What it takes to get hired (besides a great résumé)

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Many IT professionals painstakingly craft their résumés but pay little attention to the activity surrounding the submission of that document. Because employers build their impression of you not only based on your résumé, but also on your interactions with them, one misstep can be just as damaging as a résumé that fails to convey how you can meet an organization's needs.

Dave Willmer
Dave Willmer

At a time when hiring managers are highly attuned to any signals that can help them narrow a field of candidates, questionable behavior can undermine even the strongest résumé. Below are seven common mistakes IT professionals make during the application process.

Ignoring instructions. The ability to follow detailed directions may not be a glamorous skill, but it's an essential one. Before submitting your résumé, be sure to read the job listing carefully, paying close attention to the requirements of the position and to the instructions about how and where to submit your résumé. Also note that disregarding directions in an effort to stand out from the crowd is more likely to eliminate you from contention. If a job listing says "no phone calls," don't call.

Submitting blindly. If you're interested in working for a certain company but aren't sure of the appropriate contact, resist the temptation to flood the company's IT department with résumés. Some candidates find e-mail addresses online and then blindly send résumés, hoping one will find its way to the right person. That scattershot approach is rarely effective and will more likely annoy a potential employer. Instead, use your network to make a personal connection with an employee of the company. Once the relationship has been firmly established, that person might be able to direct you to the appropriate hiring manager and might even be willing to provide a referral on your behalf. Such an incremental approach might take some time, but it enables you to confidently submit your résumé to the right person.

Applying for the wrong jobs. If your job search has been a long one, it's reasonable to consider broadening the range of roles you're targeting. However, seeking a position for which you are severely under- or overqualified wastes your time as well as the employer's. It might also convey desperation — not the impression you want to make with a hiring manager who may eventually have a more appropriate opportunity for you.

Failing to follow up. Following up with an e-mail or phone call after submitting your résumé demonstrates your initiative and confirms your interest in the position. Don't underestimate this simple step — it can be what causes the hiring manager to dig out your résumé from the pile and give it a second look.

Following up inappropriately. Give the employer time to process your résumé, but don't wait too long — one to two weeks is generally considered an appropriate length of time. Don't follow up merely to ask if your résumé has been received; instead, use the time to briefly reiterate your interest in the position and assert how your skills can benefit the employer. Close by stating your interest in discussing the opportunity further.

Pestering the employer. A single e-mail or call reasserts your interest in the opportunity while respecting the employer's time. If your résumé and follow-up don't convince the hiring manager that you're a viable candidate for the position, repeated calls and e-mails aren't likely to do so either.

Disclosing your troubles. Don't describe the difficulties of your job search in any communication with employers. You main gain sympathy, but you won't improve your chances of receiving an offer. Convey to hiring managers how your skills and experience can benefit their company, not how much you'd appreciate coming on board.

All of these mistakes can be viewed as variations on the same theme: focusing on your own immediate needs as a job seeker. Ironically, the most effective way to achieve your ultimate goal of finding a new opportunity is to instead focus on the potential employer's needs and how you can meet them. By doing so, you present the clearest possible evidence that you represent a smart investment.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

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