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.