According to our sources and associates, this is the toughest
job market that anyone in the IT industry has seen in a long, long
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:
- 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.
- 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
- Re-edit, highlight, and target your résumé for every job you
apply for. This is time-consuming but effective.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
Remember, we're all in this together.
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.