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8 Tips for Landing a Job in '08

These steps will help get you in the door. The rest is up to you.

By Thomas Hoffman
December 24, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Sure, demand for IT labor in the U.S. is strong in nearly all industries and government sectors. But having a technical certification or work experience won't guarantee an interview, let alone a job offer. Here are some tips from IT labor experts, recruiters, IT executives and IT workers themselves on how to get noticed, nail the interview and wind up in the catbird's seat.

1. Come prepared for the interview. This sounds like a no-brainer, but hiring managers are increasingly looking for candidates who can do more than a "tech interview."

They may ask you to explain your past experiences or describe how you would handle certain situations on the job, says Jill Herrin, CEO of JDResources Inc., a Memphis-based recruiter. Inquiries like these help employers to determine both your communication skills and your technical knowledge.

2. Talk business. Prospective employers also want to know whether you understand how systems and applications affect various business divisions, Herrin says. "Technical interviews are still an important component to an interview process, but rarely are they the only determining factor anymore," she explains.

"We want somebody with technical acumen, but I would like to know that these people know the basis for making money," says Frank Hood, CIO at Quiznos in Denver.

3. Work your relationships. Employers and job candidates alike are jumping on the use of social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook to connect with college alumni, former business associates and mentors "to get better access to the inside jobs," says Dan Reynolds, CEO of Princeton, N.J.-based staffing firm The Brokers Group LLC.

You should too.

And if you're an entry-level candidate, social networks are a great way for you to get a foot in the door, says Michael Nieset, managing partner for the technology practice in the Cleveland office of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. You can identify and connect with potential employers through entry-level job listings on social networks.

4. Dot your "i"s. Make sure your resume and project accomplishments are clearly documented using proper English and correct spelling.

"You won't even make it past the first gate" if your resume is sloppy, says Robert Rosen, immediate past president of IBM user group SHARE and CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Md.

5. Strut your stuff. Effective resumes are direct and succinct. Hiring managers want to see what you've achieved. "Employers want to see 'I managed this, I coordinated that'," says Reynolds. "They don't want to see 'assisted with this' or 'supported that.'" I

f you weren't the project leader on a particular effort, underscore what you did contribute. If you're a systems administrator, point out the importance of your role in a critical project and whether the effort was delivered under budget or ahead of schedule, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology in Menlo Park, Calif., and a Computerworld columnist.

6. Keep learning. Employers want IT workers who have a demonstrated thirst for knowledge and a willingness to learn new things. Pick up certifications in hot technologies or take an evening course at a local community college to improve your business acumen.

Then flaunt it. "Education is absolutely vital to further your career in IT," says Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development at the Computing Technology Industry Association Inc. in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

7. Do what it takes to appear employable. If you're currently unemployed and seeking a full-time position, find a temporary position or work as a contractor, says Joel Reiter, an application analyst at U.S. Bancorp in St. Paul, Minn. It's "a good way of erasing a period of time where you didn't have a job." he says.

It's also important to demonstrate determination and flexibility, says Joe Trentacosta, CIO at the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative in Hughesville. "Programmers need to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and learn new technologies, to work nights and weekends if necessary," he says. "It shows that they're willing to be aggressive and to learn new technologies."

8. Get a foot in the door. Don't hesitate to take a temporary position, a contract or a temp-to-hire job. As demand for IT workers has ticked up, rates for contractors are also on the rise, having jumped 3% to 5% over the past five months for IT contractors in general and by 10% to 15% for people with highly sought skills, such as J2EE expertise and open-source programming abilities, says Reynolds.

"Once you come in as a temp or a contractor, no one is really looking at your resume. They're looking at whether you can or can't do a particular job," says Reiter.


Forecast 2008: IT Trends & Predictions for the New Year

HOT TRENDS COOL PROJECTS YOUR CAREER OPINIONS
How'd we do in '07?  See last year's Forecast 2007.

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