Job hunting can be an unsettling process, but add to it an uncertain economy and it can be even more nerve-racking. The good news is skilled IT professionals are in demand in a range of specialties. Robert Half Technology’s most recent “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” found that CIOs expect strong hiring in networking, help-desk/end-user support and Internet/intranet development, in particular.
Additionally, the techniques that can help you secure new employment are the same in any market conditions. Here are some tips that can help position you for job-search success:
Start with a solid resume. This is your ticket into an interview, so make sure your resume impresses potential employers. The key is keeping it straightforward and emphasizing return on investment. Give hiring managers a sense why you would be a stellar employee by highlighting specific examples of past successes, such as completing a systems upgrade ahead of schedule and below budget. Try to quantify your efforts, too. For example, you could characterize the experience this way: “Implemented software enhancements that cut the time required to process a purchase order by 38 percent.”
Also, demonstrate you are serious about the position by customizing your resume for each opening. A company that’s recruiting a network administrator will be more interested in your knowledge of network hardware and software than the skills you gained as a technical writer years ago, for instance.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of proper grammar and correct spelling. The fact that you hold two certifications may fail to impress hiring managers if you accidentally write “certficaitions.” Using spell-check can help, but it’s always wise to have other people review your resume before you send it out to make sure it is error-free and conveys your qualifications effectively.
Do your homework. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of the company and its needs in your cover letter and during interviews can help you stand out. Uncover beyond-the-basics knowledge of a firm by scouring the company’s Web site and conducting an Internet search for recent news or information affecting the firm. This will help you both understand the business’ goals and challenges, and think of specific ways you could contribute to its success.
Network. Now is not the time to be shy. Tell anyone and everyone about your job search. and tap into your network for informational interviews. These meetings are not intended to discuss job possibilities, but rather to learn more about a particular company, specialty or industry. The insights you gain from meeting with other professionals can help you better target your job-hunting efforts.
Adopt a positive mindset. Most people encounter at least some setbacks during a search, whether it’s a rejection letter after submitting a resume or no follow-up after an interview. Try to surround yourself with people who will keep you motivated and upbeat. Spend time with friends and family members who maintain an optimistic attitude about life. Taking on the same hopeful outlook can help you convey enthusiasm when meeting with hiring managers.
Brush up on interviewing. Often it’s the little things you do during the interviewing process that can make a positive impression. Arriving promptly for the meeting, treating the receptionist with respect and smiling as you shake hands with the interviewer are just a few small ways to start off on the right foot.
While some interviews may be more challenging than others, managers often ask standard questions such as, “Can you tell me about yourself?” “What are your strengths/weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Make sure you have considered your responses before the interview. Practice interviewing with friends or family members and solicit their honest feedback on how you’re doing. The more prepared you are, the greater your confidence will be going into the discussion.
Say thanks. In a recent survey by Robert Half International, nearly nine out of 10 executives polled said sending a thank-you note following an interview can boost a candidate’s chances. However, respondents estimated less than half of applicants do so. Send a brief, one-paragraph e-mail immediately after the interview and follow up with a slightly longer note that expresses your appreciation for the opportunity, reinforces your interest in the job and restates the value you can bring to the organization.
Finally, remember that the interaction is a two-way street. Be prepared to ask your own questions during the interview and assess whether you truly want to work at there. It will help ensure your next career move takes you in a positive direction.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.