In the current job market, IT professionals are in high demand, but that doesn’t mean even the most experienced candidate couldn’t use some expert advice. We talked to three respected human resource recruiters at popular IT companies, including Hillary Campbell, HR recruiter at Check Point in Redwood City, California; Bryan Powell, senior director of staffing at VMware in Palo Alto, California; and Beth Conway, vice president of HR at CA Technologies in Islandia, New York, about what IT pros should consider when applying for a new job in the industry. Here, they discuss everything from consolidating a tailored resume and being honest in an interview to staying positive about the past and using social media to bolster one’s employment prospects and underrated soft skills.
What do you look for in a potential candidate for hire?
Campbell: A few qualities we look for in all candidates include adaptability and flexibility, strong time management and prioritization skills, and passion for their work and industry. It is also important for candidates to have effective communication skills and a solid career background that is clean of job-hopping (no more than five companies in a ten-year time frame), as we are looking for commitment and a track record of success in our candidates. All of these qualities are essential to Check Point as an organization, especially as we are a smaller, yet agile, company and our employees can wear more than one hat.
Powell: During the search stage, we base our decisions on who to reach out to or engage with on more quantifiable criteria that can be found in resumes, blogs, journals and publicly available profiles. We use this information to determine who to seek initial conversations with, and this information can come in from a number of sources: located by a dedicated recruiter tasked with finding passive talent who are not actively seeking new opportunities; volunteered to us by talent who has applied to a specific position; been referred to us; or who has opted into a community of individuals interested in VMware employment.
Recruiters will also look for a history of steadily increasing responsibilities or expertise over time when looking across some time period on a resume. Frequently this steady progression of growth correlates with a capacity and interest in learning, and that can be significant beyond the simple fact of subject matter expertise. During the initial stages of search and conversation the things that a recruiter looks for are more quantifiable and easily defined. They tend to consist of specific languages, frameworks, layers in the stack, area of specialization, etc.
As a candidate progresses through the interview process, what a recruiter looks for shifts somewhat to encompass more experience-based items. The conversation shifts from the what to include more of the how and the why.
Conway: When talking with candidates, certainly knowledge, skills and experience are all important to meet the requirements for specific positions. However, beyond matching the needs for the role, demonstrating a history of learning agility is essential. Be confident, but not arrogant. Showcase your experience by explaining a situation, what you did and the specific results. Be sure to review a variety of skills that are applicable to the position in which you are interested.
What are some ways an IT professional might get your attention – and an interview?
Campbell: Candidates with experience working their way up through a company and receiving promotions is definitely an attention grabber. Candidates with proper certifications and experience with Check Point products listed on their resume will also get our attention. Candidates who are largely self-taught are also highly desirable as it shows passion to learn, commitment to their skills and self-motivation.
Powell: It helps to be as open as possible about your level of interest in new opportunities. If possible, be very specific about what you’re looking for in an opportunity – or not looking for. For example, if you’d be willing to consider a new job opportunity that involves an order-of-magnitude increase in responsibilities and not simply an incremental increase in responsibilities, state that clearly on your social profiles or in conversations. If there is a specific area of technology that you’re drawn to or is less exciting to you, state that as clearly as possible. When a recruiter sees that there’s a solid match between your aspirations and experience and their opportunities they are much more likely to reach out to you and they’re going to do it with information that will likely be much more pertinent and interesting to you. Don’t be afraid to share some method of contact information where you’re comfortable receiving outreach from perfect strangers. If a recruiter has 20 candidates, all of whom look like they could be fantastic candidates for their opportunities, they will focus more effort on the candidates who they are more confident of actually reaching.
Finally, be clear about what you’ve accomplished in your career. Enunciate real and measurable achievements. An acquaintance of mine asked me to critique his resume recently and my feedback was to shift from making statements like, “Closed more tier one sales than any other member of our sales team,” to statements like, “As the top performing salesperson, I was responsible for closing more sales valued at $200,000-plus and generated more revenue than the next four producing members of the sales team combined.” When an organization or recruiter has context to help them understand the scope and breadth of your experience it will separate you from the vast majority of candidates whose experience remains nebulous and thus less attractive.
Conway: Make sure your resume accurately reflects your accomplishments and that each are presented well. Results should be clearly outlined with a limited amount of buzzwords and jargon. Be specific about measurements and the impact of accomplishments to the company. Do your homework about the company; ask specific and relevant questions. This shows that you have taken the time to understand the organization and are not just looking for a job but rather a job with the specific company.
What’s your best advice for any applicant in the IT industry?
Campbell: Keep your resume to one page; I cannot stress this enough. And be sure to include all of the key words IT recruiters would be looking for, such as operating systems, hardware, software and any other skills you might have related to IT. Ctrl + F is a function I use daily searching for keywords in resumes, and having these skill-sets and certifications listed on their resumes makes candidates much more visible during searches. Also, be sure to sell yourself and explain why you’d be a good fit for the role.
Conway: Network, network, network! A combination of whom you know and what you know can make the difference.
Any job sites that you regularly post to or groups you recruits from?
Campbell: We regularly post to LinkedIn, Dice.com, TheLadders.com, College Job Boards, among many others, so make sure to tell us why you stand out from the crowd any why you’re a good fit for our company.
Powell: LinkedIn remains one of the most important places where we look for and post to talent. GitHub is becoming increasingly important to us as a go-to resource for finding and evaluating talent, too. Blogs, Twitter feeds and sites like Quora are also valuable repositories of information. Don’t be afraid to link your social profiles and blogs on the Internet. Anything you do to give us additional context behind what you’re passionate about, interested in and motivated by increases the likelihood that we’ll reach you with something truly compelling.
Conway: We post on a variety of different sites and have numerous affiliations depending on the area and the type of position we are sourcing. The best way to see all of our open positions is on our website. People interested in learning more and staying engaged with CA Technologies can join our talent community so we can keep in touch about positions and interesting company updates.
What should someone seeking employment with you avoid doing?
Campbell: Those seeking employment should avoid embellishing their knowledge of certain technologies, as this sometimes happens in IT. You won’t be able to wing it during the interview once questions begin to drill down, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time when you’re not qualified. Also, don’t overlook the importance of soft skills. Managers want to build healthy, s’trong and collaborative teams. Not everyone has to get along at all times, but everyone should enjoy and respect who they’re working with; lone wolf types with big egos can easily break down an otherwise thriving team.
Powell: There isn’t a specific item to avoid, but I suggest that employees really pay attention to the company’s values and works to articulate how they embody these values themselves. At VMware, we believe strongly in our core values, including: execution and working together; passion and challenging the status quo; integrity and building trust; customers and making it possible; and community and giving more. These core values should really resonate for anyone seeking employment with VMware. They’re really the foundation of everything we do.
Conway: Be yourself and answer questions in a genuine way. Candidates and perspective employers should be learning about each other during the interview process. Being genuine and authentic can help you ensure that both parties know if there is a good fit. Never, ever lie on a resume or during the interview process. That should be obvious, but people sometimes feel the need embellish the truth. When lies are uncovered after the employment commences, people lose their jobs.
My parents also always told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is a good rule in general, and certainly is applicable when interviewing. Speaking poorly about employers, managers or co-workers does not reflect positively on candidates. Bad-mouthing can make candidates come across as negative and lacking accountability for their own outcomes. It is also a small world with social platforms making personal and professional connections increasingly amplified. You never know where there are connections and how your comments will travel across a network. Make a lasting positive impression on interviewers by avoiding bad-mouthing others and highlighting why you are the right person for the position.