Job Search Tips

Are Certifications Really Necessary?

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Relations

If you’re an IT professional, chances are you either have a certification or have thought about obtaining a certification at some point in your career.  These days you can find a certification for almost any skill, methodology or job title in the IT industry.  Are certifications really necessary to succeed as a technical professional?

I’ve been in the IT staffing business for more than 18 years.  I’ve placed more than a thousand technical professionals – some with certifications and some without.  I’ve talked with hiring managers about certifications, asking them why a certification is required, or even a degree for that matter, when a candidate obviously has a ton of real life experience and a successful track record.  Often times, certifications don’t help that much.  However, there are two instances when certifications make a real difference: (1) when you don’t have much experience and you’re trying to prove yourself; and (2) when it’s market driven.

If you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional wanting to change your area of expertise, certifications may help you land that first or next job.  Certifications will show that you’re serious about your career choice – after all they are typically expensive and time consuming.  In addition, it provides some external, objective measure of your abilities.  You’ll still have to successfully make it past the interview stage, but you may not have even made it that far without the certification.  Finally, it provides agency recruiters with a reason to present you to a position when they otherwise may have rejected you outright.  Most recruiters are not technical.  They rely on your honesty and such things as certifications when deciding whether or not to present you to their client.  A certification may just tip the scales in your favor.

Even if you’re not a recent college graduate or changing your career trajectory, certifications can become necessary as a result of market conditions.  In this context, I’m referring to market conditions in two ways – the overall employment market for IT professionals and what the market requires of a particular type of professional.  With regard to the employment market, currently it’s a candidate driven market – experienced candidates with good interpersonal skills can write their own ticket in many instances.  In this type of market, certifications are not as important.  If, however, the market were to change for the worse, as happened in 2001 and then again in 2008, HR and hiring managers would be inundated with candidates and need some way to differentiate them.  One easy, although imperfect, way to differentiate candidates is based on education, which includes certifications.

With regard to the market for particular professionals, there are skill sets / job titles that appear to demand certifications.  Examples of this include the PMP certification for project managers and the CISSP certification for IT security engineers.  Certifications, like hair styles, seem to come and go.  A few years back it seemed like every project management position required a PMP certification.  Today, less than a majority of them do.  Now the big fad is ScrumMaster certification.  The point is that if hiring managers have bought into the certification and you want a job with them, you may need to bite the bullet and get the certification.

From my experience, certifications are typically not necessary.  They can be helpful when you need to prove your abilities or when the market requires it, but nothing can take the place of good old-fashion experience and the school of hard-knocks.

HOW TO OVERCOME COMPUTER SCREENING AND GET THE JOB!

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Services

Computer screening of candidates is here to stay, whether we like it or not.  Convincing large corporations do away with the perceived efficiencies and cost savings is as daunting as trying to “put toothpaste back in the tube,” as mentioned by my colleague.  Or to use yet another analogy, it’s like trying to swallow an elephant whole.  I, however, am here to tell you there is hope!

You can put the toothpaste back in that tube – all it takes is time and creativity.  You can eat a whole elephant – it takes time and you’ll need to cut it into bite sized pieces – but you can do it!  Likewise, it may take extra time and creativity, but there are things you can do in your job search to help you overcome the disadvantages inadvertently created by the overuse of computer screening.

  • Don’t rely on job boards. Relying on the job boards almost guarantees you’ll go into the black hole of computer screening.  Job boards are a great place to do research on what types of positions are available at a particular company, but are a terrible place to actually get a job.  Identify companies you’re interested in, research them on the job boards and then network.
  • If you don’t have a network, now would be a great time to start creating one.  Networking is the best way to get a job.  LinkedIn is a great networking tool for both staying in contact with people and for finding connections into that company you identified.  Ask them out for coffee and pick their brain about your target companies.  They may know someone.
  • Pick up the phone. Email is overused and easy to ignore or delete.  When reaching out to people in your network or hiring managers, don’t over-rely on email.  Pick up the phone and call the person.  You’ll likely get voicemail, but that gives you the opportunity to both leave a message and then send an email.  Be persistent – if they don’t respond after three days, try them again.  Persistence is required and usually rewarded.
  • Treat your resume like a proposal. When submitting your resume, tailor it to the position for which you are applying.  Use their terminology and highlight those skills and experiences that apply to the job.  This means taking some extra time and rewriting portions of your resume each time you apply for a position.  It will go a long way to helping you stand out from the crowd and may help you successfully navigate the computer screening problem.
  • Go old school – send hand-written thank you cards. After meeting or interviewing with someone, send them an old fashioned hand-written thank you card.  Again, email is overused and easy to ignore or delete.  A hand-written thank you card will get you noticed.
  • Celebrate small victories. Finding a job can be exhausting and frustrating.  Whether you like it or not, you have become a sales person and you are selling yourself.  Successful sales people celebrate the small victories to help keep motivated.  Break down the job hunting process into small steps and celebrate along the way.

The impersonal nature of computer screening is annoying, but think of it as an opportunity to set yourself apart.  While all those other candidates are unwittingly wasting their time submitting resumes through job boards, you’re meeting people and making progress towards finding that perfect job.  It may feel like you’re trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, or swallow an elephant whole, but you can do it!

How To Overcome Computer Screening And Get The Job!

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

Computer screening of candidates is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Convincing large corporations do away with the perceived efficiencies and cost savings is as daunting as trying to “put toothpaste back in the tube,” as mentioned by my colleague. Or to use yet another analogy, it’s like trying to swallow an elephant whole. I, however, am here to tell you there is hope!

You can put the toothpaste back in that tube – all it takes is time and creativity. You can eat a whole elephant – it takes time and you’ll need to cut it into bite sized pieces – but you can do it! Likewise, it may take extra time and creativity, but there are things you can do in your job search to help you overcome the disadvantages inadvertently created by the overuse of computer screening.

Image Credit: Sylva Acupuncture & Wellness

Image Credit: Sylva Acupuncture & Wellness

  • Don’t rely on job boards. Relying on the job boards almost guarantees you’ll go into the black hole of computer screening. Job boards are a great place to do research on what types of positions are available at a particular company, but are a terrible place to actually get a job. Identify companies you’re interested in, research them on the job boards and then network.
  • Network. If you don’t have a network, now would be a great time to start creating one. Networking is the best way to get a job. LinkedIn is a great networking tool for both staying in contact with people and for finding connections into that company you identified. Ask them out for coffee and pick their brain about your target companies. They may know someone. 
  • Pick up the phone. Email is overused and easy to ignore or delete. When reaching out to people in your network or hiring managers, don’t over-rely on email. Pick up the phone and call the person. You’ll likely get voicemail, but that gives you the opportunity to both leave a message and then send an email. Be persistent – if they don’t respond after three days, try them again. Persistence is required and usually rewarded.
  • Treat your resume like a proposal. When submitting your resume, tailor it to the position for which you are applying. Use their terminology and highlight those skills and experiences that apply to the job. This means taking some extra time and rewriting portions of your resume each time you apply for a position. It will go a long way to helping you stand out from the crowd and may help you successfully navigate the computer screening problem.
  • Go old school – send handwritten thank you cards. After meeting or interviewing with someone, send them an old fashioned handwritten thank you card. Again, email is overused and easy to ignore or delete. A handwritten thank you card will get you noticed.
  • Celebrate small victories. Finding a job can be exhausting and frustrating. Whether you like it or not, you have become a sales person and you are selling yourself. Successful sales people celebrate the small victories to help keep motivated. Break down the job hunting process into small steps and celebrate along the way.

The impersonal nature of computer screening is annoying, but think of it as an opportunity to set yourself apart. While all those other candidates are unwittingly wasting their time submitting resumes through job boards, you’re meeting people and making progress towards finding that perfect job. It may feel like you’re trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, or swallow an elephant whole, but you can do it!

 

What You’re Doing Wrong In Your Job Search – Part I

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

This will be the first installment in addressing some of the glaring deficiencies in so many job searches I see candidates conducting. This part will address finding the open jobs and sending in resumes.

So you’ve been looking for a new job. Maybe it’s because you’re out of work, or maybe it’s because you don’t like your current job. And you’ve had some interviews, but not as many as you’d like. What’s wrong? Well, employers ARE being very selective these days; as selective as I’ve ever seen. It’s understandable; the costs of a bad hire are very, very high, and no manager needs that on their record. Here are some tips – and yes, all of these come from actual experience (resumes and job search strategies) I have seen in my 14-year recruiting career.

1) You’re only utilizing one method to find open jobs. 

Yes, I know…everyone says networking with your peers and friends is the best way to find a job. I do agree. However, I wouldn’t have had a job for the last 14 years and the IT staffing industry wouldn’t exist if you couldn’t get a job using a recruiter or on a job board. Just don’t ONLY use job boards or recruiters. You have to do all three things, and more, to find that great job. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, I also recommend joining pertinent networking groups (both online and in-person) and calling in to companies for whom you’d like to work. There are forward-thinking companies that will make hires if they find the right person, even if a job isn’t “officially” open. One way of finding good in-person networking groups is Meetup.com. It’s not just for meeting singles or joining a book club. There are a lot of excellent job-related and skill-related meet-ups.

2) You’re sending the same old, tired resume for every job.

Your resume needs to speak to each job individually. Managers are combing through resumes, not only for grammar and spelling errors, but to make sure the skills they need are reflected on the resume. You probably can’t get every skill you have

Image Credit: AlleyWatch

Image Credit: AlleyWatch

on your “standard” resume, so make sure you look over the job description very closely, and make sure ALL OF YOUR RESUME aligns with it. That means your objective, your skills summary and your work experience section. Just adding a couple of keywords to your skills summary isn’t good enough. I also recommend a “Selected Achievements” section where you can point out some of the ways in which you have gone above and beyond or spearheaded (or participated on) a project that was high-profile or saved/earned your employer money.

3) Your resume doesn’t show the hiring manager how you will make the company more profitable and his/her job easier.

Just showing that you have all the skills the job description lists isn’t enough. You need to demonstrate why you’re the best choice within all the candidates who also have those skills. This means highlighting projects with which you saved an employer money, projects where you took initiative, ways in which you are constantly striving to better your skills, etc. This can be by taking additional classes, going for certifications, showing career growth at an employer, volunteering in a relevant field and more.  For software developers, for example, there are open source projects online that you can participate in. This shows your employer that you have a passion and drive for your job and that you take the time outside of work to hone your craft. 

4) You aren’t doing your homework.

I’ll address this as it pertains to interviews in a future post, but it also applies to finding the job openings and applying. First of all, you need to keep a close eye on the business news. There will be mentions of companies expanding, opening new offices, getting new rounds of funding, etc., and those are the companies you want to target. Don’t wait for a job posting. Look them up on the Internet and on LinkedIn and find some hiring managers and call them directly! This shows drive and initiative right from the start. Secondly, many open jobs never see the “light of day,” meaning there’s never an actual job posting on the Internet. Managers have a need, they mention it to their team, they get a referral and make a hire. If you’re looking for a job, make sure you talk with everyone you know and make sure they understand what you do and why they would want to recommend you to their boss. Additionally, many jobs go to recruiting agencies and might be on a corporate website, but are never out there for easy access. That means also cultivating a relationship with a few recruiters whom you trust. Make sure they always share the client name with you and take the time to get to know you and your skills and what kinds of jobs and companies you are targeting. And finally, so many people do all the upfront work, but then never adjust their resume to reflect the company’s business, industry or culture. This should be reflected in your resume’s objective, but also in your employment history – talk about any relevant experience you have to that particular company’s line of business or industry.

I guess the bottom line with all of these points is that too many people are simply lazy in their job search. They don’t want to do the legwork up front with networking, doing research and making calls, and they don’t want to take 30 minutes to tailor a resume to a job. So if you really want to make an impression and maximize your opportunities, don’t be lazy!

Working With Recruiters: Job Seeker Tips

By: Emily Davis-VanKooten and Kristen Tripp, National IT Recruiters at Quantix

Working with a recruiter throughout your job search can be incredibly beneficial. However, if you’ve never worked with a recruiter before or are unsure of how to handle the situation, the experience can be frustrating. Keeping these 10 tips in mind the next time you have a discussion with a recruiter may help ease the process and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

1) Send recruiters your updated resume even if you are not actively looking for a new position. You never know when a great opportunity will come up and this keeps your name and skills at the front of the recruiter’s mind.

2) Tailor your resume for the position you are interested in and applying for.

Image Credit: Books for Better Living/Abigail Garner

Image Credit: Books for Better Living/Abigail Garner

3) If you are actively in the job market, try to be responsive to your recruiter’s calls and emails.

4) Research the company you are interviewing with and come up with relevant questions for the manager.

5) Be flexible with your availability for interviews with managers.

6) Be honest, yet confident on your skill level. Don’t over or undersell yourself.

7) Keep track of where you have submitted your resume to avoid double submission.

8) Be open to constructive criticism with your resume, as the recruiter has firsthand knowledge of what managers are typically looking for.

9) Be upfront about what your salary expectations are on the front end. Once the interview process has started, it is difficult to go back and negotiate.

10) Have industry awareness on salary expectation for the position you are seeking.

 

Candidates: How To Effectively Work With Staffing Agencies

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

If you’re an IT professional, you’ve surely interfaced with a recruiter from a staffing agency at some point in your career. And for those of you who aren’t in IT, you may have run across recruiters as well – there are lots of us out there in many industries! Well, have you ever wondered why you would want to work with a recruiter? Or if there was a better, more efficient way you could work with an agency?

Why would you even want to work with a staffing agency? Don’t they make money if you get the job? YOU don’t get anything extra out of it! Does it really benefit you, the candidate, to work with an agency when it’s the company who pays them??? Well, the answer in most cases is yes, it does benefit the candidate to work with an agency. But you need to ask some basic questions to see if the agency with whom you are working is one that will help you most.

First, many agencies work directly with hiring managers, while others don’t have that kind of access. If your agency DOES work directly with the hiring manager, they can vastly increase your odds of getting the job over you applying directly. When the agency discusses the position with you, they can help you bring out parts of your experience that might pertain directly to this position, including experiences and skills you may not have accentuated on your resume. Had you sent your resume in to the company job board, it would have been screened by a non-technical person and likely rejected. But since you had the recruiter help you with your resume, then put it directly in the hands of the hiring manager, your chances at that job are much greater.

Image Credit: Optimal Sales Search

Image Credit: Optimal Sales Search

Second, did the recruiter take the time to really get to know you and what types of positions you are interested in? If they did, that recruiter is much more likely to stay in touch with you in the future, even if the current role you are working on together doesn’t pan out. That’s another thing a good recruiter can bring to the table – access to positions and companies you never would have found on your own. And if they know you and your desires well, they can bring you these types of positions on an ongoing basis.

So there are two tips on best working with an agency: 1) Ask if they are working directly with the hiring manager for the position and 2) See how in-depth the recruiter gets with you in the screening process.

What else can you do to maximize this process? Well, another point is honesty. A recruiter can’t help you if you aren’t up front and honest about your skills, your desired pay rate and where you are in the job search process. If you misrepresent your skills, you may end up getting embarrassed in the interview with the client, as they will certainly ask you technical questions. If you aren’t honest about how much money you want, you may end up shortchanging yourself or pricing yourself out of the position altogether. Recruiters always have to provide a rate or salary to their clients when presenting a candidate, so trying to hide your salary or not disclosing it will likely keep you out of consideration. And finally, if you don’t keep your recruiter apprised of your other job interviews, they can’t go to bat for you with their client. Remember, if they inform their client that you have interviews or offers coming, they may be able to get the client to move a little faster. And that job might just be the perfect one for you!