Mr J. Nerd,
I currently work in IT in financial services and all the staff are very worried about the future prospects – particularly for contracting. Is the current economic climate a storm in a teacup or are is NSW in for a rough time? If we are really in the mud , what can I do?!
Firstly, I am not an economist, but I am a recruiter, and I have often felt that the recruitment industry is a pretty good barometer of the wider economy. So in my opinion there are definitely some worrying signs. Mycareer recently released a report saying the NSW IT industry will grow at approx 1-2% – which factored with population growth could be interpreted as negative growth.
In addition to this, the Greencollar talent job index recently released a report showing that employment advertising across Australia was down 8% in the last 3 months alone, and it seems that practically every report we read these days has negative sentiments about our prospects. At a local level, there are still plenty of jobs, but some IT sectors are being hit hard – especially development roles, which have seen a big slowdown. So it would seem that yes, NSW is in a slowdown – but not a recession, and despite the gloom, there is plenty of work out there.
The elephant in the room is what happens in Europe – we should know the results of the Greek election by the time this newsletter is published, and a negative market reaction will impact us here in NSW. To what extent no one really knows – either way, Australia has a robust enough ICT sector to continue to grow – just don’t expect fast growth…
Mining is also booming, but there are only so many IT jobs in that sector, so what do we need to do if we were to lose our job? If we heed the lessons from 2009, they are this. Don’t be too fussy, be prepared to take a lower rate, and if you do find yourself out of work, don t waste time – be active, volunteer for charities, learn new skills, or get yourself into shape. Approach your job search like you would a job – be professional, thorough, measured and energetic. Finally, try to be a contributing member of a community – be it online, sports or recreation based, or at a municipal level, as it is a great way to meet new people, build a network and help your career.
Dear Job Nerd
Hans J, Team Leader
Retrenchments are sadly part and parcel of any fast-paced international industry. Lay-offs are usually not personal and not a reflection of the quality of your work. Most of the time there is little you, as an employee, can do to avoid retrenchment.
As well as keeping your profile active at your favourite employment agency and hedging your bets by putting out a few new job applications I would suggest giving the following 5 tips a go to try dodge the job cut bullet….
As I said, retrenchments are usually not personal. It’s not you, it’s the role. So if you fear your role is shrinking in importance work out ways that you can add value within the organisation. Consider your current role and come up with a few ideas of things you could start doing that could increase productivity or help the company as a whole to gain more market share, cut costs or increase profits. Present these ideas to the boss and make sure that if these strategies are successful that they are noticed.
If a retrenchment has to be made then make sure your dedication to the company is noticed. Arriving at work a minute or two before your boss is a worthwhile strategy for staying visible. Even if you just to arrive 5 minutes early, it leaves a great impression. The assumption will be made that you’ve been working hard, enjoying the work and are loyal to the company. (Of course we know that the actual amount of time you put into work isn’t always directly related to your output, but sometimes the time you put into a job becomes the de facto standard to measure how much you are doing.)
Head down, bum up.
Don’t get involved in office politics. Gossip can only harm you in the long run. Most gossip is just going to waste everyone’s time. There may be some benefit in keeping track of people’s moods and events that will impact jobs. For example, if one of your co-workers is fed up and getting ready to quit, it might not be bad to know that ahead of time. You could start subtly positioning yourself for that role. But you definitely don’t want to be the person sharing this sort of information. Gossiping will make people less likely to trust you in the future and is not an indication of leadership potential.
Share information freely
People often try to increase their own importance by keeping information to themselves. Don’t think you’ll get away with it. This short-sighted strategy will make people dislike and distrust you. Rather aim to be the person in the office that everyone can come to for information on everything from how a program works to where the stapler is. Don’t overplay your own importance by appearing ‘too busy’ to help others.
Make other people look good
Helping other people look good won’t hurt you in return; instead it will produce a ‘halo’ effect around you. People who you’ve gone out of your way to help promote are more likely to give you credit for your work and help you when you need it. Remember that what you give out you generally get back. So give credit when it’s due. If your boss compliments you on a report you did and one of your co-workers helped, go ahead and tell your boss that your co-worker was a great help. Then tell your co-worker. “I told the boss that the report wouldn’t have been nearly as good without your input.”
Sometimes there will be nothing you could have done to avoid a retrenchment. If it does happen to you don’t let it get you down: back yourself, stay confident and open to new opportunities. Approach your ‘time-off’ with a strong strategy of networking and job-searching knowing there was nothing you could have done to avoid your current situation.
How many of you have spent numerous hours writing, polishing, and submitting your resumes, only to have them end up in a black hole? In today’s competitive job search arena this conventional, passive approach to job seeking is not only ineffective, but is becoming increasingly out-dated. Social media networks are breaking down the barriers of communication and reinventing the job search, changing the lengthy and unpredictable nature of formal job seeking and job recruitment.
A recent survey of 300 hiring professionals found that 89% have visited a potential candidate’s profile on a social network site as part of the screening process (Jobvite 2011 Social Recruiting Survey Results). In fact, some CRM programs now used by recruiters will have your LinkedIn profile automatically embedded into their record on you. So maintaining your online image is as important as having a great CV. It’s all about personal branding that promotes ‘you’ and allows you to launch a profile that centres on both your expertise and passions. And it’s free.
Here’s how to go about finding your dream job using social media:
1. Create a great LinkedIn profile:
A great LinkedIn profile will give prospective employers a first impression of you before even stepping into the interview room. Make sure your Job Title accurately reflects your present role, or if you are not currently working, write something which reflects your qualifications or skills, for example, ‘Qualified Electrical Engineer’. Then make sure you complete your profile as fully as possible. Create a profile that communicates your key skills and qualities to potential employers and upload a recent photo of yourself looking friendly and professional.
2. Get LinkedIn Recommendations:
Ask past employers or happy clients to write you a LinkedIn Recommendation. The recommendations get posted as updates to all your contacts and are kept on your profile page. A great recommendation will make you infinitely more desirable to employers.
Here’s a great example: “Mark is an extremely capable professional who exhibits great rapport with colleagues and gets things done with a minimum of fuss. I had the pleasure of working with Mark for my entire time at (company name). During this time I was always taken by his cool and calm handling of any crisis that emerged. His rational response to adversity had a stabilising effect on the entire organisation.. .”
3. Expand your LinkedIn Connections.
Don’t just invite colleagues and friends to connect with you. Seek out key people who could influence your career. Make sure you personally connect with recruiters working in your industry. Once you have sent your CV to a recruiter look up that person on LinkedIn and send them an invitation to connect. It’ll not only make you more memorable but they will post fresh updates on new jobs they have on their own profile so you’ll be the first to know!
Connect with people in companies you aspire to work for and follow those companies on LinkedIn. If they post about a job they are trying to fill you’ll get the inside track.
4. Join LinkedIn Groups
Groups are an important part of your job search. Joining industry groups will mean you get front-line information on projects and developments in your chosen area. There is also a Jobs section in all groups which you should check regularly. Look for groups in your industry by typing in key words in your search function and also by looking at which groups other key influencers belong to. Some groups are moderated so only industry experts are able to join. This keeps the quality of the members in those groups relevant.
Don’t be passive in the group. If you are actively seeking a job, post that as a discussion on your group page. You’ll find people love to help and you will usually get a couple of responses.
5. Get into Twitter
Twitter is a great way to get real time industry information. It’s a great resource for keeping track of companies you want to work for and allowing you to start engaging with them. Follow companies you’d like to work for as well as industry groups and publications to get the latest news in your field. Also follow recruitment companies working in your chosen field to get new jobs sent to you as they open.
When setting up your own Twitter profile keep it short and think of a catchy but truthful title. Something like, “Web Developer – my passion is creating exciting, user friendly technology.” No need to mention what you drink or that you hate the government please!
6. What about Facebook?
Facebook has over 640 million registered users, making it the largest social media site. Facebook can be an effective tool in the job search process through its marketplace feature, which lists job openings and hosts other opportunities in your network. However, Facebook also has the potential to hinder your job search. Most people have a Facebook profile in an attempt to connect with family and friends. What this means is that if you are using Facebook as a supplemental networking tool for job hunting, then you must pay close attention to your profile privacy setting as companies could gain access to your posts and inappropriate posts have forced companies to detract job offers or even to fire employees. In short, we suggest keeping Facebook for personal use only.
7. Have consistent information across all social media platforms
Now that you have profiles on all the major social media sites, keep it up! Be consistent presenting yourself, personal brand, accomplishments, and employment history on all of these sites. No recruiter or hiring manager wants to see one thing on your CV that is not included in your LinkedIn profile. Can you say red flag? Inconsistencies like this are going to land you on the bottom of the hiring managers’ pile. Make it a good first impression and maintain a professional social media presence. All of you have to do is keep your information up to date and consistent for potential employers.
8. Be realistic and truthful
When creating a Twitter or LinkedIn profile you will be asked for lots of information, often times an overwhelming amount of details, but keep it 100% accurate and valid. It is absolutely essential that your profile encompasses accurate information both about yourself and what you can give to the company. Don’t put what you think may sound good to companies now – it won’t do you any good once you are hired and not able to meet the expectations the company has for you.
9. Fully utilise each networking site
To give you the highest chance of being noticed by a potential employer, you need to get involved – social media job hunting is easy but it’s not a passive process. Creating your profile is the easy part.
There are great Twitter and LinkedIn apps available that make checking and updating these sites as easy as touching the icon!
10. Be Someone Worth Following
Sharing expertise via social networks can be as simple as sharing a link to a relevant article or webpage alongside your own comment, or answering a question in a LinkedIn Group. By far the best way to get out to employers is making thoughtful attempts to communicate with leaders of organisations. Ask them thoughtful questions, re-tweet their messages and comment on or LIKE their posted content. After responding to their tweets a few times, they may start following you and can even respond back. Once they respond back to you all of their followers will see what you have to say and you can continue your exposure through this social networking domino effect. If you keep on posting relevant comments and news on the field you wish to work in you will eventually be regarded as a bit of an expert and that that will gain the attention of employers and recruiters.
In today’s tough job market, it is difficult to overstate the importance of using social networking, to manage your online image across the different social networks, to differentiate yourself, and highlight the value you can bring to an employer. If you are using social media it is going to be hard for prospective employers to assume that you are incapable of learning new things and that won’t bring something fresh to the table.
Dear Job Nerd
I’m still struggling to find work. I have done several interviews only to keep coming up empty handed. I feel like I am more than qualified for the positions; however I am not getting picked. What am I doing wrong? What’s are the real reason I’m not landing the job?
Chris M, Project Manager
You can have all the credentials, education and experience, and have no problem getting job interviews, but for one reason or another you aren’t getting the job offer. You are probably asking yourself questions like: ‘What did I do wrong at the interview? What intangibles are they looking for? Is it the economy, or is there something I am missing?’
Before jumping to conclusions, let’s look at 5 reasons why your applications fail:
1. You don’t know well… anything
Sure if you really want the job, you’re expected to spend a lot of time trying to anticipate what you’ll be asked in the interview and practicing what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. Part of being prepared also involves researching the company, beforehand. Having little or no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake made during interviews. 33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone. Your inability to point to research you have performed about the organisation and your failure to ask relevant questions during the interview will reflect poorly on your ambition to work with the company. Put simply – do your homework before an interview.
2. You’re a liar
Any untruths you tell in the job search process, whether you meant to or not, will almost certainly resurface. According to research done by the Society of Human Resource Managers, 53 percent of individuals lie about a ‘fact’ on their resume. Employers invest large amounts of time and money into hiring new candidates so guessing wrong on potential candidates means more costs for the company. To decrease their chances of this happening companies do exhaustive research on candidates before hiring them.
Avoid fabricating abilities or attributes you don’t possess on your CV and don’t overestimate the time you have spent using certain applications or working on projects. There is nothing worse than having an interviewer thumb through your CV, testing you to make sure you are familiar with a certain program, for them only to find that you used it for three weeks. My point here is don’t resort to lying and trying to tell a recruiter what you think they want to hear. Be honest and realistic because everything you tell an employer is going to be thoroughly examined and lies will be uncovered. Be truthful from the get-go, CV’s and interviews should tell your story, the non-fictional version.
3. You have no personality
In sales we say ‘people buy from people they like’, and the same is true for the job search. Recruiters and HR managers interview many candidates every day and if you don’t have a rapport with the interviewer it’s unlikely you’ll be remembered. Be memorable for all the right reasons – be positive, engaging and open.
Companies all have their own unique corporate culture – you may or may not fit into that culture. But if you don’t show your true personality how will they know?
4. You have a negative attitude
You’re still fuming over that old boss who screwed you over, but no one wants to hear about it, especially not a hiring manager for a new job. Saying negative things is undoubtedly the fastest way to talk yourself out of a new job. No matter how legitimate your complaints about your old boss or workplace, you will most certainly come out as the loser because the interviewer will assume you will have the same negative things to say about their company. If you encounter a question relating to experiences with a former employer be sure to add a positive twist.
5. You fail to answer the question
Remember that the interview process is like a test, you either pass or fail, you get hired or you don’t. Questions asked by recruiters are attempts to see if you will be an asset of the company and if it is in their best interest to hire you. An interview is not your chance to talk about everything you know, you just need to focus on answering the question. The interviewer asks you a question, you give an answer. Be succinct by keeping your answers brief and concise, don’t side step the question. Failure to clearly answer questions will indicate to the recruiter that you are not a good listener and probably not someone they want to hire. If you need a couple of seconds to gather your thoughts then it’s quite acceptable to ask for a moment before answering the question.
It seems Chris as if you’ve been taking for granted the interviewing process. You thought you were qualified and that the interview operates in a standard way. Now you understand that your CV and interviewing time are your only opportunities to present yourself to the company. In such a small window of time you need to create a memorable impression. So do your homework, be authentic, don’t be negative but be yourself and show the employer you can think on your feet.
Dear Job Nerd
I have been at the same company for ages now and considering a move. What are the trickiest interview questions being asked of potential employees right now and how can I prepare for them?
Frank, Open Source Programmer
Everyone’s heard that first impressions are very important; this can’t be truer than in a job interview. But before we go in to some of the trickiest questions you may encounter let’s review some basics.
Every prospective employer will be looking for an employee with confidence – even in IT. Remember to keep eye contact, give a firm handshake when you first meet the interviewer and try not to be too nervous. The real person you need to be afraid of is in HR who already cleared you to be interviewed, so just relax. That said don’t over do it, confident and cocky are two completely different things.
If you encounter a question that you are unsure of how to respond to don’t be afraid to just give an honest answer. There is a fair chance that looking like a great person could be just as compelling as a great candidate. Remember that when you are being interviewed by HR it’s likely that he or she is going to have to work with you every day, so be open and friendly.
Question #1: What is your greatest weakness?
This common question is one that everyone one day will run into. Before you break into your “sometimes I just work too hard” speech, there are a few other options that will definitely go over better. Use something that you actually struggle with in your working life. That said, leave out any major issues that you may have, pick problem number 3 or 4 down the list and work with that. Stay away from major problem words such as ‘lazy’ or ‘unreliable’. The trick to answering this well is after saying the minor thing you struggle with. Talk about how you have been working to improve this problem and have virtually eliminated the problem.
Questions #2 What do you know about our organisation?
This is another question that comes up more often than expected. No matter how great a candidate you seem to be, if you don’t know the company, then you appear uninterested which could be a deal-breaker for them. Always read the company’s website entirely before an interview and do a quick Google search to see if they have been in the news for anything. Not only will this prepare you for this question but give you a ton of great talking points to bring up with your interviewer. Remember to stay away from any negative press they may have received.
Question #3 Why did you leave your previous job?
This can be a difficult question but it is important to stay honest in your response. If you were laid off because of cut backs to the company say just that – there is no shame in it. If you were fired, be as honest as you can bring yourself to be but try not to dig your self into any holes and avoid mentioning any personality conflicts. It’s important to remember they will likely check your references so explain honestly what happened, but from your perspective. Remain positive even when explaining possibly negative aspects. Put emphasis on your excitement to explore a new opportunity in the future in a different type of company.
Question 4# Where do you see yourself in five years?
While it’s important to show that you are motivated and looking to succeed, stability is very important to companies who will need to rely on you long term. Always mention that you see yourself in a similar company or industry as the one you interviewing for. You can say that the company can provide great opportunities for you long term and you see your self as a loyal team player. As long as you don’t go over the top, this question could be a good opportunity to mention your strengths, for example, “Well I’d ideally like to use my leadership skills and step up to a management position. But, of course, I’d be keen to prove myself as a team player first!”
Question 5# Why should we hire you?
A bit like the ‘why shouldn’t we vote you out?’ question on reality shows, isn’t it? Luckily this question normally occurs toward the end of the interview. The previous interview questions will help you to figure out what characteristics are important to them. If there were a considerable amount of questions about leadership in an organisation, for example, then focus your response around that aspect. It always helps to respond that you feel that you can make an immediate effect on the organization and then review your past achievements by giving examples of areas you improved in previous roles. This question will be your last ditch good chance to shine so don’t pass it up.
You’ve heard the old adage “practise makes perfect”, so rehearse these five key questions before going in cold to an interview and you’ll be sure to make a great impression. Good luck with the job search!
Dear Job Nerd
Is it better to list every one of all my IT skills (programs and languages etc…) in my CV or to just be broad and a bit generic? Surely if I keep it quite broad then I’ll be considered for more roles?
Mark K, Helpdesk
I’ll let you into secret Mark – key words or meta-tags, whatever you’d like to call them, are searched within a recruiters database in much the same manner as a google search – in fact many recruitment firms have google search embedded in their CRM systems, so by emphasising your key words or mata-tags, your resume is prioritised in the future when recruiters search for people. Keep in mind that some agencies have over 200,000 people in their database so being able to find YOUR resume is helped by having a thorough CV.
Let me explain how it works: We might be looking for a fit for the following role: ‘A developer with .Net (3.5 or later) experience; significant Silverlight and Expression Blend experience; who has strong SQL server 2008 skills and understands Agile methodology’. So we’d pick out the keywords -.Net; Silverlight, Expression Blend; SQL; Agile – and we’d run a search to see who we have in the system who has all those keywords in their CV. The guys at the top of the Google Search list go to the top our list of people to call or email regarding the job. If we are lucky we might save ourselves the need to even advertise the job. The job can be filled in a couple of hours – and that’s especially beneficial when we are looking for urgent contractors.
So just as you would do search engine optimisation on a website, so you should make sure your own CV’s SEO is top notch. Include all your experience and the keywords of everything you’ve ever worked on if you want to find roles in those areas again. What if you want to find a role in an area you have no experience in? Then tell us. Include your dream job keywords in your CV and let your dream job find you!
Send your updated CV to the Job Nerd
Dear Job Nerd
Years ago I stupidly drove home from a wedding after a few too many and got a DUI. So now I have a criminal record. I know that companies can run a record check and I was wondering if you thought I should be upfront and tell the agency about my past when I apply for a job – before they find out themselves?
Tony H., Project Manager
So you have a skeleton or two in your closet. You’ve grown up a bit since then, hopefully. We all make mistakes – but are your skeletons likely to be set free from the closet, scaring off prospective employers?
As a general rule, if you have a skeleton lurking somewhere in your past, be upfront before you are put forward for the job by the recruiter or HR – especially if you are asked a specific question about your criminal history and that question and the criminal history are relevant to the job you are applying for. It’s generally very unlikely that a criminal conviction for a minor offence will automatically exclude you from the job. An employer will usually only refuse to employ a person if the person’s criminal record means that he or she is unable to perform the requirements of the particular job, for example a conviction for fraud may exclude you from working in a bank, whereas a past involving a drunken punch-up at a wedding probably wouldn’t. In some states this anti-discrimination law refers to ‘irrelevant criminal record’ to explain this concept.
If you decide not to mention your past record and an employer does do a police check this may backfire against you. Your dishonesty will be viewed very unfavourably and the employer will almost certainly give the job to one of the other contenders. It’s worth noting, however, that once you are employed in a company, your employer does not have a general right to enquire as to your criminal status – unless your employment is subject to regulations or a contract requiring ongoing disclosure.
There are some sectors, however, where a record will probably put you out of the running for the job. Many government jobs, such those with the Australian Tax Office or the Australian Defence Force, as well as jobs in sectors like banking, finance, or investments or where you’d be working with not-for-profits, the elderly or children are cases where the criminal history of the applicant is taken into consideration. A criminal record may also prevent registration as a lawyer, doctor, optometrist, physiotherapist or architect. These types of industries will almost certainly do a full police check. But remember, even if something does come up, your suitability for the role will be taken on a case by case basis, so it’s not necessarily the end of the line for you.
Even despite anti-discrimination legislation the hard reality, Tony, is that your prospective employer may perceive that there is a higher risk of dishonesty, unreliability, or irresponsibility from a prospective employee with a record. It’s expensive and time-consuming to hire new employees and companies will usually err on the side of caution and take the low risk option – and that will usually mean they’ll pick the candidate without the record. Some employers may also be concerned about how their clients or their other employees might react if an employee’s criminal record becomes known.
It’s worth checking the status of your record though as some offences fall under the ‘spent conviction legislation’ and if that’s the case for you then companies must comply with that and cannot hold your past against you. Spent conviction legislation allows some criminal records to be removed after a certain period of time. The idea behind spent convictions is to ‘wipe the slate clean’ after a certain period of time, depending on the offence. If you aren’t sure, find out if your conviction is now regarded as ‘spent’ and if it is then there is no need to mention it at all in your interview. You can obtain a copy of your own criminal record from the organisations such as https://www.nationalcrimecheck.com.au
So, if you do have something rattling around in your closet don’t let that hold you back from applying for your dream job. The truth is that if the employer thinks you’ll do a great job in the role, that’s more important to them than your creaky old skeletons.
The Job Nerd
Dear Job Nerd
I am a web developer and could do amazing thing with my resume. Do you think some nice formatting, pictures and links in my resume will get it noticed and give me a better chance of getting an interview? I am sure the boring resumes go to the bottom of the pile, don’t they?
Raj, .Net Developer
Just because you CAN create a wiz-bang resume doesn’t mean you SHOULD. You surely don’t think that recruiters are printing out masses of resumes and picking the prettiest ones to read, do you? You of all people you should know that things are automated these days.
So, even without the touch of a button, chances are your resume will be automatically ‘parsed’ into the recruiters system and the details embedded in your resume are extracted and filed into the relevant fields. So if you put HTML, links or pictures in your resume it will look like a mess once it’s been parsed into the system. Your confirmation email will probably say something like ‘Dear ?+#$&!’
Also, approach your resume with a search engine optimisation attitude – make sure that the key skills / vocation you are interested in are highlighted many times throughout your resume, so that when agents conduct searches on their systems (e.g. ‘java developer’) they will find that yours has lots of key word relevance and should be investigated further.
You can show off your web portfolio (if you have one) with a basic link on your resume, as well as a link to the portfolio in the email you send to the employer or recruiter.
Another tip is the use of cover letters – my advice is to write a relevant cover letter in the body of the email as opposed to a word/pdf version. This makes it quicker and easier for internal HR/recruiters to read your “sales pitch”.
And please, please make sure you do a spell check! This is so easy to do, yet we see resumes with bad spelling every single day – this tells us the candidate is sloppy, and if they can’t get a 3-page resume right, what chance is there in a job?
An unreadable resume is not going to get followed up on. By keeping things simple and following a recognised, standard layout for your resume you make things clear and easy for the recruiter – and that’s the right way to get noticed. To play it really safe pdf files should be avoided – I suggest using a word document. After all, the recruiters are looking at your experience and qualifications and if you are a developer they will assume you have developer skills – you don’t need to demonstrate them just yet!
The Job Nerd
Dear Job Nerd
Do I have to wear a suit for an interview? If the job I am applying for is casual then surely I can go to the interview dressed casually?
Alex B, Open Source Programmer
Do you want the job? Because if you want the job it should at least look like you have made a bit of an effort. Dressing in a suit or a nice jacket sends the message that you want the job, have prepared and are ready to be taken into serious consideration for the role.
Don’t forget that recruiters are looking to see if you will be a good fit for the role and also for the company. So if you are sure that the corporate culture is super casual then I think you’d be best to err on the side of caution and go smart casual. If you do go the smart casual route then make sure it’s done well. It goes without saying that your clothes should be clean and ironed, hair washed and tidy and you should smell nice too, that helps.
Recruiters know better to judge by appearance, but sometimes being too casual can backfire badly. We once had a Senior “C” level guy turn up to a final interview dressed in jeans because it was casual Friday at his current employer, and he didn’t want to let anyone know he was interviewing – however the VP that flew out from the USA to interview him was not impressed, and they subsequently hired someone else.
We recruiters usually prefer to play it safe with candidates and you should too – if dressing in a suit is the safe option, go with that.
The Job Nerd