IT is, by its nature, a technical, fast-paced and many times specialized industry. The necessary skills for career advancement are constantly evolving. With legacy systems, changing business goals and the constant march of new technology, companies are hard-pressed to find the necessary talent to keep their organization growing.
Hot areas like big data, analytics, CIOs Forced to Grow Their Own Talent and mobile development are among the tech sectors struggling to find talented IT pros. In fact, in the recent Manpower Growth 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, 49 percent of employers report difficulties filling jobs.
According to a study from The Inevitable IT Skills Shortage only one in 10 companies surveyed said they had all the necessary IT skills they needed to succeed as a company. As a result, organizations large and small turn to third-party IT recruiters to fill the mission-critical positions they once hired for themselves.
IT recruiters can be valuable matchmakers, connecting talented technology professionals with companies in need of their skills and experience. However, as in any field, recruiters are not all created equal. So before you sign on with an IT recruiter, here are some important things you need to consider.
Step 1: Take the Call
Shravan Goli, president of Dice.com warns that it's always wise to take that initial call from a recruiter. "Fundamentally, recruiters just want a yes or a no on the initial outreach, so they can put the slate of candidates together quickly. For candidates, it's always a good practice to respond to the initial outreach. If the recruiter doesn't recognize the 'no' or sends a job that doesn't match your passions and interest, then technology professionals can always block them. "
Why Did You Choose Me?
Finding out why a particular recruiter chose to contact you is an important question because often times it can expose an unscrupulous IT recruiter. "If you're on the receiving end of a recruiter's outreach and wondering, 'Why the heck did he contact me about this role; it has nothing to do with my background?' chances are you don't want to work with that recruiter. They may not understand the technology differences or may be spamming you," says Dan Girardin, an IT consultant in software technology with WinterWyman, an IT recruitment firm.
Joseph Roualdes, senior manager of corporate communications at LinkedIn Talent Solutions agrees. "Asking why that recruiter contacted you gives you greater insight into why he or she thinks you're a great fit for the company, and asking how they found you helps you understand the amount of effort they put into finding the best person for the job -- not just a person for the job.
Where Did you Find Me?
The answer to this question will provide insight on what's working in your job search. Did they find you through LinkedIn? Then maybe you should consider adding to or updating your current profile. Was it a referral?
"This can be interesting information. It could tell you if your resume/profile is working, or who to thank for the referral, which might lead to further networking," says Penny Locey, vice president of Keystone Associates, a career management and transition services consulting firm based in Boston.
Recruiters reach out to potential candidates a number of ways, but experts agree that if you're in IT and looking for a job, having a robust social media presence is a must. LinkedIn is the obvious one, but Goli says that Twitter is seeing some growth in this area.
How Many People Have You Placed With This Company?
This question is designed to give insight into the recruiter/organization relationship. Let's face it: Most people use recruiters because they think their relationship with a given company will get them an interview. Finding out the answers to this question will give you a pretty good indicator.
"It's very important to understand the relationship between the recruiter and the hiring organization. Tech professionals should always ask if the recruiter has worked on behalf of the company in the past and if they had success placing a candidate. If they have worked with the company in the past, the recruiter will be better informed about the culture and the interview process," says Goli.
Is This a Contingency or a Retained Search?
If you are dealing with a third-party search firm then you need to know whether they are contingency-based or retained search. "In contingency searches, recruiters are paid if they place the candidate -- and whoever gets you into a company first can try to claim a fee if you land there. So if you are already networking into a company, recruiters are not likely to want to help, as the company can claim they knew you already and therefore they do not owe a fee," says Locey.
Another factor, Locey says, is that in contingency search if you don't get the position, but make a solid connection with the hiring manager and get called back later for a different position, the search firm can claim that the company owes them a fee for making the introductions.
A retained search means that the company has paid the firm to conduct the entire search. Whether you network in through Twitter, apply on their website or were referred by an employee, you will be interviewed by the search firm.
Why Is the Company Hiring?
Knowing why the company is putting someone on the payroll can help you better craft your resume and help define your interview preparation. Is this a new or existing position? What happened to the former person in the role? The answers to these questions will help you better formulate a strategy that will get you hired.
Is This Process Confidential?
A good recruiter will reach out to both passive and active candidates. As a result, many times you may be already working at your day job when the recruiter calls. A misplaced email or phone call and you could leave you with a lot of explaining to do.
Request Regular Follow-ups
When you are waiting for news from a recruiter who is submitting your resume and he/she is a no-show, it can get frustrating. No one likes the cold shoulder, so request weekly updates from the recruiter while your resume is being reviewed, even in the case where there is no news to deliver.
What Is the Hiring Timeline?
The experts we spoke with agreed that asking about the timeline is an appropriate and relevant question. A good recruiter will keep you in the loop and let you know if it changes.
Set Clear Boundaries
As you get deeper into the process of working with an IT recruiter, you need to set boundaries to ensure that your resume isn't being used to spam potential hiring managers or that hiring managers aren't receiving duplicate copies of your resume. There are less reputable recruiters out there who will push out resumes to companies that they have no relationship with to try and get a response.
"You need to be firm that your resume is your property, that you will consider making changes that they suggest (after all, this is what we do every day, so we do know what hiring managers tend to look for in a resume) but that they not make any unauthorized changes or send your resume anywhere except where you have agreed to have it sent," says Girardin.
Although Locey says that some companies will transfer your resume to their letterhead and possibly make some changes, you've got to maintain control. The resume is your only connection to most hiring managers. Something so important shouldn't be changed without your OK.
A good recruiter should inform you if any changes are going to be made to your resume. "I would make it clear to the recruiter you are working with they do not have permission to change any of the language on your resume," says Girardin.
Another tip that Girardin offers is that candidates should take the time to meet the recruiter in person wherever possible. "Before you get too far in the process, meet face-to-face with your recruiter. This is a person you are trusting with one of the most important decisions in your life -- your career. Some candidates feel this step is not necessary, but I disagree; it's a crucial meeting, "says Girardin.
Other Potential Questions
In addition to the topics above, here is a list of additional questions to ask before you agree to let an IT recruiter present you to a potential employer:
- Tell me about the companies and roles you've suggested to me -- what makes them compelling opportunities?
- How did you come into contact with this company?
- What can you tell me about the team and manager I would be working with?
- What are the most important deliverables within the first six months?
- What can I expect in the interview process?
Final Thoughts on IT Recruiters
Be careful and selective with the recruiters you work with. After meeting with the recruiter a few times, you will get a better feel for their level of knowledge, how they communicate, what type of approach they use and how helpful they will be. One thing to keep in mind is that IT recruiters are working for the hiring organization. They don't work for you.
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Rich Hein is Managing Editor for CIO.com. He covers IT careers.