Is My Portfolio Frighteningly Underwhelming?

So recently I’ve had some very confusing responses from recruiters. I’ve offered my portfolio in the hopes of securing any of several general software engineer positions, and one game engine programmer position. My portfolio DropBox link is at the bottom if you’d like to skip right to that. The runnable demos are jars so you’ll need a JRE (the demos were written using Java 8!). The file contains the whole portfolio and you can download it if you’d like to test.

Part A:
First off, I didn’t expect to get the engine programmer position; I even stated in my cover letter that I’ve much to learn. Let me clear this up:
I a m N O T m a d t h a t I d i d n ’ t g e t t h e j o b ,
but rather, at the “feedback” that was provided after the fact. Anywho, after thanking the recruiter I requested some feedback so that I could benefit from this experience as much as possible:

[quote]Actually, at this point I’ve nothing to lose…

If I could be so bold as to ask for just a few additional minutes out of your day, I’d be exceedingly grateful. I’d like to ask you the specific reasons you considered me as potential candidate initially (what stood out), anything that appeared particularly appealing / impressive in my portfolio in your opinion, whether the demos had been tested, as well as what lead to this conclusion (the nail in the coffin so to speak). Think of it like a survey.

Having this feedback would benefit me to a far more considerable extent than having “the best of luck”. However, you shouldn’t feel obligated to respond; like I’ve stated in my cover letter: I’ve hit my goal shooting blanks before.

Thanks again for your time!
I was a bit frustrated… lol but he contacted me first (and after brushing it off as ‘just another recruiter’, he once again insisted we talk so I feel as though I had the right to be a little floored)… But anywho, I got this response (with some thoughts of my own to accompany each point):

[quote]Sure, happy to provide feedback here. I discovered your LinkedIn profile while looking for Engine Programmers.
Yes, I realize this; we had previously discussed that.

[quote]Your profile though has very limited information so I reached out to find out more about you and also tell you about the position.
Right, right.

[quote]Looking at the work you’ve done,
SUCH AS? EXAMPLES? What in my portfolio jumped out at you and the hiring manager and said “red flag”? I asked for specific feedback!

[quote]you still have a lot to learn.
I know. Who doesn’t? Even John Carmack has a lot to learn, otherwise we’d have reliable wireless VR headsets on the market by now.

[quote]It’s by no means bad, it’s just that we’re looking for experienced Engine Programmers.

Hope that makes sense and let’s keep in touch should a better position open up for you at [spoiler]EA[/spoiler] in the future.
Am I overreacting? Is there ACTUALLY something in there that could be considered useful feedback? Or did he just feed me a crap souffle?

Part B:
What is the first thing about my portfolio that comes to your mind that may be indicative of a red flag (yeah, nothing can go wrong there right? I hope this doesn’t turn into a r/roastme thread…) if you were an employer or hiring manager?

Part C:
Thanks for reading :slight_smile: !

First of all, kudos to you for even trying to apply for a job at a company the likes of which you did.

Without knowing the exact requirements of the job positions you tried to apply for, it is hard to say whether you fit them. So, what were they?
My bet is that they just got applicants which fit them better, for example, people with a better proven expertise in C/C++ (the language of course, but also common tools and libraries that go along with it), which I am pretty sure is practically a requirement for at least the engine developer position.

So the question is basically just: What were they looking for and did you have what they were looking for?

Small things like a pdf (instead of a .docx) for your resume, and a scanned picture (instead of a photo taken with a camera) of the letter, would probably go a long way in terms of appearing a little more professional. Would also be better to have your code online (say github) and put the demos on a website, but I guess that’d be a bigger undertaking.

I have no idea what those recruiters are looking for (I’m still at uni myself), but I can’t imagine they’d want to open your .java files in an IDE for better viewing (as you suggest in your readme.txt). It’s just not all that “professional”.

I think you should put the stuff on GitHub and be able to show them a repository, but also I’m not really that privy to most people on this forum, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

First Off:
I’ll post the link to the position here for clarity. The requirements aren’t actually too demanding. In fact, it’s one of the more lax, realistic sets of requirements for a software engineer I’d ever come across. Seriously, it’s SAD when you see JUNIOR or entry level positions that have stricter requirements than this one…

I didn’t apply; this recruiter sought me out. He happened to come across my LinkedIn, thought SOMETHING (which I’m still unaware of because he failed to give me any good feedback) about it stood out (and lemme tell ya, my LinkedIn is nowhere near as impressive as my portfolio, or so I’d thought). I dismissed his message initially (recruiters can be unknowledgeable regarding the requirements and the positions for which they are recruiting; i.e. recruiter jo indiscriminately reaches out to scores of inexperienced eds for a job building space craft at NASA because all jo’s concerned with is getting his commission). But after noticing it was a direct email (not an email notification from a LinkedIn message), viewing the modest job requirements, and yet another email from jo “just checking in” to see if I got his email and that “Whether you’re interested or not, it’d be great to hear from you :)”.

But anywho, I appreciate the reply, KaiHH! I was sure that it was something of that nature, it just confused me that it wasn’t until after I sent my portfolio; he was somehow fine with my abysmal LinkedIn.

Noted. Thank you (this is the kind of stuff I wished he would have included in his “feedback”.

Yep, I am already in the process of planning one for a recent larger (cooperative) project. Appreciate the input!

These guys don’t seem to know what they want. The requirements are C++ and “be good at handling things”, also have written something sometime with some technology, or have experience in management.

Definitely create a GitHub. When you’re programming, whenever you write something that you would find useful in another project (for example, I wrote a sprite batch for a WebGL game, then made it into a library), create a GitHub repository to store it. That way, there’s always tangible proof that you know what you’re doing (for example, I know how to write a sprite batcher, if a recruiter was looking for that). Also I love finding underrated libraries on GitHub.

I’d think that a recruiter/potential employer would rather see some screenshots and a description of some challenges in the project, and how you overcame them, than to run it themselves.

Sickan, I thank you for the feedback. I made sure to include some descriptions of systems I’d written in my Resume and I commented every piece of code in my portfolio (explaining how almost every line worked as well as the reason it was there). Additionally, I provided a link to videos (in the email as well as my Resume) of my projects in action in case they didn’t feel like running the included jars.

But Github, noted again. Also I’ll be sure to include specific challenges next time.

For starters:
If you offer a “RESUME.docx” inside a “” (wich is a terrible style by itself)
make shure that this docx is actually a docx and not corrupt…

And really:
-rent or get a free website
-create a portfolio with personal details about yourself and pictures and descriptions of your projects; there can be links to the code (in a github repository), if the viewer has a deeper interest
-state what programming topic you solved in those demos, and maybe snipplets how you did that
-use PDF!!! for any formal documents
-Never ever expect someone to spend time to download a zip, unpack it and then have Java configured to run a jar file to see your demos (this Java-Dev forum here is one of the few places where this might not cause total confusion)

Companies recruiting developers what to have a quick overlook of your skills and experience. That can be formal education, former employment at companies in the industry, or demonstrations/games of your skills. This information should be easy to see and pick up.

Well the recruiter cannot provide you much feedback because his job is about the initial screening of the candidates… Further, after getting N people into his list, he provides it to someone who actually understands something about game development. The developer or team lead (whoever) chooses a few which seemed interesting to him and asks the recruiter to dismiss the rest…

I agree with what some people say below. The way you are selling yourself is wrong (you might notice, that even if you walk in into the shop it is not guaranteed that you will buy something, so do not build illusions a beforehand).

A few things which I believe can increase your chances for getting noticed (not by recruiters, but by those people who actually make decisions):

  1. A GitHub repo with a few small projects. Do your best in terms of coding style, code modularity, unit testing… Use some patterns, but do not go too deep into that, project full of patterns looks suspicious :P.
  2. Organize your CV better. I think you have too many subsections and the limits of actual sections are not clear (for example you have an Education section and right after you have a bold text with bigger letters and the eyes are automatically jumping there without noticing that it is an education section)
  3. In the working experience, put only the things which are relevant for position (Amazon thing is not in this case). In your case, what I would have done is expanding that “Graphics Engine Programmer” into several projects you have been developing since 2012, with some very short bullet-style description (also use keywords, like Java, Spring, whatever) of the project. If there is a video to the game I would probably put it there. If you do not tell, I have no idea what you have been doing all those 6 years…
  4. I would move skills and abilities before the education, split it into several sections and put keywords instead of phrases. Something like:
    Advanced: Java, JSF,…
    Itermediate: Python, WebGL, …
    Traits: self-learner, ambitious, …
  5. I would definitely add self-learning section at the end, meaning that after completing the education you still educate yourself, put some books there, which you actually read (questions can come about your opinion on the book, etc, so do not risk, lying is bad)

Thank about it the other way around, you are choosing the person among 100, you look into a CV which is messy and does not tell you much about the candidate expertise, would you spend your precious time interviewing that person that you knew nothing about before looking into CV and still know nothing about after looking into it? CV is the first thing the person who is making the decision will look into, is like an elevator pitch, make sure you use those 30 seconds well sqeeze the maximum of those 30 seconds…

As a recruiter (and contractor for some 20 years) here is some general advice about CVs:

  1. At the top put all the basic information: your name, availability, notice period, location (and/or willingness to relocate), mobile number, email address, and any languages you speak fluently. Don’t put your age or gender in here. Don’t mention any social media contact handles.
  2. Under that I’d advise a single paragraph describing the type of work you’re looking for. Tailor this bit every time to the job you are applying for, so that it looks like you are exactly looking for the role described by the job ad!

That’s page 1. This page is the most important page in the whole CV. Make it look neat-as. Use serif fonts as it’ll likely be printed.

  1. Page 2 of the CV could be a simple trio of tables detailing the years experience you have with: Languages & APIs, Tools and Environments, and Roles. For languages etc. you’d have Java 5 years, C++ 3 years, SQL 4 years, HTML 1 year, Javascript 1 year, Angular/JS 1 year, Swing 1 year, J2EE 3 years. For Tools and Environments you’d have Linux 4 years, Windows 1 year, Eclipse 5 years, etc. and for Roles you’d have Team Leader 1 year, Analyst/Programmer 5 years.

Try to keep those three tables to a single page. Don’t include stuff you don’t want to be hassled about doing. This page serves as a simple filter for the recruitment agent. Meet enough buzzwords at the relevant length of experience and you’re through to the next stage.

  1. Page 3 of the CV is your recent experience. Each role you’ve been in, in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top), with job title, employer, month & year started and ended. One or two paragraphs describing the work you did, particularly any notable achievements or things you learned. Feel free to state that something is confidential and can’t be discussed here if necessary. Try to keep this to one page. Nobody cares about what you did 15 years ago - finish it off with something like Before March 1998 - various Analyst/Programmer roles

  2. Finally Page 4 of the CV is a couple of paragraphs “About Me”. This is where you link to github. Nobody gives a crap if you read books btw. but they might be interested in whether you go snowboarding or have a motorcycle or play D&D, which occasionally are random connections with interviewers that can give you something non-work related to chat about. Big tip: if you are being interviewed it is because the rest of your CV already passes all the criteria for the job, so what the interviewer is looking for is someone they like to talk to. Some interviews have mind-bogglingly pointless technical tests in them. Grin and bear it. You still won’t get the job if the interviewer thinks you’re boring as f**k or can’t talk to them.

Another tip… really really try to keep the whole damned thing to 4 pages or less. Nobody wants to read a tome. Remember they probably have another 20 tomes to read. Yours will stand out because it presents everything they need to know whether to bother interviewing you in a short snappy format, and plenty of hooks for them to initiate asking you questions.

Cas :slight_smile:

TL;DR recruiters are idiots; design for idiots! ;D

Or “pimps”, as we like to call them. Yes, they genuinely are pretty useless fucktards 90% of the time. They’ll only find your CV because they did a keyword search on their huge database - so make sure you do and don’t have the keywords you want in the document or you’ll get hassled for all sorts of crap you don’t want to do. Then when they read your CV almost 95% of it is totally over their heads anyway unless you’re lucky enough to find a recruiter who was once in the industry as an actual professional in a previous life.

Other cruft like “team player”, “self-learner”, “highly motivated” you can also leave out of your CV. You are automatically all of these things already. Don’t waste space on empty guff.

Cas :slight_smile:

Ok so, a lot of useful info here. I’ve taken away that the Github repo is a pretty big one (which I’m working on with a colleague), portfolio should be designed for a moron, and that there are WAY more small details than I had initially thought people ACTUALLY cared about…

That last one actually makes me a little sad, I won’t lie. It just feels like I’m in a world where I can’t let my code speak for itself, like at all; not even a little. I feel as though I’ve included some of my most clever, efficient solutions in this portfolio and it’s just going to waste because of some idiot not knowing what he’s looking at (despite thorough comments) or being overly concerned about how wide my margins are or something…

These last couple weeks of putting myself out there have been so unfulfilling and tiring… at this point I just feel as though it’s not worth my effort. Perhaps it’s just a smarter move at this point to just continue my job at the warehouse and simply work on my passion projects on the side.

Thanks to everyone for your input!

@princec thanks for that, that was super informative I’m sure for everyone.

Code reading is hard. Very few are going to attempt it. I can easily imagine a situation where a company is hiring to fill a need and they don’t have the internal expertise to evaluate code that might pertain.

Recruiters are kind of pesky and rarely coders. If they could actually code, they’d probably be doing that rather than recruiting.

The code you write and present on GitHub is still important, though. And it can lead to work opportunities if the library is one that people actually download and use.

Everybody else, especially Damocles and princec, have already covered it. But I’ll try to offer my two cents.

First off: how old are you? It sounds like you’re relatively young (new grad? still in school? hoping to turn a hobby into a career?) and haven’t had a lot of interactions like this.

Get used to it. As you get your name out there (GitHub, LinkedIn, forums, Stack Overflow, whatever), you are going to get more and more of these messages. You can’t take them too seriously. The honest truth is that there probably wasn’t anything too special about you that stood out to the recruiter. They probably emailed a hundred people the same message. You have a public profile on the internet. You’re going to get random messages from recruiters. Trying to gleen some kind of hidden meaning behind them is a path to madness.

There are a lot of red flags here. Don’t use dropbox. Get a personal website. But even then, a website with a bunch of personal projects will only get you so far. What is your experience? What classes have you taken? Nobody is going to download a jar file, let alone install Java and then run a jar file. Using Java 8 isn’t going to get you a job. Nobody is going to download a zip file. You have to make it as easy as possible for people to get this information. If I have to install Microsoft Word just to read your resume, I’m going to move on to the next resume.

I don’t say any of that to frustrate you or to criticize you. But you definitely can’t expect to put your personal projects up on dropbox and expect that to go very far.

I know. Who doesn’t? Even John Carmack has a lot to learn, otherwise we’d have reliable wireless VR headsets on the market by now.

Am I overreacting? Is there ACTUALLY something in there that could be considered useful feedback? Or did he just feed me a crap souffle?
You are overreacting. It is not a recruiter’s job to give you feedback, and in most cases they legally (or at least according to company policy) aren’t even allowed to give you more specific feedback. It sounds like this recruiter went out of their way to try to give you whatever feedback they could. Saying anything other than “thanks for your time, keep me in mind if you see a more junior position” is just burning bridges.

Yeah, I figured I was still just a little hot headed from the whole experience. It’s been a few years now and, while I believe I’ve come a long way, it seems like quite the opposite from a professional’s point of view…

However, in my defense (I have to fire back right? :D):

I figured I covered my experience by including the WVSGC research grant acceptance letter I got for my ray casting engine, as well as the 3 demos I included for the other engines I’ve written (alternatively, I also had video links to my projects in my Resume). I thought I made that as easy as possible for the recruiter to find (evidently not, as my format of presentation was messy; I will work on creating a more coherent format)!

Again, my related coursework was in the Resume I provided (which I will convert to PDF for next time, thank you to everyone who brought that to my attention!).

Yeah… I thought that was a bit far fetched. BUT I still included them on the off chance they had Java installed (many of the positions to which I applied were Java positions so for those it was probably more likely) or they were just really interested. However, even if they didn’t want to do that, they still had the option of watching the videos of my work in the link I provided.

I just specified the version because one of my demos makes use of the Java 8 Long class’s unsigned operation methods (the other demos use an unsigned long comparison method I read about online and don’t reference any Java 8 methods) and I didn’t want them to have it crash for some unknown reason. Also the zip file was only if they wanted to test the demos. Otherwise, they could simply use DropBox’s web file viewer (unless on mobile).

Fair enough. PDF next time.

I really appreciate yours as well as philfrei’s input. I am young, and I do have a lot to improve on (and learn!), but I don’t think I’m gonna let it stress me out anymore. As long as I can eat, pay the bills, and still have time to program my passion projects on the side, I consider that a victory. Thank you all once again for your collective cents (there has to be at least a dollar here lol), civility, patience and poise. I’m gonna take my grumpy arse and work on one of my projects right now!

A couple things to consider: the recruiter is probably not a Java programmer, so they probably aren’t going to install Java, download a jar, figure out how to run the jar, and then run it. Their job is to get people who might be a good fit through the door. So it’s a numbers game: they can spend a half hour working through your portfolio, or they can spend that half hour copy-pasting the message to 15 other people. And the Java programmers who would eventually interview you want to spend as little time as possible on the interview, so they can get back to work. So they aren’t going to download and run a jar file either.

Make it easy for people. If your portfolio is what you want to highlight, then put together a website. Showcase screenshots (just a few, not an album of hundreds of images) and videos of your work. People won’t download a jar, but they might watch a .gif file.

But also keep in mind that even that is probably more work than most recruiters and interviewers are going to do. Most people are going to glance at your resume and make a snap decision based on that. So you can’t just rely on a portfolio. Putting together a portfolio can be a great way to help organize a resume, but the resume is what gets you through the door.

That’s some pretty solid advice.