protocols & subtypes: Designing a More Humane Job Search
To be a software developer on the hunt for a job in America is to be in a unique position to view the hiring processes of various companies. Software developers are in high demand, which means employers are fighting to stand out to "top talent" as well as juniors.
The tech industry is also finding the advantages of a more diverse employee pool and looking beyond only those with four-year Computer Science degrees. Bootcamps and other self-teaching opportunities like Free Code Camp are attempting to fix the supposed pipeline problem to tech jobs, so tech employers can expect more candidates with non-traditional backgrounds now and in the future.
Are the current standard job applicant designs up to the task, or could they be improved so as to better reach this diverse audience? I've seen some positive changes by employers since my last job search I'd like to highlight, as well as opportunities to change for the better.
Preferred Names and Pronouns
I've been pleased to encounter fields that allow me to fill out my preferred name if I so desire on several forms. I also had one application ask me for my preferred pronouns (e.g., she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.). Including these fields in your job application process can only make the application/interview process easier for all involved.
Many people have preferred names for a variety of reasons, including those who are in the process of transitioning. Asking for an applicant's pronouns lets gender-variant and non-binary applicants know their choice will be respected and that an attempt to treat them with dignity has been made at this first step of the application process (and will hopefully continue throughout the hiring process and beyond).
As more people of trans experience, gender variant, and non-binary gender are hired and feel safe to "come out" where they are already employed, the need for these fields will become more obvious to those designing a company's hiring process.
Diverse Education Experiences
This one is personal to me as both a sorta bootcamp grad (C4Q is longer than most bootcamps at ten months) and as someone who didn't finish college due to finances and health reasons. It's also one I have yet to see addressed on any of the applications I've filled out.
A Place for Bootcamps
So, bootcamps are a way for people to transition careers (college students also use them to jumpstart their careers). Bootcamps aren't perfect, but they often do give students a lot of hands-on coding experience that they can't even get with a CS college education and that experience is very desirable to job providers. So why not have a field in a job application where bootcampers can highlight that coding experience and education? I know bootcampers can put their experience on their CV and cover letter, but many forms (especially online forms at big companies) are first scanned by machines and no field means no scan.
All of this also applies to more formal apprentice programs like Microsoft's Leap program and LinkedIn's Reach program. Hopefully more of these formal apprenticeships by large companies will be available to job seekers in the future.
Beyond "Some College"
Secondly, I wish those who design job applications would consider those of us who have "Some College." Some applications do allow you to put that you have "Some College" as an option under Education. It would be nice if they also allowed you to put the number of credits completed as well as a field to write your "Reason for Leaving" (as is often asked for under Work Experience). This would also apply to students who have some high school but may not have graduated with a degree.
I understand why degrees from accredited schools are important to employers; it's because they're so important that I wish there was a field where I could show how far I got and why I perhaps had to leave. You never know what will make the difference to the person hiring.
Open Up Paying Internships to Non-Students
Internships are a common way to gain experience in tech, but many are only advertised to those currently enrolled in an accredited school/university. Not to bang this gong again, but a bootcamper or someone who is self-taught with equivalent knowledge and experience should be considered for these internships, too. Often applications will have required fields asking for your current GPA and Future Graduation Date. If neither applies to you, that's a bummer and you can't complete the application.
A More Humane Job Search Needs Humans (Twitter Counts!)
My favorite part of my job search so far occurred on Twitter:
Joe Hart is a manager at The New York Times, which is why I mentioned my experience answering incoming calls for the Classifieds department and bending plates for the newspaper press. What struck me (besides the cookie picture) is Hart's thank you at the end of the Twitter thread. It speaks to the type of manager Hart is and the dignity one could expect while being managed by them. The way I felt reading that thank you is the way every applicant should feel at every step of the hiring process.
Sometimes it is discouraging as a job applicant with a non-traditional background to feel like your life doesn't fit a prescribed script, but always remember: you have talent and the right manager is going to be so happy to find you. Keep trying.