Many in the tech industry believe that employers often want too much from candidates, publishing job descriptions that even super-qualified pros find excessive and unreasonable.
There’s really no good justification for overwritten “specs,” but their continuing appearance on job boards and recruiters’ desks means that any tech professional who wants a job needs to find a way to deal with them.
In situations where the bar is set too high, here are some concrete steps you can take to get positive recognition during a job search.
Basic Resume Hacks
“It’s helpful to put one or two sentences to describe the industries you’re in or industries you have been in,” said Joe Kotlinski, a partner in WinterWyman’s IT search group, “because people or computers just looking at your resume don’t know what kind of work you’ve done.”
Kotlinski recommended putting a single sentence or note after the company name, e.g. “J. Robinson, Inc., an international investment firm,” which might trigger a match with a vertical market; a recruiter searching via keywords related to investment or funding is more likely to bring up a resume coded in that fashion.
Believing that whomever is reading your resume will automatically connect your job title with the entirety of your skill set is another risky assumption. A talented Windows systems administrator, for example, may have experience with Active Directory Exchange or similar software, but won’t mention that on his or her resume because he or she thinks employers already know the skills are connected. Be as precise as possible—it can only help.
Break Down the Description
“Candidates should fully read a description and the requirements, making sure not to dismiss a job too quickly if their skill sets don’t match up to everything ‘required,’” said Ester Frey, vice president of Robert Half Technology. She suggested that candidates focus their efforts on the very beginning of the requirements list, as the most relevant skills tend to be at the top of the description.
Let’s say you find a job with an excessive description, but you still feel as if you’d be a good fit because you’re proficient in a healthy percentage of the listed requirements. In that case, tailor your resume to the job. “You need to be explicit when presenting your information to a company for an opening,” Kotlinski advised. “Highlight those skills in your cover letter and in your resume.”
Tie Experience to Specific Roles
While a chronological resume is still very valuable in highlighting duties, responsibilities and technical proficiencies, it’s critical to tie in your experiences to specific roles. “Highlight the work you’ve done on cross functional and project teams, as this can often pull in the qualities a hiring manager is looking for in a role that touches on many elements,” said Jesse Wright, vice president of Recruitment and Delivery with Adecco Engineering & Technology, “and always find a way to link back to the job description and be strategic in what you include.”
Nobody’s a Perfect Fit
“If a job seeker only has some of the required skills, which is the case for the majority of candidates, they need to focus on the achievements made with the skills they have,” said Emily Schweiss, senior technical recruiter and Wright’s colleague at Adecco.
You should carefully align your talents with what the organization is trying to accomplish. Here’s an example: If an employer wants someone to build an API to interface with a very specific program, a candidate can highlight their experience with building APIs using a variety of tools. “Show what you built and how it served the company, as well as how long it took you to get up to speed if any of the technology was unfamiliar to you,” Schweiss said.
If you’re inexperienced with a particular technology, highlight your work with a competing product. If you don’t know Red Hat Linux but have worked extensively with Ubuntu, you can stress the commonalities between the job spec and your closely related experience.
Beat the Computer Genie
Let’s say your experience doesn’t exactly fit the job requirements, but you think your skill set nonetheless makes you a strong candidate. There are ways to pass the initial resume screening, which is largely based on keyword matching, without resorting to lies; for example, phrasing your experience as, “While the position calls for X, my decade of developing Y is closely applicable to the position because…”
Engage Social Networks
“Engaging with the technology professionals and leadership at companies you’re interested in through professional networking sites and social media is another good way to get around the traditional application process,” Frey suggested, “and being able to develop professional relationships with IT teams may encourage employers to consider you for open roles based on the rapport you have built.”
To make Frey’s vision of social networking a success, though, candidates must present themselves as keeping up with the evolution of technology. Check periodically to make sure your online descriptions and profiles are as up-to-date as possible.
Be a Part of a Community
“Attend user groups or even share your knowledge by speaking,” Schweiss said. “This will help you build a reputation that precedes you as someone who is knowledgeable in the field. It might help get a foot in the door.”
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