When you’re polishing your resume for IT recruiters, you want every change to be as impactful as possible. Why waste time updating a technical resume when every word doesn’t increase your chances of landing your dream IT jobs? One really powerful section of your resume is the summary. Great summaries can hook technical recruiters and potential employers because they’re usually right at the top of the resume. Here’s how to create a more powerful summary.
1. Delete all statements that are about subjective, personal qualities. IT staffing companies and employers aren’t interested in statements like ‘hard worker.’ If anything, IT staffing companies want to hear that you’re a hard worker from somebody who’s qualified to say that about you: a manager, team leader, possibly a coworker.
2. Make each statement speak to the IT jobs you want to land in the future. What are qualities your target employers want? What are the kinds of accomplishments or experience they’re looking for? That’s what you should put in your bullet points.
3. Keep it a reasonable length. Some IT recruiting companies find that people will turn in a summary that runs to the end of page 1. At some point, IT recruiters and employers may stop reading if your summary is too long. If it’s in bullet points, more than 5 will probably be too many. If it’s in a paragraph format, try keeping your summary to 4 or 5 sentences.
4. Mention key technologies in your summary. You don’t want to list all technologies (that’s for your ‘Technical Proficiencies’ section), but if the jobs you’re looking for will all require, say, a certain programming language, make sure to include that you have experience using it!
Good references are imperative to landing new IT jobs. Here are two mistakes that IT recruiters see candidates make far too often.
Don’t give references that you haven’t spoken to recently. When technical recruiters and potential employers call your references, you want them to be prepared to take the call. Reach out to your references when you start you job hunt. Ask them if they would vouch for you (or vouch for you again if they have before). You’ll want to share all of the kinds of roles you’re interested in pursuing. While this is a courtesy to your references, it will also make you look like you’re organized, prepared for the job search, and you understand professional norms. Employers will know you didn’t follow the usual procedure most other candidates do if your references answer the phone and are confused—or worse yet, don’t remember you. (It’s also worth noting that you want to look at least somewhat memorable to potential employers! Who wants to hire the candidate who didn’t even make a dent on their reference’s radars?!)
Not reaching out to your references is also a mistake because it’s a missed opportunity to help them give you a really powerful recommendation. Your references will do a better job if you share the kinds of experience or qualities you’d like them to highlight when they speak to your IT staffing firms and potential employers. Are you applying for jobs requiring customer service skills? Ask your references to mention it if they have a positive impression of your customer service skills. Need them to highlight your debugging abilities? Let them know before any IT recruiting agencies call. You can’t control what a reference says, but you can provide them the info to be as helpful to you as possible.
Don’t give a misleading or fake reference. Sometimes IT recruiting firms find that candidates will give references who they haven’t actually ever work directly with. Some candidates will go so far as to give the names and numbers of people who know them and pose as former coworkers or managers. Giving deceitful or blatantly fake references is the worst mistake you could make as a candidate. IT staffing companies usually decide never to work with a candidate again if they do this. Employers will usually blacklist you. Being anything less than truthful in your job search will definitely hurt you chances of landing your next role.
When you’re interviewing for IT jobs, it’s always important to have good questions for your interviewer. Good questions not only help you make a more informed decision about whether a job would be a good fit for you. They also help your interviewer see that you’re truly interested in the employer, the work, the project, etc. IT staffing firms find there are such things as bad questions, though. You may wind up completely blowing your interview if you ask questions that are irrelevant, too personal, or related to a controversial topic like religion or politics. Here’s one more kind of question that IT recruiters find candidates too often (unfortunately) ask in an interview: anything that is exclusively about the perks of the job.
Especially in tech, perks can be a pretty common part of the decision-making process for candidates. When major, trendy tech employers like Google are known for the perks they provide for their employees, why would it a bad idea to ask about them in the interview? The problem is that it breaks professional norms and it can lead an employer to assume you’re not interested (or worse, perhaps prepared) for the work. IT recruiting companies find that, as in most other fields, it’s very important for candidates to focus on the technical aspects of a job, as well as the corporate culture. Employers want to hire candidates who are completely prepared to handle the technical work they need done, as well as somebody who fits well with their corporate culture. Your job in an interview is to decide if that’s you. And if it is, your job is to advocate for yourself as a good fit for the role. Especially with rarer skills, a bad hire can be very costly for tech employers. They really can’t afford to hire somebody who doesn’t have the skills or experience they need. When you waste time talking about things like the free snacks or happy hours, you’ll turn off an interviewer quickly.
So if you actually do have questions about the perks of a job, who can you ask? Your technical recruiters. This is exactly what they’re there for. Your IT recruiting firms are there to talk about all the elements of a job that you can’t or wouldn’t really want to discuss with an interviewer. These include compensation, commute, and if a company has bad reviews on Glassdoor or elsewhere. Basically, if a topic could make an interview awkward, your rule of thumb should be to discuss it first with your IT recruiters. So don’t risk hurting your interview by asking about the perks of a job. If they’re really that important to you, discuss them with your IT staffing companies. They’ll be happy to look into it for you—and happy to have you focus on what’s important in your job interview.
If you worked with IT staffing companies to find your current role, you might be curious about how raises work. Especially if you’re a contractor, things will be slightly different. Here’s more info from IT recruiting companies about how and when to ask for raise.
When to ask: It’s important to know that generally, asking for a raise before you’ve been at IT jobs for at least a year will reflect poorly on you. Professional norms usually dictate that you wait this long for a few reasons.
- Firstly, it’s your responsibility as a professional to take a job that pays a rate you can live with. The time to negotiate pay is when you’re working with your IT staffing firms to find a job and accept an offer. You should always be upfront with your technical recruiters about how much you expect to be compensated when they’re presenting job offers to you. It’s their job (and in their best interest) to get you a rate that you can happily live with for at least a year (or the duration of a project). As a professional, you’re expected to do the math and make sure a proposed rate will work for you for the year. Employers will usually be surprised and upset if you come back and ask for a raise after a short time, like 3 months, 6 months, etc.
- Another reason you usually need to wait at least a year to ask for a raise is because often budgets have already been set for the year. So if you’re asking for more money, it’s often just not possible. Your employer has probably budgeted a certain amount to pay you—no more, no less. This might change during the next fiscal year, but it’s often already set in stone for the current one. If you’re a contractor working on a particular project, the budget for this project is likely set in stone. So again, asking for more money will be a pretty futile exercise. Every penny has already been accounted for. Asking for a raise before the completion of the project or at least a year of work will suggest that you don’t know much about professional norms and don’t care (or think at all) about the company’s big picture.
How to ask: Put a lot of thought and preparation into this on your own before going to your IT recruiters and employer.
- You don’t want to just say you’ve worked for your employer for a year. Simply meeting expectations means that you’ve earned the paycheck you were originally offered, nothing more. Build a good case for why you deserve this raise. You want to be able to demonstrate to your employer that you don’t just meet their expectations—you exceed them. IT staffing companies find that the most convincing cases for a raise often offer hard numbers and facts. Can you say you’ve cut your company’s server downtime by half? Can you point to a time when you stayed late to debug code for your team so they could meet a deadline? These are the kinds of things that you want to highlight.
- Come up with a rough idea of an amount before you ask. This will make your discussion easier. Make sure your amount isn’t absurdly high (like a 40% raise), or you could damage your relationship with your employer. When people ask for raises that are too high, they risk looking unprofessional. Asking for a raise that’s too high may also push your bosses to seriously reconsider how valuable the employee is. If you’re not positive about how much to ask for, your IT recruiting firms can help you with this. They understand professional norms as well as your employer’s own unique situation. They may be aware of any financial difficulties your employer has, past raises they’ve awarded, etc. Their insider perspective could be invaluable in making sure you ask for a raise your boss feels good about saying yes to.
Today is Employee Appreciation Day. While this may seem like a silly internet holiday, the message is pretty important for most tech employers. IT staffing agencies find that many candidates are often poached as passive candidates. Since it’s such a strong job seeker’s market for IT professionals, making sure employees feel appreciated on a regular basis is imperative. IT recruiters find that this isn’t just about great salaries and the stereotypical perks for IT jobs (free lunch, etc). Here are some of two ways IT staffing firms suggest you make your employees feel appreciated – today and every day- to increase retention.
Offer flexible hours and telecommuting options. Studies have often shown that the more control employees feel like they have over their days, the more they love their jobs. Offering flexible schedules or the ability to work from home will go a long way with employees. This is particularly true in tech. IT recruiting firms find that since the work most IT professionals do can be done remotely and often requires concentration and solitude, remote working options are particularly attractive to tech employees.
Offer chances to work new and exciting technologies. Technical recruiters find that employees in tech are often motivated to make a move if they can’t work with technologies that will further their career and/or interest them. Making a concerted effort to give your employees the opportunity to work with the technologies that interest them will help them feel appreciated. Ironically, employees are often more loyal to employers that help support their careers in the long term.
Use more popular development methodologies. When tech employees work within a development methodology they don’t like, it can make their jobs miserable. Using a popular development methodology like Scrum can be another way to help show your employees how much you appreciate them.
IT staffing companies often hear that managers are anxious about interviewing candidates that look overqualified. Their usual instinct is to tell IT recruiting firms that they pass on these candidates. This isn’t always the best course of action, though. Here’s what to do if you get an overqualified applicant to your open IT jobs.
Consider interviewing them anyways. Especially if you talk to them only for a phone screen, you don’t have much to lose (and potentially a great employee to gain). IT recruiters find that some candidates apply to positions they’re overqualified for because of perfectly legitimate reasons. Sometimes it’s because they’re seeking a position with better work-life balance. Perhaps they’re now responsible for caring for an elderly parent, small child, etc. Sometimes a candidate is more interested in a different technology that they have less experience in. The bottom line is that sometimes a candidate who looks overqualified is actually a perfect fit.
It’s also worth noting that some employers are anxious about hiring candidates with too much experience. They’re concerned they’ll be too set in their ways to adapt to new procedures and technologies. When you’re using IT recruiting companies to help with the hiring process, you don’t need to worry about this. IT recruiters are only sending over candidates who are interested in the work and the environment you can offer as an employer. Good IT recruiters will make sure the candidate is interested in your tech stack and your company’s procedures. They won’t send you somebody who can’t ‘play by your rules’ for many reasons. IT recruiting agencies want to send you candidates who will succeed in your roles and be happy there. The truth is that particularly in contract or project-based roles, extensive experience can be an asset. Candidates like this may need less training and will be able to hit the ground running. This can save time and money when your team is under tight deadlines.
Interview a candidate who looks overqualified by asking some extra questions. If a candidate looks overqualified, you want to do a little more than just the usual whiteboarding session or have the usual technical discussion. Asking what draws the candidate to the role, the company, or the project you’re hiring for, is a good start. If the candidate’s answer doesn’t directly help you understand why they want a role they seem overqualified for, it’s time to ask more directly. Ask the candidate if they’re comfortable with the pay scale for the role, the fact that it will be entry level, or anything else that directly addresses the fact that they’re overqualified. The candidate should be ready to answer questions like this because their technical recruiters have likely gone over it with them.
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If you’re working with IT recruiting companies to find your next role, you’re giving yourself many advantages. They’ll help prep you, advocate for you, and negotiate salary for you. Probably one of the advantages that’s least discussed is that IT recruiters can get you feedback when you don’t land IT jobs. As a candidate without an IT recruiter representing them, you can try to ask for feedback. However, it’s never guaranteed. Most employers actually prefer not to give feedback to rejected candidates for legal reasons. They don’t want to say something that could be misconstrued or that they may be sued for. Plenty of companies actually just have a blanket policy to never to give feedback to rejected candidates as a protective measure. There’s also just the issue of time. Most employers simply don’t have the time to give feedback to all rejected candidates. Add to these two common obstacles the fact that you don’t have much of a relationship with the employer anyways, and this makes your chances of receiving feedback pretty low. When you do have IT staffing companies representing you, they may be able to convince an employer to share some helpful feedback.
Why is getting negative feedback an advantage? If you can get constructive feedback, sometimes it can help you learn how to interview better. Or perhaps it can even help you make larger changes in your career. Some common examples of useful interview feedback are when employers tell technical recruiters a candidate didn’t land the job because they brought up politics in an interview, didn’t wear appropriate clothes, or were late. These are certainly reasons IT staffing firms find that candidates are rejected from jobs. They’re also very easy things to fix so candidates can make sure they do nail an interview in the future. Sometimes a candidate didn’t brush up enough on a technology before the interview or was unprepared to take a coding test. If their recruiter can share this, the candidate will know to study and prepare more next time.
So if you’re working with IT recruiting firms, don’t forget to ask for feedback when you’re rejected from an employer. Keep an open mind and really consider how you might use any feedback you receive. While nobody loves being told they did something wrong, that’s only a minor part of this process. You can choose to turn your feedback into an opportunity to become even more employable. You also have the benefit of your recruiter’s opinion. Good IT recruiters will be happy to take a few minutes to discuss this feedback with you and help you understand what you can do better in your next interview, how you can build a more marketable skillset, etc. Taking this time to learn lessons from interview feedback now means a better career in the future.
Interviewing technical candidates can be challenging. You want to find a way to assess their skills without making your interview a non-stop whiteboarding session or test. Here are two questions to ask candidates that IT recruiting companies suggest for technical interviews. These questions help managers explore a candidate’s technical skills, personality, and experience.
What environment did you come from previously? Technical recruiters find this question can help managers get a candidate talking about a few important things.
- Perhaps most importantly, a candidate can take this as an opportunity to talk about the technologies they’ve gotten to work with most recently. They can use this question to help you understand the range of their technical skills (and if they’re what you need in your next hire).
- Next, this question can lead to a discussion about the team they worked on. Was it large? Small? Who did they report to? Did they have anyone reporting to them? IT staffing firms find that this kind of information will help you understand how much of projects the candidate actually handled themselves, if they had to own these tasks or others checked their work and helped, if they can manage people effectively, etc.
- Lastly, the question can give you a good gauge of the kind of corporate culture the candidate is coming from. While technical acumen is important, the ability to fit into corporate culture is nearly as imperative. When candidates don’t mesh well with a corporate culture, IT recruiting agencies usually see that the candidate is unhappy and winds up leaving the role early or is let go.
What environment are you looking for in your next role? IT recruiting firms find that when you can get the candidate to articulate their next ideal environment, it will help you understand if they’re a good fit for your role in a more in-depth way.
- This question will build upon the first one to help you understand not only a candidate’s strengths, but what will make the candidate happier. And good IT staffing companies know that happier employees are always more successful in a role (and stay longer, or until the completion of a project).
- A candidate’s answer to this question will also let you know if their needs match what you and your company can provide. For instance, perhaps the candidate is not interested in IT jobs that report to a higher level like CIO– but your open job requires it. You’ll be able to tell the role won’t be a good match. Or perhaps the candidate tells you they want a more advanced tech stack in their next employer, and you can offer that. Now you can confidently sell the job harder to the candidate. Getting on the same page will help you make the right decision to hire, or not hire, a candidate.
Skype and Facetime interviews are becoming more and more common in the tech field. Considering how often Skype and Facetime interviews are used instead of (or in conjunction with) phone screens, it’s amazing that the technology has only existed for about 15 years. If you have a video chat interview coming up, here are some tips IT staffing firms would suggest. Even if you’ve used Skype or Facetime to do job interviews before, you may still find some new info below to help you nail your future interviews.
- Make sure your connection is good, right before your interview. Doing it the night before or even hours before won’t give you the same reassurance. Skype a friend or your IT recruiters for a few minutes before your scheduled interview to confirm everything is working perfectly. If you’re at home, consider asking everyone else to get off the Wi-Fi so there are no possible interruptions. IT staffing agencies have certainly seen employers nix a candidate because of a bad skype connection.
- Dress like you were going to a face-to-face interview. The tech field is noted for having plenty of workplaces that are very casual, but that doesn’t usually translate to the interview. Wear a suit (or whatever your technical recruiters suggested), shower, comb your hair, etc before you interview. It’s also very important to note here that you don’t want to assume that you can wear pajama pants or sweatpants because the camera won’t show them. IT recruiting agencies have heard plenty of horror stories about this before. Avoid becoming one of them yourself and dress completely appropriately. From head to toe.
- Take anything odd or distracting out of view of the camera. You may not think anything of it, but if you have some weird posters, desk toys, etc, it’s time to just clear them off and put them away. They could distract, or possibly offend the interviewer. There’s no reason to risk ruining your interview when you can just put them back after.
- Make sure your username is professional. If you need a new Skype account just for job interviews, you might want to consider it. Having a silly or rude name for Skype is just as bad as having an unprofessional email address. Make a simple, easy to remember username that is comprised of your name (and possibly your birthday, location, the year, etc if your name is very common).