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Using communities to find and land IT jobs

When it comes to finding and landing your next job, knowing where to look and making sure your interview skills are honed are both keys to success. Find out about online communities that can help, and tips for interviewing.

When I searched TechRepublic, I found more than 200 articles and columns on effective resume writing. Perhaps you’ve done the same—you’ve read all the TechRepublic articles and downloaded the templates, and you now have a polished resume with all the important data such as name, contact information, and how you saved your last employer $6 million with a floppy disk and a roll of masking tape.

However, preparing for the job interview in a tight market requires more than just a resume, especially if you’re being flexible and looking outside your geographic area or industry. Of course, you can always just post your resume online and get a flood of junk calls, but with the tight economy and ever-increasing competition, you need to use stronger and more creative networking techniques when searching for a job.

I’ll discuss using online communities and telephone interviews as part of your effort to land a new job.

Second of two parts
This is the second installment of a two-part series that examines where job search engines have indicated you’re most likely to find an open IT position and what you may have to do to land one. The first article looked at the numbers of open IT jobs and tactics to use to move to another industry.

Online communities
Thousands of communities and groups can assist you with your job hunt. Join a community in your field and get acquainted with others by chatting and joining message boards. Try to refrain from just griping about how hard it is to find a job; there are already boards for that.

On the IT boards, there’s usually lots of information sharing about what employers are looking for and where. Go one step further and look beyond IT communities, targeting the industry or user groups. The people you meet online could end up being the network connections you need to get a glimpse of that hidden job market or even a recommendation. If you’re open to relocating, these communities are good places to ask about the industry or location.

One thing to keep in mind about online communities is that quality beats quantity. If you’re going to hit 50 boards, ask a stupid question, and request e-mailed responses only, you’re what’s known as a “drive by” and you’ll be ignored. Think of online communities as a legitimate and serious networking opportunity and treat them accordingly. Read the boards before you post.

Find a maximum of three boards in which to actively participate. (Yes, you can drop a board if you find it doesn’t suit your purpose.) Craft a short standard post to introduce yourself. If it is a non-IT community, ask questions about their struggles with IT or if anyone has any experience with your area of expertise at his or her company.

For example, I know of one person who became active on a PeopleSoft community board while struggling through a PeopleSoft rollout at her company. When her husband relocated the family to another state, she had trouble finding a new job. Noticing a number of insurance companies in her area, she started researching and found an online community she liked that was dedicated to the insurance industry. After getting to know people, she asked if anyone knew whether his or her company was using PeopleSoft. A flood of answers came back with a wide range of responses. She used the information in her cover letter and ended up getting hired by a major insurance company that was impressed with her understanding of its frustrations and needs.

Telephone interviews
Another growing trend is to use telephone interviews for both screening and initial interviews. Prepare for telephone interviews the same way you would in-person interviews:
  1. Make sure the environment at your home or office is clear of other people and extraneous noise, such as radios, TVs, and pets. Make the call on time. Turn off or ignore call waiting.
  2. The first 15 seconds are crucial. The way you answer the phone has an effect on the caller. Talk distinctly and with confidence. If you need to use your cell phone for the interview, make sure your battery is fully charged and the signal is strong.
  3. Have your resume in front of you for quick reference, and know what you want to highlight in the conversation. Don't assume that the person on the other end of the phone knows your background or is familiar with the companies listed on your resume. Try to anticipate what they may ask about your background.
  4. Just like you would for any interview, research the company, products, revenues, and other pertinent industry information. If possible, have the company Web site already pulled up. That way, if something comes up in the conversation, you will be on top of things.
  5. Prepare questions based on the position's responsibilities, goals of the division, cultural style of the company, or the interviewer's background if that person is the hiring manager. Make sure you have an effective opening question to help you know how to handle the interview. Examples include:
  • “What are the key skills you feel are required for success in this position?”
  • "What parts of my background are you most interested in learning about?"
  • "What did you see in my resume that created your interest in me?"
  1. The end of the call is always a bit tricky. A good suggestion is to thank the callerfor taking the time to talk with you and indicate whether you’re interested in the opportunity. If the interviewer hasn’t asked you about your schedule or availability, it’s a good idea to ask, "What will the next step be in the process?" Be respectful of the interviewer’s schedule and let that person close the interview quickly if necessary. For interviews outside your geographic region, you can also offer online interviews via meeting, chat, or IM software if you have high-speed Internet access. Be flexible and prepared and you won’t have to wait for a significant job market recovery that’s “just around the corner.”

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