The Job Hunter’s Guide to Writing a Good Autobiography

code-as-documentation

Atomic made a big hiring push this summer, a decision we knew would cause an uptick in the number of candidates we needed to review. In order to better share the load of reviewing applicants, we created a pool of employees that we dubbed “Fit Checkers.” Our Fit Checkers were a mix of junior and senior developers. They paired up to review applicant materials, participate in phone calls, and occasionally meet with applicants in person. I was excited to be chosen for this role.

The first step for anyone applying to Atomic is to fill out an autobiography questionnaire. As a Fit Checker, I spent a lot of time reviewing these documents and came up with some guidelines applicants can follow to improve their next autobiography or questionnaire.

Write Cleanly & Well

This may seem like common sense, but I was amazed how many spelling and grammatical errors I found while reviewing questionnaires—not to mention tons of typos. When I find a typo in a questionnaire, it makes me question the candidate’s interest. I start to wonder if this is someone that is looking for any job, not their dream job.

We aren’t interested in candidates simply because we need more capacity. We want an individual that is excited at the thought of working at Atomic. If that’s you, take time to proof your work and correct the errors.

Demonstrate Personality

Your autobiography is your first chance to show us who you are as a human. When I finish reading your bio, I want at least a vague idea of your likes/dislikes, what motivates you, and what you do when you aren’t at the office. Don’t be afraid to make a joke, or open yourself up with your responses. The best bios I’ve read make me want to get to know you more as a person. The worst biographies I’ve read answer all of the questions in robotic fashion.

Provide Interesting Code Samples

If you don’t have a strong open source presence, the code sample you provide in your autobiography is the only real chance you have to show off your technical chops. It’s important to pick code that expresses your development style and also solves an interesting problem.

On top of the code itself, make sure you provide good documentation. If you believe this is an interesting piece of code, make sure that interest comes across. If you implement an X + Y Sorting Algorithm in less than O(n^2 log n^2) time, but fail to give an explanation, I’ll be less impressed. (Let’s be real, if you gave me that with no explanation, I’d still be impressed. But go a step further, and I’ll really be hooked.)

Show Genuine Interest In Atomic

Lastly, but certainly not least, make us feel like you want to come work here. One of the best ways to do this is to show you’ve done your research on Atomic. Before you start filling out your biography, spend some time on our website. Read about our values and apply them in your answers. Check out some of the work we’ve done, and let us know how excited you are to be a part of that work.

As a Fit Checker, I put real effort into reviewing and considering each autobiography that came my way. If you want to get to the next stage of the interview process, your best bet is to put that time and effort into filling out your questionnaire. Hopefully, you can apply these guidelines to your next job search.