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Landing interviews in a tough hiring market

By Katherine Spencer Lee
January 6, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Even when the economy is thriving, landing interviews for IT positions can be daunting. Under today's challenging conditions, it may feel like a distant possibility. While market realities have indeed made it more difficult to secure job interviews, they don't affect every job seeker equally. The fact is that some companies are conducting interviews. The candidates who approach their search in a persistent, strategic and positive way are the ones most likely to be taking advantage of those opportunities.

Challenge your assumptions

The first mistake many job seekers make is to assume that companies aren't hiring. There's always a need for skilled IT professionals, even when cutbacks affect other business areas. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don't discount any possibilities. Think of past positions you've held -- did they come about in an orderly, predictable way, or through an unexpected connection or chain of events?

Likewise, you never know which contact will lead to another contact who ultimately leads you to a promising opportunity. Word of mouth is at its most valuable during turbulent times. Make a list of people in -- or near -- your network who might be able to provide job leads or move your resume to the top of the pile. Use online tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn to augment your in-person efforts, and bring people on the outskirts of your network inside it.

Also consider expanding your search. If your area of the country has been hit especially hard, are you willing to search for employment elsewhere? If so, take some time to identify regions where the economy has remained relatively strong. Sources such as the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide can help you identify areas where demand might be higher for your skills and experience.

Do your homework

Especially during difficult economic conditions, hiring managers are likely to favor candidates who have made an effort to learn about the firm's challenges rather than merely sending out generic pleas for employment. Before applying for a position, learn about the employer and its needs. Your cover letter and resume should clearly convey how your skills and experience can help meet those needs.

Start by doing some research online about the company's history, industry, market, chief competitors and business objectives. Because most of your competition for a position will also have done at least a little homework about the company, try to find information that isn't widely available. Use your network to gain a more intimate sense of the business from people who have worked there.

Get face time

IT job candidates who are focused exclusively on quickly landing an offer often neglect informational interviews, which can be set up with a simple call or e-mail.

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