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.
Occasionally IT recruiters and hiring managers get calls or emails about jobs from a strange place: a job seeker’s spouse or parents. IT recruiting agencies and employers will get everything from initial inquiries, follow up calls or emails, actual job applications from an IT professional’s wife, mother, boyfriend, etc. While it may seem like this is a just a supportive gesture from a loved one, it can actually hamper one’s job search, if not a candidate’s reputation. Here’s why you need to make sure you are the point of contact for your own job search—as well as what your family members can do to help with your job search effectively.
Having your parents, spouse, etc reach out to employers and IT staffing firms on your behalf makes you look less professional and/or unmotivated. As with most other elements of the job search, there are basic expectations about who speaks for you. Professional norms dictate that either you or your technical recruiters submit your applications, follow-ups, inquiries, etc. Anything else will be confusing and make it look like you aren’t aware of this (and thus probably other) professional norms. Hiring managers might assume that if you have your parent or spouse call on your behalf, then you aren’t ready to participate in the workforce because you just don’t understand how to interact with employers.
Besides making you look unprofessional, a call or email from your parent or spouse will make you seem unmotivated. IT recruiting companies and hiring managers want you to make these calls and emails because you’re ultimately invested in landing new IT jobs. If somebody else is calling for you, it could look like you’re not interested enough to do it yourself. Especially in tech, where a passion for the work, the company, the team, or some combination of all of these is so imperative, you don’t want to present yourself as possibly disinterested in your own candidacy. Show you care about the jobs you’re applying to (or discussing with your recruiters) by making all calls and emails yourself. Don’t ask your spouse, parents, etc to do it for you.
Having your spouse or parents reach out to employers and IT recruiters on your behalf could ruin your reputation. The tech field can be a small place. Between the popularity of LinkedIn (which can help connect all hiring managers to each other) and the small number of qualified IT professionals who move around to similar jobs and companies, your reputation can be paramount. It’s very easy for a manager to do a back-door reference on you or for IT staffing companies to blackball you. Thus if you continually make a mistake, like having your parents call on your behalf about your job application, many people might hear about it. Even if you find a job now, you’ll likely be looking for one in the future. Don’t hurt your chances of finding IT jobs by becoming known as the unprofessional candidate who outsources their job search to the wife, husband, parents, etc.
What can a spouse, parent, or family member do to successfully help you with your job search? IT staffing agencies suggest that you tell well-meaning loved ones to help by doing a few things behind the scenes. A parent or spouse can find and send you jobs to apply to (while not completing the application themselves!), suggest companies you may want to apply to, or find IT recruiting firms you might want to work with. They can also help write your resumes and cover letters or practice for interviewers. Of course, as the candidate, you will have to be your own advocate. Employers and recruiters should speak with you and only you. But that doesn’t mean that your loved ones can’t help prepare you to interact with employers and recruiters. In fact, it’s often encouraged, especially when it comes to interview preparation!
Summer and early fall are popular times for recent grads to look for IT jobs. If you’re a recent grad embarking on your first (or maybe second, third, etc) job search, here’s one mistake that can hurt your prospects: keeping your student email address. Why does keeping that .edu address hurt your chances of landing tech jobs? Here are a few reasons technical recruiters suggest you get a new, professional email address.
You’re making yourself look less professional and hirable. Unless your school email address tells the world that you went to an Ivy League school, you don’t want to keep it. (Though this is certainly debatable for a few reasons, too!) Now that you’re an IT professional, not a student, you will want your email address to reflect this change. Since tech roles are usually high stakes, hiring managers need to be able to hire candidates they trust. (Even arguably entry-level tech roles like Help Desk are imperative—a company (or organization, school, etc) cannot run if its computers are broken!) In addition to appearing trustworthy, you want to merit your salary expectations. Because so many tech roles are imperative to a business’s success, managers will pay higher salaries than other roles. IT staffing companies find that making a bad hire is a much bigger financial cost in the tech field!
You’re limiting your options. Though there are some employers that seek out recent grads for tech roles, this isn’t the case with a vast majority. Hiring new grads, especially for such crucial roles, requires more resources and the right set-up. To hire new grads and have them be successful, companies need to have good training and mentorship programs, a pace of business that can accommodate mistakes or employees who are still learning, and a centralized tech team (if not the whole company). Small companies or companies with a lot of spread-out employees often can’t handle hiring new grads. They need to hire candidates on whom they can rely to hit the ground running, be self-motivated, and get work done with little supervision. While your resume obviously helps to sell you as the best candidate, an email address can still hurt you. You don’t want an employer to glance at your resume, note the school address, and automatically toss your resume in the ‘no’ pile.
Your school address may eventually cut you off from important professional contacts. School email addresses are often only available for a finite amount of time after you graduate. Perhaps they’re shut off after six months, a year, two years, etc. You don’t want to rely on an email address that may just shut off at some unexpected point. Even if it’s a year or two later, you might be hurting your job search. IT recruiting firms may decide to check back in with you after a few months, a year, etc to see if you’re interested in a role. If your email address has been shut off, you’ll never get that message!
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Most IT professionals are familiar and ready for every element of the job search. Phone screens, technical interviews, coding tests, whiteboarding sessions, and interview thank you notes are all par for the course and most candidates are ready to handle them. But one element of the tech job search that does surprise a lot of candidates is a personality test. IT recruiting firms find that time and again, candidates are unprepared for personality tests or feel uncomfortable taking them. Some even try avoiding them (which really isn’t possible. You may as well just opt out of the running for the job if you refuse to take the test.). Here’s a little more info about personality tests so you’re not caught unawares the next time you have to take one.
Why do employers give these tests, especially in tech? It might seem counter-intuitive that employers base hiring for IT jobs off of personality tests. These jobs are all about very specific (often hard-to-find skills), aren’t they? In the past decade or so, employers in the tech space have become more concerned with culture. This has happened for a few reasons, but the increased use of Scrum and Agile as development methodologies probably plays a big part. The days of Waterfall and heads-down coders are largely gone. This means that personality has become exponentially important to hiring managers. Thus, a small but strong minority is very invested in using personality tests as part of their hiring process.
Can I cheat on personality tests? No. It’s not even worth trying. IT staffing firms find that the ‘right’ answer on these tests often isn’t very clear anyways. The questions are usually pretty abstract ones or hypothetical ones that don’t even seem applicable to the job.
What if I want to try to ‘cheat’ anyway? It’s important to note that you wouldn’t want to cheat on these tests, even if you could. Like cheating on a coding test, this will just land you a job that you won’t be likely to succeed in. If an employer is offering a personality test, it’s likely that hiring somebody who fits into their corporate culture is paramount. If you ‘cheat’ your way into a job where you’re not a culture fit, it will become apparent pretty quickly. Your status at the company will suffer, or worse, you’ll be fired. IT recruiting agencies suggest you be honest on personality tests. If you fail it, this can still be a good thing. Your test result will ensure that you avoid taking a job you’d be miserable in, anyway!
When you’re working in the tech field, there’s a lot of temptation to jump around from job to job. Between IT recruiters who reach out to passive candidates, new roles that offer hands-on experience with hot new technologies, and employers who offer roles with big pay raises, it can be hard to stay loyal and stick with your IT jobs for the expected 1, 2, or more years. As a general rule, It’s important to avoid all of this temptation, though and try to maintain some decently long stints at each employer you work at. Here are some common questions and answers that IT staffing firms often get asked about about jumpiness in a tech career.
Is there ever a time when jumpiness is ok for IT professionals? Especially in tech there are times when some jumpiness is completely acceptable. Contracting is the most obvious example. IT recruiting agencies find that hiring managers don’t mind a couple of years of contracting in a resume. This can be pretty normal for the field and can certainly help as you begin your career or seek out experience with new technologies. Additionally, it’s also fine to have shorter stints at jobs for the usual reasons: a company is acquired or you must move to a different part of the country.
Why is jumpiness a problem on a tech resume, then? Employers in the tech field have a few reasons why they prefer to hire candidates with long, solid stays at most (if not all) their jobs. Firstly, many tech roles are well-paid. This means that a company needs to make a good investment and hire a candidate who’s reliable, prepared, and ready to make some big contributions. Losing candidates every six months, even sometimes every year, can be a bad investment for an employer. It’s hard to contribute a lot to the company when you’re not around long enough! It’s also hard to rely on a candidate when employers are constantly concerned they’ll be leaving for new opportunity with a higher salary, fresher technologies, etc.
Another reason employers don’t want to hire people with excessively jumpy resumes is related to training. Many tech roles require in-depth training for candidates to really contribute to the workload. There’s a ramp-up period that can’t be avoided. Due to this ramp-up period, employers don’t want to hire IT professionals who won’t stick around for a long time. They don’t want to be training a new person, and thus losing time and productivity, every six months, year, etc.
The last reason tech employers want to see less jumpiness in a resume is that long stays at a company can indicate more experience with long-term projects. Long-term, organizational projects can take years. If you’ve never been any place longer than a few months, you haven’t been able to participate in one of these kinds of projects from start to finish (or even close to it).
How do you polish jumpiness in your own resume so it’s appealing to technical recruiters and hiring managers? If you have the kind of jumpiness that’s acceptable, make sure to indicate the reasons why you left jobs. Did you leave a job after 3 months because the company was acquired? Write that as your last bullet. Keep it brief and professional. A long bullet with a sob story won’t help market you to employers. In fact, it will likely hurt you.
If you have a rash of contracting jobs in your career, make the bullets in each of them great. Show off your contributions and professional achievements. You want employers to see that even though you weren’t at a company long, you added value while you were there.
If you’re on the hunt for new IT jobs, you might be considering ways to format your resume. While they’re not the most common format, IT recruiting firms do see a lot of functional format resumes from candidates. Functional format resumes, as opposed to chronological resumes, are based around a candidate’s skills instead of when they held each job. Instead of listing each job in a timeline, functional format resumes list jobs and projects grouped under the kinds of skills used or titles held. While it can be tempting to write this kind of resume in an especially skills-oriented field like tech, this is pretty inadvisable. Here are three reasons why IT staffing companies suggest you only write chronological resumes if you’re an IT professional.
1. Chronological resumes help hiring managers and IT recruiters see your career progression and any employment gaps (or lack thereof) easily. In a field like tech, this is very important. The unemployment rate is so low that hiring managers tend to view long employment gaps as red flags. Career progression isn’t a field-specific criterion, but it is still pretty important for hiring managers in tech. For instance, if you’ve stayed in a Help Desk role for over 5 years, but want to be a Systems Engineer, technical recruiters will have a hard time submitting you to roles like that. When you use a functional format resume, it can be difficult to quickly discern your career progression or if you have any employment gaps. If it’s too time-consuming or difficult to see these things on your resume, a hiring manager may just toss it and move on to another candidate with a clearer resume.
2. Chronological resumes help recruiters and managers see how recently you’ve worked with certain technologies. This is important for a two reasons. Firstly, managers will want to know that your relevant skills for an open role are fresh. If you’ve got a functional format resume, this isn’t always clear. Secondly, it’s important for hiring managers to know that you’ve used a particular technology recently. Technologies themselves can change so quickly. If you used C++ in the 90’s, you might not be ready to use it today due to all the new frameworks you can program in. Again, a functional format can’t make it quite as clear when you used a certain technology. A chronological resume format makes it crystal clear.
3. A chronological resume better facilitates descriptions of each environment you’ve worked in at each job. Since environments can change so much in terms of technologies and scalability, this is very important for hiring managers and IT staffing firms to see. Chronological resumes allow you to separate out key information in an easily digestible form for a manager or recruiter. With one glance, they can see where you worked, the environment, and your responsibilities and achievements there. Functional format resumes can really muddy this, if not completely obscure it.
There’s no getting around it: creating a good resume is a pain. IT recruiting firms never find that candidates enjoy the process. Some will even ask if they can avoid updating theirs. (If you’re serious about landing new IT jobs, you can’t.) Technical resumes can be especially arduous to write. You need to explain your previous jobs in enough detail to impress technical recruiters, but also avoid giving so much that your resume becomes unreadable to hiring managers who aren’t as tech savvy. Here are two easy ways to make sure you share your best resume with IT staffing companies and hiring managers.
1. Make sure your Technical Proficiencies section is complete and honest. You want this section to be up to date with all the skills you can claim a real competence in. Make sure not to leave any skills out. As IT recruiters or hiring managers scan your resume for certain technologies or skills, you wouldn’t want them to move on because they were missing. The same is true for ATS’s (applicant tracking systems) and searches within big recruiting sites. Including important keywords will make sure your resume is seen by search engines and software used in the hiring process.
On the flip side, it’s also important not to add in skills or technologies that you can’t claim a real competence with. If you’ve only had slight exposure to a certain technology, don’t include it. You don’t want to find your way into an interview where you can’t answer questions about a technology, complete a coding test, or fail a whiteboarding session miserably. You’ll quickly ruin your reputation with employers and IT recruiting firms if you falsely represent yourself as having certain technical experience and skills.
2. Elaborate on how you used the skills and technologies mentioned in your Technical Proficiencies section within the bullets for your jobs. This part is just as important, if not more so. Technically adept hiring managers and technical recruiters want to see how you used a technology at previous jobs. Make sure to dedicate at least one bullet per technology or skill. Even if they’re scattered throughout your career history, they’ll still help managers see that you’re prepared to apply the skills you list in your Technical Proficiencies section in their open roles.
Job hunting in the tech industry can differ from any industry. As an IT job seeker, your search is affected by things like technical jargon, the tools hiring managers use, and the speed at which technologies change and projects become irrelevant. If you’re serious about looking for new IT jobs, you want a resume tailored to this industry and the needs of the hiring managers in it. Here’s a quick checklist that IT recruiters suggest using as you complete your resume. This list will make sure your resume is especially appealing to hiring managers in the tech space and technical recruiters.
1. Does your resume match up with your LinkedIn profile? Especially within the tech space, IT staffing companies and hiring managers use LinkedIn as part of their hiring process. If your resume doesn’t basically match up with your LinkedIn profile, it’s time to fix that. You especially want to avoid making it seem like you’re hiding anything or lying about anything in your career history or skill-set. Appearing dishonest is the fastest way to be blacklisted with IT recruiting firms and employers.
2. Is your resume full of quantifiable, concrete, professional achievements? The bullets under each job should be taken up with statements like ‘Improved network downtime by 25%.’ Or ‘Increased web traffic by 50%.’ Hiring managers are more likely to pick people who they can picture working with their team and contributing to their company’s goals. This is especially true in tech, where the salaries are higher and a bad hire can cost a lot. Nobody wants to be the manager who hires a programmer who can’t code fast enough or the network architect who designed a faulty network. Make it easier for hiring managers to picture you succeeding in their open roles. List the concrete contributions you made at previous employers, using numbers and percentages whenever you can.
4. Is your resume easy to read? Did you focus on your last 10-15 years of experience? Did you use a simple font with basic, even spacing? Did you use a conventional resume format, or a ‘creative one’ that might require some extra time to figure out? Did you forgo giving every single technical detail of your work at every previous job? Keep in mind that IT recruiting agencies and hiring managers don’t have much time to pore over every line of your resume. In fact, if you apply with a resume that’s crammed to the gills with lots of technical details for 7 pages, or provide a resume that’s in a ‘creative format’, you might just be taking yourself out of the running for a job right off the bat. Make your resume easy to read and keep it brief and efficient. If your experience is a good fit, you can give more detail in a phone or in-person interview.
Hiring managers are often nervous about giving feedback to job candidates. They’re concerned about getting stuck in long, protracted arguments with candidates about why they would be a good fit for a job. Or worse, managers afraid of getting sued by a rejected candidate. Instead of risking any unpleasant dealings with candidates, IT staffing firms find that managers often give no feedback at all—sometimes not even an email or call rejecting them. With the popularity of sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn, though, it’s becoming imperative for hiring managers to change their approach. The best way for employers to reject candidates is to give at least a little feedback, even if it’s very vague.
Why should you give some feedback to candidates (instead of nothing)? There are two reasons for this.
- Sites like Glassdoor and Indeed have all made a company’s reputation as an employer (and interviewer) very accessible. Anybody can look up your company online before they interview or even apply there. If candidates never hear from you after an interview, they may leave an angry review (and bring down your average score). Giving some feedback, even if it’s brief and vague, is a kindness that all candidates will appreciate. IT staffing companies suggest that you invest the extra time in doing what you can to make the hiring and application process positive for candidates. It pays off when it comes to your online reputation.
- The tech field can be small, especially when it comes to the job market. There are only so many candidates who have the qualifications to do IT jobs in certain areas. LinkedIn has made it even smaller. With all the connecting that LinkedIn encourages, it’s easy for candidates to hear what your application and hiring process is like. Make sure people only have good things to say about you. Don’t leave candidates hanging, waiting for a reason why they didn’t land the job—or waiting to hear they didn’t land the job at all!
So what should you do? Try to give feedback to every candidate who applied, and definitely give feedback to candidates who have interviewed. Here are some examples of effective ways IT staffing agencies suggest giving feedback to a candidate.
Vague responses might include:
“We decided to move forward with another candidate”
“We decided to move forward with another candidate with more experience.”
“We didn’t feel the job would be a good fit, but we wish you the best of luck in your search.”
You can also choose to give more specific feedback to a candidate. This works as long as you focus on particular skills or experience that can’t be disputed. You might say something like:
“We moved forward with a candidate who had more experience in Linux environments.”
“We needed a candidate who has more exposure to Cloud-based technologies.”