There are PHP Jobs out there...

Conference organizers tell me business use-case studies don't do well.

Last night's San Francisco PHP Meetup would have proved them wrong. A big crowd was paying very close attention and asking lots of questions to the SonicLiving crew, whose talk covered the whole gamut from implementation details to how they do business.

One of the questions towards the end was how they hired. Anecdotes were told about a programmer with a corporate "let's spend a month writing a design" attitude and, at the other end of the spectrum, about the programmer who turned out not to be able to work in team "I deleted this function because I didn't understand it". For a start-up company it's important to get people who are able to put ideas in production quickly so user uptake can determine good from bad, and resources allocated to enhancing the successful ideas.

Later, in the post-talk group announcements, three other people stood up and said their companies were looking for good PHP developers. Looks like there is demand for your skills out there . . . .

And how exactly do you hire? There was no real consensus on where to find people. Good people already tend to have jobs. Use all the channels from Craigslist to word of mouth. Maybe even agencies!

Afterwards, I was in a post-talk discussion on interviewing techniques. Mariano Peterson (the assistant/co-organizer of the meetup) said that when interviewed, he had found it more interesting when he was told to write and brainstorm on a whiteboard instead of just being allowed to talk. I've always liked being able to have a free flowing discussion too.

But one of the verbal techniques I've found successful for first interviews is the "STAR" system: Situation-Task-Action-Result. You can use it as a interviewer. You can also use it to showcase yourself as an interviewee.

The method is designed to find out what you personally have done in the past. An interviewer might ask for a situation you've been in, what your exact task was, what action you physically took, and what the end result was. Much information on the STAR technique is available on the web.

For interviewees used to working in teams, it can be hard to stop saying "we" in every sentence: "we implemented a widget". As an interviewer this is frustrating since you have no idea what the person actually did on the project. Patience is needed.


Me: "Oh a widget you say? What was your role in creating the widget?".


Them: "We worked on a fantastic color scheme that added great value to the appeal and success of the widget".


Me (thinking): "Arrrrrgh!"

At this stage the interviewer still has no idea what the interviewee actually did on the project - did they do research, mix paints, coordinate the project etc? All those are valuable skills but the interviewer wants to understand what the interviewee is capable of and what their interests, strengths and weaknesses are.

Thinking about your skills in the context of STAR is also a great way to prepare yoruself for interviews.

Thanks to CBS Interactive (formerly C|Net) for hosting the PHP Meetup and the Gabe and Steve from SonicLiving for sharing so much information.

Comments:

In my experience, good PHP people either already have a job or are freelancing (i do the latter). While freelnacing a year for StudiVZ a saw a LOT of people come and go for job interviews. If you want quality, you have to look hard... but eventually you'll find someone (maybe even me if I happen to be free when you're looking - lol) P.S. Thanks for taking time to read and comment my article on multiple inserts (http://bit.ly/9LUMp) - I'm really amazed to see it getting attention at Oracle! I'm following you now...

Posted by Jon Gilbert on June 24, 2009 at 02:29 AM PDT #

Great post Christopher, I actually just landed a job at a Fortune 5 that used a similar methodology: situation, action, result. I'll be honest, it was probably the most stressful interview I've ever had. While the questions weren't hard (or even relevant to the actual job), the whole process of having to process the question, develop an answer, and then format a SAR response on the fly bordered on mental gymnastics. I'm much more partial to informal interviews over lunch or dinner where you learn about not just the person's abilities, but their character. Anecdotally I think there are a ton of PHP jobs out there. People just need to know where to look. FWIW, there are quite a few PHP jobs on PHP/MySQL Jobs.

Posted by Rick on July 01, 2009 at 11:09 AM PDT #

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I'm a Product Manager in Server Technologies, working on scripting languages and developer-access.
Email: christopher.jones@oracle.com
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