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According to our sources and associates, this is the toughest job market that anyone in the IT industry has seen in a long, long time.

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past five years, you already know the story. After unprecedented growth and feverish hiring across the spectrum of high-tech industries, the party is over.

Start-ups have gone belly-up, and as the sluggish economy turns various shades of grim, even the industry's biggest, most "secure" companies are in rapid downsizing mode.

We've addressed various aspects of this change in several columns over the past year. But now that even the most senior of engineers are struggling to find work, effective job search techniques are more critical than ever.

Fact: Since unemployed tech professionals far outnumber available jobs, employers who post an open position no longer have to scramble to fill those positions. They must now sort through the hundreds of résumés that flood their in-boxes.

How do you stand out from the crowd or even get your résumé seen in this sudden flood of competition?

How do you get the attention of the hiring people to get an interview?

Here are a few dos and don'ts for finding work in this tight market:

Do:

  1. Network - contact everyone you've ever had a good working relationship with (former managers, peers, and team members) and let them know you're available. Send them an updated résumé and ask them to pass it on to potential hiring managers at their company.

    Most employers know that the best candidates are still referrals from valued employees.

    Even if there's no position immediately available, try to set up a brief informational interview to introduce yourself and find out what they're doing. This gives potential employers a chance to match your face to your résumé - and keep you in mind when positions open up.

  2. Attend as many industry networking functions as you can. Bring a fresh batch of résumés with you and collect as many business cards as you can. Keep in e-mail touch with new contacts on a regular (monthly) basis to refresh their memories and let them know you're still available.
  3. Re-edit, highlight, and target your résumé for every job you apply for. This is time-consuming but effective.
  4. Research the company you're applying to and contact anyone you know who may have worked there at any time. They could help direct you to the right group or manager who may need someone with your abilities.
  5. Understand current market conditions and be prepared to make adjustments to your rate and/or expected level of seniority. You may have been a senior engineer last year but now you may be considered intermediate. If you want to work, keep your options open to part time or contracting positions - whatever it takes. Be flexible.
  6. Work with reputable agencies to be considered for positions that aren't posted publicly. Many companies avoid sorting through the deluge of résumés by working directly with agencies.
  7. Keep on top of new posted positions on a daily basis. Your odds of standing out in a crowd of 300 résumés are not great, but they're better if yours is one of the first 20 résumés submitted. Remember: Your time and your timing are critical. Work smart and act quickly.
Don't:
  1. Set up a system that automatically sends out a generic résumé to every job posting that contains buzz words you're interested in.

    Sending out the same résumé for different types of jobs suggests that either you don't understand what they're looking for (or what the company is doing) or you don't really care. Also, good managers and recruiters remember résumés and names. They may end up skipping over you for the right position because you sent in your résumé earlier for the wrong one.

  2. Assume the only open jobs are the ones posted on the Web or in the newspaper. While you need to stay on top of these openings, and apply to as many of them as you're qualified for, networking contacts is always best.
  3. Get discouraged. While industry leaders agree that we may never again see the kind of rapid growth and massive hiring of the past few years, they also agree that things will turn around.
The high-tech industry may ultimately evolve into a slightly different animal, but for those who stay flexible, determined, and thorough in their job search, there will always be opportunities.

What have your job search experiences been like in the past few months? Let us know what challenges you've faced and what techniques have worked for you. E-mail us at [email protected] Remember, we're all in this together.

Author Bio
Bill Baloglu is a principal at ObjectFocus (www. ObjectFocus.com), a Java staffing firm in Silicon Valley. Previously he was a software engineer for 16 years. Bill has extensive OO experience and has held software development and senior technical management positions at several Silicon Valley firms.

Billy Palmieri is a seasoned staffing industry executive and a principal at ObjectFocus. His prior position was at Renaissance Worldwide, a multimillion-dollar global IT consulting firm, where he held several senior management positions in the firm's Silicon Valley operations. [email protected]

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