A Few Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Get Hired

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As a manager in the technology space, I have the great responsibility and privilege of hiring people into my company. As part of this work, I have to: help write job descriptions, spread the word, parse through resumes, meet referrals, conduct interviews, conduct/attend hiring meetings, write offer letters, write rejection letters, and onboard people.

While I’m done with “diversity in tech”, I do try to lift up people in my networks. Unfortunately,  too often I am disappointed by people’s inability to conduct a successful job search.  I am not even going to blame those people per se; it is ultimately one of the many ways our educational systems have failed us. That said, I am tired of seeing people (especially my people — specifically white women and people of color and especially black women!)  make the same frustrating mistakes over and over.

So I’ve pulled together a quick list of some of these common missteps in the hope that you can avoid them.

1) Not connecting with a referrer or potential referrer before sending along your resume.

If I tell you about the job or tell our mutual friend about the job, reach out to me! I am happy to make connections if I have them. If I work at the place, it is worth your while to use me as your “in”.

So many times I’ve had friends say that they don’t want to have an “unfair advantage”. Fairness in hiring is not the responsibility of the applicant; it is the duty of the hiring organization. Your only job is to be honest and put your best foot forward; so if you have a leg up, use it.

Which brings me to my next point….

2) Not mentioning you were referred by someone who works there

Related to the previous point. If you met me and I encouraged you to apply to my place of employment, you should mention that in your cover letter. Even if I dropped the link in a Slack or other community that we are mutually involved in, you can say “Per the job ad shared by Camille in the Smash The State Slack” or whatever in your cover letter.

Use your in!

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Credit: WOCinTech

3) Not writing a good resume or sending an overly long resume.

Your resume needs to be brief and tell a coherent story. It is not your autobiography, and your work history is not your total worth. You have a lot to offer the world, but it doesn’t need to all be represented in your resume. My pal Andrew Spittle wrote good, short guidance on how to write a resume here.

4) Not highlighting how you meet the job requirements. 

Make sure you read the full job description and tailor your resume to fit most (if not all) of what they are looking for. Add bullet points that explain the work you actually did and any notable accomplishments.

I would discourage you from highlighting the qualifications you are missing unless you want to explain how your other skills and talents make up for it.  Job descriptions are never really an exact description of everything the job entails and the exact skills you need to accomplish it.

You can paint a fuller picture of yourself and your capabilities once you get in for that interview.

5) Not mentioning the company name and the reason you are interested in the company in your cover letter. 

Look, I’ve been there, fam. I remember a period many years ago in which I must have applied to 70 -80 different positions. (Seriously, I had a huge spreadsheet to keep track of it all). But there is never any excuse to use the same generic cover letter over and over again.

I’ve seriously had people send cover letters with another hiring manager or company’s name there. Really, folks?

If you are genuinely interested in the job, it needs to show. Visit the companies’ websites, find out what they do, and then figure out why the company AND the position interest you.
We all need money, but (for some perverse reason) people at these hiring organizations want to feel wanted too.

Even if the place and the position seem dryer than a bone, there has to be something there that appeals to you. If there isn’t, you probably should not apply. If there is, make sure you mention it clearly (and briefly) in the cover letter.

6) Not asking a referrer to pass along your resume

If we meet and chat about the position, don’t hesitate to ask me if I can pass your resume along. The worst I — or any potential referrer — can say is no, and even then I think many of us will admire you for your tenacity!

7) Not actually being familiar with what the product or service is before you apply/interview. 

You need to understand what the company does and how you will fit in. If it is software, sign up / download ( if you can) and try it out. If it is a shop, maybe go by and visit and see what they have to offer. Just do your best to understand the company, their offerings, and their possible challenges so you can come in and be the answer they are looking for.

8) Not taking an interest in the people/person interviewing you. 

You’ve probably heard it said before, but job-hunting can be a lot like dating. Everyone shows up kinda awkward and nervous and unsure of what the outcome will be. While the interviewer will be asking the majority of the questions, you should come prepped with questions of your own about the company and the interviewer(s).

If possible, take the time ahead of the interview to learn a bit about who you will be talking to and what they do. How would your role and their role interact? I always like to end with the question, “So what brought you here and what keeps you here? Interviewers usually aren’t expecting it and often have to search for an answer. The answers are often pretty raw, honest, and telling of their feelings about the company.

Also, science has shown that people LOVE talking about themselves. So get them doing something they love and they just may associate that good feeling with you!


This is of course not an exhaustive list, beloveds. It’s just a few observations borne from my years of hiring and trying to get hired. For more tips, I highly recommend Catt Small’s fantastic post “Impress for success: Strategic ways to seem more hireable”.

Look, I know capitalism is a soul sucking system full of mind-numbing contradictions, and I strongly believe that we’d be better off without work as it is modernly construed. However, we are where we are at the moment, and in this time, I want to see my folks getting whatever paper and esteem we can amass while we work behind the scenes towards a better world.

Go on and get them legs up, my peoples! 

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How I Moved My Medium Over to WordPress.com

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Richard Pryor in the brilliant film, Moving.

I recently decided to part ways with Blogger and Medium.

Blogger has been good to me for many years but it is clearly an un/under-maintained product that I would not be surprised to see shut down any day now. Similarly, while I like some of Medium’s tools, the closed ecosystem and the inability to edit HTML has always bothered me as a person who has been editing her own HTML since GeoCities days. So I’ve had a long overdue TODO to create my own blog.

After interacting with so many magical Automatticians at SupConf, I finally sat down and created this website. It was a fairly simple process and the Happiness Engineers (despite that unfortunate title) were super helpful when I hit weird snags (like the glaring red band at the top of the screen warning me that I needed to Verify something or other). Then came the time to move over my Blogger and Medium blogs and consolidate my longer form digital ruminations.

I searched Google for instructions on the Blogger import and it went over without a hitch.

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This is the glaring red band, btw…I was later informed there was nothing I could actually “FIX.” I just had to wait.

So onwards to the Medium import I went.

Failed Medium Import Attempt #1: The DIY

The first instructions I attempted were here.  I was able to easily get the Medium ZIP export, but when I tried to get RSS Importer referenced there, it was nowhere to be found in WordPress.com. Happiness Engineer Mariah informed me,

“(You) may have seen something referring to WordPress.org, which is quite different from WordPress.com.”

She then went on to tell me that I should see a Medium importer in the list of options. However, I did not. After a long pause, she came back to the chat saying, “There’s a reasonable explanation for that… looks like we can do it for you. ;)”

Failed Medium Import Attempt #2: The 24 Hour Turnaround

Mariah then asked me to upload the Medium ZIP to my WP Media Library but I continued to get the error: “This file type is not allowed. Please try another.” So thinking that the ZIP file format was the problem, I went in and unzipped it with the intent of uploading the .html and image files I thought I’d find there. What I found made me awfully glad I checked.

It turned out that the Medium export was for nearly EVERY character I’d ever typed into Medium.

In addition to what I considered to be “my” blog, it also exported all  the posts I’d written for my company blog, as well as every comment I’d left on everyone else’s blog. Interesting in terms of a data dump but definitely not something I wanted to be vacuumed up and spit out onto my shiny new WP blog.

So once I saw what was in that ZIP, I did a clean up to include only the .html files for the posts that I wanted on my new blog. Once again, I attempted to upload my files to the Media Library and once again I got “This file type is not allowed. Please try another.” When I advised  Mariah of this she asked me to upload everything into a Google Drive folder and send her the link. I did so and she told me I should see the new posts on my blog in 24 hours.

I dutifully waited 24 hours — refreshing every once in a while in case maybe it happened even fast than that. After over 24 hours, I logged back in and reached out to the Happiness Crew.

The Successful Medium Import aka The Longer Slog

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The new HE, Chris, confirmed that the import had indeed failed. I told him that I could go in and edit the .rss as well. He requested that I do so and then send the updated Google Drive folder over to help@wordpress.com. I did so and also dropped the link in the chat channel where HE Kristen told me she’d pass it along.

After two days, I’d heard nothing so I wrote to inquire on the matter.

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I received a response from HE Richard telling me that the developers were still looking into my import and they couldn’t give an exact time-frame. Two days after that, I did receive a request to rate the quality of service I’d received from Chris. I didn’t know what to say. My issue had not been resolved and that wasn’t one of the three options. So I didn’t click anything.

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After seven days of waiting (and seriously considering just copy-pasting the posts into the blog), I went to my blog and noticed a weird post there that I hadn’t created. Upon further investigation, I realized that the import had occurred but I’d not been notified. I wrote HE Richard and told him so, and also asked for more details

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I received a response from my old pal HE Chris telling me,

“We had to do a lot of manual work on our end to make it import, so it wouldn’t be something that a user would be able to replicate.”

So it turns out the steps to import Medium blogs to WordPress.com are:

  1. Export your ZIP from Medium.
  2. Edit your RSS and HTML files.
  3. Upload those files to a sharable drive like Google Drive or Dropbox.
  4. Email help@wordpress.com with a link to that shared drive.
  5. Wait
  6. Nag
  7. Wait

Hope this helps someone avoid some grief.

Burning Out, Bowing Out, and How Bridges Sometimes Burn

Groucho Marx popularized the saying, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” I, however, am quite the opposite. For years, I have been honored to join so very many clubs that invited me to be a member, and, furthermore, when I felt a new club needed to be created, I was ever at the ready to start/co-found it. From feminist book clubs to food cooperatives, I have been an eager member or initiator for all manner of activity groups. Over the years, this “hyperinvolvement” has enabled me to become:

  • a good participant
  • a skilled facilitator
  • a strong but self-aware leader
  • a system creator/corrector
  • a pretty accurate judge of character, and
  • a person with a pretty good ability to think high-level.

As you can imagine, a person who is good at being in groups is often approached to join and start more groups, and so it is that I am fairly regularly being approached to lend a hand in This, That, or The Other initiative. As I am sure you can ALSO imagine, as a wife, mother, and human being with a full-time job at a certain point I run out of steam and have to bow out — usually gracefully but sometimes not so much. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I am definitely in a reluctant bow out/quitting cycle (in order to make time for work, family, marriage, and socializing/sanity restoring self-care) and so I wanted to share some thoughts about it that might be useful to you.

Some Reasons to Bow Out

  1. Lack of time
  2. Lack of commitment to the cause
  3. Lack of health/well-being
  4. Lack of money
  5. The group has gone in a direction you don’t like.
  6. Loss of momentum/motivation
  7. The group might be better off without you and/or has been overly dependent on you
  8. Conflict with an individual or faction of the group that was unable to be resolved. 

Some Ways to Bow Out

  1. Discussion with the group leader
  2. Friendly note or email to the group
  3. Strongly worded note or email to the group.
  4. A knockdown drag out physical or verbal battle with the individuals with whom you have conflict or the entire group (NOT ADVISED.)

Some Reactions You Should Prepare Yourself For As You Bow Out (and Suggested Responses)

  1. Some people who like you might try to bargain with you to stay on. You’ve already made your decision and you are not likely to change it. Feel free to thank them for their sentiment. You don’t owe them any explanation but can provide one if you wish.
  2. Some individuals may be angry that you are leaving. Again, you don’t owe them anything more than the time you gave to the organization. If they express their anger towards you, you can calmly tell them you are sorry that they feel that way. In some cases, these people may cut you off. It sucks, but it happens and there’s rarely anything you can do about this. I find that trying to pre-empt this or any blowback/blow to your reputation to this usually just makes things worse and, as such, is not advisable.
  3. Some people will be happy that you are leaving. Good for them.
  4. Some people don’t care that you are leaving. Good for them, too.

Some Practical Things to Remember to Do As You Are Bowing Out

  1. Pass along any keys/passwords/accounts for the group, as well as access to any group accounts that you may have in your name.
  2. Have the organization’s administrator remove you from any relevant insurance policies (for board members are usually covered by D&O insurance) as well as an corporate documents.
  3. Make sure you have received reimbursements for any outstanding expenses.
  4. Unsubscribe from the group mailing list (or ask to be unsubscribed).
  5. Clean out any physical or email inbox you might have that will be cut off to you once you are no longer part of the group.
  6. Document or pass along documentation of any systems or materials you put together during your time with the group.
  7. Supply group members with your personal contact information if they have only been using a contact email under the group’s domain (or phone or whatever) to contact you up til now. They may realize that you still have something they need or they might need you to walk them through one or two more little things after you are gone. (I advise you to not let this go on too long).
  8. Do your best to help the group find a successor if they want you to. (This is another one to not let drag on for very long. It is their group now and while you don’t want to leave them high and dry, you can’t be handcuffed to the group indefinitely.)

 Some Things to Do As You Walk Out The Door

  1. Reaffirm your decision. It was well thought-out and you are doing what you feel you need to do right now.
  2.  Remind yourself that you are super capable and experienced and there are always going to be groups that want you to join and people that want to start groups with you. You will join/start something else when you feel the time is right. It’s in your nature.
  3. Hold your head high. You did the best you could during your time with this group.

Some Things Not to Do As You Walk Out The Door

  1. Don’t let the haters get you down or make you feel like you need to do anything rash that you will be ashamed of later on. If a bridge burns maybe it was constructed of the wrong stuff to begin with. When you need to, you can likely cross to the other side by more reliable means.
  2. Don’t beat yourself about your failures or what “could have been”.
  3.  Don’t backpeddle and allow them to rope you in to do “one more thing”. You may be available for a quick call here and there just to help them finish the transition but you are OUT. They will sink or swim without you.
  4. Don’t go rushing out to find something else to join or start. Those opportunities will be there. The decision to join something should be as considered (if not more!) than the decision to bow out. Remember that the organization you found today will be the org you have to bow out of tomorrow (or well, ya know, many tomorrows from then) so CHOOSE WISELY (I wrote about that here.

OK, so what about you? How do you decide to bow out? How do you carry it out?