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.”
We’ve all been there. You apply for IT jobs that look perfect for you. You work with a technical recruiter or on your own and you go through interviews. You start picturing yourself making those commutes, finding your place on the team, and setting up a new 401k. But then your IT recruiters call you back and say that the hiring manager went with another candidate. You’re in shock. How could they go with anybody but you? You’ve got all the technical skills and experience required. Maybe you’ve done a similar job in the past. Here’s why this might be happening—and how to make the most of it.
You might not be a culture fit. This seems way less important in IT jobs, where certain skills and experience are imperative for success. The truth is, culture fit is becoming more and more imperative in tech roles in the last decade or so. IT recruiting firms often find that communication skills, ability to work well with a team, or having the right temperament for customer service are crucial to the jobs they hire for. You don’t want to land a job where you’re missing something like this. Even if you’re perfectly suited for the technical workload, you’ll always have a hard time succeeding in a job that you wouldn’t have the right personality for.
You may not have all the technical skills or experience required. Yes, even if you have everything listed on the job description, you may still be missing a certain programming language, or even not have less exposure to a technology than needed, etc. Since projects change at the speed of technology, sometimes a job description will, too. IT staffing companies find that it’s not uncommon for a job description to change between the time it’s posted and time the candidate is hired. Sometimes there’s not time to change the job description as it’s posted online, too. So even if your resume matches a job posting to T, it doesn’t mean that you’re what the hiring team needs.
You might be great, but perhaps another candidate was better. This kind of scenario isn’t specific to the tech world at all. Sometimes IT recruiting firms will find that the candidates who apply to a job blow the hiring managers away, exceeding all expectations. You never know if one of these kinds of candidates did the interview before or after you. This is something only the hiring manager can see. So if you don’t land the job, even if you told your recruiters you felt like it was in the bag, consider this possibility. You might have been great; you were just competing against somebody even more suited to the role.
So what do you do now? If you didn’t land the job, even if you fully expected to, you can still gain something. Ask your IT recruiting agencies for feedback. Really listen and see if you can use it to improve your chances in the next job you apply for. If you can’t get any feedback, it’s still important to be gracious. You never want a hiring manager or IT staffing companies to consider you rude, difficult to work with, or arrogant. Sometimes, the tech industry can be a small world. Don’t mar your reputation in it!
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It can be tough to fill open tech positions at your company. The US still has a shortage of qualified professionals to fill the new IT jobs which open up or are created daily. IT recruiting firms find that the tech field is still very much a job seeker’s market. How can you make sure your company stays competitive in attracting and hiring the best talent? Here are 2 tips from IT staffing companies on best practices for hiring tech talent.
1. Focus on building a great corporate culture. Tech employers used to compete for great talent with their perks. In the beginning of the Dotcom boom, stocked kitchens, catered lunches, subsidized commuting costs, etc used to be a huge draw. Now it seems that many other industries have jumped on this bandwagon. Exciting perks are much more available at many employers, and thus aren’t really as a big of a draw to IT professionals.
The new commodity that’s harder to come by, and thus a bigger draw, is great culture. Glassdoor and its anonymous, unfiltered reviews has probably played a big hand in making job searchers more aware of this. IT recruiters find that candidates often ask about the management and corporate culture at a potential job right after they hear about the work. Having an open, innovative culture that allows employees some agency in shaping their life at work is a huge draw. If you want to attract technical talent, IT staffing firms suggest building a management team with great communication skills, an interest in helping their employees grow and build their skill base, and who prioritize their employees’ happiness.
Building great corporate culture might be one of the hardest ways to attract employees, but technical recruiters suggest it because it’s effective and it also helps retain employees down the road. Instead of investing in gimmicky perks, take time to make your company a workplace where people are generally happy. It will pay off now, and in the future.
2. Move faster in your hiring process. IT recruiting agencies caution employers against moving at too slowly for hiring all tech positions. As mentioned before, the tech field is a job seeker’s market. The unemployment rate for IT professionals is notoriously low—often as low as half the national average. If a candidate comes on the market, they could be gone in as little as 2 weeks. (Highly sought after IT professionals like DevOps and Big Data Engineers, as well as Full-Stack or CRM Developers might be off the market even faster than that!) IT staffing agencies find that many candidates aren’t even ever unemployed or looking. They’re passive candidates who are lured away from their current job with a pay raise, better commute, etc. So if you want to hire the best tech talent, you’ll have to move fast. Respond to applications and submittals by IT recruiting companies as soon as you can. Make offers in days, not weeks. IT recruiters see employers lose out on the candidates they really want all to frequently because they just took too long.
Unlike some fields like Education or Retail, hiring trends in the Tech sector usually stay steady in the Summer. Because technology is vital to most business operations, and because innovation is necessary to a competitive business, Tech employees are indispensable. Replacing them or adding new ones often cannot wait until after Labor Day. Your job search in the summer may be a different beast than the rest of the year, though. Here are two tips for tailoring your search for IT jobs when the weather gets hot and everyone is on vacation.
Take advantage of the strong market for passive job seekers. If you’re in the Tech field, you have the option to be more of a passive job seeker than in other fields. Even if you don’t apply to jobs directly, you probably still get contacted by IT recruiters. Between LinkedIn, Monster, and other similar web sites, it’s very easy for IT staffing firms to find you. If you’re looking for a new job in the summer, but want to spend more time outside than on your job search, take advantage of this passive job seeker market. Reach out to IT recruiting agencies with your updated resume. Turn on the ‘interested in other opportunities’ switch on your LinkedIn profile. Post your resume on Indeed and Monster. Add a line to your LinkedIn profile about being open to new opportunities. One caveat: don’t do any of these things if you think your boss or coworkers will see and respond negatively! You don’t want to endanger your current employment.
Ask for timelines when you’re interviewing, waiting for feedback, etc. You’ll need to walk a fine line with this, but having better expectations will make the process easier. Hiring for permanent jobs in the tech sector can be extra slow in the summer. Companies may be forced to wait on managers and their vacation schedules to set up interviews, make hiring decisions, get feedback, etc. If you’re working with IT recruiting companies, this is exactly the kind of advantage they’ll provide. You can ask them when they think managers will make a decision and what the next steps in the process are with impunity. There’s no risk that you’ll look desperate or bother a hiring manager. If you’re not working with IT staffing agencies, you can still ask for timelines on hiring decisions, scheduling interviews, etc. The key is to do so judiciously. Ask once. Don’t ask somebody like the CEO of the company, or a very high up manager. Try asking somebody like HR or the internal recruiter, who won’t mind answering questions like this at all.
Summer is the season when most people think about vacation. Even if you’re searching for new IT jobs, your focus might still be at least a little diverted by thoughts of a beach getaway, visiting family, or a trip to Europe. Here are some common questions you might have about vacation time if you’re working with IT recruiting firms to find your next role.
- If I get a new role, can I still take a vacation this summer? The short answer is yes and no. If you’ve already planned a trip, booked flights, hotels, etc, then you probably can. If you’ve planned a few vacation days that revolve around an important event like a family reunion or wedding, you probably can. All you have to do is mention these trips when you receive a job offer (not before). Your hiring manager may suggest pushing your start date out til after your trip, or plan to have you out for those days. If you want to spontaneously take a few days off within the first 90 days of your employment, this is less likely to be ok. IT staffing firms find that between the onboarding process, training, and the need for creating a good impression with the new boss and team, this is almost never a good call. Spend your first 3 months being focused, impressing your boss and team, and being present in the office. You can take a spontaneous vacation after that, when you’ve earned trust and respect from your new employer!
- I have a vacation planned. Do I talk about it with my interviewer? Wait until you get a job offer. In the tech field, it’s really important to establish for your interviewer that you’re passionate about some combination of the work, the role, the team and the company. When you bring up things like vacation, this can take away from that impression. Hiring managers get that you have a life outside of work, but the interview is such a short process that you should focus on talking about yourself as a professional, not your vacation plans.
- Can I ask about the vacation part of a benefits package in an interview? The same principle applies here. Steer clear of talking to your interviewer about vacation time until you have an offer on the table. Focus on figuring out if the job is a good fit for you and for the company. If you really want to know, you can talk to your IT recruiters, check out the company’s info on Glassdoor, or do some Googling. You’ll probably find it somewhere online and you won’t have to risk making yourself seem like anything less than a very dedicated employee.
- What about this ‘Unlimited PTO’ trend? Technical recruiters are finding this trend is becoming more and more popular in the tech field. It’s important to note that this benefit is meant to be used in some moderation, though. Companies usually offer unlimited PTO to employees with the caveat that they need to get through their work. Getting that software released on time, debugging that code, or finishing that big project should all happen before you go on an extended vacation. Your team needs to be able to count on you— not count on you to be out of the office again. IT recruiting firms also find that this benefit usually comes with a role that has a high workload. Unlimited PTO is a reward for the hard work that’s expected. So take a minute to really consider the role. Don’t just take a job for this benefit alone!