After what seems to a year of solid hiring, we're finally coming up for air with a full team. We've had new people join us at pretty much every level in the company from Intern to Senior, across Design, Development, QA & Project Management. And we've seen a pretty significant number of candidates. One thing I've noticed is how oftern candidates will do something silly or ill-considered despite an otherwise good application which damaged their chance.

So, rather than providing yet another list of things you should do to get hired, here instead is a list of things you should avoid doing in order to not screw up your chances.

Do not send me a CV more than 3 pages long

It's not that I don't care. I just do not have time to read a half page of prose on a role you held 6 years ago in the middle of your 9 page CV. I have 60 other resumés to read. Your CV should have at most 2 pages of content appropriately summarised in lists and short paragraphs. Particularly for more senior candidates, who as a function of time, have more career experience to talk about, you need to be capable of summarising your skills and experience as concisely as possible.

Don't ignore the question you were asked / Don't ramble.

I have asked you something very specific. I would like you to answer that question.

  • If you're not sure or don't know the answer, that's fine, we'll work around it or move on
  • If you would like to subsequently segue the conversation into a related topic, great, but answer the question first
  • If you didn't understand the question, ask me to clarify

But don't just go rambling off. And especially don't do it a second time, if I give you the benefit of the doubt and bring you back on topic. If you continue to ramble off then I'm going to assume you have poor communication skills.

Don't submit a broken code test

Do not just knock out a code test, hit RUN in your IDE, think "seems to work on my machine" and then throw it over the fence. I have received tests where:

  • Code doesn't compile
  • Tests don't run
  • Packages don't restore
  • Libraries are missing
  • Or it only runs if you have the latest pre-alpha dev build of some unreleased framework installed on your PC

If you are submitting a code test you need to make sure that the person you send it to can run it. When you're finished I would suggest you do the following check list.

  • Do a clean checkout from your repo and make sure it restores all packages & compiles
  • Compile it from the command line to make sure there are no IDE dependencies or extensions needed
  • Run your unit tests from the command line to make sure they pass
  • Write some deployment/release notes that explain how to compile, install and run your code

Don't come unprepared?

If you've gotten to a face to face interview then you've already passed a CV Screen, Phone Interview and Code Test. So don't trip at the last hurdle by coming to an interview with the intention of winging it.

Bring a copy of your CV with you and know whats in it. If you've put something in your CV, expect me to grill you on it. If I feel like you're bullshitting me, I am going to call you out on it, grill you harder, and tell you it shouldn't be in your CV.

Be capable of explaining what your current/previous roles and projects are in a simple and concise way. If you have worked in an industry that I am unfamiliar with, then you need to be able to get your explanations across to me without having to educate me on industry subject matter. Assume you may have to take an "ELI5" approach.

Review the basics. Yes I know you are a 10-year senior developer and you can write code day-in-day-out. But I still expect you to be able to talk to me about the basics. What are Solid Principles? What is encapsulation? What is polymorphism? Can you name some software design patterns that aren't the Factory or Singleton patterns? Have you reviewed any architectural patterns? etc.


Don't be complacent about getting a new job. Yes, the supply and demand nature of our industry may have tilted things in favour of the candidate of late, but that doesn't mean that good companies will lower the quality bar when they're under pressure. If you want a good job in a good company, then you have to assume that they will have good standards which requires an effort from you, the candidate, to land the role you want.

~Eoin Campbell

A few weeks back the Azure Dublin user group hosted some of the Microsoft and Xamarins team in Dublin for a half day conference. While the Microsoft & Xamarin teams were there to cover some introductory sessions on using Xamarin, they also invited some industry partners to talk about some other technical topics. I presented a quick 15 minute intro on how to use the Azure Notification Hubs platform for sending push notifications to the various platform specific notification services for each of the major mobile platforms.

Azure Notification Hubs is the Microsoft Azure scaled-out infrastructure for doing multi-platform push-notifications. It provides you with a single single hosted platform which you can configure to relay your push notifications to all the major platform specific push notification services.

Currently, Azure Notification Hubs supports sending notifications to

  • Windows Notification Service (WNS) for Windows Phone & Universal Apps on Windows 8 and Window 10
  • The legacy Microsoft Push Notification Service (MPNS) for older Windows Phone 8 apps
  • Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) for Apple Devices such as IPhones and Macs running iOS and OSX
  • Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) for Android devices & chrome apps
  • Baidu Cloud Push for Android in China
  • Amazon Device Messaging (ADM) for Amazon Kindles

Setup can be a little tricky for the respective platforms. In order to configure Google for example, you'll need to login to the Google Developer Console and enable the FireBase/Google Cloud Messaging API, recording your API Key. You'll also need to configure a project under the IAM & Admin Sections and take note of your Project Number which will be used in your source code

Apple's Push Notification Service on the other hand requires that you generate a CSR which is uploaded to the Apple Developer site. That will allow you to create a Certificate which is in turn uploaded to the Azure Notification Hub configuration.

Once you've configured the various platform notification services in Azure, you can start pushing notifications out to various subsets of your user base. Notification Hub clients support connecting with Tag configurations. This allows you to dynamically tag your client base by device, demographic, specific user or some other categorisation and then targets those subsets of users

You'll find some demo code to get you started in our demo repository of Source Code on Github and a copy of the presentation slides from the demostration below

~Eoin C

Xamarin & Azure Notification Hubs from Eoin Campbell

It's no secret that hiring software developers is hard. Plenty of people more qualified than I have written on the subject over the years on just how hard. In Dublin, Ireland especially, the supply and demand economics of the problem are particularly difficult. Dublin is a major IT Hub in Europe, and host to the EMEA Headquarters for some of the largest IT companies (Google, Microsoft, Facebook) in the world. We've got insurance companies, banks and other financial institutions all HQ'd here as well. The demand for good IT staff is significant. And the supply side of the equation is further complicated by the presence of recruitment agencies. When a potential candidate is ready to move job, they are faced with a choice. Do all their own job search leg work? Or send their CV out to a small handful of recruitment agencies and let the interview invites roll in?

So where does that leave a relatively small IT company? Well in a far from ideal position, where hiring is a significant undertaking both in terms of time and money. Below is some background information on how I've conducted interview processes in my last few roles, and some some anecdotal numbers on how that process has been working out recently.

The Process

Our hiring process isn't unique. We try to establish as quickly as possible whether a candidate is suitable for a role without wasting any of their time or ours.

  1. CV Filtering - Are they an appropriate match on paper for the role
  2. Phone/Skype Interview - Keep this brief, 30 minutes, enough to briefly discuss experience, existing role, reasons for moving on, technical experience and some relevant technical questions based on the role their applying for
  3. Code Test - We send candidates a test to complete in their own time. Proposed as a typical user story with requirements, acceptance criteria and DoD. This is a chance for the candidate to show off. Try to deliver a code test that can be given from everyone from graduate to senior developers. While a grad might solve the problem, we expect more from a candidate based on their seniority. Solution architecture, separation of concerns, use of design patterns, decoupled design, use of dependency injection/IOC, code quality, unit testing, integration testing, database migration strategy etc
  4. Face-to-Face Interview - The candidate meets with our team, usually a mixture of management and technical staff for a more involved conversation around experience, previous roles and technical questions

Our Rules

About 10 years ago, I was in my first team lead/people management role where hiring technical staff was part of my remit. I read "Smart & Gets Things Done" by Joel Spolsky. It's a brilliant concise little booklet on how to hire developers and all this time later there's a few things that still stand out for me.

  1. We don't hire maybes - We're a small company. We have a diverse portfolio of software projects for a number of clients across a range of industry verticals. The large majority of our business is bespoke solution development and as a result, the train up time on our projects tends not to be spent on the technology but on the domain knowledge & business problems. We simply cannot afford to hire the wrong people.
  2. We need all rounders - I dislike the term full-stack developers. Like it's some novelty. At the risk of sounding like the dishevelled old man shouting "back in my day...", developers used to be full-stack by default, at the very least, they had some hands on experience across all the layers of a solution. This is no longer the case with a lot of candidates we see; developers and engineers who have been siloed into roles where they only worked on one small sub-system, or one specific layer of the solution. This is compounded further when looking for seniors; we add skills like business analysis, hands on experience doing DevOps, CI & production releases, and experience in customer facing roles and it really can feel like we're looking for Unicorns.
  3. We don't compromise on #1 and #2 when other pressures are present - It's all well and good having rules and principles in our process. So long as they don't get thrown out the window when they don't suit. Circumstances will dictate from time to time that we need to ramp up in resourcing to facilitate a project. This can be tough if the client wants to start tomorrow, and we have a potential 6-8 week lead time to hire.

The Numbers

The following is from a 6 week period during our most recent hiring period. We received a total of 84 applications. 73 from publicly posted job listings and 11 from a recruitment agency. A higher percentage of candidates from the agency got to phone screen.

  • Of those 84 we held phone screens with 35 candidates.
  • Of those 35 candidates, we sent out code tests to 25 of them.
  • Of the 21 code tests we received back, we went back and offered 9 candidates a follow up interview.
  • Of the 7 that accepted and attended the interview, we offered a full time position to 1 person.

That's a signal to noise ratio of slightly over 1%.

Some other observations

Offering a week to complete the code test is a double edged sword. In that time, candidates will continue looking for a role. A number of candidates we provided code tests to just disappeared into the ether after being supplied the test. Similarly, candidates that we've offered a face-to-face interview (or even job offer) are often off-the-market before we get to that point.

A large percentage of our applicants are non-EU residents. We're very happy to supply assistance to them in moving country, applying for VISA's, obtaining work permits, but that does add a significant lead time on (an additional 4-8 weeks typically) on the standard 1-month noticed period we'd expect to be waiting.

Lets assume a resume takes 10 mins to review on average (check content, reply reject/proceed, possibly setup phone screen). A phone screen takes 60 minutes including prep and post-call time (sending out code tests). Code test review and notes by several team members adds another 60 minutes. And a face to face interview including 3-4 team members is at a minimum a 4 hr commitment. By those ballparks we've invested ~100 hours (13 business days) into this one phase of hiring. That's a pretty serious time commitment and nearly doubles the cost associated with hiring when compared against the amount we have to pay out to a recruiter.

The bottom line... that the IT hiring market is particularly challenging for SMEs. Finding talented developers, bringing them through the interview process and getting them in situ, is a significant undertaking. And when you get them, you better do everything you bloody well can to keep them.

After following this path for the past 3 years, we've now hit an impasse. The time and resource cost, lead time for starting and general difficulties with the hiring process for quality full time developers, is now a quantifiable impediment to our business. Without the ability to ramp up on demand, we're faced with either turning down growth-business, or increasing the workload on our existing team. Neither option is particularly palatable. We need to pivot our . Contractor rotation? Near-shoring/Out-sourcing? A change in tack is definitely required.

~Eoin Campbell

If like me you have 2 or more, different Github accounts on the go, then accessing and committing as both on the same machine can be a challenge.
In my case, I have 2 accounts, one for work associated with my company email and a second for my own personal code.

If you'd like to be able to checkout, code and commit against different repo's across different github accounts on the same machine, then you can do so by setting up multiple ssh keys, and having hostname aliases configured in your .ssh config file.

First off all, you'll need to generate your SSH Keys. If you haven't done this already, you can use the following commands to generate your keys.

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C ""
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/c/Users/eoin/.ssh/id_rsa): id_rsa_eoin_at_work

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C ""
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/c/Users/eoin/.ssh/id_rsa): id_rsa_eoin_at_home

Once you've created your 2 files, you'll see 2 key pair files (the file you specified and a .pub) in your ~/.ssh directory. You can go ahead and add the respective key files each of your Github accounts. It's in the Github > Settings < SSH and GPG Keys section of your settings. You'll also need to add these files to ssh.

Next you'll want to create an ssh config file in your ~/.ssh directory. You can see mine below.

    User git
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_eoin_at_work

    User git
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_eoin_at_home

Here's the trick, when you execute a git clone command to clone a repo, the host in that command is not a real DNS hostname. It is the host entry specified on the first line of each section in the above files. So you can very easily change that. Now, if I want to check out work related projects from my work account, I can use.

git clone

# don't forget to set your git config to use your work meta data.
git config "eoincgreenfinch"
git config "" 

But if I want to check out code from my personal account, I can easily modify the clone URI with the following.

git clone

# don't forget to set your git config to use your work meta data.
git config "eoincampbell"
git config "" 

~Eoin Campbell


I recently had a conversation with a colleague regarding service level agreements and what kind of up-time SLAs we were required to provide (or would recommend) to some our customers. This is something that comes up more and more, particularly in relation to software delivery on cloud hosting platforms. Azure, Amazon AWS, Open Stack, Rack Space, Google App Engine, and so on all offer ever increasing levels of improved up-time around their cloud offerings and this trickles down to the ISVs who build software on these platforms. So how many 9’s does your organisation’s system need ?

Percentage availability

Availability is the ability for your users to access or use the system. If they can’t access it because it’s locked up, or offline, or the underlying hardware has failed, then it is unavailable.

For the uninitiated, measuring availability in 9’s is industry parlance for what percentage of time your application is available. The following table maps out the equivalent allowed downtime described by those numbers.

Description Up-time Downtime per year Downtime per month
two 9’s 99% ~3.65 days ~7.2 hours
three 9’s 99.9% ~8.7 hours ~43 minutes
three and a half 9’s 99.95% ~4.3 hours ~21 minutes
four 9’s 99.99% ~52 minutes ~4.3 minutes
five 9’s 99.999% ~5.25 minutes ~25 seconds

Service Level Agreements

How many 9’s a company or services’ SLA specifies, does not necessarily mean that the system will always adhere to or guarantee that level of up-time. No doubt, there are mission critical systems out there that would need guaranteed/consistent up-time and multiple layers of fail-over/redundancy in case those guarantees are not met. However, more often that not, these numbers are goals to be attained, and customers might be offered a rebate/credit if the availability did not reach those goals.

Take Amazon S3 storage services for example. Their service commitment goal is to maintain a three 9’s level of up-time in each month, however in the event that they do not, they offer a customer credit of:
- 10% in the case where they drop below three 9’s
- 25% in the case where they drop below two 9’s

Microsoft Azure has a similar service commitment for their IaaS Virtual Machines. In this case, while they offer a similar credit rebate for dropping below, 99.95% they also caveat that you must have a a minimum of 2 virtual machines configured in an availability set across different fault domains (areas of their comm center infrastructure that ensure resources like power & network are redundantly supplied).

What are your requirements?

Our business is predominantly focused on providing our customers with line of business applications. The large majority of their usage is by end-users between 8 am and 6 pm on business days. As a result, we have a level of flexibility with our customers to co-ordinate releases, planned outages and system maintenance in a way that minimally impacts the user base.

In the past however, I’ve built and maintained systems that were both financially and time critical; SMS based revenue generation based on 30 second TV ad spots for example have a very different business use case, requiring a different level of service availability. If you're system is offline during the 90 second window from the start of the advert, then you risk having lost that customer.

When identifying your own requirements, you need to think about the following:

  • When do you need your system or application to be available?
  • Do you have different levels of availability requirements depending on time of day, month or year?
    • LOB application that needs to be available 9-5/M-F
    • FinSrv application required for high availability at end of month but low availability through out the month
    • An e-commerce application requiring 24/7 availability across multiple geographic locations & overlapping timezone
  • What are the implications for your system being unavailable?
    • Are there financial implications?
    • Is the usage/availability time critical/sensitive?
    • Are other systems upstream/downstream dependent upon you and if so, what SLA do they provide?
  • If one component of your system is unavailable, is the entirety of the system unusable?
    • Is component availability mutually exclusive?

The cost of higher levels of availability

Requiring higher levels of availability (more 9’s) means having a more complex, robust and resilient hardware infrastructure and software system. If your system is complicated, that may mean ensuring that the various constituent components can each, independently satisfy the SLA. e.g.

  • Clustering your database in a Master-Master replication setup over multiple servers
  • Load-balancing your web application across multiple virtual machines
  • Redesigning to remove single points of failure in your application architecture such as in process session-state
  • Externalising certain services to 3rd parties that provide commercial solutions. (Azure Service Bus, Amazon S3 Storage etc…)

And all these things comes with a cost.

Johns E-Commerce Site

John runs an e-commerce website where he sells high value consumer goods. During the year his system generates ~€12m in revenue. Over the course of the year up-time equates to the following average revenue earnings, however since his business is low volume/high margin, missing a single sale/transaction could be costly.

  • €1,000,000 per month
  • €33,333.33 per day
  • €1,388.89 per hour
  • €23.15 per minute

John’s application currently only offers two 9’s of availability as it’s implemented on a single VPS and has numerous single points of failure. Planned outages are kept to a minimum but required to perform updates, releases and patches.

John is considering attempting to increase his platforms availability to four 9’s. Should he do it?

Quantifying the value of higher levels of availability

If you take a purely financial view of John’s situation, the cost implications of two 9’s vs. four 9’s is significant.

SLA Outage Window Formula Total Cost of Max. Outages
99% 3.65 Days 3.65 * €33333 €121,665.45
99.99% 52 minutes 52 * €23.15 €1,203.80

Ultimately, he needs to understand if this is an accurate estimation of the cost impact, and if it is, would it cost him more than €120K year on year, to increase the up-time of his system. There are numerous other business and technical considerations here on both sides of the equation.

  • Revenue estimation year on year may or may not be accurate
  • Revenue generation may not be evenly distributed through the year; if he can maintain high availability through the Black Friday and Christmas shopping seasons, it may alleviate most of his losses.
  • There may be other less tangible impacts on recurring revenue due to bad user experiences of arriving while the site is down etc.
  • Downtime may have a detrimental/negative impact on his brand.

On the other hand, what is the cost of the upgrade.

  • Development costs to upgrade the system.
  • Additional hosting costs to move to a cloud a platform or additional 3rd parties
  • On-going support costs to maintain this new system
  • There may be other considerations where the adoption of new technologies (a high availability cache) would alleviate the necessity of an increased SLA for a data store for example.

Assuming that the system can be initially upgraded and maintained year on year for less than €120K, the return on investment would make sense for John to undertake this work. It would be a different conversation the next time though when he wants to go to five 9’s availability.


Deciding on an appropriate level for your SLA is complicated, and there are a myriad of considerations and inputs which will dictate the “right” answer for your particular situation. Whatever you decide, attempting to achieve higher and higher levels of availability for your system, will most probably lead to higher costs, and the smaller returns on investment. So make sure the level you choose is appropriate from both a business and technical perspective.

~Eoin Campbell