Are you hunting for new IT jobs? If so, you probably know that one of the best ‘tools’ in your job search toolbox is your references. A good reference can help you land the job, just like a bad reference can ensure you lose it! IT recruiters have certainly seen candidates ace the interview, but lose the job because their references weren’t good. While most people know how important references are to their IT job search, they often skip a crucial step: writing thank you notes to their references. Here’s why you need to write a thank you note to your references, as well as how to do it effectively with little effort.
Why should you write your references thank you notes? Thank you notes are a way to make sure your references continue to see you as gracious professionals that they want to help. Taking the time to share a quick thank you note always makes a big impact on the recipient. Remember that references are taking time out of their (probably busy) days to aid in your job search. Don’t let them imagine you’re anything but very grateful for that.
Thank you notes to references can be especially important in IT. In a field where thank you notes are becoming largely forgotten (as technical recruiters we often have to remind candidates to write them for interviewers), they can really make you stand out. They can also make you stand out in a field that is awfully small sometimes. Especially within certain sectors, or when it comes to people who use certain technologies, the circle of people can be very small. It becomes even smaller when you factor in LinkedIn. Since much of the tech community is on LinkedIn, people can easily conduct ‘backdoor references’ on you. They simply need to reach out to people you’re mutually connected to. Taking all of this into consideration, why wouldn’t you want to polish your reputation and be known as the person who thoughtfully sends thank you notes to their references?
The best way to handle this task is to wait until you land a new IT job. Take the time to write hand-written notes to each reference. Your notes don’t have to be long. Simply thank them for taking the time to act as a reference. Let them know that, thanks in part to their words, you landed a new job. If it’s true or appropriate, finish the note with a mention that you’d be happy to return the favor and act as a reference. If it’s not, you can end the note by letting them know you’re always happy to reciprocate if they need a favor from you. IT recruiting firms suggest hand-written notes over emails because they clearly require a little more effort than a quick email. While you could do these notes as email, recipients will appreciate the extra effort! If you don’t know your references’ home addresses, you can simply send them to their work addresses. Unless you speak to your references frequently and know them well, asking for their home addresses isn’t preferable. You may want to maintain boundaries (some people like to keep their home addresses private). You also don’t want to bother them with another email or call.
Who do you text? Friends? Family? How about your IT recruiters? IT staffing firms are texting with job seekers more and more frequently. Perhaps more surprising is that research says that many candidates are ok with it– and sometimes initiate it themselves.
Why is texting now a mode of communication that IT recruiting companies use? Likely, one of the biggest reasons you might be getting texts from your technical recruiters these days is the prevalence of cell phones and texting. Studies show that not only do nearly all American adults have a cell phone, but most check their cell phone frequently. Though the numbers vary, Americans can spend between 2 and 5 hours on their cell phones, collectively, over the average day. Most people break that up into many short sessions, but the amount is still staggering. It also makes it easy to see why IT recruiting agencies use text to reach out to job seekers: they’re very likely to check the message.
Recruiters aren’t just texting candidates because it’s a reliable way to reach them. They’re also doing so because candidates are generally ok with it. Again, numbers vary, but job seekers still tend to see IT recruiters who text as trustworthy professionals (depending on what survey you’re looking at) between rates of 40%-70%. Perhaps what’s most interesting about this is the fact that these numbers aren’t all within younger demographics. Job seekers older than millennials also seem to be fine with texts from their recruiters. Everyone seems to be ok with texting during the job search—both candidates and recruiters alike.
The last reason you might be getting texts from your IT recruiting firms is that sometimes a text just works best for a given situation. Candidates who can’t pick up the phone during a workday are more likely to respond to a silent text message. Candidates who are on their way to an interview might need to shoot their recruiters a quick text confirming they made it, asking for directions, or coordinating meeting. Considering the fact that most text messages are opened at a rate near 100% of the time, it’s not shocking that IT recruiters are now texting with their candidates. Sometimes a text is just easier– even during your job search!
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If you’re a programmer, you’re probably always looking to improve your skill-set and beef up your resume. IT staffing firms certainly see programmers who inadvertently limit their job search options by focusing on the same languages, year after year. If you’re thinking about learning a new language soon, a good bet would be Python. Here’s why Python would be the best investment in your career right now.
It’s useful to a wide range of employers. IT recruiters find that learning Python widens your job search options because it’s a language that many companies want to use across various industries. This may be at least partially because it’s free and lowers overhead costs. Python isn’t just big in the tech space (which is of course huge in itself), though. It’s also used in hot job sectors like Science, Medicine, Finance (Fintech), Retail, and Entertainment.
Employers like it because it’s trendy. Python works for so many of the trends employers want to participate in right now. It’s a language that works for Scrum and Agile development, which technical recruiters find is much more popular than Waterfall. It’s also a language that works better for open-source technologies, which many innovative, progressive employers want to use. Lastly, Python is a trendy language among employers because it gets frequent updates. Employers never see it as a stale, archaic language.
It appeals to programmers, which appeals to employers. Employers, especially in the tech space where it’s a job seeker’s market, want to pick languages that attract top talent. Make yourself a more viable job candidate by playing into this trend and adding Python to your arsenal. Python attracts programmers right now for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to learn (partially because it’s so readable– it includes English words). It’s also being taught more and more frequently in universities and colleges. Secondly, it’s popular among programmers who want an alternative to the highly corporate, controlled .NET, as its open source. Lastly, IT staffing companies find that Python appeals to programmers because it’s a craftsmen’s language. It allows programmers to really show off their skills and demonstrate a deep mastery that other, less flexible languages don’t allow.
Sometimes you have reasons to move across the country: your spouse or partner got a new job, you want to be closer to family, or maybe you just need a change of scenery. When it’s time to make a huge move like this, getting a new job will be a big piece of the puzzle. To figure out this part of your moving plan, you should seriously consider working with IT staffing companies. In fact, IT recruiting firms are especially helpful with this kind of task. Here are 2 reasons why:
- They’re local to the area. Reaching out to IT staffing firms can be a great way to conduct your job search if you’re picking an area that you’re not familiar with. Or perhaps you’re looking at an area that you’re a little familiar with but haven’t been back to in a while. Either way, good IT recruiters will advise you on what jobs can give you a good commute or they can advise you on what part of town you should live in to optimize your options for IT jobs.
- They can help you find the job that suits you. Besides knowing the area geographically, IT recruiting agencies know detailed information about the employers in it. They can tell you what technical skill-sets is in-demand in each area so you can build up or tailor your resume. They can also tell you which companies have good reputations as employers (and what companies don’t). This is the kind of information you need to be able to find a job that you can be happy and succeed in. It’s not just about landing any job that will hire you! You want a job that values your skills and experience and has a corporate culture you fit into and enjoy. It can be hard to find this on your own, but luckily you don’t have to. Good IT staffing agencies build strong relationships with local employers. They make it their business to know what technical skills and experiences these employers need, as well as what kind of work environment they offer. You can capitalize on this insight when you build a good relationship with technical recruiters wherever you relocate.
There are sections of your technical resume that are obviously necessary: your technical proficiencies, the jobs you’ve held, your education section, etc. But there are some parts that aren’t so clear. Do you include an objective? Should you include your hobbies? One section that candidates often have questions about, and one that could actually add a lot to your candidacy if done correctly, is volunteering and community service. When is it advantageous to add your volunteer and community service experience to your technical resume? When does it hurt you? How do you add it? Here are some tips from IT recruiters for deciding what you should keep—and cut—from your resume.
Keep: If you’re applying to a job with a non-profit or a company that really values community service and volunteering, then keep it all. (You can ask your technical recruiters about a company’s interest in community service if it’s not obvious.) Show off any relevant experience on your resume to build yourself up as the kind of candidate that fits well into their culture of giving back to the community.
If you’re not applying to a non-profit or company like this, you may still want to keep some of your volunteering experience. IT staffing firms sometimes come across candidates who’ve donated their technical expertise to the community or local organizations by creating web sites, blogs, or other technical projects for free. This is very relevant to your candidacy. Include it on your resume, especially if the project you worked on could be similar to the work you’d be doing in your target jobs.
Cut: As mentioned above, when you’re applying to companies that aren’t as concerned with volunteer or community service (often these are more corporate employers), then cut that section. Use the space on your resume to build up your candidacy better. Talk about your technical skills and experience. You only get to submit one resume to hiring managers and IT staffing companies. Make sure every single letter, punctuation mark, and space on that resume builds your candidacy. (If talking about your volunteering and community service interests is really important to you, you may find time to discuss it in job interviews– if it’s relevant to the discussion, of course!)
How to Add it: Create one brief, separate, section at the very bottom of your resume. Put it below your education (which will often be the last section). Format your volunteering stints as jobs. If you have information about technical experience, list it in bullets like you would under a job. Keep the language unemotional here, as you would on any other part of your resume. While you might feel passionate about your volunteer activities, keep subjective phrasing out of this section. Simply state your contributions to the organization and highlight how it might strengthen your candidacy.
If the work is especially relevant to any particular roles, you should take advantage of that. As you tailor your resume to the role (ideally candidates tailor their resume to each role their IT staffing firms submit them to), make sure your description of this volunteer experience explicitly highlights the similarities between that and the projected work for the role. Don’t be afraid to really spell it out for hiring managers. They’re skimming many, many resumes. Make yours stand out!
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IT staffing companies hear about plenty of secret weapons candidates can pull out when searching for new IT jobs. Sometimes it’s a great interview question. Sometimes it’s a suit that makes you feel confident. Here’s another to add to your arsenal: take the time to show a deep interest in everything about the role that really matters to tech employers. It’s not just about saying you love the job description. Hiring managers in tech want to see an interest in 2 particular areas: The corporate culture and the company’s work. Here’s how to effectively demonstrate interest in both.
Corporate Culture: Other industries may be catching up to tech in this respect, but corporate culture has been nearly imperative to tech employers for a long time. With the popularization of Scrum and Agile, it has been even more important. If you don’t fit into a team on a social level, then collaboration, and thus real success, will be difficult. So how do you make it apparent that you’re interested in a company’s corporate culture? Start with research. Check out their Glassdoor reviews. Talk to your technical recruiters. Check out their website. Be able to discuss their corporate culture and come up with questions of your own about it. Try asking questions like these: It seems like [fill in the blank with relevant soft skills] are necessary for being successful at this company. Is this true? Are there other soft skills they prize more? What do you love about working at this company?
The company and its products: As an IT professional, it’s obvious you’ll be asking about things like the tech stack, the projects the role is assigned to, etc. IT recruiting firms find that the candidates who land jobs go a little further, though. Hiring managers in tech love when candidates are interested in the way the technical workload supports the business. Demonstrate, for instance, that you’re thinking beyond what you’ll be coding. You’re thinking about what you’ll be coding and how it can serve the client better. To show an interest in the business-side of the company, not just its tech side, do some deeper research than just a quick Google search of the company. Look at their website, but also look at recent news articles. Ask your IT recruiters if they have any recommended materials to check out. A good test of the depth of your knowledge is if you can talk about the company in terms of what others say about them, not just what they say about themselves.
If you’re an IT professional searching for your next job, you probably want to steer clear of any resume gimmicks. We’ve all heard or read about tricks that make your resume “stand out” to IT recruiters or hiring managers. Maybe it’s sending your resume in hard copy, using a creative, flashy format, or any number of other unconventional ideas. The problem is that resume gimmicks are usually terrible ideas that will actually seriously hurt your credibility with IT staffing companies and employers. The one exception to this rule is if you’re formatting to show off artistic skills that are relevant to the job listing. Graphic designers, UX/UI developers, and similar roles can often benefit from a resume that’s formatted with aesthetic creativity. For everyone else in tech, though, here’s why you need to create the standard, conventional resume if you want to land great IT jobs.
- Resume gimmicks make your resume look even more generic. Ideally, IT staffing firms suggest that you tailor your resume to every job you’re applying to. This shows a real interest in the role, the work, the company, or all three. Tech employers are notorious for asking technical recruiters to help find candidates who are passionate about the work they do, their company culture, etc. When you offer a gimmicky resume, it doesn’t help make your resume look like you’ve tailored it to the role, and thus can lead employers to think there’ s a lack of passion for the position, technologies, company culture, etc. Often people will mass produce and send out gimmicky resumes. Gimmicks are rarely tailored to the employer. Based on this pattern, you’ve already potentially taken yourself down a few notches in the employer’s eye.
- Resume gimmicks make it harder for employer and IT recruiting agencies to see exactly what skills, experience, and technologies you have. Most tech positions require that you have certain technologies, skills, etc. Not having them can be a huge problem and seriously impede your ability to handle the workload. For this reason, the strongest resumes cleanly lay out what skills or technologies the candidate has and how they’ve applied in them in previous positions. Don’t distract IT recruiters or employers with something flashy and irrelevant, like an unconventional format. You also don’t want to take space away from achieving this goal. Often, these gimmicky resumes require extra space for graphics—space that you could be using to show off your technical acumen. You don’t want to hurt your chances for landing a job because an employer sees your funky resume, but isn’t sure you have hands-on experience with a certain programming language or web platform.
- Resume gimmicks make it seem like you’re trying to hide something. Often the people who use gimmicky resumes do so because they’re not confident in their experience or technical skills. Rightly or wrongly, some supspicious hiring managers will nix a resume just because it’s gimmicky-looking. Particularly in tech, where positions are so imperative to a company’s success and salaries are higher, a manager can’t risk making a bad hiring decision. It’s just too expensive. Don’t risk being rejected just because your gimmicky resume set off a suspicious hiring manager’s radar! Create a simple, straight-forward resume that shows why you’re ready to contribute to an employer.
Having a brief, but effective resume is important when you’re looking for new IT jobs. While most recruiters would say the 1-page rule is less important for IT professionals, it’s still advantageous to create a resume with all the fat trimmed. Considering how pressed for time most IT recruiters and hiring managers are, you shouldn’t expect a long, leisurely read of your resume. In fact, sometimes a resume that’s repetitive, full of excessive technical details, or even unnecessary personal information, hobbies, etc can just take you out of the running for a job completely. This is especially true when you’re entry level. Technical recruiters expect a shorter resume when you have less than 5 years of experience. Here’s one of the worst ways IT staffing companies see IT professionals waste space on their resume: advertising for their previous employers.
This mistake is pretty easy to spot. Many candidates will put a sentence or two under the name of the company on their resume. They’ll describe the products the company offers, its reputation, most notable awards, etc. Sometimes this will be integrated into the bullet points under the employer. Some artful candidates will try to link their own role to this description of the company. No matter how it’s done, though, this practice is a terrible idea. Here are two reasons why you’re only hurting yourself and turning out a less-than stellar resume when you do this.
- You’re losing space to boost your own candidacy. Especially when it comes to the text and bullets under the employer, this is the time to showcase your skills and achievements. Bullets under a job should help an employer picture you as a new and valuable asset to their team. When you waste even a sentence describing what your previous employer did, their awards, etc, it’s a shame. That sentence could have been more proof that you are an excellent catch for employers! When you’re entry level, you’re wasting even more precious space. Considering how short IT recruiting firms expect your resume to be, every sentence becomes all the more valuable. Even if you’re not entry level, you’re potentially losing a recruiter or hiring manager’s interest. When a hiring manager comes across information about the company, not the candidate, they may just start skimming the resume. Keep their attention by making sure every bullet point under each job is something they want and need to know, not something they could look up on the web or a Fortune 500 company directory!
- You look less professional, if not naïve and entry level. Like most resume mistakes, this one can lead IT staffing firms and hiring managers to assume that you are pretty entry level or don’t have a firm grasp of professional norms. Considering how much responsibility tech professionals often get (as most of their work is so mission critical and imperative for the success of the company) it’s important you look completely professional and trustworthy.
Don’t let a small mistake like this potentially mar your candidacy. Delete those lines advertising your former employer. Replace them with achievements, contributions to your team, and the kinds of skills that will excite your potential employers.
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For some candidates, the hardest part of searching for new IT jobs is not getting feedback when they don’t land the job. IT professionals are often pretty disappointed to hear nothing back after they apply for a job, after their IT recruiters submit them for a job, or after they interview. Here’s why you might not get feedback—and what you can do about it.
You may not hear back from employers because they simply don’t give anybody feedback unless they land the job. Many companies are nervous about giving feedback for 4 reasons.
- Firstly, companies don’t want to say anything that can even remotely run the risk of opening them up for a lawsuit. Even if they haven’t done anything wrong, companies can still be sued over hiring decisions.
- Another reason an employer might not give feedback is because they’re concerned a candidate may only see it as an opening to argue for their candidacy. IT recruiting firms see this happen relatively often. Candidates can have a hard time taking feedback without arguing for their candidacy. This is so uncomfortable that many employers simply created a blanket rule to never give any feedback.
- Additionally, you may not hear why you didn’t land a tech job because the hiring manager simply doesn’t have time to give the feedback. Often in tech, managers are working against release dates and deadlines that move at the speed of technology. Searching for new employees on top of that can leave their plate very full. Some managers simply won’t have time to give a reason why they rejected candidates, particularly if they didn’t make it to the interview stage.
- The last reason an employer might not give feedback is because their candidate liaison isn’t technical enough to do it. Sometimes HR will act as liaison with candidates, and they simply don’t have the technical expertise and experience to understand, let alone share with the candidate, why they didn’t land the job.
What can you do if you don’t hear feedback? Can you do anything to try to get feedback? Here are 2 tips.
- Start by re-calibrating your expectations. If you go into the job search process expecting feedback from employers, you’re likely to be let down. Especially when you don’t make it to the interview stage, it’s very likely you won’t hear why you were passed on. You may be slightly more likely to get some feedback if you’re working with technical recruiters, although this also isn’t a guarantee, either. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised with feedback rather than upset when you don’t get it!
- Remember that feedback may not help you much anyways. IT recruiting agencies find that the reason why candidates don’t land the job isn’t always something they could have improved upon for next time. Perhaps a candidate didn’t land the job because they needed to get more experience with this programming language or that development method. But it’s also possible you didn’t land the job because the company liked another candidate better, decided they wanted to hire somebody with a slightly different skill-set than they initially posted, etc. When you don’t land a job, it doesn’t mean that you failed. You just didn’t land that job. It’s important to keep in mind that you want to land a job that you’re totally qualified for, would reasonably enjoy, and would be able to be successful in right now. If you don’t land a job, consider it a blessing. You’ve been saved from a job that just wasn’t a good fit for you. You don’t need detailed feedback to take comfort in that information.
Sometimes job seekers will come across postings for IT jobs that seem perfect. The employer might offer ideal tech stacks, amazing perks, or remote work options. Candidates will fall in love, declare it’s their dream job, pin their hopes on it, and sometimes focus solely on applying to that job. It’s ok to know what you want, but don’t fall into the ‘Dream Job’ trap. IT recruiters would caution against deciding any tech job is your dream job, just based on a job posting. Here’s why:
1. The job may become different than what is posted. There are a few reasons why IT staffing firms see this happen. A company may change its tech stack, the projects it’s hiring for, or the job description of the role itself. Sometimes these changes occur as a company is interviewing candidates. This means the job you interview for might require different skills than the one you applied to or asked your IT recruiters to submit you to. If you have decided a job is your ‘dream job’ before the interview, you’d be sorely disappointed by this change; you may have even put your job search on hold to focus on this job. Be open to new opportunities, let your technical recruiters submit you for roles, but don’t label any of them your ‘dream job’ until after the interview!
2. You don’t know what the culture of the company and team is like until you interview. While this wasn’t always the case, fitting into the corporate culture is becoming very important in tech roles. With the increasing emphasis on innovation and teamwork, Scrum and Agile are becoming the development methodologies that most tech teams operate on. If you don’t fit into the culture, you won’t be able to do your job well, especially on a Scrum or Agile team. So wait to decide if a job is your ‘dream job’ until after you interview and meet the team. You have to like them as much as the work—if not more!
3. The job description may be the same currently, but technologies or job descriptions could change in the near future. Companies go through development changes all the time, and IT recruiting agencies find that sometimes they’re helping a company hire somebody who must have two sets of skills: one for the current projects, and one for projects the company will be pursuing in the future. Your interviewer may be upfront about this, or you may want to ask some questions yourself. You can ask in the interview if the company plans to adopt any new programming languages, development methods, etc. It’s important that before you decide an IT job is your dream job, you get a sense of what the job is now, and what it will be in the future.