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Job Hunting Tips October 31, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.

For your benefit/general amusement, here are things I’ve learned in my last year of IT contracting…

(1) Tell everyone that you know that you’re on the market. Everyone has a brother, friend, mother, etc, and some of them are hiring managers that would consider you for assignments.

(2) Get a portfolio. When you do get an interview, you’ll have to show the hiring manager that you’ve been there and done that, and a resume is not going to cut it. I have a laptop with my work (that previous employers have given permission for me to show) so I can give them a live demo. Even if you are a student fresh out of college, there MUST be some class project that you can show to an employer to demonstrate your skills.

(3) Get your own website, and put your resume on it. I get tons of emails from recruiters who ask for my resume, and many mail systems have anti-virus software that replaces resumes with a text file in the email. Then the recruiter has to ask you for it again, which makes you look bad. Instead, you can say ‘You can download my resume off of my website at …’. Mine is at http://www.jimhorn.biz/resume.doc.

(4) Get your own business cards and brochures. Now that you’re independant, you can create the ‘best looking business card’ of anyone and not be bound by any guidelines. If you have any graphic artist experience, design your own, front and back, and go to vistaprint.com to have them print it for you. This way, you can say you created your own business cards, too.

(5) Some recruiters will only want to talk to you so they can fill their quota of talking to (x) number of prospects a day. Get used to initial meetings with recruiters that do not provide immediate benefits.

(6) Some recruiters (I wont mention any names, like Advecta, TEKSystems) often post for positions they aren’t even close to having, just to draw people out to increase the number of people in their database. See above.

(7) Find out who the hiring manager is. Then talk to them directly. The best leads/offers I’ve had were for positions that were never posted.

(8) Avoid HR people like the plague. They often get 200+ resumes, are under pressure to find someone who meets ALL of their requirements, and must fill someone within a certain salary range. If you’re responding to a newspaper ad, monster.com, dice.com, etc. ad, this is unavoidable, but otherwise try your best to stay away.

(9) If you don’t have work lined up before you ‘cut the cord’ (whether voluntary or involuntary) from your present employer, expect things to be slow at first. A lot of the work I pick up is from employers I’ve worked for before, and contracting companies I’ve worked with before.

(10) If at all possible, stay in touch with your previous boss. This may sound strange, and be about as exciting as eating a horse blanket, but there’s a good chance that they’ll give you a good reference as long as you left on good terms, especially if they feel somewhat guilty about having to let you go in the first place.

(11) If you were part of a bulk layoff, keep in touch with the other people that were laid off with you. They’re in the same boat your are in, and as long as you’re not competing for the same jobs, they will be more than interested in helping you out. If you’ve been referred to LHH, then chances are they’re in the LHH Resume Reserve.

(12) If you’re targeting a company, use the LHH Resume Reserve to look for people that have worked there before. Call them up and use the ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m with LHH and am looking at (insert company name), and saw in the Resume Reserve that you’ve worked there. Can we talk?’ approach. Works (almost) every time, and you’re likely to get some great dirt, er knowledge about the company, department, and hiring manager.

(13) If you have the time, volunteer your services to a non-profit group. Some of the other volunteers will be hiring managers, many others will be good sources of information, and you can put the experience on your resume.

(14) If at all possible, get your health benefits through your spouse, as COBRA costs about a grand a month for a family of four, and you don’t want to switch health insurance every time you switch assignments.

(15) Re-design your resume to emphasize your past experiences, and de-emphasize education and certifications. This really sounds crazy, but a general consensus of contractors states that all employers care about in a contractor is experience.

Also, in a down economy, many HR people will take whatever certification/formal education you have, look up the salary range in their book/online reference/salary survey, realize that the average for someone with your certification is more than they want to pay you, and drop you from consideration. Sounds bass-ackwards, but I’ve heard this scenario play out for many other IT contractors who did not get work and were extremely qualified.

(16) Consider teaching in your skillsets. There are plenty of small schools such as Capella University, Hennepin Technical College, Academy College, National American University, and Benchmark Learning who have specific, sporatic needs for adjunct instructors. They don’t pay well, but it’s great when people ask you if you have experience in an area and you can say ‘Yes, and I even taught it at (school name).’

(17) Help your fellow LHH friends out. Chances are, they’ll help you out too.

(18) Call/email people you’ve done business for blind and ask them about any availability. A lined up a surprising amount of work that way.

(19) If the companies you do get assignments from are relatively small (say, smaller than 100 employees), then make sure payment terms, and consequences of late payment, are in writing in your contract. I had a company that had the impression of payment terms was ‘Net/whenever we feel like paying you’, and I ended up not being paid for $2,700 worth of work when they closed their doors with no ‘We’ve moved’ sign out front, and went under.



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