Author: Josh More
Audience: Introverts wanting a career advancement
Reviewer: Sue Gee
Subtitled "Using Hacking Skills to Win the Job Hunt Game" will it help devs find and land the next great job?
Like most book buyers, I expect to find out a lot about a book from its cover and frontispiece. Because of the word "Hacking" in the subtitle, and the fact that it's published by Syngress which I associate with computer security, I assumed that this book would have advice that was relevant to developers. Also, given the printed edition I had to hand was dated 2014 I also assumed it would be current.
Turing to the back jacket I was surprised to see it was blank apart from the ISBN. No worries Amazon has a product description that reads just like back jacket blurb and tells us:
The emphasis in Job Reconnaissance is for infosec and IT job seekers to leverage the same skills they use in penetration testing and recon toward job-hunting success. These skills include targeting, reconnaissance and profiling combined with a technical look at skills other career search books commonly miss.
Amazon's book details are a bit misleading in that they give a data of 2009 for the printed edition. What appears to have happened is that my printed copy is an on-demand print out from the Kindle edition appeared in September 2013 and that the original was revised. It really should be flagged as a second, updated, edition but I don't think this is a big deal.
Other things that might strike you as odd about this book stem from the fact that it is primarily for introverts. To quote the introduction, it's for
"people who are more comfortable sitting behind a computer screen than for getting out and talking to people."
It isn't the standard how to succeed with the job interview process and it it skips over a lot of the basic because it assumes you'll already have got beyond them. It adopts a somewhat unconventional approach to finding a job than other books and some of its advice even borders on being rather dodgy.
It is clear from the outset that this isn't a book that is going to help you land you first job. To understand who the book is aimed at it is worth turning to "The Story of Josh" at the end of Chapter 2 to discover the circumstances in which Josh More developed the approach - essentially his first job was at a small start up and things changed for the worse when it was acquired by a much larger company with a different culture. Some years down the line at his next job and acquisition again changed the nature of his job and he decided to interview prospective employers to find a job that would fulfill his needs. So essentially this is a book for people who are in a pretty strong bargaining position - they have experience, probably already have a current job and are looking for a better job!
If you are in this category, either as a developer, a security consultant, or in any other IT role with some seniority, this book is for you.
Chapter 1 has the title "Foundations: What you ought to have done before buying this book" and it includes having a professional looking website, a LinkedIn profile and a blog to create your "personal brand". It also advocates freelance work and "re-purposing work products" as methods of content creation for your website. Networking is also discussed as part of personal brand management.
As already mentioned this book is mainly about people who are already in employment and Chapter 2 considers the decision of when to move only, taking into account factors such as economic downturn as well as the personal ones of the type of work environment you want.
Chapter 3 has some very direct messages in its section headings "Resumes Close Doors"; "Networking Opens Doors" Cover Letters Open Doors". The chapter advocates two useful ideas - maintaining a master resume and then culling "stories" from it appropriate to a given job hunt. It concludes with example resumes and stories.
The next chapter title is "Talking about yourself: the fine lines around boasting, bragging, belittling and begrudging" and has sections on "Socially engineering your audience" and "What to avoid" - which is where all the b words get discussed.
More says at the beginning of Chapter 5 that the book so far hasn't really got down to the "recon" activity suggested by the title. This is about the change with the the next two chapters firmly on the activity and as the necessary preliminary this one is about target selection and suggests ranking companies by giving a score of 1 to 4 for factors that are important to you. In the example given these factors include not only salary but also location and size of organisation, emphasis on R&D, and development environments. It's up to you to work out what factors to put in your decision table.
Now we come to the core of the book and it is worth noting that the first section in Chapter 6 Initial Reconnaissance is on ethics, a topic also included in the introduction.
The rest of this book is about intelligence gathering about companies and people that have not granted you permission to investigate them. Th techniques comprising the remainder to the book focus in legal and ethical ways to use these tools. However, it is entirely possible for you to use these tools improperly .... If a line is crossed and an employer finds out, it could cost you your job, result in legal action, or even get you baned from your industry.
After this "you have been warned" paragraph he chapter goes on to show ways to harvest email addresses and job titles of keys personnel in a company. The company chosen for the example is Elsevier, publisher of this book which presumably gave its permission. As well as describing "manual" methods, More also gives details of various tools that are available. Chapter 7:Deeper Reconnaissance looks at methods for discovering more about companies including financial position and and digging into personal backgrounds. Most of the resources it mentions are perfectly respectable - including the Internet Archives Wayback Machine, Wolfram Alpha and Glassdoor - but you can see how such search could start to become a bit grubby. Chapter 8 is about discovering how organizations think by looking at their choice of metaphors.
Having used the internet to discover so much about other people, Chapter 9: Repositioning: How to make you stand out, first has a section on tightening up your privacy settings on social media. After this there an unexpected change of the emphasis. In looking at at creating a custom resume and cover letter the discussion is about is about fonts and colors. This chapter also has a sample voicemail to follow up a cover letter that proposes a series of times at which the job seeker will phone. It goes on to suggest that in the event of being ignored you could try mentioning a promising approach to a competing company. It does admit "This approach is not without risk".
The rest of the book covers the interview process from phone interview in Chapter 10 through to salary negotiation in Chapter 16 with the penultimate chapter being about the process and etiquette of giving notice. The emphasis throughout is on thinking ahead, having the upper hand, following through at every stage and never giving up.
The book concludes with a short chapter that reads like a pep talk for those daunted by the prospect of going after a better job. a three appendices. The ones on Resources and Interview Questions are straightforward but the final one Emotional Concerns isn't and is included for those with "issues of self-esteem". It is a reminder that this is intended as a book for a very specific audience - introverts perhaps - but also possessing a specific set of skills. Its advice about how to re-purpose those skills for "the job hunt game" is certainly bold and if you can follow it it probably will help with career advancement.