Over the past year, companies have scrambled and adapted to the chaos of the pandemic. Even software engineers, who are typically in high demand (and often insulated from layoffs) have found themselves looking for new jobs. But looking for a new job and committing to your job search are two very different paths.
This year, we break up with the casual job search. Maybe not forever, but for now. We move into 2021 with the prospect of an effective vaccine, traveling, and seeing friends & family again. We’re also looking forward to more stability in the job market. And for some industries, 2020 has catapulted businesses into rapid growth. This year we expect that the fintech, online gaming and health tech industries will continue to grow and hire.
The way businesses are hiring and how they are deciding to expand their teams is undeniably linked to what has happened over the past year. Casual job seekers who are not motivated to make a move or aren’t dedicated to the jobs they are applying for will be overlooked.
Take it Seriously: It’s expensive and time consuming to hire a new employee. Some TA or HR teams may be short staffed as furloughed employees have not returned. Hiring managers are stretched thin; trying to rebuild and reorganize teams to meet demand. Just as your time is valuable, so is theirs. Take your application and interviews seriously.
The First Impression is More Important than Ever: Not only do you have to get off to the right start in the interviewing process, but you also need to show that you are an employee capable of transitioning to your new job. This is particularly important if you are working remotely or partially remotely. You are asking a new employer to trust you without them ever having seen you interact in-person with clients or co-workers. Your first impression isn’t contained to the first video interview. It is extended into your first days or weeks of work, where you must build their trust in your abilities as you meet (or e-meet) your team one-by-one. You will be making a first impression over and over again. Even living room video meetings need to exude professionalism.
Ask the Right Questions: It has always been important to ask useful questions in an interview. But now, more than ever, you need to research and prepare your questions (with follow up questions & researched responses) prior to your interviews. Time is a premium – your ability to ask insightful questions will start a conversation in lieu of a back-and-forth Q&A. This is the time to show your investment in the job and the company.
Know the History & the Market: You know the company and the job inside and out. But do you know what their hiring looked like pre-pandemic? How have they adapted or changed their structure over the past year? Know their pain points and show them how you can concretely contribute to solving their business needs.
Be Ready: Your resume, or at minimum, a strong foundation for a resume should be ready to edit and send on-demand. While many companies are abandoning cover letters all together, it is important to have bullet points and a general format prepared. Expect potential technical tests and think about how you will need to plan your time – especially if you are home with children or other distractions.
If you’re not sure how to get your technical job search started, the Talener team can help to guide you as you consider whether a change in position is right for you.
From pandemic layoff to Director of Technology, a Talener candidate recounts his journey.
The Search Begins
As a result of the pandemic, and for the first time in my career, I was out of work and looking for a job. I know that I am respected in my industry and I’ve developed many wonderful relationships. I was confident that I would find something soon. Little did I know…
I started educating myself in job hunting, 2020 edition. Long gone are the days of the NY Times classifieds. Armed with 1500+ curated LinkedIn connections, I tweaked my profile to alert the market that I was available. I hit the major job-hunting sites: LinkedIn, Dice & Indeed. I also hit some of the lesser known (and likely sketchy) ones too.
I was bombarded with daily emails, of which 95% of the roles from my keyword searches were irrelevant. I will never understand how my career as a technology leader could generate a match for an Amazon delivery driver. I doubled down on malware and anti-virus protection for my PC.
I’ll be honest, after initially reaching out to many peers, it became slow going. My initial contacts were all saying, “of course we’ll keep an eye open, but the world is changing, and everyone is adjusting to the new paradigm.” Every day, I would scour the sites for jobs; look at LinkedIn for relevant announcements from my contacts – anything that would allow me to start another conversation.
I applied online to a very wide net. I hid tags in my resume that were specific to each role and this allowed the ATS (applicant tracking systems) to pick me up. I got pretty good at this over time, and I highly recommend it. I kept at it. I told myself that it only takes on interview to get me a job, and today might be the day that something happens.
During the search, there were flashes of hope. A connection would reach back out or I’d be scheduled for an interview. I’d prepare by learning what I could about the job and the company – which isn’t always easy. I’d feel that I had aced it. And then the news: “they’re looking for someone else” or “you’re overqualified.” Or worse, I would get ghosted.
As the months passed, I became more and more frustrated dealing with recruiters. I have worked with recruiters on the hiring side for decades. I have my favorites, but over the years I have met some with questionable skills and worse yet, questionable ethics. My biggest gripe was that they didn’t effectively market the position to me, and more importantly, didn’t market me to the prospective employer.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I saw an ad come in from a recruiting firm I was unaware of called Talener. As I read it, it became evident that the role was extremely well suited for me – in my industry, and in a similar environment in which I had worked previously. My bike ride would have to wait, I needed to apply. Within an hour, I received a response back. I assumed it was an acknowledgement of my application from an automated system. But it was actually a personal email from Henry Boulos. His email told me more about the job and asked some additional questions. I took the time to answer the questions individually and tie them back to my resume. We both got excited. Henry could see that I was a highly viable candidate for a role that I was confident that I would be well-suited for. He arranged for a Microsoft Teams interview with the firm, along with other candidates.
More importantly, Henry spent time preparing me. It wasn’t just about the role, the skills I should emphasize or the people I’d be meeting. More importantly, he prepared my by giving me some frank pointers that he had picked up on my presentation, which I wasn’t used to. I studied the notes I had taken with Henry, reviewed the company website in detail, and set up Google Alerts for current news about the company and its principals.
I felt the first Teams interview went well with the COO. I listened to his questions. I sent a thank you note. And in the hopes of continuing the conversation, the timing worked out that I was able to attend a virtual user conference for the company’s ERP system. Henry updated me on the process moving forward. I had made the first cut. Another Teams interview was scheduled with a larger audience. I put together some notes gleaned from the conference.
Henry and I reviewed in detail what I should further be prepared to discuss. I think we get very focused on telling our story during an interview, and Henry reminded me the importance of listening. I came away again feeling good, that I had “strutted my stuff” well. I also asked about pain points in the role and challenges that leadership saw. I again followed up with a thank you note, including discussing some proposed solutions to the issues discussed during the interview. I made it to a third interview, this one would be on-site. Henry ensured that I was fully prepared, and the meeting went well. Another thank you note sent. The next morning, Henry followed up with the wonderful news that I had gotten the job, and I began the onboarding process. It was less than three weeks from first contact to a signed offer.
Again, I cannot say enough about the professionalism that Henry exhibited throughout the process. I plan to use Henry again and refer him and his firm to my peers.
Yes, there’s a pandemic. But I got a senior-level job. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
Don’t give up. No matter how discouraged you get, you are one person who needs only one job. This can happen at any time.
LinkedIn and your resume are a significant part of your personal brand. It’s the first thing people see. Think of it from that perspective.
Network, network, network. The time to start networking is NOT when you need a job. Do it throughout your career.
Prepare. Look in detail at the company’s website. Look for current news about the company and its principals. Make sure you check Glassdoor. Find out what products they use and learn about them. Bring it up on the interview when appropriate. Everyone always likes to hear about themselves.
Listen. I realized that providing answers to a prospective employers’ challenges are more important than talking about an extensive skillset or describing a list of successful projects.
Always send a thank you note. My wife taught me that.
Layoffs from the pandemic caught many career employees off-guard. We could see the immediate impact in industries like travel or restaurants. However, many employees across industries faced layoffs for the first time in their careers. Even with years of experience, being at the top of your field, and having excellent connections – it’s jarring and overwhelming to pivot quickly.
If it has been years (or decades!) since you’ve written a resume, have had to call up connections, or apply for a job— it can be daunting to start over again. Let the Talener team help you out or provide you with guidance on where to get started.
Attracting talent is a competition. Over the past decade, some companies have ‘reinvented’ their employees’ workday. From nap pods to game rooms, spa treatments to an in-house chef, companies pushed the boundaries of traditional benefits and perks. These became the gold standard for coaxing talent (especially in technology) to join the ranks of unlimited vacation and free healthcare programs.
But for most of the working population, these types of benefits are a pipe dream. Most SMEs can’t provide elaborate benefits – I’m looking at you Microsoft Treehouses. For the rest of us, gym membership reimbursements & in-office snacks are a great addition to health and retirement benefits.
In March, when many office workers were sent home, many of these ancillary benefits were left behind. Employees didn’t quit their jobs en masse without their company-provided extra hot triple foam latte.
Gyms closed, restaurants shuttered, and our commutes started and ended in a hallway. Concern for the safety, health, and financial stability of family and friends became front-of-mind.
What does this mean for 2021? Many companies have shifted their benefit offerings; taking a step back to address what has become important to employees.
Health Insurance – Employees are seeking quality affordable coverage that is comprehensive and inclusive. Attractive plans have lower premiums, reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and provide inclusive coverage for things like reproductive healthcare (i.e. IVF) or gender re-assignment surgery.
Increased Mental Health & Wellness Programs – The demand for mental health services has risen sharply over the past year.Whether employees have access through their health insurance or an EAP, companies are ramping up programs for employee mental health and wellness.
Paid Family Leave – Several states are implementing some form of paid family leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or care of a sick family member. Companies that provide paid leave will be more attractive to new talent and help to retain current employees.
PTO: Mental Health & Recharge – In additional to better access to mental health programs, 2021 may bring more time-off options for mental health and recharge days. The fatigue from the pandemic has left many people in need of time off after daycares have closed, schools have gone virtual, or partners have lost their jobs.
Personalized Benefits Packages – Tailored benefits packages are on the rise. Benefits and perks have relative importance based on the life stage of the employee. Offering tuition reimbursement may not resonate with employees who are closer to retirement than college. Companies have an opportunity to offer optional equivalent perks that make sense to the individual.
Even as we (hopefully) move towards a vaccine and the end of the pandemic, many things have changed over this past year. Some may continue to work from home permanently, while others will be back in the office sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely that a communal room of nap pods and in-office buffet lunches are coming back any time soon. HR is re-reinventing benefits packages that are in-line with the changing employee needs. If you are looking for a new job and want to better understand how benefits will affect you (and what they’re worth!), please reach out to the Talener Team today.
There are advantages to applying for and accepting a job at the end of the year. Hiring managers are moving quickly to fill positions and use up their budgets. Most companies have shored up their benefit plans for the upcoming year – ensuring uninterrupted service for you for at least the next twelve months.
It is easy to quantify and dissect salary, bonus, or commissions. We can assign a value that corresponds to paying a mortgage, buying groceries, or saving for a vacation. But benefits like health coverage or retirement contribution matching are often overlooked as it is what it is; without assessing true monetary value.
When moving from one job to another, we can see the 401k percentage match or the cost of our monthly health insurance premium. But often, we’re programmed to accept these as inflexible parts of our new employment.
It is not unusual to receive a detailed benefits summary from HR after you’ve accepted a job. From monthly premiums to deductibles, waiting periods to paid time off – these benefits all have value. Accepting a higher paying position is ideal, but not if your monthly health insurance premium negates your raise.
If you are looking for a new job without the help of a staffing agency, you must advocate for yourself. There is a song and dance around compensation during the interview process. When is it appropriate to ask about benefits, salary, or time off? Is it the first interview, the third, in person? No matter the time, it is imperative to understand their value.
Health insurance premiums are some of the largest expenditures for American households. The average American will pay close to $6,000 per year in premiums on an employer-based plan. But beyond premiums, it is important to understand the plans that are offered by your future employer. If something catastrophic were to occur, what do you have to pay out of pocket? It’s critical to evaluate things like coverage, co-insurance, in-network vs. out-of-network costs, or lifetime maximums.
What you are able to contribute to a 401k or other retirement account is likely fixed. But the contribution your new employer makes (or doesn’t make) can have far reaching consequences down the road.
Paid Time Off
Holidays, PTO, vacation, sick leave – however you say it; paid time off has value. Examine how much time you have taken off in the past and compare it to your new plan. While you may be able to sacrifice a few vacation days, it’s important to know how you will be paid for your time off.
Paid Family Leave
Many states are adopting paid leave policies to help new parents or those caring for a loved one. But companies are also creating these internal policies. Paid family leave has monetary value and encourages employee retention. If you might eventually benefit from paid family leave like the birth of a child, this should be a consideration in your job hunt.
Examine life insurance benefits, long term and short-term disability, workers compensation, pet insurance, and more. Every organization will have a unique combination of insurance benefits that you can compare to your current situation.
Lunch is provided every day. You receive a monthly work-from-home stipend for supplies and internet service. Your gym membership is reimbursed, and your commuting costs are covered. If you aren’t currently using a gym – great! It’s a wash. But if your commuting costs are about to double and there is no plan to help defray these costs, then you could be looking at increased expenses beyond your increased salary.
In 2020, some of these benefits are expanding even further than what is considered the standard package. From prepaid legal plans to IT help desks for your kids, telehealth platform access to identity management plans; companies are getting creative with their offerings during the pandemic.
If you are working with a staffing agency to find your next position, you should expect them to advocate on your behalf – knowing the benefits and negotiating for you if these benefits fall short of your needs. Just because you can’t change your future employer’s health insurance offering, doesn’t mean that you can’t negotiate a higher base salary to make up for the shortcomings between your current and future job.
Technology and IT based positions continue to be highly competitive. Hiring managers are motivated to fill their positions with the best talent by the end of the year. Use your staffing agency as a resource to help you compare and contrast benefits as much as you would compare salary, commission, and bonus.
Ultimately, staffing agencies like Talener are here to support and advocate for you. For more information about negotiating and understanding how benefits affect your offer, speak with Henry Boulos today.
Creating a modernized resume is imperative to breaking through hiring barriers. The right resume is clean, succinct, and provides the exact information that an employer needs to move forward.
Call to Action
Your name and contact information are your call to action. They are the first elements of a resume that a potential employer sees. It must be immediately clear to the resume reader how they contact you. Even the best resume will be thrown into a pile if it is not easy to decipher your whereabouts.
Emphasize your name clearly
Include your telephone number and denote the type of phone (cell, office, home)
Do not provide your specific street address. Instead include your city / state or metropolitan region
Use a modern, professional email address with a simple extension, like gmail.com. If necessary, create an email address for job searching purposes.
Include your personalized LinkedIn URL. If you have not personalized this link, learn how, here.
Avoid redundancy and save space on your resume by eliminating the summary of experience. Instead, provide a clear objective that a future employer can grasp: What do you want? What are you looking for? Is it a new industry, technology, job title, job function, etc.?
Your experience already paints a picture of your past and present, but it doesn’t tell an employer about your goals and needs for the future. Defining your objectives turns a snapshot into an on-going story.
Let Your Experience Speak for Itself
Your experience and skills set are the most important parts of your resume. Unless you are targeting a creative position where artistic design is a critical element of your presentation, keep your resume simple and clean.
Muted hues like grays or blues provide a pop of color without distracting from the important information. Keep your organization simple, easy-to-read, and in logical order. Layouts should work universally with standard file types that most companies require for upload – PDF & Word documents.
Keep your resume to one page. Find impactful words that pinpoint your experience and avoid explanations. Instead, build a meaningful story that lends itself to interest and inquiry from future employers.
Your base resume should allow for modifications that meet the expectations set out by employers. It is OK to tailor your resume and try different avenues to make your resume stand out. If something isn’t working, make a change or A/B test your resumes.
Consider adding a headshot to help an employer place a face with a name. But be mindful of any blind-hiring policies or applicant ingestion systems that do not accept embedded images.
Stay Up to Date
Before distributing your resume, ensure that you any links you are including are updated. Your portfolio, GitHub, personal webpages, and LinkedIn pages should be robust and up-to-date.
Just as you research potential employers and individual hiring managers, you must assume that they are also digging into the entire picture of your experience. This is also a great time to update, hide, or eliminate social profiles that a prospective employer are able to access.
The References Page
Requests for references should absolutely be expected in technology-based positions. Prepare your references in a separate document. This can be done prior to starting your job search and even before you set up your resume.
Your references are a source of knowledge and know you well. They may remember specific events, projects, or successes that you haven’t considered. Additionally, they are a great networking source when you start your search.
Your reference page should Include updated contact information, preferred names, title, and the capacity in which they know you.
And, of course, give your reference a heads up if you think you are moving into the stage where they will be contacted.
Before & After
Re-writing a resume can feel like a tedious process. But it is an evolution as you mature and grow professionally. When you have finished your new resume, look back and compare where you are now versus where have been. You should see that evolution and maturity in your resume.
If you are looking for resources to help craft your resume, consider using tools like Google Resume Templates, LinkedIn Resume Assistant or Canva.
If you have a Google account, you have access to Google’s library of templates. Sign into your Google account and navigate to the templates to access resumes, cover letters, and more in your Google Drive.
Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn helped the two join forces to bring better resume templates and a resume assistant to Microsoft Word. If you are an Office 365 subscriber on Windows, customized templates and resume writing help are at your fingertips. Check out LinkedIn’s Blog or get started in Word by opening a new document and choosing a resume template.
If you’re looking for a template to give you more creative license, sign up for a free account on Canva and get started with more free templates. Or, sign up for the pro-version to get custom-tailored designs.