An advice article for IT professionals involved in job searching
|There is no doubt that landing a good IT job today requires a different approach than even a few years ago. There are several factors to consider in your search efforts. What is the market like in your area? Is your resume trying to appeal to recruiters or directly to companies, or are you trying to do both? What types of position(s) are you targeting, and have you included the right keywords for your target(s) in your resume?
Things have changed. Stylistically, resumes have become more informal, and skill-highlights more important. Electronic services are more common, and keywords critical if you want to gain notice. Contract-based work, particularly contract-to-hire opportunities are a more common approach for companies, even those looking for permanent employees.
The job market
With the first quarter of 2007 coming to an end, there are some “hot” positions in IT. The recent recession took its toll on many IT professionals, coaxing them into trying other fields. Thus, there is a vacuum in the mid-level experience range, particularly in the more technical areas, such as software development. Right now .NET developers are absolute gold. If you have these skills, do not underestimate your current market value. Also proliferate are postings for business analysts. This is a relatively easy field to get into if you have an IT background and reasonable writing and communication skills. Not as common, but still quite active are project management, technical writing and quality assurance postings. There are also a few skills which are not necessarily common to see, but are commanding top-notch salaries because so few professionals have these skills, such as SharePoint and Microsoft CMS (Content Management Server).
There are definitely more or less effective techniques to use, depending on your target audience. For example, IT recruiters are reviewing hundreds of resumes a day and have different levels of skill in deciphering their clients’ needs and your resumes highlights. Quick, easy reading-style with bold highlights for important key-words are critical to getting noticed by recruiters or HR departments searching online services. Designing your resume for posting on Monster.com or other job search engines means effective keywords and quick readability. Recruiters are looking for reasons to include you as a good candidate.
However, if you’re applying to a specific position with a direct company, then the devil is in the details. Having the right objective keywords and skill summary are still very important, as this captures the readers attention and leads to a feeling of “maybe we’ve got a match”, but companies will usually be measuring you up against a specific set of criteria for a specific position, rather than looking for a general skill set. They are looking for reasons to exclude you from the search process. Pay attention to the job description and make sure you list the appropriate specified and related skills, in that priority order, in your resume. Do not include extraneous skills which have no relevance for a specific position. Make sure your experience or work history entries show where and how you used the skills you have highlighted in your skill summary section.
It’d be great if we could just use one resume all the time. So much less work! Well, to some degree you can, at least in your initial searching. Use your generic resume to sell yourself. This is the one you’ll post on electronic job sites. Of course it is better to tailor your resume when trying for particular positions, and once you’re noticed you can do that. Have a couple of more specifically-tailored resumes handy in case a recruiter calls you for a particular type of position, so you can quickly forward them a more directly-applicable resume.
You can easily gain notice by recruiters who will help do the searching for you, if you can craft a resume which does the following:
So we’ve talked a lot about the importance of keywords, but which ones are most effective? One way to determine this is to survey job postings out there and write down words repeating in multiple job descriptions; along with how many times the words are listed. Commonly searched keywords include:
Ideas for Success
Probably the best advice for any job seeker, remains the same today as ever: Think Positive. Job searching can take time, often longer than you are expecting. This doesn’t mean that you’re not successful. If you’re not getting the level of response you expect, try thinking outside the box and trying new things. When you find the right keywords, and the right way to sell yourself, you may be amazed at the number of responses you can get. They may not all match your ideal situation, but take the time to carefully review every opportunity and cultivate relationships with recruiters and other IT professionals. In the larger employment areas, maybe especially in these areas, networking remains a strong and critical tool for success. You’ll have to put yourself out there and make contact with people. Use your contacts to get a feel for the market and try asking recruiters for advice. If you’re pleasant and positive, people will want to talk with you and you’ll generate more helpful advice. If you find yourself feeling low or if you feel your experience or references may need improvement, consider some carefully selected short-term volunteer work. This can be a great pick-me-up, and can provide you with great, positive references.