If you're sitting in your office right now, take a glance at the co-worker on your left and then at the co-worker on your right. Chances are one of them is looking to leave the company. Or perhaps it's you.
Some 53% of IT workers are actively or passively searching for a new job right now, according to a Computerworld survey of 431 readers. What's more, 46% of the respondents say it's been five years or more since their last job search.
For those who are new to job hunting in a Web 2.0 world, the hiring landscape is nearly unrecognizable. For starters, a lot of employers have stopped advertising open positions because they are deluged with resumes, many of which come from unqualified candidates. Today, recruiters and HR professionals have a suite of digital tools at their fingertips that can, for example, identify the 10 best job candidates on a social networking site within seconds. The trick for job hunters, then, is to make themselves easy to find on these sites.
An IT executive in Raleigh, N.C., discovered the importance of this trick first-hand last spring, when he found himself out of work after 18 years with the same company.
"I sure had not been in the job-seeking mode for a long time, and I was surprised at the process of getting your accomplishments and responsibilities 'out there,' " says the executive, who recently turned 50. While he had established a LinkedIn profile when the site came into existence, he hadn't updated it in years, nor had he saved a copy of his old resume. "I was starting from scratch," he says.
Recruiters agree that it's best to start looking for a new job while you are still employed and can build a robust network of contacts. Here, recruiters and savvy job finders reveal the top six must-have weapons in any job seeker's toolkit.
1. Your First Stop: LinkedIn
With more than 100 million registered users, LinkedIn is the world's de facto job board and is widely used by recruiters and job seekers alike.
"Nowadays, LinkedIn is your first interview, and it happens without you," says David E. Perry, managing partner of Ottawa-based recruiting firm Perry-Martel International and co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. "A hiring manager or recruiter takes a look at your background [on your LinkedIn profile] and makes the decision as a go or a no-go."
The biggest problem with LinkedIn, he cautions, is that most job hunters don't know how to use it effectively. Many users, for instance, post their entire resume on their LinkedIn profile instead of capturing a recruiter's interest with some key words and saving the "meat" for an in-person meeting. "Those key words will make your name pop up when recruiters are looking for someone with your title, skills or experience," says Perry.
IT job seekers can benefit from several new LinkedIn applications, such as SlideShare, which lets users browse and share presentations, and Creative Portfolio Display, which lets programmers, analysts and others showcase creative work on their LinkedIn profiles. "It allows you to differentiate yourself from everybody else," Perry says.
LinkedIn also offers a "Year in Review" app that lists all of the status changes, such as a new job, that your connections have made to their profiles in the past year. "You know these people. What better way to network than to follow up with them and find out what they did, how they did it, and if there are any leads you should know about," Perry says.
For job seekers who are targeting a specific company, LinkedIn has added a feature called Company Pages. By clicking the Statistics icon on a Company Page, or corporate profile, users can find out where departing employees found new jobs. This "networking with the newly departed," as Perry calls it, can give job seekers the inside scoop on what positions are available and what skills the IT department needs. "Imagine the power of having a conversation with an individual who worked in IT and understands first-hand what their three biggest challenges are. When you connect with an executive, you can [emphasize] the skills you have that can address those issues," Perry says.