The headlines are everywhere: “National IT unemployment rate below 3.3%! California’s unemployment rate 2.9%! IT staffing services juggling more job orders than candidates!” If there is so much demand for qualified consultants, then why is it so hard to get hired? In an industry theoretically desperate for resources, a surprising number of qualified technical candidates find their job applications unanswered, and calls unreturned. So, what’s the deal? Why do good candidates fall short?
In my work as a career coach and recruiter, I have encountered my fair share of clients and candidates stumped by unexpected hurdles. A variety of subtle elements contribute to job search success. Here are three top items to consider if you’re finding yourself in a job search slump.
1. Your Resume
Despite today’s sloppy hashtag-driven communication trends, a concisely written resume is a sign of respect to your prospective employer. When a recruiter notices that you didn’t take the time to intelligibly break down and illustrate your skills and experience, he or she will reciprocate your perceived lack of effort by ignoring your application. I don’t care how elusive your skill set is, for most hiring managers a poorly formatted resume riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors makes you look careless and disrespectful.
Whatever resume rules may come and go, remember these timeless tips when writing your resume:
- List your top hard skills (hardware, software, languages, methodology, tools, etc.) and specializations in bullets independent of job descriptions – bonus points if you tailor them to the job to which you are applying. This helps recruiters and hiring managers immediately identify your qualifications and start liking you already.
- Be specific in your job descriptions by referencing the exact technologies and methodologies you utilized, and how you interacted with them on the project. Remember those bullet points at the top? Expand on those. Don’t assume people will “just know” what you did as a project manager, business analyst, or tester. We won’t know how great you are unless you tell us. Spell it out.
- Proof, spell check, repeat.
- Bonus Tip: Don’t submit your resume on a fancy template. It may look appealing, but save that as your backup copy. Most companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that parses your resume out by skills, experience, name, contact info etc. A non-standard resume format may not be recognized by the ATS correctly, and may be costing you prospective interviews. The chronological format is your best bet.
2. Your Education
The Information Technology workforce, more so than almost any other industry, represents a large number of self-taught, high-level, top-skilled industry professionals. Degree requirements also pose a unique challenge to individuals who began their IT professions long before “Computer Science” or “Information Technology” were offered as majors by accredited universities.
Though occasional situations allow for education requirement flexibility many, especially those in public sector consulting, unfortunately don’t. While there isn’t much of an immediate solution to these constraints, it helps to be mindful of job requirements so as not to waste time applying to positions outside your qualifications. To remain competitive in the job market, I always encourage my candidates and clients to pursue some form of continued education. Earning certifications and licenses relevant to your line of work will give you a competitive edge over other qualified applicants.
3. Value Add
So, you’re an industry professional with 10+ years’ experience, and you have successfully contributed to the completion of multiple high-profile projects on-budget, and on-time. Sound like you? Good news: you’re not alone! Bad news: that’s not a good thing.
Though a job well-done is certainly appreciated by any company, unfortunately simply listing that on your resume won’t guarantee you a phone call or an interview. Merely meeting the minimum qualifications of a job description is often not enough to have your resume ear-marked for further review.
After we’ve verified that you match our bottom line qualifications, hiring managers start scanning your resume for items that make you stand out. We want to know that you mentored a team of 10 developers, increased project efficiency by 98%, or generated new business with your knowledge of and contributions to your clients’ needs. When considering a hire, hiring managers are looking for applicants whose professional strengths will not only contribute to the positive development of our growing team; we’re also keeping an eye out for candidates whose strengths will expand our clients’ awareness of the value we offer as a company.
At the end of the day, recruiters are usually pretty good at sorting through an unbelievably messy assortment of well-qualified, yet questionable resumes to find the diamonds in the rough – but just in case we haven’t had our 3rd cup of coffee that morning, why not stack the odds in your favor? Start by taking a second glance at your resume’s formatting, beefing up your education qualifications, and giving yourself the credit you’re due for the value you bring to a team.
Happy Job Hunting!