Even if you’re not looking for new IT jobs, you should still take 15 minutes to update your resume. What’s the point? Especially in tech, passive candidates get offered interesting opportunities all the time. According to a 2015 survey from LinkedIn, around 60% of companies recruit passive candidates. There are a few reasons why IT recruiters may often end up contacting people who aren’t openly on the job market. LinkedIn makes this easy, as people often wind up essentially posting their resumes online, even when it’s not for job search purposes. (Over 3 quarters of LinkedIn participants are not expressly looking for new jobs.) Particularly because there is such a dearth of qualified tech candidates in the US, IT staffing companies also find that employers will be looking for rare skill-sets. In an effort to fill them, they may turn to passive candidates simply because they are capable of doing the job (when so many candidates are not). But is this a good thing for the candidates? Absolutely.
If you’re a passive candidate, getting contacted by IT recruiting firms about jobs is a bit an ideal circumstance. You have the space to really consider if a job will be a good move for you, since you’re not desperate to leave your current role. You’ll also have a chance to really negotiate for what you want—a better commute, schedule, salary, etc. As a passive candidate, you’re the one sought after (likely because you have the right skill-sets, experience, and will be able to really hit the ground running). You are the one with the most negotiating power.
So if you’re an IT professional, why not take the time to polish up your resume. Polish your LinkedIn profile, too. Even if you couldn’t imagine leaving your current role, you never know what kinds of opportunities you might be contacted about. Make sure you’re ready if IT staffing agencies reach out with the dream job you haven’t even dreamed of yet. Take time to update the most important parts of your resume. Are all the technologies you’ve worked with under your ‘Technical Proficiencies’ section? Did you list your most current role and your achievements there? Is your summary full of the kinds of achievements, skills, and experience that your ideal roles ask for? Make sure it’s all ready for technical recruiters, even if they asked for it next week.
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.