When you’re applying for new IT jobs, your first consideration is making sure you have the right technical skills. In addition to their technical skills, there’s something else that IT recruiters find is key to landing new roles: the ability to work in a team. This soft skill might seem irrelevant, but it’s actually imperative because of 3 major trends in the tech field.
Constant innovation. Since companies must now keep up with the ever-faster speed of technology, constant innovation is important. In an effort to consistently improve their products and processes, companies are now turning to large brainstorming sessions, hackathons, and other group activities. IT recruiters find that this type of activity requires an increased emphasis on teamwork and the ability to work well with others. If you’re not willing to jump into a team brainstorming session, your IT staffing firms may be less willing to submit you to jobs.
Scrum and Agile. Scrum and Agile are some of the more coveted project management methodologies out there. This means that technical recruiters are on the hunt for candidates that want to be a part of stand-up meetings. If you prefer Waterfall because you like to work independently, your options will ultimately be limited. If you’re serious about your job search, tap into your extroverted side and let your IT recruiting agencies submit you to Scrum and Agile teams.
Open plan offices. Fun, collaborative team culture has been a staple in the tech field since the dot com boom. But this trend has been amplified by the open plan offices that more and more companies are turning to. This isn’t just about where your desk is. Open plan offices are discouraging employees from simply putting their heads down and working straight through from 9-5. Social interaction is considered part of the job. Building relationships with coworkers has become an imperative skill. So if your IT recruiting firms ask you to bring energy and a positive, upbeat, outgoing personality to your interview, you should do it. It could be the difference between landing the job and losing it!
‘Wacky’ questions have been a trend for a while in job interviews—especially in the tech field. IT recruiting firms find that many candidates have had at least an interview or two where they’ve been asked what color crayon they would be, or how many light bulbs there are in Disney World. While these questions can certainly be helpful to hiring managers, IT staffing companies find that there are more times when they hurt an interview than help it. Here’s how to make sure you’re using these kinds of questions effectively when you interview candidates.
1. Don’t ask the question if you don’t know what you’re looking for or if there is no direct relevance to the role. Technical recruiters find that candidates can tell pretty quickly when a manager is asking a question just because they think they should. Don’t ask questions just because they showed up on a Googled list of interview questions. It makes the candidate feel like you’re just making them uncomfortable with an unexpected question for no reason. Think about what your ideal answers would be. What should the candidate demonstrate when they answer this question? Take time to consider this before you ask.
2. Don’t ask these questions to purposefully make the candidate squirm or to throw them off. IT staffing agencies find that some employers will give questions like this just to see how a candidate does under pressure or handles discomfort. These kinds of questions certainly do, but they will also probably make the candidate want to turn down the job offer. Good managers don’t intentionally make their employees uncomfortable. In fact, their job is to support them as they handle difficulty. If a candidate can tell you’re trying to purposefully throw them off, they’ll see it as a big red flag about your management style. Since it’s much more of a job seeker’s market in the tech field, keep in mind that you’re courting the candidate as much as (if not more than) they’re courting you. Asking them a lot of questions that feel silly or weird can leave a bad taste in their mouth. If a candidate has the technical experience you need, you don’t want to lose them because you asked them what kind of animal they’d be at the zoo.
3. Don’t assume asking these questions makes you seem like a ‘cooler’ employer. Many employers ask these kinds of questions because they think it will give candidates the impression that they’re cool, like Google, Uber, and other cool tech employers who are known for asking some ‘wacky’ interview questions. If you want to let candidates know you have a cool company culture, there are better ways to do it. IT recruiting agencies suggest you take time to talk about why your company culture is great. Share your Glassdoor reviews or have current employees meet with the candidate to share what it’s like working at your company. These things are all much more enticing to a candidate than answering weird, unexpected interview questions.
4. Look for process, not a right or wrong answer. The point of many of these questions isn’t to focus on whether the candidate answered exactly what you were expecting. The point is to get a window into their thought process. If they can think about solving problems in a way that’s advantageous, or can provide an interesting justification for their answer, take note. Remember that these kinds of questions can be hard on candidates because they’re so unexpected. Their answer may not be polished or perfect, but it could still tell you much about how they think.
When you go to interviews for IT jobs, you’re likely to be engaged in the process. You may even be anxious and hyper-focused. Sometimes IT recruiters find that hiring managers can actually be disengaged or appear completely disinterested in the process. Does this mean you didn’t land the job? Not necessarily.
IT staffing firms find that there are a lot of reasons that hiring managers might be disengaged during an interview—and many of them don’t have anything to with your candidacy. One of the main reasons that IT recruiting firms hear managers are disengaged is because they’re busy handling a major issue (possibly even a crisis) that just popped up. This can especially be the case if you’re interviewing with a high-level manager. If a crisis pops up at the very last-minute, or even if the hiring manager is really interested in the candidate, they’ll move forward with the job interview regardless. If you’re feeling less confident in an interview because the hiring manager seems uninterested or keeps checking email, consider this: maybe a hiring manager wants to meet with you so badly he or she will do it even if they’re in the middle of a dealing with a big production issue, a looming release date, or a massive security breach of a their company’s data.
Besides major crises or work demands, a hiring manager could be less engaged in the interview process for another reason: perhaps they’re not a key decision-maker. Sometimes IT recruiting companies find that an employer will require certain managers to be on the hiring committee, even if they don’t have much influence (or interest) with the decision. They might seem checked-out during the interview because they actually are. And that means nothing about your candidacy. A disengaged manager could be simply sitting in on the interview, allowing the rest of the hiring team to drive the process.
So what should you do if your interviewer spends your whole conversation looking at email, or asking very few questions? Technical recruiters suggest you just let it go and do your best anyways. Don’t give up on the interview or start doubting yourself. Focus on the questions asked and building a rapport with the other interviewers (if any).
You might talk to your IT recruiters about it afterwards, and they may have an answer for you. Perhaps not. The hiring process can be unpredictable, so you can’t analyze things for signs. Put your energy towards working with your IT staffing companies until you find the right role for you. Who knows—you might just have won over that very disengaged interview.
IT staffing firms find that references can be one of the last things on a candidate’s mind. Maybe it’s because they’re so far along in the job search process. Or, maybe it’s because they seem to require the least amount of work. References just need to be called. Resumes need to be written and polished, and you need to do extensive prep and study up on relevant technologies for interviews. Whatever the case, IT recruiting firms find that many candidates and hiring managers have a lot of questions and even misconceptions about references. Here are some common ones that IT recruiters get:
Do ‘backdoor references’ really happen? This phenomenon is even more prevalent in the last 5 years or so because of LinkedIn’s growing popularity. If you’re not familiar with a backdoor reference, this is the basic premise: hiring managers will reach out to any personal contacts they have at your previous employers. IT staffing agencies find that this can be a problem particularly when you may had a bad experience working at an employer. Even if you choose not to give anybody there as a reference, backdoor references can reveal the skeletons in your closet. Backdoor references can be especially common when you’re looking for IT jobs because most people in this field are on LinkedIn. (In fact, it may say something negative about you as an IT professional if you’re not on LinkedIn or other social media!)
Can managers really be forbidden from acting as a references? Yes, but some will do so anyways. There are companies that have set policies that forbid managers from giving a reference. The severity of these policies and how strictly they’re enforced varies. Some managers feel like they have the ability do this without any real consequences, so it could be worth considering this if you’re leaving a company with such a policy. You don’t want to push too aggressively, but it may be worth asking if the manager would feel comfortable acting as a reference—you never know if they’ll say yes.
Is giving a bad reference illegal? IT recruiting companies find that some candidates assume that managers will never give them a bad reference. This is absolutely not true, so it’s important to act with this in mind. Give only references who will say positive things about you. Don’t burn any bridges. Work hard to build good working relationships with coworkers and bosses. As mentioned before, you never know if hiring managers will reach out for a backdoor reference. The point of a reference is that for employers to get a complete, honest picture of somebody as an employee. While technical recruiters find that many managers will refrain from outright trashing somebody (just out of basic human decency), they will be honest if they see red flags.
Can I just hand over my references when it’s time? This is a mistake IT staffing agencies see far too often. Contact your references and give them a heads-up you’re on the hunt for new IT jobs. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind acting as a reference for you. Let them know a bit about the kinds of roles you’re looking for. You want to treat them with courtesy, respect, and remember to thank them. Bad references can ruin your candidacy, just as good ones can strengthen it.
Have you ever not landed the tech jobs that you interviewed for? Did you have all the relevant skills and experience, but your IT recruiters said the manager decided to pass on you? Here’s one big reason you might be missing out on jobs: You’re not showing enough passion. IT staffing firms hear all the time that managers are passing on candidates because they don’t seem excited enough about the role, the company, etc. Here are two ways you can avoid this in the future:
Show your passion for the work and technologies the role will use. Do you take classes? Do you go to conferences? Do you have side projects? Talk about them. Technical recruiters find that if candidates can’t demonstrate a deep interest in the work or the relevant technologies, then hiring managers get concerned. Hiring managers want to make sure they hire somebody who won’t leave in the middle of a project because they get an opportunity to work with a different technology. They also want to hire somebody who will continue to improve and grow their knowledge so they can help the company continue to improve their products, platforms, work processes, etc. If you want the IT jobs you’re interviewing for, make sure they know that’s you!
Show your passion for the company. There are a few reasons this will help you land the job. Firstly, because there is so much poaching in the tech field, managers want to know that you are interested in working for their company. This is especially true if they have to train you for their environment and invest a time, effort, and money to onboard you. Managers want to know that you’ll stay for a while. Even if you’re a contractor, managers still want to know that you’ll stay for the duration of your contract or the project you’re hired to work on. IT staffing agencies find that if you express a real interest in the company, this will give hiring managers some confidence that you’ll stick around for at least a reasonable amount of time. That makes you a much more marketable candidate .
Many employers in the tech space (or companies outside of the tech space that employ IT professionals) eagerly anticipate June and May every year because it’s the best time hire new grads. New grads can bring a lot to a team. They have fresh energy, new ideas, and may have exposure to some of the newest technologies. Another perk of working with new grads is that they’re often a bit easier to ‘mold’. Because they don’t have much working experience yet, new grads don’t have their own habits and are more open to following their employer’s procedures and corporate culture. (It’s also worth noting that if you’re worried about hiring a millennial, a lot of the negative stereotypes about them simply aren’t true. They’re just that: stereotypes!) If you’re looking to fill some of your open IT jobs with new grads, check out some of these tips below from IT recruiting firms. This information will help you make the most of graduation season and hopefully help you add some fresh new talent to your team!
1. Get moving ASAP. IT staffing firms suggest you start trying to fill positions meant for new grads as soon as possible. The tech market is really a job seeker’s market. (This goes double for particular areas of the country like Boston and San Francisco!) Some of the top talent might already be working with IT recruiters before they even finish finals, never mind have a diploma in hand! If you want to land the best talent for your open roles, IT recruiting agencies suggest that you not wait until June, July, etc. While some students will delay their job search, many of the most accomplished and ambitions ones will want a job before they graduate. Why not make sure they consider you as their employer?
2. Make an offer they won’t want to refuse. Appealing to new grads isn’t always about money. There are some things that IT recruiting companies find don’t cost much, but really attract new or recent grads.
Firstly, offer telecommuting options and flexible schedules. It’s understandable that most hiring managers don’t want to offer telecommuting or flexible schedules right off the bat. However, presenting your hires with the ability to earn these perks over time can be very attractive to new grads. Even just partial telecommuting options, like occasional work from home days, are big draws.
Another way IT staffing agencies suggest you can attract new grads is by offering mentoring and growth opportunities. New grads want to land jobs now, but they’re also concerned about their futures beyond their first jobs. New or recent grads want to land jobs in which they’ll have the chance to learn and grow as a professional. Consider offering an official or unofficial mentoring program, training opportunities, subsidies for continued learning, and/or the chance to grow in the company. None of these things need to cost much money, but they’ll go a very long way in attracting and keeping fresh new talent.
The last tactic that IT staffing companies suggest is to allow for some creativity. 2017’s grads will want to have the opportunity to think creatively at their jobs. Consider giving your employees chances to do things like hackathons, or just give them the autonomy and room to solve problems creatively themselves. This kind of perk can be great not only for attracting new grads, but also for the company itself!
People in most fields are uncomfortable with gaps in their resumes. IT recruiting firms find that if you can handle them correctly, though, these won’t hurt your chances of landing IT jobs. Here are some of the basics that IT recruiters think you should know about gaps on technical resumes.
1. Small gaps are not a problem. Especially in the tech field, where contracting and project-based work are pretty common, gaps of 3 months or less aren’t a huge deal. Layoffs happen, contracts end, and interview processes can certainly drag out the time between unemployment to being hired. IT staffing firms won’t bat an eye at a gap or two between contracts on your resume.
2. A gap beyond 6 months will require more explanation. IT recruiting agencies find that employers will be more concerned with an unemployment gap of 6 months or more. This is at least in part because there’s such a dearth of qualified IT professionals to fill the open jobs in pretty much all of the US. The unemployment rate for tech professionals is notoriously low- lower than the national average. In January, the tech unemployment rate was only 2.9 percent, while the national average was closer to 4.7 percent. If you’re not getting hired for a job after 6 months, employers wonder if the problem may be you, not the market! If you have a gap like this, make sure to address it your resume. Give a brief, professional reason why you were unemployed. Did you take time off to take care of a member of your family, raise a young child? Have a health issue yourself? Take time off to go to school? These are all the kinds of reasons that technical recruiters find will not scare off potential employers. Make sure to note this on your resume!
3. Make the most of your gaps. If you’re unemployed for a longer period of time and are not encumbered by responsibilities to your family, health issues, etc, you should take this time to keep your skills sharp. Do a side project on your own. Volunteer to do work for a local charity or non-profit. Get a certification. Learn a new technical skill. IT staffing companies find that if you can do things like this with your gap, you’ll be much more appealing to employers. After all, technologies change at lightning speed. You want to stay in the game and stay sharp so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you do land a new role!
Is it ever ok to run late to interviews? IT recruiters find that the answer here is no, but there are a few notable exceptions. First, if there’s a serious family or personal emergency, that’s pretty understandable. Just call your technical recruiters and let them know what’s happening as soon as possible. Giving as much notice as possible will be key here.
Here’s another exception. You can be late without consequence if you talked with your recruiter about possibly being late when they scheduled the interview. When the recruiter reaches out to set up the time, you can mention if you think you’ll potentially be late (for a legitimate reason, of course). Your recruiter may be able to schedule the interview with 5 or 10 minutes of wiggle room for you.
The last exception is if you’re very, very minimally late and you’ve let your recruiter know. If you think you’ll be less than 5 minutes late, it could be fine. You just need to reach out to your IT recruiters to give them a heads up. This isn’t always true, of course. Some employers have no tolerance for lateness.
Can I say I’m late because of traffic? The short answer is no. IT recruiting firms find that this doesn’t hold much water with interviewers. Good candidates will plan for the worst and leave enough time for a terrible traffic jam. They’ll leave early and maybe even try out a practice run of the commute to the interview. Even with IT recruiters selling you as a candidate, you still have to make every moment count. You know that your resume should be polished, your interview answers practiced, and your interview suit ironed. The same is true for that first impression you make—show up a little early and make it perfect. Your recruiter has already set the stage for you as an ideal candidate. Don’t ruin that! And if that doesn’t motivate you, picture losing the IT jobs you want to other candidates. Why let them land the job because they left 10 minutes earlier than you did?
Well, I’m late to an interview right now. So what do I do?Firstly, take a deep breath and focus on controlling what you can control. Call your recruiter and calmly explain what has happened. Offer to reschedule the interview if they believe it’s necessary. This will go a long way if you’re super late. If you’re still going through with the interview, apologize once you get there. Don’t make your apology over the top. A simple, calm apology is all that you need here. Then move forward and give the best interview you can. Focus on that instead of the fact that you were late. Letting it knock you off your game will only compound things. You don’t want to be dinged because you were late and you were nervous or upset in the interview. Then you’ll really sink your chances of landing the job!
Most IT professionals don’t enjoy writing or updating resumes. Besides the fact that writing resumes is an inherently unpleasant activity, technical resumes can be even more difficult. IT recruiters find that many candidates struggle with the balance between providing enough detail for technically-savvy readers and so much detail that managers and technical recruiters feel like they’re looking an unreadable novel of technical jargon. But in the end, creating a great resume is always worth it because it lands you great IT jobs. Here’s a checklist that IT staffing companies suggest you use before posting your resume.
1. Do you have a ‘Technical Proficiencies’ section at the top of your resume? Pull out all of your technical skills and put them in one well-organized section at the very top of your resume. This section is one of the best ways to catch the eyes of hiring managers and IT recruiting firms who are sifting through hundreds or thousands of resumes. Don’t forget to constantly update this section, too. As you learn a new programming language, master Scrum, or get new certifications, add them in. (IT recruiters would suggest that you only list technologies you have professional experience or certification in here. Listing hobbies won’t help you here. You don’t want to suggest you have a skill that you actually don’t. You’ll either be found out in an interview, or worse, on the job!) You could be missing out on IT jobs if you don’t!
2. Are your bullets effective? Do the bullets under each job just list the basic responsibilities of your roles? Time to fix that. Entice IT staffing agencies with bullets that list your achievements in these roles. Help them see the value you added to your team. You might have some technical details in here, but the point isn’t to be as thorough as possible. Focus on adding bullets that help an employer picture you, making a difference at their company from day one!
3. Did you list more than 15 years of experience on your resume? Time to cut back. There are a few reasons IT recruiting companies would suggest you do this. Firstly, you want to protect yourself from age discrimination. Unfortunately, most IT recruiters would agree that the tech field can be especially unforgiving when it comes to age discrimination. Since you don’t have to give more than 10-15 years of experience on your resume, just protect yourself and stop there. Another reason that technical recruiters would suggest you delete experience after the 10-15 year mark is because the resume isn’t really helpful after that point anyways. You want to highlight the kinds of technologies and projects that employers are working on now. Since the field is changing so quickly, the experience after 10-15 years may not even be relevant! The last reason to delete experience after 10-15 years is for length. IT professionals can have longer resumes, but you don’t want to post a resume that’s as long as War and Peace. Nobody really wants to read it and it might even turn off hiring managers. So take the old experience off your resume, it’s not helping and it may even actually hurt you!
Sometimes IT recruiters find that candidates may apply more than once to a company. They might do this because they forget they’ve already applied, because they want to show they’re very interested in the role, or maybe they just really want to work at that company. Whichever the case, technical recruiters find this doesn’t usually help candidates. In fact, it will probably ruin their chances of landing IT jobs. Here’s why IT staffing firms recommend that you don’t apply to a company or job twice.
Don’t apply twice because you like multiple roles. IT staffing agencies find that if you apply to multiple roles, especially ones that are different, you run the risk of looking disorganized and/or that you aren’t particularly passionate about any kind of work. Firstly, if you apply twice to the same role in a short period of time, you’ll look disorganized or perhaps not detail-oriented. Since both qualities are usually necessary for IT roles, that’s not going to help your candidacy!
Secondly, especially in the tech field, employers like to see candidates with a passion for a specific kind of work. When you apply to various kinds of roles, it can seem like you don’t have a clear idea of the kind of work you want to do in your next role. Submit just one application. Better yet, reach out to your IT recruiting companies to submit resumes on your behalf. They may have connections at the company and will make sure your resume gets seen (rather than dropped into the abyss of all other applications).
Don’t apply a second time to a company when your IT staffing companies have submitted you. Or, warn your technical recruiters that you’ve already applied to a job when they want to submit you to it as well. Most companies will just cancel out an application if they get it from both the candidate and from IT recruiting firms. Keep a running list of the jobs you apply to yourself and the jobs your IT recruiters submit you to. If your recruiters mention a job you’ve already applied to, make sure they know that. They may be able to strengthen your candidacy by putting a in a good word for you with managers they know. But IT recruiters can’t do this unless you talk to them about it first!