When you’re hiring for tech positions, it can be tempting to toss out any resumes with a gap of 6 months or more. IT recruiters see this all the time, especially because the tech job market is so hot these days. (To put that in perspective, the unemployment rate for IT professionals in the first quarter of 2017 was 2.5% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2017 was almost double that! It was 4.5%.) IT staffing companies find that employers often think if somebody is unemployed for long, there’s something wrong with them. The truth is, there are some legitimate reasons candidates might have big gaps on their resumes. Here’s why you may want to consider a candidate, even if they have a long gap on their resume.
1. Their reasons for a gap are solid. It’s becoming more and more common for people to leave the workforce temporarily to care for a relative. This will only continue as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age. Taking time off to care for a new baby or sick relative doesn’t tell a hiring manager anything about a candidate’s skills, performance, or dedication to work. The truth is, many people may face caregiving dilemmas over their lifetimes. Sharp, efficient, talented IT professionals and unskilled ones alike take time off for caregiving. So the next time you see a resume with a large gap taken for caregiving, remember that you could just as easily be in the same boat one day! It’s also important to remember that there’s a very real dearth of IT professionals in the US right now. You don’t want to limit your talent pool any further than it’s already been limited.
2. Their technical skills may not be impacted by a gap. With all the options for independent study, online classes, certifications, and more, it’s possible that a candidate has taken time off from a formal job but they haven’t taken time off from keeping up their technical expertise. If you see a resume with a sizable gap and it concerns you, check out their technical proficiencies section. Some people might even have a better arsenal of technical skills after taking time off from the workforce. They may have used the time off to learn more than they would if they were working.
3. Their base of technical skills might be enough, even if they don’t have the hottest new technologies under their belts. Especially recently, IT staffing firms notice that companies will hire candidates with strong, basic foundations of technical skills. Then they’ll just teach them the technologies they lack. This works because there are many languages a candidate can learn that will prep them to quickly and easily acquire more languages. Even if a candidate was out of work for a period of time and isn’t up to date with Python, for example, they might still have Ruby on Rails. Knowing Ruby on Rails will make it easy for the candidate to pick up Python and perform a role that requires it.
4. Their technical skills might not be up to date due to time taken off work, but they could have more vital skills. As mentioned before, candidates can be (and are!) often caught up with technical knowledge on the job. IT recruiting companies find that for some roles that require soft skills, companies will hire people with those skills. They’ll then catch them up on the technical skills they need. For some roles, like Helpdesk or Sales Engineer, having soft skills is imperative. It’s arguably more important that having the right technical skills or experience. For instance, a Sales Engineer who is charming and engaging with clients but needs to learn SAP on the job is a better hire than a candidate who knows SAP but is rude and off-putting to clients.
So you polished up your resume, you built a stellar list of references, and you got yourself submitted to some IT jobs that look perfect for you. But lo and behold, your IT staffing firms called you to let you know you didn’t land the job (or maybe even the interview). What happened? What should you do? Here’s a little insider info from IT recruiting firms.
Why didn’t you get the job? There are a lot of factors why people are rejected from the hiring process. You may never know which reasons apply to you, but it can be a comfort to know them, because many of them are completely out of your control and have nothing to do with your marketability as an IT professional. Here are the main reasons IT recruiters see people rejected from a job.
- The project or the role changed. This happens all the time, especially with more technical roles. The kinds of projects that IT professionals work on are subject to change for all the usual reasons a company’s project changes, but also because technologies themselves change so quickly. Perhaps a company plans to use Angular for a project, but decides they’d like to move on to a hotter new technology and use Angular 2. That means the roles they’re hiring for drastically change, just like that! Roles will also change if they’ve been open for a long time. If a company is having a hard time finding the perfect software developer, the life cycle development of a project still won’t stop. A team could need a software developer with different skills as the project progresses.
- You weren’t a culture fit. This may seem like a small thing compared to technical acumen, but IT staffing agencies find that it’s not. In fact, one of our own technical recruiters estimates that culture fit issues account for 50-60% of the candidate rejections he sees! The days of heads-down coders are over and Scrum and Agile are all the rage. Companies usually want a team that gels well, because they’ll be working together closely. For roles that are client-facing or customer service oriented, this becomes all the more imperative. If, for instance, you’re applying for a Helpdesk role or Sales Engineer role, having a warm, engaging personality is one of the explicitly stated job requirements.
- Maybe other candidates really were just better. It’s natural to feel like you’re the best candidate for the job. The truth is, though, you’ll almost always be competing against other candidates. You never know if your completion has more experience, a better arsenal of technologies at their disposal, or is just more pleasant to work with. You may always feel like you’re the best fit for the job, but statistically speaking, you can’t always be the best fit for the job. Sometimes another candidate is a better match.
What can you do if you don’t get the role?
- You can start by politely asking your IT recruiters for feedback. If they have it, they’ll often be happy to share. It could be that you can get actionable feedback, like a suggestion to get more experience with a particular technology, or that you came across as rude in your interview. On the other hand, sometimes there is no feedback.
- It’s important not to try to argue your candidacy with the recruiter, and especially not the hiring manager. This strategy never lands somebody the job. In fact, often it burns a bridge and blacklists you at that company in the future. Hiring managers don’t appreciate being told that they don’t know how to make good decisions for their teams. They also don’t want to hire people who look arrogant. You will likely accomplish one or both of those if you push back when a hiring manager rejects you.
- Try to remember that if you don’t land a job, it’s like dodging a bullet. Whether you’re rejected by IT staffing companies at the application stage or later after an interview, what you’re essentially hearing is that the employer doesn’t have confidence you’d be successful in the role. Even if you could do the role just fine, who wants to work in a job where their boss isn’t sure they can hack it? A rejection is just saving your from pain down the road and opening you up for a job that you can succeed and be happy in.
While the tech job market always seems to be hot, January is an especially good time to be searching. Many companies begin their fiscal year in January and have the budget to hire new IT professionals. IT recruiters also find that companies often start development life cycles in January. With new applications to develop, companies will have their technical recruiters looking for new software programmers, web developers, UX/UI developers, etc to hire. It’s also worth noting that it’s very advantageous to get hired at the beginning of a development life cycle. Having experience with a project from beginning to end (or beginning to maintenance) looks excellent on a resume. IT staffing firms love to see that kind of experience on your resume. So if you’re ready to look for new IT jobs, January is the time to do it! Here’s a checklist to prep yourself.
- Your Resume: Get it updated and clean out old/irrelevant experience (probably anything older than the last 10 years or anything that’s in a totally different, irrelevant field). Remember to use your bullets to show off your contributions and achievements at the companies you’ve worked with. Help hiring managers and IT recruiting agencies see the value you bring as an employee. Post your updated resume on the job boards, especially if it’s been a while since you last searched.
- Your LinkedIn Profile: This is almost as important as your resume. Since the vast majority of people in tech use LinkedIn, it can sometimes be considered a red flag if you don’t have a profile there. Make sure you update your LinkedIn profile more concisely than your resume. You can use your resume to elaborate on your technical skills and experience.
- Your References: Check in with them and let them know you’re job searching. Give them an idea of the kinds of roles you’re looking for. Thank them for their help with your job search. (And don’t forget to thank them again when you land your new job!)
- Your Portfolio: If you’re a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, UX/UI Developer, or have a skill-set in a similar vein, you may want to get your portfolio ready. Make sure you have your latest and best samples of your work added in. Be aware of copyright issues and don’t openly break them if your company won’t allow you to share examples of your work for them. No employer wants to hire somebody who seems untrustworthy.
- Call IT Recruiters: If you’ve already developed a relationship with recruiters, give them a call and send along your latest resume. If you haven’t worked with IT staffing companies before, now’s a great time to do it! Find an IT recruiting firm that has a great reputation and reach out with your job search materials. A good technical recruiter will help you find a job that you love and can succeed in.
Do you plan to look for new IT jobs in 2018? If so, you should consider adding blockchain to your arsenal of technical skills. IT staffing firms are already seeing the need for blockchain ramp up, but it’s only going to grow in the coming year. Here’s a little more info about what blockchain is and where it can help you land a new job.
What is blockchain? Blockchain is allows users to execute secure and reliably tracked transactions online. It was originally created for digital currency and Bitcoin in particular. Blockchain lets digital info be distributed, but not copied. It can help users create a ledger system that is permanent, public, invulnerable to tampering, and accurate. With these capabilities, it’s easy to see why blockchain isn’t just applicable to the finance sector. Companies and organizations across a wide variety of industries are asking IT staffing companies to help them find blockchain developers.
What kinds of jobs can blockchain get me? Since blockchain helps create reliable and public ledgers, the possibilities are nearly endless. Finance jobs are an obvious case here. Finance has accepted blockchain as the way of the future so wholeheartedly that major giants like JP Morgan and the big four accounting firms are all testing or using blockchain. Outside of Finance, blockchain is applicable in more creative fields, like the music industry. Blockchain is already being used to track payments and creative fees owed to artists. Government is another industry that’s happy to embrace blockchain. The UN, The World Bank, and Russia’s government have all used or are about to use blockchain. Nonprofits have also jumped on the bandwagon here. Most notably, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is finding uses for blockchain in its operations.
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Avoid falling victim to obsolescence
Ensure your success once you land the job
Tech professionals don’t have to heed the same 1-page resume rule that most other professionals do. IT recruiters and hiring managers are usually a lot more permissive of longer resumes. This doesn’t mean that you want to submit novellas, though. To land a new job, you need to be able to show some restraint and edit your resume down to something more concise. Here’s how to edit your experience.
Cut anything over 10-ish years. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but in general, you won’t need anything over 10 years. Since technologies change so frequently, you’ll be discussing technologies and skills that may be completely irrelevant to the roles you’re applying to. Don’t waste space on your resume talking about obsolete technologies you’ve used. Keep that space open to talk about your more recent jobs!
Focus on the jobs you’ve done in the last 5 years. This is true for anyone, no matter how much experience you have on your resume. Technical recruiters sometimes see resumes with equal bullets dedicated to each and every job. That’s not only unnecessary; it actually may hurt the overall effectiveness of your resume. Your resume should help a hiring manager imagine you in their open role. The most recent jobs are likely the ones that have prepared you to do this kind of work. Detail out what you achieved in your last few roles, the technologies you used, and how you contributed to your team/company. Giving this kind of crucial information is what helps you land great IT jobs.
Cut any irrelevant experience. If you worked a job in a completely different industry, don’t worry about adding it into your resume. You only want it there if you need to account for your career in the last 5 years. Even then, if you need to have the job on your resume, just list it and the years or months you worked. IT recruiting agencies would suggest that you never waste bullets on irrelevant experience.
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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.