Job Hunting Checklist

Having recently switched jobs, now is probably the best possible time for me to write about the applicant’s side of vacancies and job searches in IT. Specifically, I want to give my take on maximizing the chance you’ll land a job at a place you’d want to work at. Put differently, below is (mostly) my own plan for finding a new job.

But wait: that’s not specific enough for a blog post yet! There’s a lot to job hunting. So let me narrow it down to the asynchronous ways to communicate with prospective employers.

What I mean here by “asynchronous“? Well, that includes just about everything that’s not real-time (face-to-face or phone conversations, chat, etc.). I will run down these “channels” one by one, including specific tips for each.

By the way, I hear you thinking: “But that sounds like just a big check list!?”. It is. But hey: check lists are great! Use this one to your advantage. Let’s get started with the basics.

General tips

Several things are important for all of the async channels. Remember:

  • Choose a great avatar you’ll be happy with for a long time to come, and stick with it. Everywhere! This will take a few years to settle in, but after a while it’ll help people recognize you across the board.
  • Be smart about your e-mail addresses. Preferably, you’d get your own domain, use addresses like and Alternatively, use the + sign lifehack to differentiate. This will help you separate incoming mail reliably, lets you know who’s leaked or sold your e-mail, and gives you a minor edge with tech orgs because they’ll notice you’ve given things some thought.
  • Do or do not, there is no try. To put it in my own words: either do something right, or don’t do it at all. For example: it’s better to have no LinkedIn profile than an out-of-date one.
  • Try to do as many of the list below as possible, but consider this tip strictly lower priority than the previous tip!
  • Use language correctly, or at least as correct as possible. It’s easy to use a spell checker, proofread, do some proofreading, and do some more proofreading. Tip: read your writing (semi) aloud to yourself to find bugs in your writings.

Okay, so enough with the generic mumbo jumbo. Off to specifics!

Your CV

A lot has already been written about this, so I won’t repeat the basics. But I will make a few important additional points:

  • Decide: short or long. Both are fine. If you go short: try to fit everything on one single page. This is really hard (I could never do it!), but if you can manage it’ll demand respect and it’ll be useful to the reader. If you go long: use “scannable” text and styles (tables, bullet lists, emphasis, and so forth).
  • Use a (non-default) theme. The theme (and sticking strictly to it) will help prevent your CV from becoming ugly. Only try to make a “beautiful” CV if you know how to design or have help in this department.
  • Read “The Non-Designer’s Design Book. It’s a “Must-Have” if you insist on tweaking styles (like me), and when you’re also (like me) not a great designer. It’ll at the least help you prevent your CV from becoming ugly.
  • Use serif fonts. Sans-serif might look nicer on (non-retina) screens, but most of the time folks will read a print of your CV. On paper, a serif font is easier to read.

Open Source platforms (Github, Gitlab, etc)

This one’s not for everyone. Whatever you do or don’t do: be conscious about your choices. That doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect, but do mind the things that are easy to get right. Think about cleaning up utter garbage repos, using correct language when commenting on issues, etc.

If you do decide to work on open source, note that you don’t necissarily need to become a maintainer of a high esteemed project to be noticable. Here are some easier ways to get started:

  • Pet projects are something to put online. Place a big disclaimer that the code should be viewed as such, and you’re fine putting out non-production-worthy code.
  • Create a demo project that shows off how you prefer to code. It’s fine to “reinvent the wheel” or even create yet another “To Do App”, as long as you focus on the code being in “your” style. Place a big disclaimer that the code should be viewed as such, and you’re fine.
  • Create Issues for other projects. Creating an issue with a good repro is usually well-received, and displays qualities very important in day-to-day tech work.
  • Find up-for-grabs issues in a project you’d like to contribute to. Or even open your own (most projects will welcome improvements to documentation, for example).

On a side note, it can also be good to spend some time looking at the source code of open “famous” source projects in your tech stack. It hones your code-reading skills, and demystifies the black boxes they tend to be. Although this isn’t directly visible to prospective employers, it does have intrinsic value and might be a gateway to your own contributions some day.

Community Forums and Q&A (Stack Overflow, etc)

On the one hand I see this different from the previous point (Open Source), on the other hand it kind of isn’t. Specifically Stack Overflow (of which I’m somewhat a fan, as they distribute all content freely, for one because the data is licensed by users at least under CC-By-SA.

Asking questions is probably the easiest way to get started. Note that exemplary questions are a great way to show off your skill: being able to grasp and neatly summarize a reproducible problem is perhaps the number one skill a developer can have. I’ve asked multiple questions I’d proudly show off as part of my resumé.

Answering questions is a lot harder. This is another whole topic on itself so let me just sprinkle some basic advice. First, the “gamefication” can be fun but should not be your primary motivation. Instead, answer to learn about topics. Choose a low(ish) traffic tag to answer questions in, or you’ll get frustrated by the fastest gun in the west: other people will answer extremely fast so you don’t seem to have a chance. And finally: keep at it.

My first few questions and answers on Stack Overflow were pretty bad, but practice makes perfect! For every ten answers with even one upvote there’s at least one that turns out to help a lot of other folks. Seeing a small “+1” trickle in on an old question is a great, warm feeling.

A personal website

Get a personal domain, preferably something with your name in it. Make it a single page with at least:

  • A very basic bio: one or two lines of text about who you are.
  • A generic e-mail address (one that doesn’t matter if it gets a bit of spam).
  • Links to any social media accounts, e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, but also Meetup, Goodreads, or other media that are professionally relevant.
  • Links to open source profiles, e.g. your GitHub profile or Stack Overflow flair.

Then, optionally, you could do any of these:

  • Link to your blog (see next section).
  • List of your projects, e.g. pet projects, portfolio stuff, your master’s thesis, etc.
  • Link to interesting other sites, e.g. tech blogs you enjoy.
  • A short occupation history if you’re inclined to make that public.
  • Some info and meta tags for SEO and generally showing off mad skills with details.
  • Ninja-counter-recruitment in your source code, just as organizations do.

A personal blog

Also not for everyone, but it certainly does help showing off enthusiasm, writing skills, and really whatever you want to show off. Blogging about tech is great, but mixing with non-technical posts works even better.

And in addition to exposure, there’s a far more compelling reason to blog: writing helps you organize your thoughts. Having to clearly express your thoughts or opinion about something should also make you think really hard about that thing.

Gaining a bigger audience is a challenge on its own, not usally directly related to the writing itself. So think long and hard before you decide to go down that road, because you’ll have to double down on community-building to get somewhere. But then again: I feel you can get a lot out of a blog without a big audience, too, by just writing to organize your thoughts.

Social Media

Warning: only do this if you enjoy it! The days of “needing” to be on social media to fit in are gone with Gangnam Style and the rest of 2016. Having said that, social media can be helpful in building your online profile.

First up: be consistent. Be consistent with your tag line, title, etc. Be conscious about what you make public and what you keep private. Don’t be afraid to create only a simple account that just links through to another platform; for example, you could create a LinkedIn profile that just tells folks to check your own website.

For the rest this comes down to personal preference. For me, Twitter and a wee bit of LinkedIn are primary professionally used social media. Google+ I find useless for most things, and Facebook is purely a thing for friends and family for me.

As a footnote it’s also worth noting that there are outliers. Goodreads is something I only use because I find the platform interesting, and I keep my professional bookshelf there. Also, has been popular the last two years, so I guess that also counts as a medium to be conscious about.

In closing

Bear with me while I digress a bit. Suppose you want to set up a perfect romantic date with someone. To maximize chances of success, you prepare all the things that can be reasonably prepared. You make sure there’s food, drinks, music, but also toilet paper, running water, etc.

Now let’s zoom in on the food. If you’re a chef or if you like cooking you might go out of your way a bit to cook something fancy, though you probably shouldn’t go too risky (unless that’s part of your charm…). If you hate cooking dinner you might order in something nice, and focus more on other things. In other words:

  • Do or don’t do! There is no “try”.
  • Min-Max All The Things™ that you do.

Back to the point. Maximizing your chances for a perfect job works the same as setting up that perfect date night. Be conscious about what you focus on. Be smart about what you do or don’t do. And whatever you decide you will do: do it right!

Footnote: his was also cross-posted to the Infi company blog.

Aggregated online interactions

This blog hasn’t seen much action lately, but that’s a misrepresentation of my online interactions. Most of my interaction in the past few months has been on Stack Overflow Q&A, and some on Stack Overflow “Documentation” as well as a small amount on GitHub. I wanted to aggregate some of those interactions on my blog, as well as perhaps cross-post bits and pieces here, mainly for my own reference.

Let’s start with the first: aggregating the bits and pieces that I want to have easy links to.

Stack Overflow Documentation

  • Showcasing all common Angular constructs“. I’m linking to the most up to date version. I wrote V1 of that article, which was subsequently improved by various other folks. It’s the tutorial (and equally important: the style of tutorial) I wish I’d had when I started learning Angular.
  • KnockoutJS “Equivalents of AngularJS bindings“. Linked page summarizes the state SO Documentation is currently in, at least for low-traffic tags: little and poor collaboration, and some frustration because some decent examples I wrote just don’t get reviewed (neither approved nor rejected). Thinking I might turn my content there into a (series of) blog post(s) here. Not sure yet.

Stack Exchange Q&A

At around 20 questions and 200 answers in 2016 so far I’d say I’m “moderately active”. Here’s a few that stood out when I browsed through my recent history:

I also gave SoftwareRecs.SE another shot, posting some questions, but they fit right into my question history: lots of unanswered tumbleweeds. And not for lack of trying, as I spend a lot of effort on making my questions there as good as they can be. The main reason I do that (and the reason I keep coming back to, in spite of the tumbleweed-factor) is that thinking carefully about your wishes and requirements at the least will help you find something yourself, if no-one else recommends anything.

And even though I haven’t interacted with Cooking.SE much lately, every stray upvote now and then to my “Cooking fish in a dishwasher” answer makes me smile.


I don’t interact as much here yet as I’d like. I specifically wish I remembered more often than a measly four times to create gists, because the ones I did create are ones I tend to go back to. In addition to gists, I’ve gotten to creating only very few issues and pull requests, something I want to work on.

One shoutout by the way to the DefinitelyTyped repository, because that community has to deal with a really scattered committer base, and seem to do so pretty well. My pull request (though small) was reviewed and merged quite quickly.

In Closing…

What to do next? The tags I followed on Stack Overflow for answering seem to have dried up a bit. Perhaps some more interaction on GitHub, as well as re-editing some of the above links into blog posts? Then again, a few weeks of vacation to Hawaii are coming up as well, so it might be a while again before posting…

Software Licences

Software licenses are confusing. I thought making a summary would require some useful research and would be a great way to learn more! Also, I was inspired by this WTFPL comic about licenses.

So I sat down and started my research.

Then I broke down and cried.

Why is this shit so hard? The site is decent, and even dares annotate pieces. However, for a summary of the popular license you’d have to construct something yourself from the bare license texts.

Anyways, I stopped crying. Grabbed both a beer and a hot cup of tea, and went in for round two. Surely Wikipedia has a good starting point? A zoomed out screenshot of the Comparison of free and open-source software licenses looks like this:

Open Source Comparison

So I started crying again.

Why I is this shit so hard? I guess it’s in part tiredom and beer (or even the tea? :O) talking, as the comparison table is actually quite informative and clean (after blinking once or twice). However, this would not help me summarize the licenses that I would consider using for a project.

In any case, I stopped crying. Poured a glass of whiskey after downing a cup of coffee. Round three.

Time to remember why I was doing this in the first place. Or perhaps not why, but more what triggered this post in the first place (besides the WTFPL comic).

The reason’s actually simple: it was the Stack Overflow license. Specifically this meta question. User  “Stefan” asks how to get permission to use a function from a SO post in GPL-licensed software. I had never thought about that: people may have to worry about all sorts of things to use entire snippets from SO posts. And heck: I am also one of “people”…

Interestingly, the solution from a code-providing point of view is simple. Posting on Stack Overflow means you release it under “cc-by-sa 3.0 with attribution required”. However, you can license it in other ways too if you so desire (and have the (copy)right to do so).  As user Pëkka puts it in this post:

Stack Overflow Copyright flowchart

So I broke down in tears again.

Why was this shit so easy for Pëkka to describe? How can I ever hope to create a text or picture about licenses equally eloquent and explanatory?

I think I can’t. So it’s probably best if I don’t write a post about licences.

Stack Exchange Challenge: Full-time

I’ve finished my self-imposed Stack Exchange challenge. What a great feeling: finishing things. Only one thing left on my to do list: create a small epilogue. And this is it.

The epilogue is going to be short, using the same format as the half-time post: a wrap up with links to all the bits of this series.

  1. Episode 1: Cooking Stack Exchange Challenge (March 20th, 2012)
  2. Episode 2: Programming Stack Exchange Challenge (April 2nd, 2012)
  3. Episode 3: Gaming Stack Exchange Challenge (May 14th, 2012)
  4. Episode 4: Android Stack Exchange Challenge (June 20th, 2012)
  5. Episode 5: User Experience Stack Exchange Challenge (September 9th, 2012)
  6. Episode 6: DBA Stack Exchange Challenge (October 8th, 2012)
  1. Episode 7: Area 51 Stack Exchange Challenge (May 13th, 2013)
  2. Episode 8: Area 51 Discuss Stack Exchange Challenge (June 30th, 2013)
  3. Episode 9: Meta Stack Overflow Stack Exchange Challenge (August 12th, 2013)
  4. Episode 10: Stack Overflow Stack Exchange Challenge (September 11th, 2013)

And that’s all I have to say about that. Time for a new challenge?

Episode 10: Stack Overflow Stack Exchange Challenge

So here it is, the final episode of the self-imposed Stack Exchange Challenge, detailing my journey through the network of Stack Exchange sites. It is the site I first got involved in, and also the site where I’m most active.

With this final episode it’s time to dig into the meaty bits of the network.

What is Stack Overflow?

Stack Overflow is the brainchild of IT guru’s Joel Spolsky and Jeff “CodingHorror” Atwood. They created it in 2008, and since then it has pushed just about everybody from search results for any typical programming question (well, except for w3fools perhaps). It is a community-driven site where you can ask and answer programming questions, but with a few twists:

  • A hint of Wikipedia: editing your own and other’s questions and answers to improve them;
  • A dose of gamification and Reddit: voting for questions and answers, reputation and badges to be earned, etc;

Only after its overwhelming success did the creators decide to use the engine for other topics as well, some of which I’ve discussed in previous episodes.

So basically Stack Overflow is the first and the biggest site in the network. Time to get to it.

Current Statistics

Here are the stats for Stack Overflow:

Fact Stack Overflow
Questions 5,678,329
Questions with no upvoted answers 1,275,254 (22.46%)
FAQ (questions with most links) 580,632
Top 3 questions 5593 votes, 3576 votes, 3345 votes
Questions active last hour 900
All-time rep for top 3 users 602.6k, 460.7k, 418.9k
Meta questions 18,960

Wow! Truly the biggest site.

My Questions

I’ve asked many more question than those showing on my profile page. However, with programming, you often find the answer yourself while asking. If the answer makes the question look silly, I don’t post it (though if it’s worth answering I document it anyways). From my questions, here’s a few that are interesting:

The ticker’s at 19 currently, versus 377 answers. I think that’s the ratio I’ll probably stick at.

My Answers

I’ve answered a total of 377 questions, and counting. Some that stand out:

Looking back at my answers, I seem to shun the blockbusters, and stick to helping with smaller and more individual questions. But that’s okay. Answering is my form of kata’s.

Interesting questions

Oh dear. I’ve seen too many interesting questions, really. Some are great but not really a good fit for Stack Overflow, like “Strangest language feature“, or “using tables for layout“. One typical question (on parsing HTML with regexes) has an epic answer spawning the “Tony the pony, he comes” meme.

Just browse the questions-by-votes or even closed-questions-by-votes for a few interesting reads.


This is a great site. It was the start of a great network of sites (even though not every site in the network works equally well). But hey, preaching to the choir probably: if you’re a programmer there’s no way around Stack Overflow anymore.

And I don’t mind at all.

Episode 9: Meta Stack Overflow Stack Exchange Challenge

This is the second-to-last episode in my Stack Exchange series, and it’ll be about the Meta site for Stack Overflow: the flagship site in the Stack Exchange network. A blog post about a meta site: that’s Meta For You.

What is “Meta” Stack Overflow?

It’s a place where you can discuss Stack Overflow and its sister sites. Jeff Atwood a.k.a. Coding Horror (one of the co-founders of Stack Overflow) long opposed having such a site at all, because discussion leads to internet maddness. He finally turned after he saw the error of his ways. The community has mostly proven herself and built a great meta site.

Current Statistics

Let’s go straight to the nitty gritty!

Fact Meta.SO
Questions 54,154
Questions with no upvoted answers 6,179 (11.41%)
FAQ (questions with most links) 18,493
Top 3 questions 1222 votes, 1027 votes, 659 votes
Questions active last hour 6
All-time rep for top 3 users 226.7k, 157.8k, 96.0k
Meta questions n/a

That’s a lot of content! Some additional interesting facts:

  • The most-used tag is [discussion], a whopping total of 20,949 questions (39% of total!).
  • After that, tags 2, 3 and 4 in ranking are -as expected- [feature-request], [support], and [bug] respectively.
  • The fifth tag with 7,239 questions is [status-completed], which is 13% of total and a respectable 50% of all [feature-request] tagged questions.

All in all a very active site.

My Questions

Much to my own surprise I apparently have asked 10 questions at the time of writing. The top one is a decently upvoted feature-request (NotImplementedException), but I guess all my questions are rather boring: minor bugs and that kind of thing.

One question that stands out a bit: the one with a whopping 9 downvotes. My intentions were good, but the community apparently hates the Fastest Gun In The West vigorously.

My Answers

Again, my participation is much higher than I remembered. Mostly boring stuff again too, with a few minor suggestions on bugfixes and feature-requests. The only one I’m mildly passionate about is on using italics: semantics over style any day!

Interesting Questions

One of the most interesting questions is one that’s deleted. There used to be a question on “What Stack Overflow Is Not”. An old version can still be found using the WayBackMachine. It was a controversial move to delete it, somewhat abrupt, but turned out for the best in my opinion. You can read the explanation here.

Community Wiki

This is actually a great list of questions, explaining the most curious features of the Stack Exchange system, often in great detail. It’s slightly awkward to format a help center using this Q&A system for everything, but it does leverage the Stack Exchange engine pretty well to get community involvement.


This is a very active site. The community obviously loves the place. I think it’s a great place for its purpose, but I try to spend as little time as possible on Meta: the “real” sites are far more interesting.

Can haz layout

Contains IE Hack This weekend I decided to deep dive in a StackOverflow question on the combination of pseudo-elements and the IE8 (and lower) filters. Even though it seemed to me the question couldn’t be answered with 100% certainty, I still gave it a shot. A similar but better answer got accepted (damn you, “ScottS”!!), but that’s besides the point. The most important thing I learned from answering this question, is understanding the magic in IE (especially version 8 and below). So, for reference, here are the important links of articles that made me understand IE a bit better:

The kicker from all this research is that I now finally understand this remotely related line of CSS I’ve seen (and even used) a lot:

This is a CSS hack to get some versions of IE to behave nicely. So far, nothing new. However, after reading the above articles, I finally understand what it does: it  forces the hidden IE property hasLayout to true. And that’s useful for quite a few cases where you’d expect things to have layout, but when they don’t by default.

Hack or not, I’m glad I understand things a wee bit more now.

Stack Exchange Challenge

My new hobby: the great Stack Exchange sites.

In the 90’s most of my questions on software development were either answered by friends and family, trial and error, or books. I’ve always loved reading books on this topic. Most of my books have some particular animal on the cover, from the company with a man on a mission. In addition to books, the new millenium lured me to the Google Groups on C#. It seems at the time of writing this only a “new” Google Groups exists, which is a good thing: even though I enjoyed reading and posting there very much, the spam drove me (and many others) away.

Of course, just Google Search remained a very decent source for answers to development questions. In recent years, the search results have slowly started to point to one particular site: Stack Overflow. The various interesting sister sites quickly grabbed my attention.

I can highly recommend looking at the sites they have, and joining some of the discussions. Overall, the communities seemed very friendly to me as long as you put effort and thought in your questions and answers. Personally, I’m seriously considering to set myself up for a challenge and investigate one site a time, with perhaps a blog post on my findings. Now where shall I begin?

CSS first-letter drop caps

A little while ago this interesting Stack Overflow question caught my attention. The question is about drop caps: a typographical gimmick where the first letter of a paragraph is very big and prominent. In older texts this could be even more than “prominent”, for example this page from an old Dutch Bible:

Drop caps in an old Dutch Bible
Drop caps in an old Dutch Bible

Of course, the CSS pseudo-selector :first-letter seems perfect to achieve this effect on the web. The question on Stack Overflow used that as a starting point, and is about a particular situation where IE wouldn’t render correctly. While trying to find a solution to that particular problem I found out things were not so simple, and posted this answer. The answer basically came down to “no way to get it right in all browsers”. With rather “standard” CSS rules, various browsers gave varying results:

Rendering of drop caps in various browsers
Various browsers render drop caps differently

Not very satisfying at all! After thinking about this some more, I decided to try and at least get a “minimal” example of drop caps working in all current browsers. To keep things “minimal” my first try will:

  • Not bother with padding for now (just set them all at zero);
  • Not bother (yet) with browsers <IE9;
  • Stick to the basic 26 characters from the latin alphabet;
  • Stick with uppercase versions of those characters.

It took some time, but I did come up with decent results. You can show the example html file on my blog, or view it as a jsfiddle. The example contains a reset style and some coloring so you can see the results clearly. However, the nitty gritty is in this bit of CSS:

This actually gives acceptable and mostly consistent results. Here’s a screenshot of how this renders in up to date versions of my browsers (all on Windows 7):

Drop caps experiment in IE9
Drop caps experiment in Chrome
Google Chrome
Drop caps experiment in Opera
Drop caps experiment in Firefox

Great! However, one browser is still not playing nice. No, not everyone’s “favorite” browser IE is acting weird, but Firefox is! Have a closer look at the left (:first-letter) rendering in Firefox: the height of the drop cap isn’t what we want it to be. However, some searching on Google leads to a related Stack Overflow question as well as this question, ultimately leading me to a bug from 2007 in Firefox. Guess it can’t be done easily then.

End of the road? Perhaps. But perhaps also a great opportunity to try and create a jQuery plugin that creates drop caps…