[A picture of private offices at Fog Creek Software] Alert! This ancient trifle retrieved from the Joel on Software archive is well-past its expiration date. Proceed with care.

Joel on Software

15

by Joel Spolsky
Sunday, June 15, 2003

Floor plan for new Fog Creek OfficeConstruction has finally begun on the new Fog Creek office. Remember how I said you should start looking for an office nine months before you need it? Make that ten.

Beware National News Magazines Claiming Cycles Are Permanent

Fortune writes, "Professionals have never had a tougher time finding a job. It's not just the economy; the rules of the game are changing." This is, quite frankly, no different than four years ago during the "New Economy" bullshit when they were blabbing about a new, permanently high level for stock prices as if there would never be business cycles again. It's just bullshit. The economy is cyclical and has been for hundreds of years. In fact the sure sign that things are about to change is when the conventional wisdom becomes, "things will never change."

Cover Letters

Here's some advice for people writing cover letters. Don't take any of the standard career-services-office advice for writing cover letters, or your cover letter will look exactly like everyone else's cover letter. If you write one of those "I work great on teams but am also a strong independent worker" cover letters, your cover letter will look just like everyone else's, and you won't stand out. The way to stand out is to write a letter that reflects your unique personality and highlights the reasons why you want to work at the place to which you are applying. 95% of the cover letters I receive do not include anything about Fog Creek and show no sign that they have been customized in any way for the job in question. This sends a signal that you are simply spamming your resume to hundreds of jobs, which, in turn, sends a signal that you are both desperate and not willing to work very hard.

Here's the thing: the very best candidates have come to realize that they have a choice of where to work, and when they apply for a job, they are applying because there's something intriguing about that particular job, not because they'll take any work that comes along. And you can see it in their cover letters. For example, if I were to see something like "I'm happy where I am, but I've always wanted to move to New York and if Fog Creek is anything like you describe it on your website, it sounds like a great place" you would sound a lot more desirable than someone who writes, "You will find that I am a very hard worker." If you make your cover letter interesting, make it personal, and drop hints that you have choices in the world, you will sound more like one of the top 1% candidates.

By the way, we received something like eighty applications for our opening. Probably 50% of those people were qualified and at least ten of them were great. I won't say more because we're still in the interviewing stage.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, easy web-based collaboration software, FogBugz, an enlightened bug tracking and software development tool, and Kiln, a distributed source control system that will blow your socks off. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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