How to Not Get an IT Job: 10 Tips

A survey of classic mistakes made by job hunters in the tech job market.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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Posted September 16, 2008

James Maguire

James Maguire

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Also see: IT Salary Survey, January 2009 (gives comparative numbers between '08 and '09.)

You have IT skills and you have experience as a tech professional. You’re even willing to take a shower and dress nicely for an interview. But you’ve seen some big fish slip away. Other candidates scored the IT positions you were after.

Or, you’re sitting in your current tech job seriously thinking about switching employers, and you want to shape up your approach. You want to boost your chances that the phone will ring with a lucrative offer. Ring, baby, ring.

In either case, the following guide to tech job-hunting faux pas can help. By avoiding these mistakes, you increase your chances of increasing your salary. And that’s a good thing.

So stop scouring the job boards for a moment and take a gander:

1) Put a generic objective at the top of your resume.

On a daily basis, hiring reps in Human Resources departments see about 10,000 resumes with an Objective or Goal at the top that is mind-bogglingly generic.

For instance:

“OBJECTIVE: To work for a dynamic IT company where I can experience career growth and work with a highly qualified tech team.”

That piece of boilerplate says absolutely nothing about you specifically. Worse, it encourages bored, overworked hiring reps to place your resume in the dreaded discard pile.

“Having a very generic resume basically reveals that you’ll take any kind of IT job that comes along,” says Nick Corcodilos, a veteran IT headhunter and owner of AskTheHeadhunter. “You’re applying for almost anything in IT you might be remotely qualified for.”

To better romance an employer, your Objective should be tailored specifically for them. Naturally this requires you to research your prospective employer’s business niche. Then write your Objective with them in mind.

Such as:

“OBJECTIVE: To leverage my database programming skills to enable a growing IT firm to better target the small and mid-sized database application market.”

Bingo! That’s an arrow sent right to heart. Here are more IT resume tips.

2) Make it Clear You’re Unconcerned with the Company’s Bottom Line.

You’re in deep danger of getting an IT job if, in the interview or cover letter, you emphasize your focus on company revenues. To avoid getting hired, pay no attention to business concerns whatsoever. Make it clear you’re an IT expert – business is a subject you have only shuddering disdain for.

In many companies, the business dweebs exist in a separate armed camp from the tech geeks. Both sides glare at either other uncomprehendingly. Letting the hiring rep know you’ll stand on one side only is a sure way to miss the job offer.

Or, if you want to get hired, Corcodilos reveals one of his secrets:

“One of the most successful techniques that I teach to candidates is to go into the interview and talk about profitability of the department and company for the manager. Managers never get people any people coming in and talking about that stuff. Managers are usually startled when somebody comes in, a technologist, and says ‘there’s a profit component here – and I’m concerned about that.’”

3) Let the manager know how fed up your are with your prior employer’s technology.

This one is a classic for IT staffers, given that the quality of an employer’s technical infrastructure so affects their daily life. If the servers are semi-ancient, or the IT budget is doled out grudgingly (a constant), the tech staff grumbles. Sometimes loudly.

Expressing these emotions in a job interview is a mistake, Corcodilos notes. “Tell the manager that you’re applying with how much you’re fed up with your old company because the technology sucks.” Then forget about the job offer.

“Every company you talk to might look like they’ve got new, golden technology,” he says. “But what any CTO will tell you is that our technology is probably as far behind as the last guy’s.”

It’s a case of the grass looking greener. “If you’re the manager on the receiving end of this stuff and you know better, it kind of makes you realize you’re talking to someone who’s not very sophisticated.”

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Tags: programming, IT, servers, technology, jobs

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