How to get a web development job at Critical Mass

For the last two nights, Critical Mass has run what are effectively recruiting job fairs over at the Roundup Centre.

They’re weird things. We’d done them before when we were recruiting for a planned move to Toronto (which sadly didn’t come to fruition, only because the potential client ended up staying with their incumbent agency). I didn’t do the Toronto sessions, but I’d heard they were both a great success and utter mayhem.

We’re not trying to populate a Toronto office right now — we’re seeing more work running through the office than we’ve seen in a couple of years. Hence, the need to attract a lot of people.

We held this at the Roundup Centre at the Stampede grounds, in the Palomino Room. We invited about 250 people over two nights. It wasn’t easy.

From 18:00 to 21:00 on Tuesday and Wednesday, save for a 45 minute break during a presentation from our execs, we talked to people of all backgrounds looking to work for Critical Mass.

What really stood out for me was that these weren’t people who were window shopping (admittedly, there have be some who were) — they wanted to work for us. Despite being told that Critical Mass is one of the best in the industry (I loathe saying we’re on top), we don’t see it.

Calgary has a weird way of isolating us from all the weirdness that happens in other cities where the Agency Game is played hard. Within Calgary, we’re not even well-known. Most people I talk to haven’t even heard of us.

So when 250 people come out, trying to obtain a position with us, it really gives you pause. We’re not the small startup that had people working long shifts to pull off minor miracles all the time. We’ve matured. We’ve gotten solid and steady. We’ve got a client list that amazes us — how did we get them? And how did all of these people hear of us?

I honestly have no idea how many people I talked to. Some were good. A few got the Magic Card that will lead to an interview. Most, sadly, didn’t quite make the grade — at least for me. As I’ve learned over the last year or so, it takes a particular person to do web development.

I had a few people, though — and not just web developers — who knew they weren’t going to make the grade, and how they could get hired. A quick “thank you” to those who did ask — you did the right thing. That sort of interest will get you noticed.

If you want to work at Critical Mass — as a web developer, mind you — here’s a few things I’ll suggest:

  • Delete your WYSIWYG. If all you know is how to do page layout with Dreamweaver, you won’t be able to handle the work here. Learn to code by hand. It sounds archaic, but here’s the simple reason: if you don’t know how it works, you’ll never be able to handle the hard stuff.
  • Learn the whys of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Just reading the specifications won’t do it. You need to know what these technologies are, why they exist, how they work on their own and in concert with each other. You don’t need to master them — though that’s a plus — but you do need to understand them.
  • Read up on the trends. Just saying the words “web standards” won’t get you a job. Being able to tell us, in detail, how CSS Zen Garden works probably will.
  • Prove to us that you can build a good user interface. It doesn’t have to look good, but it does have to work properly.

And above all, gumption will get you somewhere. Especially that guy who said he’d recode his site in CSS overnight. We can’t wait to see it.

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