Some code on a laptop
Credit: Luis Llerena/Unsplash

Applying for a job is a job in itself, right?

We have quite a few exciting openings in our offices in London, Bristol and San Francisco, so if you’re keen to come aboard, let me help you out with tips that will make the difference with us (most of these are good for job applications in any field, IMO).

1. The job spec isn't everything:

You don't have to hit every requirement on the job spec. Most people don't, for any role, in any company. Show that you can teach yourself things; the tech we use is always changing. We don't need you to know everything, we need you to be able to learn anything.

2. Cover your tracks:

Write a nice cover note. It doesn't have to be long, but your ability to communicate is just as important as your ability to produce work.

3. Spell check:

It’s very easy to make a spelling mistake that undoes all of your impressive qualifications and experience. Get someone else to read over your CV/resume and cover letter before you hit send.

4. Customise:

We appreciate an application that’s clearly tailored to our specifications. Spend 5-10 minutes per application tweaking it to match your skills to the job spec. Also, find a name to address the cover letter to, rather than “To Whom It Concerns” and the like. Tell us why you’ve chosen to apply to Potato: why have we stood out to you? (Is it the tech stack; the projects we’ve worked on; because you’re a spud enthusiast?!)

5. Skim, then you're winning:

Companies get thousands of CVs in response to job ads. Thousands. We don’t expect an elaborate hoopla with your job application, fun as they are. Just lay it out well so that it can be skimmed. If we can skim it, then we’ll spend the time reading it in full.

Workplace desktop setup
Credit: Lee Campbell/Unsplash

6. Acronym overload:

Don't just put a list of technical acronyms on your CV. We're not recruitment consultants, so we're not just matching up the words. Write one sentence about what you've done with each technology.

7. Cut down the workload:

Don’t list every skill learned and job had since you left school. Emphasise the work you’ve done that’s relevant to the job description.

8. Code breakers:

Give us your GitHub URL, a tarball of code you’ve written, or link to your portfolio. It’s invaluable. Commercially written code is great, but don't break your current employer's confidentiality. We wouldn't want you to do that with our code. One written in your free time is great.

Also, if you submit some ornate code which has no comments and is hard to understand, no one who reads that is going to think, ‘I can't wait to have this person on my team, let's hire them’.

Code algorithm written on a window
Credit: Sony Pictures

9. Be precise:

It’s easy to say you worked on CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet; it’s more difficult to say exactly what you did on it and what result you got. You should.

Homer Simpson
Credit: Century Fox/Frinkiac

Tell us some interesting projects you worked on, what you did, and how they performed. Explain what your part in each project was, and the effect it had, even if your part was small.

  • Good: I refactored the shopping cart.
  • Better: I refactored the shopping cart, reducing the load time by 20%.
  • Best: I refactored the shopping cart, reducing the load time by 20%, resulting in a 5% increase in sales.

10. References:

A referee from a recent project, or a university lecturer, is a must. They should expect our call.

11. Formatting and URLs:

Use PDF, RTF or similar; then the person vetting the CVs on their Mac, Linux, iOS or Android can open it with ease. An HTML CV is okay too (indeed, fun and encouraged for frontenders) - just make sure it’s easily printable. Also make sure your URLs work. If we can’t see your stuff, it’s less convincing. Making mirrors of your work on your own web space is one option.

12. Finally, tell us who you are:

Personality counts too - briefly tell us what you do out of work. It's not all about skills. We want to know that you feel it too.