Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Blogs and Jobs

I was reading the article Bloggers Need Not Apply (via) and I found it a little bothersome. (Note that the article is no where near as inflamatory as its title.)

In many ways it was the typical anti-blog fair -- pointing out a variety of negatives that are fairly obvious and are the occasional result of any transparency or open communication. It is the risk of appearing as a whole person, the risk of being honest.

I got to thinking about how my blog might work against me; after all, I would certainly put my blog down on any resume. And there are things that might make me seem less than motivated with respect to some positions, and my political posts might not please some people.

On the other hand, I kind of think of it as my current self saving my future self from compromising too much. It's easy to drift from our core values, and it's easy to forget what we once were passionate about. And sure, I've drifted some ways already from past selves, but that should be a point of tension, not a comfortable process of forgetting.

At the same time, it is quite unfair that a potential employer dig deep into the archives without giving my current-self a chance to respond. For instance:

The site quickly revealed that the true passion of said blogger's life was not academe at all, but the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica. It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

That's actually a very fair concern. And the interviewer should definitely ask about that, point blank. And the interviewee should be ready to give an intelligent response. This is very fair; if a blog keeps you from dishonestly representing yourself, it doesn't make me feel that bad. But candidates deserve a chance to explain themselves when you make use of primary sources to form an opinion of them.

Another case was someone who complained about a variety of trivial things. I imagine this person used exageration to accentuate the rants. Kind of like publishing an article titled "Bloggers Need Not Apply". Hopefully the interviewer would read the blog with a writer's eyes, and understand that provocative titles (and opinions) make interesting reading, and often start interesting discussions. You can also be intellectually destructive with it; using baseless rants and lies, personal attacks, etc. But if so, then that's your own fault; if you are hurting the blogosphere, I can't feel badly that you also hurt your job search.

Another case was someone who gave many personal details about their life and their emotional struggles. This is a bit difficult -- it's the kind of thing which could effect your job, but the interviewer can't even really follow up on, because it's so outside the realm of the appropriate. It kind of sucks. We are each whole people, and I dislike the way professionalism is based on depersonalization. But there's no really good resolution for this, from either party. I can only say that there do exist compassionate and understanding employers who do not let institutional requirements destroy their empathy. I'd go further and say: if you are in the position to hire someone, you don't owe it to your employer/institution to ignore empathetic and compassionate inclinations. These are what make us human, and your employer hasn't bought off your humanity, and they have no business asking you to put your humanity aside.

Generally I think the negatives of blogging will decrease with time. A small number of people have online histories going back a dozen years (a very small number further than that, but hardly large enough to matter). In time, that number will become much larger. We'll each have email archives wherein we can read how stupid we used to be, or how insensitive, or how crude, and we can reflect on what we've learned over time. We can each consider what other people might find out about ourselves. And, hopefully, we'll each follow the Golden Rule, and judge others as we would have them judge ourselves. In that light, I don't think we'll have to be so afraid of the transparency of a blog. The world will catch up with the bloggers.

Created 12 Jul '05


I think of it this way: if a potential employer reads my blog and decides they don't want to hire me based on its content, I really wouldn't have wanted to work there anyway, and it's ultimately for the best. I would hope a potential employer would read my blog and make some sort of decision based on its content (positive or negative), because it's probably the best idea he's going to get about my likes and dislikes and my personality in general... there's only so much you're going to get out of an interview. Not getting hired due to blog content may be a liability in odd times of desperation, but I haven't run in to many of those in the past ten-odd years; hopefully my luck remains steady. In the meantime, I'll just keep writing.

# Chris McDonough

And there's the opposite factor: Writing provides opportunity. I've maintained a personal web site with projects, disseminations of knowledge, and personal ranting (although that's rarer over time) and eventually the site has gotten pretty decently popular. And the number of random job opportunities has gone waaayyy up. If you don't write, you may be able to sneak more easily into a company, but it probably won't be the one you're really looking for.

# Chad Austin

>On the other hand, I kind of think of it as my current self saving my future self from compromising too much. Hmmm, hopefully the decision-making processes don't require a re-factor... ;)

# Chris Smith

Agree 100%. That's all.

# Chad Austin

When it comes to programming jobs, blogs aren't so much about content (with rare exceptions, like Dave Shea) as it is about networking.

There are dozens (hundreds?) of people familiar with Ian Bicking, the programmer and blogger, that wouldn't have even known you existed.

FWIW, I disagree with your politics alll the freaking time. And if I knew someone looking for a Python programmer in Chicago, you're my first referral.

# Joe Grossberg

I've just finished university and started looking for a job some time ago. I've mentioned my blog in my resume and included its URL. I was asked about that in my second interview. I explained some things I am writing about on my blog, which sometimes are of relevance to my profession. I got that job. So my blog was at least not a hindrance.

# Steffen Gl├╝ckselig