In recent years, the job application process has moved from sending a prospective employer a paper resume through snail mail, to a multi-million-dollar industry involving resume writers, recruiters, social-networking sites and specially designed applicant-tracking systems. Where a resume was once little more than a crude recital of past jobs, it now comes in many forms, from paper to website to video, and has the daunting task of telling your story in mere minutes.
These days, the first stage of the application process is usually managed by an applicant-tracking system (ATS). Although an ATS is meant to make the hiring process easier for both candidates and recruiters, it can often have the opposite effect for candidates if the resume is not optimized for keyword searches. Since some technical jobs are more project focused than other types of work, IT professionals may find themselves at a disadvantage as they attempt to tell their story in a compelling way using words rather than showing a hiring manager examples of their portfolio. An easy way around the ATS is to customize your resume to each job by describing your experience with words found in the job posting. If your resume does not contain the magic keywords, chances are it won’t even make it to the next stage—the ever elusive and often discerning recruiter who sometimes reviews hundreds of resumes per day.
The recruiter marks the “human” stage of the application process. At this point, because recruiters have relied on an ATS for the initial screening, your resume has essentially earned an additional six-second cursory review from the recruiter. To make it through this short review, you should ensure your resume highlights past accomplishments in addition to job duties; recruiters are looking to understand the impact you have had on an organization’s success. The recruiter is also looking for any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors—which may suggest you are the type of candidate who pays little attention to detail.
Assuming your resume passes the human perusal, recruiters next turn to your online profile to learn more about past work experience. Often, they will start by looking at your LinkedIn profile and any online portfolio or personal website that you may have. If you think having an online presence is unnecessary, think again. In this increasingly connected world, it is imperative for IT professionals to stay up to date on the latest social-media and technology trends, including having profiles on LinkedIn, GitHub, TopCoder and/or oDesk. Without this type of online footprint, you may be considered out of touch with the industry and thus removed from consideration.
In addition to a solid online portfolio, cutting-edge technology companies such as Grammarly look for IT candidates who bring “something extra” to the table. Specifically, we are drawn to candidates who demonstrate the following capabilities:
- Leadership. Whether you created a new club on your college campus or you held a leadership position in your last company, hiring managers are looking for candidates who can create and implement successful projects.
- Entrepreneurship. Did you start a company when you were 14 years old? Were you responsible for creating a specific process that saved time or money at your last position? Do you hold any patents? Hiring managers are on the lookout for go-getters, outside-the-box thinkers and doers.
- Education. Be sure to mention any certifications that you have earned over the course of your career, including Salesforce and project-management certifications. Talk about the programming languages you know, and make it clear to potential employers that you are interested in continued learning. Chances are, they are looking for someone to stick with the company for the long haul, and therefore someone who is willing to sharpen his or her skills as technology evolves.
- Global viewpoint. Do you speak Spanish and Russian fluently? Did you participate in a travel-abroad program at your school or in a past position? Hiring managers are looking for IT professionals who understand that the world is small, and that to create significant change or disruption we need to traverse it.
You may be reading this with your old-fashioned, paper resume in hand and starting to feel overwhelmed. Here is a quick summary of the typical IT hiring process to help you focus your efforts:
- Optimize your resume for keywords by including programming languages, operating systems and specific skills necessary for the open position.
- Highlight accomplishments so recruiters can easily see the value you offer.
- Proofread! Ensure that your resume has no spelling, punctuation or grammar errors, as they will not be forgiven.
- Create a strong online presence with a complete LinkedIn profile and an additional online portfolio.
- Differentiate yourself by focusing on your leadership, entrepreneurship, education and global viewpoint.
About the Author
Jessica Nóbrega, director of talent at Grammarly, is focused on building a team of happy people dedicated to improving written communication. She is a tree hugger, world traveler, art lover, vegetarian and granola girl who enjoys healthy, happy living. Connect with Jessica, the Grammarly team and more than 770,000 Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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