Don’t let Charlotte’s reputation as a money center fool you: although you might perceive the financial industry as stuffy, the city’s tech culture is anything but.
For one thing, Charlotte is becoming an increasingly young city. Around a quarter of the million people who live there are Millennials, and their growing numbers are contributing to the vibrancy of the area’s culture and night life.
It’s also a highly livable city, both employers and tech pros say, boasting affordable neighborhoods to fit any lifestyle, a temperate climate, and sports teams that are worth watching. More than one recruiter speaks of professionals who are drawn to the region by a job opportunity, and quickly decide it’s a great place to put down roots.
The locals are proud of that fact. They describe Charlotte as having the advantages of a city without the frenetic atmosphere of a major metro area such as New York or San Francisco. As a result, the ethos here is less about ladder-climbing and more about collaboration and finding a good fit.
“The culture here is about making connections and relationships,” noted Robert Jones, principal at Jones Grove IT Recruiting, a Charlotte-based provider of tech talent in the Carolinas. “It’s a very welcoming community. It’s laid-back and doesn’t have a big city feel. You’ll do well here if you can engage with other people.”
So when you approach potential employers, don’t come on too strong; take a softer, less-intense approach and allow the process take its course without interference.
That doesn’t mean just apply for a job and wait. Job seekers should always be proactive, while avoiding the hard sell. Jones advised seeking out any potential connections within the company that interests you. And while following up with the hiring manager or HR can be a good idea, he added, avoid crossing the line from responsibly following up to “hounding.”
Andy Jenkins, senior director of engineering in the local office of Credit Karma, a multinational personal finance platform, actively discourages unsolicited calls. Instead, he favors a well-thought-out, personalized cover letter or introduction that illustrates how your experience aligns with the company and job.
His biggest pet peeve is a long résumé with an “alphabet soup” of technology acronyms, especially when the descriptions don’t provide a sense of your contribution to the project. He recommends keeping your pitch “short and pithy.” In his thinking, a student résumé should have no more than one page, while those of experienced candidates shouldn’t have more than two.
If you’re serious about relocating, be up-front about your reasons for looking at a position in Charlotte, and have a timeframe for relocation, Jenkins said. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving for family, or simply looking for the best professional opportunity. “These are all good reasons and they help us to contextualize the interview process,” he explained. “Someone moving for family reasons might not need to be ‘sold’ on Charlotte, where someone who’s open to different locations might want a bit more background on what Charlotte has to offer.”
A history of stable employment is critical in Charlotte, Jones added. Especially as candidates gain experience, “employers here don’t want to see a lot of job changes on a résumé.”
What’s in Demand
We can’t predict how tough your job search will be, but much depends on your area of expertise. “There are hundreds of jobs for skilled technologists with C#, .NET or AngularJS experience,” Jones said. If you’re on the applications development side with an up-to-date skillset, you’ll likely be in demand. But if you’re in infrastructure, with a background in, say, network engineering, you’ll find it harder to stand out.
Jenkins looks for deep knowledge of Java, demonstrable problem-solving skills, and an aptitude for technology. “Regardless of your experience level, you should have a technical achievement in your career that you’re really proud of—a challenge where you had to learn a few things on your own and overcome adversity to achieve success,” he said.
If you really have Charlotte in your sights, Jones suggests building relationships with local recruiters and technical managers, even if you’re conducting your job search remotely. “Come visit the city, possibly around a local tech conference,” he said. “It shows you mean it.”