Carol Hacker is the former Director of Human Resources for the North American Division of a European manufacturing company, Employee Relations Manager for the Miller Brewing Company, and County Office Director for the US Department of Labor. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Carol has been the President and CEO of Hacker & Associates since January 1989. She specializes in teaching managers, supervisors, team leaders, HR professionals, and executives how to meet the leadership challenge. Carol is the author of over 400 published articles and 14 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People. She earned her BS and MS with honors from the University of Wisconsin. She can be reached at www.carolahacker.com or 770-410-0517.
The Cutting-Edge Job Candidate
Would you buy a house if all you saw was the front yard? The porch with the swing may look nice, but what about the rest of the house? How about the structure? Is it built well? Has it been taken care of or does it look neglected? How would you know what special characteristics the house possessed unless you saw it inside and out?
Your career credentials should provide as many dimensions in much the same way. Employers expect the complete tour when they meet you. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hiring managers are concerned with more than the basics. They’re looking for cutting-edge talent in the following areas:
- Communication skills
- Analytical skills
- Cross-functional skills
- Computer skills
- Leadership skills
- Job skills
- Current IT skills
- Management experience
- Technical expertise
- Personal attributes
- A positive attitude
- Committed to lifelong learning
- Realistic expectations about the job
Job candidates must convince prospective employers they’re ready and able to transition from the college classroom or last/current job into a new job opportunity. First, fine-tune your resume. Employers are searching for candidates with proven track records in solving specific problems unique to their organizations. You must show not only what you did, but also how well you did it. A simple resume of previous job duties won’t get much attention. Research the needs of the organization and tailor your resume to show how your past accomplishments meet the prospective employer’s criteria.
Second, develop a personal marketing campaign. Don’t rely totally on job board postings or recruiters to find and hire you. They’re only one of many resources available to you during your job-search process. Employers are as anxious to find the right people as candidates are to find the right positions. You need an aggressive strategy for locating opportunities. The key to a successful job search is a highly developed plan. If you want to be cutting-edge, you’ve got to structure your time effectively and organize your job campaign.
Research the marketplace by targeting companies and decision-makers. At this point, don’t expect to find openings that are an exact fit. Instead, plan a strategic approach to gather information, establish rapport during the interview, and leave a favorable impression.
Develop a list of contacts. Think of people you know who might fit into one of these three categories:
- People who have the power to hire you, because they own or manage the company, division or department.
- People who can introduce you to those with the power to hire you.
- People who can assist you in getting job leads.
Schedule informational meetings with three or four contacts whom you know well and that have significant IT work experience. They will be more likely to understand your approach and to help you. You may only need a few of these contacts because your strategy is to build leads into new contacts who know the people who can hire you. This approach will also help you develop your self-marketing skills. You’ll be able to practice communicating your objectives and selling your strengths. Both are critical preparation for interviewing.
Third, be ready to prove your value to a prospective employer in a personal interview. Cutting-edge skills are essential to landing the job of your choice. How and when they’re revealed can make the difference between a job offer and another rejection. Start by preparing a thirty-second “commercial” that tells the interviewer what you have to offer.
Practice out loud until you can articulately express what you want to them to know about you. The hit-or-miss approach to interviewing doesn’t work. You must be even more prepared than the person who’s interviewing you.
Part of the preparation for the interview is to gain information in advance about the interviewer. The more you know about the person who’s interviewing you, the easier it is to present yourself as the perfect match. Many hiring managers often look for, and are more comfortable with, people who are similar to themselves.
In addition, think about the interview from the interviewer’s perspective. Consider the job description, major responsibilities and company culture. What are they looking for in candidates? As they prepare to fill a vacancy or newly created position, they’re probably asking themselves some of the following questions:
- Do I need a candidate with a certain level of experience?
- Do I need a generalist or a specialist?
- If I need a specialist, what exactly am I looking for in a candidate?
- What kind of leadership style do I have and what kind of person responds best to my style?
In summary, to be on the cutting edge, you must prepare to convince prospective employers you can successfully transition from one IT job to another. In addition, you need to determine your personal employment objectives and then seek out job opportunities in those fields. Part of this seeking process is to use contacts you already have and then make new contacts as you progress in your search.
A final important point to keep in mind: As you’re interviewed, carefully evaluate each job opportunity. Consider your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Some jobs may not offer you a compatible opportunity. If they don’t, keep looking, less you cannot afford to turn down the job being offered.