4.1 How to Apply – and How Not to Apply

We receive more than 2,000 applications every year, many of them interesting, some great, but some are awful. We take a close look at every single one and give every applicant a decent chance to get on board. Over the years, we have found some do’s and don’ts that I want to share now to make life easier for our future applicants and for ourselves. 😉

Let’s start with some trivial don’ts (all of them actually happen regularly):

  • Don’t just send us an empty email without title and body (example 1). Just a title but no body is not enough either (example 2).
  • Don’t address your email to several companies all under “To:” (example 3 and example 4).
  • Don’t forget the attachment (example 5).
  • Don’t address people who don’t work at Catalysts (example 6), even worse if you point out all your deficiencies (left school, no programming experience yet) much more than your advantages (example 7).
  • Don’t justify your application with “it’s compulsory for my school type to intern” (example 8).
  • Don’t apply to a position if your previous experience has nothing to do with the new position (example 9).
  • Don’t ask us riddles (example 10).

Here are a few do’s:

  • Do inform yourself about Catalysts before applying: our business, The Catalysts Way, our team, our offices, etc. (we don’t sell network switches or graphics drivers). Check out our homepage, our blog, our presence on Facebook and Youtube. If you know people working at Catalysts, talk with them.
  • Do reference the exact position and location you are applying for. Let us know why you would be a good fit for the position and for Catalysts. Reference some skills, tools, etc. that are listed in the job offer.
  • Do address the right person in your application.
  • Do give good reasons why you choose Catalysts over other companies with your application (generic motivation letters are bad).
  • Do point out your achievements clearly like ranking at contests, grades at school, private coding projects (example 11).
  • Do point out your skills like analytical thinking, ambition, do point out your relationships to Catalysts team members; do add a photograph (example 12).
  • Do point out your availability after an internship, e.g. for part-time work (example 13).
  • Do use a font and font colour that are easy to read. Creativity is great, but keep the design of your CV simple. Don’t write your CV by hand unless your writing is extraordinarily beautiful.
  • Do add a motivation letter – it’s about motivation, so show it to us!

Be careful, people react differently!

If you mention that you’ve worked as a babysitter during high school that can mean that you are a reliable and trustworthy person. But it does not automatically carry over to your typical duties as a software developer.

If you’ve been the captain of the soccer team in the 9th grade, you may or may not become an effective leader in the future.

It’s great if you volunteer your time at the Red Cross, as well as if you play an instrument or even have your own rock band. At least as long as you still also find time and energy to keep learning and developing technically and business-wise. Don’t tell us that you are a Jack of all trades.

So in the end, it’s surely good to point out past working experiences/skills that are truly related to the role that you apply for. You should also try to stick out from the crowd in a good way. However, boasting is dangerous.

Theory vs. Practice

It’s fine if you have good grades at school or at the university but they are not compulsory (think of Einstein ;-)). There’s the saying that “in theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” We value your achievements and your diplomas, but if you don’t have an academic background that may be equally fine.

What’s more important:

  • being willing and capable to learn quickly, and
  • being humble, i.e. knowing that one still has a lot to learn in life.

It’s only about the first impression.

Your application is only the first step in our application process. We take a close look and start a conversation with you. We may ask for more details, especially with respect to the technologies that you’ve worked with so far. We will also invite you to a private coding contest if you haven’t participated in one of our public coding contests yet. And finally, we are going to invite you for one or more interviews. Last step: sign the work contract.

All those steps can be accomplished within a day (best case) or take a couple of days (e.g. if you want to rehearse before the coding contest and play through a couple of published challenges).

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4.0 Getting On Board
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4.2 Three Different Kinds of Internships

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