Secret to Job Search Success

The most successful job candidates clearly define their needs and expectations and then clearly communicate them, along with their unique skills, to potential employers.
An interesting trend has recently emerged, one that we haven't seen in the IT staffing industry for a number of years: Approximately 80 percent of the candidates we represented to clients in a sampling of markets reported receiving not just one, but multiple job offers.

Certainly, the increased demand for IT professionals in both permanent and contract positions created by the improving economy was one reason for the boom in job offers. But that alone was not enough to explain the sudden, dramatic increase in multiple offers. So we took a closer look at what these professionals were doing that others were not.

What we found was not so much surprising as it was a confirmation of what we have suspected all along: The most successful job candidates are those who first take the time to clearly define their needs and expectations from the positions they are seeking, and second clearly communicate those needs and expectations, along with their unique skills, to potential employers.

Consider the following two examples that recently crossed my desk:

  • Candidate One was an incredibly talented and experienced senior-level programmer who had no success in his job search. One look at his 25-page resume and the reason for that was clear: It was nearly impossible to cull from all that information his unique skills, career goals, qualifications or any distinguishing information that would lead a hiring manager to believe he could be a good fit for their company.

  • Candidate Two was also a senior-level programmer. He submitted a very concise resume and cover letter that clearly defined his experience and his expectations including company size, industries, geographic location, as well as his requirements (i.e. little or no travel) based on his personal situation. Because he had so clearly "positioned" himself, we were able to quickly match him up with several potential employers, all of whom submitted job offers.
  • Unfortunately, too many people wind up in the "Candidate One" category because they tend to define their job search only by skill set, ignoring the other multiple factors that impact overall job satisfaction and appropriateness. Or they fail to effectively communicate their needs and expectations to hiring managers. This ultimately frustrates both candidate and company as they go through the interview process only to find that the position and/or company is completely outside the candidate's abilities or expectations.

    Do the Research

    That is why anyone considering a career or job change should take the time to do some advanced homework, not just on the position they hope to secure, but also on the kinds of companies that would fit their personal needs. Much of it is intuitive, but some of it requires some old-fashioned research.

    When it comes to defining the right fit for a position, job seekers should consider their capabilities and career goals, as well as whether their previous experience qualifies them for the position they think they want. Also consider the level of the position, responsibilities and working environment. Do you have the skills needed to supervise other IT employees? Do you prefer working solo to being part of a team? How important is it to you to have the opportunity to advance your skills sets by, for instance, getting the chance to try your hand at new programming languages? Are you willing to travel and, if so, how often?

    It's important to be brutally honest when defining job expectations because regardless of how talented you may think you are, the reality may be completely the opposite. After all, someone with two years of technology experience is unlikely to be qualified for a CTO position.

    As for defining the company, start by identifying your personal limitations and expectations. Are you willing to relocate? If so, what size city suits you and in what area of the country? Do you prefer to work in large corporations, or are smaller companies more appealing? What industries most interest you? What benefits do you expect to receive? How much overtime are you willing to work?

    Next, do your homework. Go online and identify companies that appear to meet your criteria. Identify the hiring managers as well as any positions they have open. Try to cultivate a relationship with someone in the IT department (local associations and networking events are good places to start) so that you can get inside information on what it's really like to work for that company, as well as a heads-up on any openings that may not yet have been posted.

    Before contacting the hiring managers of any of your target companies, however, you must be prepared to communicate what you expect from a particular position and why you would be a good fit for this particular company. This could be in the form of a properly drafted cover letter and resume. Or, if you're working with a staffing firm, you need to convey this information to your recruiter, who should then share it with potential employers on your behalf.

    That kind of careful "positioning" allows you, your recruiter and hiring managers to maximize the job search by quickly eliminating positions that are not a good fit before too much time and energy have been invested in the application and interview processes. As a result, you'll spend your time soliciting only those positions that are a perfect match for your skills, experience and personal expectations. With an efficient process in place that closely targets only those jobs that meet your preferences, you'll very likely wind up in the enviable position of having multiple offers to evaluate.

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