One of my most recent Computerworld columns, titled “Can’t Find a Job? Here’s Why ...,” dealt with the lingering frustration felt by some IT professionals who, though highly skilled and experienced, are finding it challenging to locate a new position in today’s employment market. The article drew a number of responses from readers who appreciated the advice but expressed continued difficulty with their job searches. If you’re among those in the job hunt, consider whether you may be falling into these common job-search traps:
Your focus is too narrow. There is no shortage of brand-name companies in the IT world, and many job seekers would love to work for a large, well-known firm. But keep in mind that for every big company that exists, there are hundreds of smaller firms. In fact, the vast majority of companies in the U.S. are small or midsize, and, what’s more, they’re almost always hiring.
Recent research from the National Federation of Independent Business indicates that nearly one in four small-business owners has one or more job openings. That group might range from a three-person bookstore in need of an electronic security system to a biotech start-up searching for a half-dozen help desk professionals. And, unlike high-profile firms that can attract thousands of resumes per job posting, you’ll likely compete against fewer candidates when applying for positions with smaller organizations.
Niche job sites such as Craigslist.org or Dice.com are good places to start for job leads, as are company Web sites. Also, consider direct inquiries or informational interview requests if you’re interested in working for a specific company.
You don’t make finding a job a full-time job. Sending out a handful of resumes each week is a lot like tossing a single bottle into the ocean and hoping someone responds to the message you left inside. To find a job, you must cast a wide net. It’s a numbers game, and the more inquiries you make, resumes you submit and employment interviews you go on, the better your chances of success. Of course, these activities all require a significant input of time and effort.
My advice is to set aside a few hours each week to focus solely on your job search. For example, you may consider scanning open positions and calling members of your professional network for two hours every other night and work on your resume each Saturday until noon. If you’re not currently employed, you should dedicate even more time.
You don’t network. The simple truth is that networking is the most effective way to find a new job. A referral from someone you know is likely to land you an interview with a prospective employer or, at the very least, move your resume to the top of the consideration pile. Even if your contacts are unaware of any immediate openings, they may be able to introduce you to others who do have job leads.
The best part about networking: It’s easier to do than you think. Talk to friends, family members, former co-workers and supervisors, IT professionals you meet at industry events -- even your doctor and dentist -- about your job search. I know many people who have found employment as a result of casual conversations they’ve had with everyday contacts. For IT professionals, online networking is increasingly popular -- and effective.
You’re less than perfect. Believe it or not, even one typo or grammatical goof on your resume or cover letter could be what is keeping you from finding a new position. With dozens or even hundreds of candidates to evaluate, a hiring manager won’t think twice about passing on the applicant who has five years of “SQL Saver” experience. Our company’s research has consistently shown that even a single typo on a resume or cover letter can take you out of the running for a job.
Ask another person to review your application materials before you submit them. That 10 extra minutes spent making sure everything is error-free could prove vital if he finds something amiss.
Robert Half Technology recently partnered with CareerBuilder.com to survey hiring managers about the current hiring environment. The results clearly show that the market is in your favor. Eighty-one percent of hiring managers polled said they consider it just as challenging, if not more so, to locate qualified candidates today than 12 months ago. And a nearly equal percentage expects the market to remain challenging in the coming year. So, press your advantage and remember the best practices outlined above to help land the job you seek.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.