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Mar 232010

Author Joe Lennon pictured with Prof. Ciaran Murphy, Bank of Ireland Professor of BIS, Patricia Lynch, BIS Director of Placement, and Sean Murphy, Core International, at the launch of his book "Beginning CouchDB" at UCC last night.
Pic Diane Cusack

A Cork technology specialist’s recently launched book is set to help software developers and businesses around the world harness the potential of the internet, and has added an exciting new dimension to an already promising career.

Joe Lennon, a Cork software developer who graduated with flying colours from UCC’s flagship Business Information Systems degree programme in 2007, was approached by New York based publisher Apress to write the book after they read a technical article he’d posted to an online portal run by IBM. The article examined a database system called CouchDB that makes it easier for developers to create web based applications.

Beginning Couch DB -- an introduction to data storage for Cloud Computing"I started writing ‘Beginning CouchDB’ in June 2009 the first draft was finished in September 2009, and the book was published in December" said Joe going on to explain how CouchDB is a new database management system that is steadily growing in popularity and is being used by many large organisations including Apple, IBM, BBC, MySpace, eBay, Meebo and Mozilla.

"As a new technology documentation on the subject is still quite scarce," said Joe. "As a result, it can be daunting for a newcomer to get to grips with CouchDB. ‘Beginning CouchDB’ aims to plug that gap by guiding the reader step by step through installing, configuring and working with CouchDB."

Having an internationally published book under your belt at the age of just 24 is quite an achievement, but Joe is no stranger to doing well. He achieved First Class Honours in each of the four years on the Business Information Systems (BIS) course at UCC, and was awarded a UCC University Scholarship in his third year for his performance in the summer examinations. During the third year Joe also spent 6 months with Fidelity Investments in Boston as part of the BIS Placement Programme, gaining his first real experience of working in IT.

"I learnt about all aspects of software projects working for Fidelity Investments and gained invaluable communication skills from the experience. I also learnt a lot about exactly what it was I wanted to do for a career. I enjoyed being an analyst, but I always felt the urge to go ahead and actually develop the software I was documenting," Joe said.

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Jun 102009
The Apprentice

Image by jovike via Flickr

Last week saw the remaining 5 candidates on the BBC‘s popular The Apprentice television show go through a gruelling round of interviews with four of Sir Alan Sugar‘s high-flying business associates.

Watching Apprentice hopefuls being put through the wringer by a cohort of seasoned business leaders certainly makes for entertaining television, but have you considered that it could also help you in your job search? 

While the process on the TV is extreme, and doesn’t mirror your average interview scenario, there are still valuable lessons for real-world job seekers looking to secure employment in one of the most competitive labour markets in decades.

  • Be prepared: it’s astonishing on a programme like The Apprentice that some of the candidates don’t do their homework before the show. Knowing as much as you can about the organisation and job you’re applying for before interview helps you stay calm and composed under fire. It also helps you to anticipate awkward questions so you’re not thrown by them.
  • Know your application inside out: you should not be surprised or flustered when an interviewer plucks out a fact or statement from your CV or application form. Remember what you said in your application, and be prepared to provide more information on any aspect of it when asked.
  • Don’t tell them everything: your application is a sales document that’s selling you. It’s your opportunity to highlight your strengths, play down your weaknesses and to guide the interviewer to specific areas of your career that demonstrate your suitability for the job. Throwing down everything can make your application confusing, introducing irrelevant detail that can prove counter-productive at interview. Tailor your application to suit the specific job.
  • Candidates aren’t the only ones doing their homework: while your application can help steer your interviewer’s questions, you need to remember that while you’ve been doing your homework on them, they’ve also been checking up on you. So don’t be shaken if they throw in a questions from left field about an aspect of your career not mentioned in your application.
  • Let your personality shine through: while maintaining a calm, composed and unruffled demeanour is a very positive thing to cultivate at interview, you don’t want to come across as an automaton either. You need to establish a rapport, connect with your interviewer on a human level and let your personality come across.
  • Stand out for the right reasons: with so many applications landing on employers’ desks at the moment, it’s more important than ever to make yours stand out from the crowd — but you want it to stand out for the right reasons. By all means get as creative and innovative as you like… as long as you stay focussed on the positives. Avoid going for shock-factor: it will almost certainly flag your application for the wastepaper basket.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit to your shortcomings: nobody’s perfect — and coming across as "too good to be true" can actually have a negative outcome at interview. Don’t be afraid to put your hands up and admit to mistakes… just make sure you highlight how you learnt from them, and what steps you’ve taken to make sure you never make them again.

Being able to perform well in an interview situation is something that will stand any job seeker in good stead, and the more practice you get, the easier it becomes. If you treat every interview as a learning opportunity, a chance to refine your technique and hone your skills, pretty soon you’ll stop dreading them.

Look at it this way: every interview you do moves you one step closer to securing the job you want.

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Jun 092009
Participants completing daily psychometric tes...

Image via Wikipedia

Psychometric testing has become commonplace in today’s sophisticated selection and recruitment world – but what is it, and what does it mean to the average job candidate?

In a nutshell, psychometrics is the field of psychology concerned with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables like intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits. Originally developed for use in educational psychology, this type of testing was quickly adapted by occupational psychologists as a selection tool for screening job candidates.

It’s a method that’s growing in popularity. Psychometric testing is now routinely used by more than 80% of the US Fortune 500 companies and more than 75% of the UK Times Top 100 companies. Many Irish employers have also integrated psychometric testing into their selection process. So, if you haven’t run into them already, you probably will before too long.

Psychometric tests come in a variety of “flavours”, and are generally multiple choice format. They fall broadly into two categories: aptitude and ability tests (the traditional IQ test falls into this group), and personality and interest questionnaires.

Aptitude & Ability Tests

These tests analyse your reasoning ability, how effectively you think on your feet and solve problems. They can include a variety of question types – numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning, spatial awareness and data interpretation– but the two you’re most likely to encounter in the recruitment process are numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning questions.

Aptitude and ability tests are usually multiple-choice format tests that you will be asked to complete on paper in a given time limit under typical test conditions. Increasingly you may be asked to complete these tests on a computer.

  • Questions are generally short, and have only one correct answer.
  • Although you can’t really study for these tests, you can get more comfortable with them by practicing.
  • In the run up to the test you can “prime” your mind for logical thought by tackling as many word and number problems and puzzles as you can get your hands on.
  • The actual tests are designed to be difficult to complete in the allotted time. It’s important to pace yourself, and not to waste time. Read each question carefully, give it your best shot, then move on to the next.

Personality & Interest Questionnaires

These tests are designed to assess the “fit” of your personality and interests with the organisation and job. They typically provide the employer with a “personality profile” for each candidate, which they then can then compare.

  • Unlike Aptitude and Ability tests there is no one right answer here. Answers are typically aranged on a “sliding scale” (e.g. from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree).
  • Remember that althought there are no “right or wrong” answers, the employer is obviously looking for something – otherwise why give you the test?
  • Be honest, but remembere that you’re undergoing a selection process. You may want to consider what the employer wants and the job you’re applying for as you answer each question – but if you do make sure you apply the same approach consistently throughout the test.

Find out more

You’ll find plenty of information on psychometric testing, along with free practice tests, on the internet. Simply type “Psychometric Testing” into your favourite search engine and browse through the results.

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Jun 092009

Image by aloshbennett via Flickr

After the undeniably stressful experience of an interview, it’s only natural to feel relief washing over you: relief that it’s over, that you’ve survived the ordeal, that you did your best and now the ball’s in their court. But before you relax there are still a few things that can enhance your chances of success and help you hone those all-important interview techniques for next time.

  • It ain’t over ’till it’s over: just because the formal process of the interview is complete, don’t assume you can let your guard down. You’re still being evaluated – maintain your professionalism until you’re well outside the employer’s building.
  • Contact details: get business contact details for each of your interviewers. Ask for business cards at the end of the interview, or call reception once you get home and ask for them.
  • Say thank you: always send an individual thank you letter or e-mail to each of your interviewers within 24 hours. This is a great way to appear professional and courteous. It also gives you another chance to reiterate your strengths, and puts your name squarely in front of them again while they’re still making their decision.
  • Don’t appear overeager: you want to look professional and courteous, not desperate. Send a thank you e-mail or a letter, not both, and avoid picking up the phone and ringing the interviewer immediately after an interview – it smacks of desperation.
  • Review your performance: within a few days of the interview review your own performance: what went well, what not so well. Make a check-list of things you can improve on for next time.
  • Keep looking: even if you’re feeling confident about the outcome of the interview, don’t stop applying for other jobs. Maintain your momentum, so that if this job offer doesn’t come you already have other things in the pipeline.
  • Follow up phone call: although you should avoid the phone immediately after your interview, it’s perfectly acceptable to call and ask for a decision if you haven’t heard anything a week to ten days afterwards. Remember to be professional and courteous, and to build on that rapport you established during the interview itself.
  • Don’t burn your bridges: even if you don’t get the job this time around, be sure to keep your options open. The successful candidate may turn the job offer down, or the company may be hiring again in the near future.
  • Ask for constructive feedback: this probably wasn’t your first interview, and it’s unlikely to be your last. Whether you’ve been successful or not, contact your interviewers for feedback on your performance. What were your strengths and weaknesses, was there anything in particular they feel you need to work on? A lot of interviewers are happy to volunteer this information if asked, and it can do wonders to improve your interview technique for the future.

If you get the job, congratulations! If not, remember there’s always the next time, and by applying what you’ve learnt this time around, you’ll be in an even stronger position to succeed.

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Jun 092009
MCLEAN, VA - FEBRUARY 06:  Job applicants stan...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The day of the interview finally arrives.

Your CV has got you this far, now it’s  down to how well you perform in that one short meeting. At the interview you have to convince one or more complete strangers that you’re the ideal candidate for the job.
It’s a tall order, but you’ve researched the company, prepared diligently and are as ready as you’re ever going to be. But before you head off for the main event here are a few things to bear in mind:

Before the Interview

  • Looking good – feeling great: on the day of the interview pay particular attention to your appearance. Wear an outfit you know you look good in, and make sure it’s ready the night before.
  • Don’t overdo it: in an interview you’re the one that needs to shine – not your accessories. Avoid things like loud ties, overbearing jewellery and heavy make-up. Subtlety is the order of the day.
  • Know your way: make sure you know how to reach the interview venue, and plan your route in advance to avoid a last-minute rush.
  • Clear you head: on the day of the interview take a walk or do some light exercise – it will help clear your head and encouraging better posture.
  • Smile: smiling makes us feel good about ourselves – and gives people we’ve never met a positive impression of us. People will smile back, which all helps to build up a positive vibe.
  • Remember some nerves are a good thing: a few butterflies is perfectly normal. Look at it as a positive thing: a bit of tension will keep you focussed, alert and attentive.

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Oct 152008
An interview

Image via Wikipedia

Going for an interview can be a stressful proposition – especially if you go in unprepared. By taking a few steps to get yourself ready before attending the interview you can reduce nervousness, improve confidence and project a more professional image.

Here are just some of the things you can try before an interview to help settle your nerves and improve your chances of success:

  • Know your CV and Application Form inside out: you did keep a photocopy of that application before sending it in, didn’t you? Your interviewer is likely to use your application and CV as a roadmap for the interview. You need to be ready to answer questions and elaborate on everything contained in those documents.

  • Put yourself in the interviewers shoes: imagine yourself in the interviewer’s position. You’re looking for the best candidate for the job – what questions would you be asking? Make a list of all the questions you can think of and try to come up with viable answers for each of them. Write your answers down and read them back to yourself several times to commit them to memory.

  • Focus on awkward or uncomfortable questions: Think about the questions you would you least like to answer. These will often relate to your weakest areas, so it’s worth spending some time honing and polishing your answers to them.

  • Practice delivering your answers out loud: even better, do it in front of a mirror or a video camera so you can read your own body language and adapt it accordingly. You may feel a bit silly at first, but this can do wonders to improve your delivery. Aim for confident, but not cocky – you want to project an air of enthusiastic but measured competence.

  • Arrange a mock interview: if possible arrange a practice interview. Ideally this should be with an experienced interviewer. If you’re a recent graduate ask your college careers advisor about this service. If you applied for the job through an agency they may be able to help, or ask somebody that you know. Remember that you need objective feedback on your performance – so it may be better to steer clear of family and close friends.

  • It’s a two way street: although the interviewer(s) will be directing the interview, remember it’s a two way process. It always pays to have a few well thought out questions about the job or the company to ask at relevant points in the interview. These questions should reflect the research you’ve already done and as a rule of thumb you shouldn’t ask about salary or benefits. Make sure you steer clear of questions whose answers are readily available on the company website or literature (remember you’ve already done your research…).

The more prepared you are, the less nervous you will be and the more confident your interview performance will appear. Just remember that some nerves on the day are normal – even beneficial. A bit of tension will help to keep you alert and will work with your preparation to strike that elusive balance between poise and enthusiasm that is the interview ideal.

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Oct 152008

They say that knowledge is power. That never applies more than when you’re approaching a job interview, yet it’s surprising how many candidates turn up for interview with only a cursory understanding of the organisation they want to work for.

Don’t fall into that trap. Immerse yourself in as much information as you can on your prospective employer, and use that knowledge to highlight your potential. Find out when the company was established, what its core values are and the sort of people who work there. What products or services does it provide? What markets does it operate in? What challenges does it face?

Here are a few pointers to kick-start your research:

  • Check out the company website: this is the obvious starting point. Most organisations have a website that provides information about the company and the products or services it offers. It may also yield details about the management team and archives of company news and press releases.

  • Search the web: by entering the company name into leading search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN you’ll find other online references to the company. Look particularly for reputable news or business sites that mention the organisation.

  • Study the marketing literature: the company’s marketing material will not only give you insight into the products and services the company offers, but also into their target markets and how they reach them.

  • Talk to people: ask other people about the company. What sort of a reputation does it have? If you can, talk to someone who already works there. If you’re applying through an agency ask if they can put you in touch with a candidate they’ve already placed.

  • Study the industry: look at recent editions of trade magazines and industry websites. Get a feel for the bigger picture, and your prospective employer’s position in it.

  • Know the position you’re applying for: try and find out as much as you can about the job you’ve applied for. What will your responsibilities be? How will your performance be measured? Who will you be reporting to? How does your position and/or department fit into the overall organisational hierarchy?

  • Know your interviewers: this is a trickier proposition, but if you can it’s worth finding out who will be interviewing you, and getting a bit of background information about them. Do you share a common interest, or come from the same place? Is there anything you can use to help build a rapport during the interview?

Remember you can never know too much – and the more you find out the more comfortable you’ll feel. Even if you don’t use all of the information you discover, the fact that you’ve done your homework will boost your confidence and is sure to impress your interviewers.

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