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.
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!