Thursday April 22, 2004

Job Audition

I spent much of the past week auditioning for a programming job. Yes, I said auditioning.

It all started last Wednesday morning when I saw a possible job listed on Dice (an online job site). The job requirements specified Perl, JavaScript, DOM, and VoiceXML experience in a Unix environment. I'd never used VoiceXML specifically but I've used XML. I looked up the VoiceXML spec... that didn't look too hard. So I sent off an enquiry with my resume.

I got a call from the agency within 30 minutes. We talked. There was a pre-interview qualifying "test" associated with the position. That was intriguing. The quoted rate, not posted on Dice, was low (right at my (grudging) bottom limit) but I figured I'd take a look at the test before making any further decisions.

Then I saw "another" job posted on Hot Jobs that looked suspiciously familiar: Perl, XML, Javascript, a pre-interview test. The listed city wasn't the one I'd been told by the previous aagency, but it's an adjacent city; there could be some confusion. More interesting, the second job posting listed a rate that was half again higher than the rate I'd just been quoted (and well within my "comfort zone). How mysterious.

So I sent a note to the second agency asking if this was indeed the same job and, if so, why the discrepancies. I got a call back. Yes, it was the same job. The first agency is an "affiliate" of the second. The second agency (the one with the higher rate ;-) goes "direct" to this client; the other agency does not. Apparently having the agency "go direct" is worth quite a bit to the contractor!

So we talked some more and the recruiter at the second agency said he'd "take me over" and "notify the other agency" that he'd done so. Then he sent me a non-disclosure agreement to sign and fax back. Then he sent me the "test".

The "test" wasn't at all what I was expecting. I was expecting questions and multiple short problems. What I got was in the form of a practicum exam, described thusly:

The following exercise provides prospective application engineering partners with a practical example of the work required to build a simple IVR solution within the context of [client company's] value-added development process. The exercise is designed to be completed in one weekend by one or two engineers possessing strong command of VoiceXML, JavaScript, and Perl. Certain aspects of the exercise are intentionally under specified; engineers should make appropriate implementation assumptions and document these clearly.

I was told, by the recruiter, that the test was expected to take 30 or 40 hours "in your spare time". It took me 46 hours over the period of a week. In the process I learned a little bit more about JavaScript (which I find I still don't care for) and a lot about VoiceXML (which differs from XML in that VoiceXML is a programming language; I'm still not sure if I approve of that... :) I learned a lot about voice recognition systems and voice mazes. I have some new buzzwords I can add to my resume.

Wednesday afternoon I packed up my code (Perl, JavaScript, and VXML files), supporting documentation, audio files, etc, and sent them off to the project/hiring manager at the client company (Cc:ing my recruiter intermediary). Now we wait and see if I hear anything more.

Job Audition ( in category Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Thu, 22 Apr, 13:23 Pacific | «e»