
their business needs.
> Any thoughts on a rule of thumb way to classify a developer?
	Rules of thumb about _specific_ skills lead to bad decisions in
these cases. For any given employer there will be a lot of universally-
recognized skills they don't care about at all, and a lot of unique and
special skills that are really important and they're praying they don't
have to train you in-house. An "A" candidate, to them, is probably a
candidate who has the latter kind of skills. A "B" candidate is a candidate
who doesn't, but has a proven track record of learning comparably arcane
skills previously. A "C" candidate is one with no record, positive or
negative, for the arcane, but all the "universal" prerequisites that the
employer actually _does_ care about.

	In the modern market, if you've actually been permitted to hear the
live voice of an employee at the company above the rank of receptionist,
you can assume they already think you're at least a "C", and if you're in
their office or speaking to someone who doesn't work in HR, they're
convinced you're at least a "B".

	Anything more specific than that, and IMHO you'd have to be
discussing companies (or at least market fields) by name.
Matthew Landry              mbl at lelnet.com                       O-
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