Fog Creek

2. Résumé Screening


Find out why you should look out for ‘PBECS’ in all candidates and see some good and bad résumé examples.


There’s nothing in a resume that shows whether you know how to program or not. And so the best we can do really is try to guess whether it’s worth going forward with this person or not based on the information in the resume.

When you get a resume, the easiest thing to do is get a piece of scrap paper and write ‘p, b, e, c, s, j’ in column headings and then go through the rest of the resume looking for six things. The resume and cover letter, looking for those six things and if you find them, check them off.

So I’ll go over what they are, roughly what the categories are:

  • P is Passion – That’s a passion for software development tasks. People that love programming, or people that love computers, they just like gadgets or stuff like that.
  • B is Brains – You all know what a brainiac is right, these are the people who we make fun of in school. Here’re some examples. They have high GPAs.
  • E is English — We do want people to be able to communicate well, so the quality of their writing, both in their cover letter and in their resume. Their English writing is pretty important to us.
  • C is Creativity and Flair – What we’re looking for is were you being creative in your application in some way and almost all of you were. And it seems, so it’s either a custom cover letter for Fog Creek, so it’s something about Fog Creek or Joel On Software or even New York City. Even if it’s like, ‘when I heard there was this company in New York I was really excited.’ It’s just probably worth more of our time to pursue the people who think that Fog Creek is special in some way and like to work for us. So that’s creativity. And Flair, I think 3/4 of you, when you applied to Fog Creek, did something on your cover letter that was either funny or witty or unique or individualistic or just not your standard cover letter.
  • S is Screening – So what you’re going to do is look through the resume for institutions that you know are selective and that have screened people and that don’t take everybody who applies to them, whatever the institution may be. The easiest things, so the schools that they go to, so selective schools will get you this point because we know that somebody somewhere has evaluated them in some fashion.
  • J is Junior – Over the years, the last couple of years we’ve been lacks about this J thing, Junior in College. Basically, our ideal Intern is a Junior for several reasons. 1 – you can make them an offer at the end of the summer and they are not going to have any other internships that are going to get in the way and make them want to go work somewhere else. The people that did internships as Juniors are much more likely to turn out as full-time developers so that’s why we give them sort of substantial preference.

The review is the first part of our difficult process of getting hired. And we try to make it as democratic as possible. This person went to Stanford, that’s an immediate selective plus. This candidate says that they are sick of working for the giant borgs at larger companies and they’d like to come work for a place like Fog Creek. This indicates that they know who we are as a company, that they’ve read our website and I will give them a creative for that. This cover letter is also well written so they score an E. So that’s three letters right off the bat that this candidate got. So here this person has competed in an HP coding competition, this is a good sign. So this is someone going out of their own way to practice their Computer Science, compete against others. And their GPA is 3.8 at Stanford, which qualifies for brains. So this is a great example of a candidate, this person just got all six letters and they’ll certainly be phone screened.

This is a much shorter cover letter, which doesn’t really indicate that they know anything about the company. It’s a very standard cover letter, which could have really been sent to any company and doesn’t convey that Fog Creek means anything more than any other company to this person and so I cannot give them a creative. It is well written, so, so far this person gets an E for English. Now this is an example of a person who did not originally give us their GPA, and our automated bot emailed them and said ‘please give us the GPA’, and they came back and said their GPA is 2.86, so that’s not education of, that’s not an indication of B in this case. This college is also not on our selective list. This person is a Junior. And this person also has some additional typos in their resume that describes their personal, their goals, and their research history. This is usually a very bad sign, if someone has typos in their resume, they haven’t gone through and checked some of the most basic things. This person also already has three Xs, so that’s going to be a ding for me. Typically, you know, we need programmers who are going to be communicating with our customers, we need them to be able to communicate their ideas, to spec their ideas, and having typos in your own resume is a very bad sign.