Landing a Job in Today’s Market

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If you watch the latest news reports, it’s difficult to know what to make of the current job market. One day you might hear of layoffs, while the next day’s reports indicate improving employment numbers. All this uncertainty makes determining your next career move challenging. Should you pursue a new position with another company, or does it make more sense to stay put?

 

While much depends on your skill set and expertise as well as geographic location and industry, research from Robert Half Technology has found evidence that the job market overall is gradually shifting in the candidate’s favor. The most recent “Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Reports” have shown greater hiring optimism than in the first years of the decade, although not to the degree experienced during the late 1990s. In the latest report, 13 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) said they plan to add full-time IT staff in the first quarter of 2006, while 1 percent expect to reduce personnel. The net 12 percent hiring increase compares with a net 9 percent forecast a year ago and is unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2005, when the net hiring increase reached its highest level in 14 quarters.

 

Though businesses are hiring, they are not going overboard and adding employees who might not be needed in the long run. Companies that are recruiting want IT staff that can make an impact on projects such as systems upgrades, regulatory compliance work and Internet-related business opportunities. Here’s how you can improve your chances of landing a job in this environment.

 

Your Network
Many IT professionals make the mistake of going straight to the help-wanted ads when seeking a new position. Although there is nothing wrong with this strategy, be sure you also take advantage of your professional network. Spread the word to those you know—such as friends, family, former supervisors and recruiters—that you are looking for a new IT position. They might know of companies that are hiring or could refer you to others who can help your search. Ultimately, you might learn of unadvertised openings.

 

Also, take the time to get involved with professional associations. Educational programs and meetings can boost your understanding of important trends in your field. Talking with others in IT also can yield valuable insight into the employment market in your area. In addition, you might gain priceless face time with people who are in a position to hire.

 

Your Cover Letter and Resume
Well-written cover letters and resumes also are critical. Busy managers simply won’t take the time to read through cumbersome documents that lack focus and relevance to the position available. Make sure your application materials are concise, target the employer and highlight your pertinent abilities.

 

Ask trusted colleagues to review your cover letter and resume, and solicit candid feedback before you send them out. Are both documents free of grammatical errors and typos? Are your skills, talents and certifications showcased appropriately? For instance, the most recent “Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” shows particularly strong demand for Windows administration, wireless network management, SQL server management and Cisco network administration abilities. If you have experience in these areas, make it clear to employers. A special section listing knowledge of specific technologies is one way to ensure your expertise stands out.

 

Interviewing
When you are called in for an employment interview, make sure you take the right approach. Even if you are confident you possess highly sought-after technical aptitude, you still need to prove to the hiring manager that you have the business and communication skills necessary to perform the job.

 

Today’s employers seek IT professionals who understand how their work contributes to the bottom line. So as you discuss your knowledge of technology, also point out how it affected overall company objectives. For example, you might note that your installation of a new database and training of sales staff helped the group more effectively manage its customer lists and target sales efforts with a new product. Avoid “yes” or “no” answers, and go into detail about your experience.

 

Make sure you stay on top of developments so you can better target your job search efforts. Use your network, craft cover letters and resumes that showcase your marketability and highlight your talents appropriately during the interview. By doing so, you will give yourself an advantage in today’s hiring environment.

 

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at kspencer@certmag.com.

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