Rhiza Blog Blog

Insider Tips to Help You Succeed During a Phone Screen at Rhiza

The first week of October is Rhiza’s Recruitment Week. As you may have read, Rhiza is a fast-growing software company and we’re looking to continue that growth by hiring some great new people to our team. Rather than releasing balloons and a box of doves, we are going to be releasing valuable information.

Chances are, if you are selected for a phone interview for one of our open positions the person you will be talking to is me. I’ve interviewed many, many people since I took over this task from our CTO, Mike. I’m going to lay out a few of the things that make me more likely to move an applicant to the next phase of interviewing. I hope much of this can be generalized to other companies and is useful to most job hopefuls reading this.

First, the fundamental purpose of a phone screen is for me to gauge a baseline of technical expertise you have and evaluate whether you would be a good fit for the company. “Good fit” is kind of a vague term, but usually what I’m looking for is someone who listens, is good at explaining things, and asks good questions. All of the technical knowledge in the world is useless to us unless the person possessing that knowledge can communicate well.

Here are things that are in the gold star column for applicants:

• I love it when people do their research and have at least a vague idea of what Rhiza does. I will always take the time to talk about what exactly we do, but it goes best when people have some understanding and a basis from which to ask questions.
• The ability to explain something complicated in less than three minutes.
• The applicant is talking to me on a clear phone connection and in a quiet space where I can hear them clearly. I have a hard time following people if I can’t hear them well. Hint: I have never had a good interview with someone who talked to me while they were driving.
• Have proof that you know what you’re doing. I love being able to play with demos and look at portfolios and they give me a much more complete view of an applicant. If you’re a new graduate and don’t have much experience a few good demos will get you very far.

Here are some more general tips:

• If it’s on your resume I will assume that you will be able to answer questions about it. I’ll ask you to describe how you executed projects and you should be able to tell me what you did and how you did it. If you list a piece of software or a computer language you should know more than a little about it. Also, if you list a language I will ask you about that, possibly in that language. If you can’t answer basic questions in Spanish do not put it on your resume.
• I’m a software professional just like you, so don’t get bogged down in the details such as what an integer is vs. a floating point type. I’d rather hear about how you used them to build something.

I hope this will help you in your quest to join the Rhiza team. Here’s a listing of our open positions and where you can apply online: http://www.rhiza.com/careers If you apply and make the cut, then I’ll be talking to you soon on the phone!

5 Tips for Resumes at Rhiza (and Elsewhere, too!)

The first week of October is Rhiza’s Recruitment Week. As you may have read, Rhiza is a fast-growing software company and we’re looking to continue that growth by hiring some great new people to our team. Rather than releasing balloons and a box of doves, we are going to be releasing valuable information.

I read almost every resume submitted by someone who wants a job at Rhiza. We tend to get them in a steady trickle from recruiters, networking and friends, or get them in floods of hundreds from career fairs. I’ve seen lots of great resumes, laughably terrible resumes and everything in between. I’ve learned a few things that would make life so much easier for the person reading the resume as well as make it more likely to score an interview. It’s mostly practical, easy, simple stuff that might not be obvious because writing a resume is not the same as sorting through stacks of them, but could mean the difference between getting hired and getting tossed in the trash. I mostly have experience with reading and evaluating resumes for technical positions, but I think most of what I have to say will apply to all kinds of job seekers.

1. Don’t email me your resume.

Chances are that I will forget about it before I have a chance to add it to our applicant website. The best way to get into the Rhiza job pipeline is to apply directly through the Rhiza Careers website. I guarantee that every resume submitted through that process will be read by at least one human.

2. Make your resume as easy for the reader to scan as possible.

Keep in mind that almost everyone who will read your resume does not read resumes all day for a living. This time is coming out of the limited amount of time devoted to job duties. The best resumes are the ones that can be read in under a minute. If I have to struggle to read your resume I’m going to doubt your communication skills and am more likely to put you in the REJECT pile.

Imagine the person who is reading your resume. They might be stealing a few seconds from their busy day to look it over, or they might be taking one off of a stack of hundreds from a job fair. They might be tired or bored with reading the same thing. How do you make sure that your resume does not get passed over? You do it by communicating that you are a skilled, smart individual in the clearest, most organized way possible.

So, how do you make sure that happens? Here are some tips:

– Limit yourself to three easy to read fonts. Use nothing that dots i’s with stars.

– Do not use fonts smaller than 10 points. 12 points is better.

– Separate information by type. Make it clear at a glance what your name is, your contact information (ideally at the top of the page), your education, your prior experience, and your skills

– Use bolding and whitespace to make the individual sections clear

– Keep sentences short

– Limit yourself to two pages, ideally front and back of one sheet of paper.

– For goodness sake, if you have more than two pages and you submitted a paper copy please never, never use a paperclip. It’s so easy for the pages to get separated so that we’re only looking at half of a resume.

3. Proofread, proofread, proofread, or get someone to do that for you.

A resume not only communicates what you can do, but also how organized and conscientious you are. Spell things correctly, use good grammar, and use correct punctuation. Many of our staff members are cranky about spaces before commas and missing periods. Simple mistakes can start you at a deficit. You would have to have stellar qualifications to overcome misspelling “Pittsburgh”.

Also, use consistent formatting. Are all of your headings bolded? Does your bulleting system match across your document? Are all of your dates in the same format?

Keep in mind that a resume is not an exam; it is not cheating to ask for help. In fact, if you are a university student there is probably a writing center on campus filled with people who will get paid to help you. Make an appointment and go there even if you think you are perfect at writing. A second, fresh pair of eyes will see things that you can’t.

4. If you submit a paper resume always follow up by applying on our website.

If we met you in person and you gave us a paper copy of your resume chances are that we met at a job fair and had a brief conversation. Usually when a job fair is over I will take all of the paper resumes I received and sort them into piles according to job title and then order them with the best matches on top and then down through the “maybes” and then the “not a good fits”. I’ll take the best matches and then email the applicant saying that we’re interested in interviewing them and then ask them to apply through our careers website. It’s a good way to weed out people who are not really interested in our company enough to bother uploading a digital copy of their resume.

However, if you are in the “maybe” pile, the best way to move to the next level is to preemptively put yourself into our job pipeline. You’re saving me a few minutes of hassle and I love people who do that. Even if I walked away with a thousand resumes that day I will at least give yours a second, careful look.

5. Include an objective statement for job fair resumes.

An objective statement is something like “Objective: to obtain career experience from an internship in software engineering”, or “Objective: to gain an every-level position in technical writing.” For me, the whole point is to be able to sort you into the right bucket. There are going to be very different criteria for evaluating an intern vs. an entry-level worker vs. an experienced worker, and it’s not always obvious by looking at work experience. Don’t make me guess! Treat your resume as a thing entirely self-contained for the reader, and that includes providing clues as to what kind of position you want.

Rhiza Recruitment Week Kickoff

Today kicks off Rhiza’s Recruitment Week. As you may have read, Rhiza is in fact a fast-growing software company and we’re looking to continue that growth by hiring some great new people to our team. Rather than releasing balloons and a box of doves, we are going to be releasing valuable information. We don’t want to hire people who just happen to guess what we’re looking for, so we’re putting out a few hints about the kinds of things we’re looking for out in the open for tuned-in applicants to find. If you are interested in working for Rhiza we are going to be publishing right on this blog valuable tips on how to get your resume noticed and how to ace that initial phone screen.

So, to get things started, here is the most important thing you can do to get our attention: apply directly through our career site. Every application and resume submitted through our website are read by at least one human at Rhiza, almost always a member of our development team.

Emailed resumes fall through the cracks and can get sent to the wrong person. Paper resumes only get callbacks for the very top 1%, but the applications that go through our website are closer to 10% for callbacks.

Bonus tip: We’ll ask you to submit a short statement about what makes you unique along with your resume. This is one of my favorite parts of our application and I tend to read these statements very carefully. I love hearing about all of the unique abilities and interests our applicants have.

How can you help? Take a look at the jobs we’re hiring for now on our career site and please feel free to share them with your friends, family and co-workers!

Pittsburgh Business Times Names Rhiza Fifth Fastest Growing Tech Company

pgh100-logo-smallAt an award ceremony tonight at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Club, Rhiza was named by the Pittsburgh Business Times the fifth fastest growing technology company in western Pennsylvania. The award, accepted by Rhiza’s CEO, Josh Knauer, was given by the Pittsburgh Business Times during their Pittsburgh 100 Awards, an annual ranking that recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in western Pennsylvania. It’s interesting to note that Rhiza was the only technology company in the list that has achieved its growth numbers without any outside investment.

Rhiza named Tech 50 and Pittsburgh 100 finalist for second year in a row

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Rhiza is proud to announce that we are a finalist for the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Tech 50 award. The award honors southwestern Pennsylvania’s most successful and innovative technology companies. Winners will be announced on October 10 at the Tech 50 event. For more information on the event, visit the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

pgh100-logo-smallAnd, since we’re already in bragging mode, we might as well mention we also made the Pittsburgh 100 list this year too. The Pittsburgh 100 list is published every year by the Pittsburgh Business Times, ranking the region’s fastest growing companies. The final rankings will be announced at an award ceremony on August 22, 2013 and released by the paper the following day.

Wish us luck. We love winning awards!

Data Visualization Contest Winners

We had some great entries into our Data Visualization Contest and we are pleased to announce the winners. We saw some great examples of interactive data displays and plenty of creativity.

Below are our winners. Congratulations to them all!

1st Place: “Movie Night” by Parker Bossier, Jenn Tran, Michelle Lew, John Rogers and Min Zhao

2nd Place: “IMDB Top 250 Data Visualizer” by Nathan Hamal

3rd Place: “Fare Atlas” by David W. Lenkner

Honorable Mention: “College Expenses” by Alexandra Pasula

Please give our winners a great big round of applause, while we distribute their fabulous prizes!

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Working from Home

My couch

I wrote the first draft of this post while working from home with a sick kid. This is my couch with two laptops and two iPads for coding and testing.

 

There has been a lot said in the media the last few months about working from home, especially with Yahoo’s new policy banning the practice.  It’s a perk that we have at Rhiza that we apply on a case-by-case basis.

A lot of the policies we enact are there because human capital is any tech company’s biggest asset. Sure, it’s possible to document as much as possible, but at least some of the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a software company is tied up in actual human brains, and it’s valuable to be able to access that quickly when something goes wrong. So, we spend a lot of time trying to hire the right people and then keep them for as long as possible.

I went back to work two weeks after having my daughter, mostly because I could. I was given the standard Rhiza maternity leave of six weeks, which I could use in whatever increment I needed instead of taking it all in one lump sum. I managed to stretch it out until she was three months old. From the age of three to six months I worked full time with the kid at my side.

This is a perk that is available to everyone in the company and something that has sustained me as a fiercely loyal employee. I know it won’t work for everyone, but in an industry where skills go stale faster than a loaf of bread, it kept me plugged in to my workplace without having to sacrifice bonding with my daughter. Plus, it was cheap to implement and it works with our corporate culture.I can understand the need for face time in the office, and it’s debatable whether working from home adds or subtracts from productivity.

However, working from home can be a real life-line that minimizes worker turnover and stress. And it’s something that doesn’t just apply to parental responsibilities. We have one employee whose commute just lengthened to an unsustainable level. He works from home a few days a week and we all get to share in that two hours that he is not sitting in his car.

So, I really can’t talk about how this is going to work at Yahoo and whether this is going to turn anything around, but I can say that workplace flexibility and our other work-life balance policies are pretty vital to our strategy for competing for talented workers. I fight Google and other big name tech companies *every day* for engineers.  It’s crucial to have as many tools as I can for selling our workplace.

Contest Entries Due Tonight at Midnight EST

We’re wrapping up our Data Visualization contest and invite everyone to submit their entries by Midnight tonight on the East Coast.  Everyone at Rhiza is really looking forward to exploring all of the submissions.

Further contest details can be found on our contest page.

Good luck, everyone!

The pressure is on, guys!

The pressure is on!

Rhiza Data Visualization Contest Deadline is April 1st

Rhiza is running a Data Visualization contest right now, one with fabulous cash prizes.  Our goal is to meet new people, get new people to meet us, and get exposed to new ideas about data.  We already have entries and we’re excited to see what people put together.

SEE HERE FOR MORE CONTEST INFORMATION

However, we’re still promoting the contest, so we’re going to move the deadline back to April 1st so that everyone has two more weekends to perfect their entries.  In a happy coincidence, April 1st is also our Rhiza-versary, the day that we officially became a company! We’re going to be five years old!  So, either way it is going to be a fun day.

For those of you interested in entering the contest, here are a few free data sources to help you get started:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics – The BLS has tons of data on prices, inflation and employment.  We’ve used monthly county-level employment in several of our visualization tools.
  • The Twitter Rest API – Twitter is constantly churning out data.  You can look at just one feed or everything at once.  We’ve used the twitter api to map people’s locations, track what people are talking about, and look at what languages are being tweeted.  I use twitter personally for data collection.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service – This database has tons of data about farming, animals, and crops projected down to the zip code and county level.  Ever wanted to know where all the ostrich cultivation is happening in the US?  This database will tell you.
A fine bovine and data source

A fine bovine and data source

 

Good luck!  We look forward to seeing what you can do!

Why I’ll Never be Hangry Again

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Rhiza moved from the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh’s Shadyside a few months ago and for the first time we had an unshared office space.  At first I grumbled about the diminished availability of fast, cheap lunches, but gradually our fully stocked kitchen has replaced fast-food sushi and noodles in my heart.  Each Tuesday we walk over to the neighborhood fancy-pants grocery store and walk back with the food that we’ll eat that week… all paid for by Rhiza.  If we run out of something, someone eventually walks over to the store and replaces it.

The stocked kitchen is my favorite perk ever.  It keeps all of us fed with exactly what we like to eat.

When we get together as a company sometimes we talk about being a “Healthy Lifestyle Company”.  But after years working here I’m still not sure that fits exactly.  I’m not sure what “healthy” means in that context?  We definitely do not go to the gym together, plenty of cookies come back from the store with us, and no one makes us eat our vegetables.

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Maybe it’s that in an industry of excess when it comes to working hours, we dwell in the “sane” end of the spectrum and that’s what we mean by healthy.  However, I don’t know if we should be bragging that we don’t burn out our workers and let them spend time with their families; that’s what everyone should be doing by default.

Instead, I think Rhiza is more suited to be a “Quality Lifestyle Company”.

My working hours are usually dictated by my daughter’s school schedule, so I’d rather work as efficiently as possible and take the minimum amount of time away from my desk.  I know that there is going to be good, delicious, (often) healthy food in the office fridge that is there when I want it.  And when I’m lost in programming, but hungry, I know I can keep the ten things I need to remember in my head while I take a few seconds to grab an orange or some almonds to keep me from falling over.  If I don’t have time for breakfast there will be Greek yogurt or oatmeal that I can eat while going over my email.  Finally, I don’t spend any extra time or money shopping for my lunch foods outside of work.

And that’s what I mean by quality.  Rhiza does little things that make my life as a worker (and also human being who likes food) better.  At this point in my life time means everything.  If I can save time in the mornings, or get more done during the workday, or not have to run back home because I forgot my lunch then these are things that make my life perceptibly better.

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In exchange, Rhiza gets better worker output during the workday as well as people better engaged in the workplace rather than walking around hangry (= hungry/angry [guilty!]) at about 2:30 in the afternoon.  Plus, you get a good amount of employee morale for not that much money per person every week.  Evidence: I am writing this blog post unsolicited, though it is a good excuse to post pictures of my lunches online.

Are you interested in having lunch with us?  Rhiza is hiring!

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