The Secret to a Successful IT Job Hunt

By Esther Shein (Send Email)
Posted Jul 31, 2009


During a time when the number of applicants for most IT jobs has more than doubled, candidates need to work harder than ever to set themselves apart from the pack.

Career & Staffing: By following a few simple best practices, it is possible to land that IT dream job.

Career coaches and counselors says the biggest mistake IT workers make when applying for a job is not focusing on results from past jobs, but rather, a laundry list of skills they've acquired. They say this is not the time to be shy; highlight your achievements and how you helped the business.

Applicants "tend to have all the technical lingo and that they've been exposed to this and that, but they don't talk about their experiences," says Frank Cullen, president of The Cullen Group, a career management firm based in Boston. "They talk about programs they've worked with rather than the real value they will bring to the company."

Another mistake is having a resume that is too brief. Making your resume fit into one page doesn't work in the IT industry, maintains Kingsley Tagbo, an IT career coach with IT Career Boot Camp by Exacticity Inc.

"You have to get into detail about your technical skills, since people are looking for skill sets and will compare your resume to someone else's," says Tagbo, in O'Sallon, Mo. IT is a "skills-crazy industry" and "The person who details every skill for a software developer's position, will get more notice because of the relevant detail being provided."

Make sure the resume is readable and has white space, advises Mario DiCioccio, an executive and personal coach based in Narberth, Pa. How far back in time you go depends on your experience level and how that experience has changed over time.

"There's a designation that you go back 10 years," he says. "The more standard thing is to include less and less about jobs over time because they become less important the further back you go."

Networking during a job search is crucial, DiCioccio adds. "It's a tough environment out there now and one of the best ways to identify opportunities and explore how to make career changes is to learn how to ... use your network. Talk to people about the ideal job you're looking for and ask if they know anyone who does that whose brain you could pick." He says people like to help, but if they sense you are needy or desperate they tend to shy away because they're afraid you'll badger someone.

Prior to going in to the interview, research the company. Go online, find out about their business, the products they make and the department you'd be working for, Tagbo says. Once you've landed the interview, prove you're good at communicating with people and will be a team player.

If the company you're applying with is small, however, back off from talking about being a team player and more about your ability to get things done, so be sure to understand the context of the interview, he says. If possible, show proof of your work. Bring samples on a CD and explain your contributions to a project.

Also be sure to talk specifics: the increased efficiencies, better customer turnaround time, increased revenue and reduced costs that a system you worked on had for a business unit, etc., suggests Cullen.

"I find that most technical people talk about technical stuff, and people are more interested in hearing about the impact on the company," he says.

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