Survival Tips for Technical Job Seekers

There are certain times in any career where it becomes clear that a change is in order. However, changing jobs requires a lot of work, as I re-discovered when I recently went through the job-hunting process. Hunting for a job in a technical field, such as software development, offers its own unique challenges as well. This is why I've prepared a set of survival tips for technical job seekers.

  1. Resume: This is essential if you want to find a new job. You need a resume, and it needs to be a good one. Conventional wisdom says your resume needs to be two pages (tough luck, mine was three pages but I'm an IT professional with twenty-two years of experience in the field).

    For software engineering positions, you should cram as many technical keywords into your resume as possible, without making it look silly. You will be putting your resume up on some prominent job boards, so the keywords are essential in making sure that your resume appears in recruiter search results.

  2. Blog: (Optional) Many technical professionals have blogs. If your blog looks professional and has significant content, it can function almost as an extension of your resume. Promote it prominently within your resume and even in interviews. Let's say that an interviewer asks "Have you ever created a plug-in using Ruby?" and you answer with "Yes, I've done that, and I have an excellent article on my blog on how to do it." That's a pretty powerful response.

    On the flip side, if your blog is not professional either in look-and-feel or content, then forget about using it to promote yourself. It will only hurt you if this is the case.

  3. Job Boards: Once you have a solid resume, you need to put it where people will see it. This generally means that you're going to post it on various job boards. For software engineers, such as myself, I recommend, Dice and, perhaps, a local job site. In the Washington DC metropolitan area where I live, is the obvious local job board to post your resume on. is the top generalist job site. Dice is the top IT specialist job site. Add a good local job board to this mix, and you've got the potential for a lot of people to view your resume. The downside is that the majority of them will be recruiters and not employers.

    When posting your resume, be clear about the geographical area where you're looking for a job. This may cut down on the number of recruiters who contact you about opportunities in regions you're not interested in. If nothing else, it gives you the right to ignore phone calls and emails from those morons.

    Most of these career sites will also allow you to apply for jobs online. I've found that this is almost entirely useless, as most real employers get inundated with resumes and don't respond to them.

  4. Turn Off Your Cell Phone: Most recruiters will try to contact you via the cell phone number you've posted on your resume. In my case, I was getting 30+ phone calls a day. Generally, your current employer is going to notice if you take 30+ cell phone calls per day, plus each such phone call usually requires you to move to a private location so you can talk candidly.

    Turn your cell phone off, or switch it to vibrate mode. Use your phone to screen your calls, and just check it a couple times a day. If the recruiters haven't paid attention to your job requirements, such as salary and geographical region, there's no need to be polite — just delete their calls (this goes for emails as well).

    Some recruiters play coy with you, leaving messages like: "Hey, I've got this opportunity that you might be interested in. Please call me so we can discuss it further." If they're this stupid, they probably don't deserve a call back.

    Other recruiters leave generic messages about unspecified "consulting opportunities." If they also mention the word "sales" somewhere in their spiel, then they're generally Amway or a similar sales pyramid scheme. Ignore these morons, too.

    Your goal is to quickly sift through the morons and work with real recruiters who have real opportunities for you to consider.

  5. Be the Boss: It's your career. Don't let the recruiters boss you around. Once you've gotten past the useless recruiters, the remaining recruiters are often pretty smart and highly focused. The thing to remember is that they are salesmen, and they only get paid if you take a job. If a recruiter recommends a job that's in your area, but further away from your home than you'd like to commute, be firm: "I'm not going to commute that far."

    When you take a new job, you may be spending the next few years there. Make sure it's what you want. Listen to the recruiter, but decide for yourself whether an opportunity is something you want to pursue.

  6. Interview Preparation: The recruiter will get you interviews, but it's up to you to ace the interviews. If you're in software engineering, you'll typically need to do some studying before you're ready for interviews. Yes, you may have been using Java for the last five years, but do you remember the bubble sort algorithm? Or how to use a synchronized block in Java?

    In a technical field, you're going to get questions like these in interviews. So you'll need to do some studying to brush up on language features you haven't used in a while. It's also useful to brush up on what you did on some of your past projects, so you can talk intelligently about them.

Well, that concludes my job seeking tips for technical professionals. Remember, it's your career. Make the recruiters work for you. And good luck in your next job search.


David Keener By dkeener on Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 12:47 AM EST

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