Tips on Getting a Better IT Job

Concentrate on the technique that works far better than any other. Plus: tips for shaping a tech resume, and recommendations for developing your career.


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Okay, you’re an IT professional and you’re looking for a job (or a better job than the one you have). Which of the following is most likely to get you a good gig:

• Troll the job boards.

• Work with an IT placement service or headhunter.

• Pick up the telephone and use your personal network.

All three are useful, but the best option, say industry experts, is to work the phone while casting a deep net through your personal connections.

“Networking on the phone – absolutely,” says John Estes, a VP with Robert Half Technology, an IT placement service. “The best way to find a job, whether you’re out of a job or just looking for a better one, is just good old-fashioned networking.”

The options are numerous: local professional groups (like, say, your city’s .NET developers group), old college friends, co-workers, managers, and tech schools. Heck, pester your old kindergarten teacher to see if she knows any hiring managers.

“Attack it from multiple avenues,” Estes says.

Picking up the phone and doing personal networking is far better than relying on job boards or even a top-flight headhunter, agrees Nick Corcodilos, himself a longtime IT headhunter and owner of AskTheHeadhunter.com.

“People think, ‘Man, if I get a headhunter to help me, I’ll be golden,’” he says. But it’s not that simple. Placement services are usually under contract with large employers who are seeking specific niche skills; they might pay a service a whopping $30-60k to find a specific pro. It’s not likely they’re looking for your mainstream area of expertise.

“The odds that the job hunter who calls me up is going to qualify for one of 3 or 4 assignments I’m working on is just about nil,” Corcodilos says.

The tech job boards, too, are a limited resource, in his view. He cites a recent study that indicated a mere .8 to 2.5 percent of the posted jobs are actually filled through job boards. “It sucks," he opines. While other industry observers likely dispute those figures – they may be much higher – it’s seems clear that job boards shouldn’t be a jobseeker’s sole tool.

Most IT jobs are filled through personal contact. “Somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts,” Corcodilos says. “The best people are referred by other employees.”

Given the importance of social networking (which may be tough for those tech pros who aren't chatty socializers) Corcodilos reiterates the best method: “Get your ass out of your chair, away from your PC, and meet and talk with people.”

He explains one of his old tricks that he recommends to IT staffers who are willing to work the phone:

“Ask yourself, what company would you love to work for? And what’s the division you want to work in? Pick up the phone, call the manager and introduce yourself.” Give your credentials and try to establish a rapport. “Then say, ‘I’m calling you because I really respect your company and I wanted to ask you: What headhunter do you use?’ It’s a very out-of-left-field question, and many managers will ask you why you want to know.” When you tell them you'll soon be job hunting (or are currently) they might put you on their list of possible hires – especially since they can hire you directly instead of paying a headhunter’s fee.

Even if you don’t get a nibble, you’ll (hopefully) find out the name of the headhunter or placement service they use, which will open doors to an agency that otherwise might not have returned your call. “As a headhunter, I will always return the call from someone who drops my client’s name,” Corcodilos says.

Job Boards and the IT Resume

Though the IT job boards aren’t instant hiring nirvana, they’re still worth scanning and posting your resume on. It’s important to distribute your resume as widely as possible. (Robert Half’s Estes even recommends keeping one with you at all times – even in your car.)

So go ahead and search through job boards like JustTechJobs, Dice, Monster, ITC, Vault, and ComputerWork.

But before you send out your resume, shine and polish it to present yourself in the best possible way.

“We see so many variations on the resume and a lot of people get really bad advice out there,” Estes says. “Some people tell jobseekers to list anything they’ve ever done in their life. Even someone with 10 years of experience shows up with a 7-page resume. And you get people who put the personal information on there and all kinds of stuff.” Bad idea, he explains.

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Tags: search, services, social networking, IT job, IT resume

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