Nabbing an IT job these days requires a good dollop of experience, a dash of luck, and a pinch of wisdom on how to get noticed. The terms and requirements may have changed over the years, but one truism remains intact: You can't always tell a good candidate by their resume.
Years ago, I was with the company moving into the age of the World Wide Web -- and moving our network from coax to Cat5. At that time, viruses and hacks were usually more of an annoyance from script kiddies and individuals wanting to test their skills rather than more sinister types who try to steal company data.
[ For more real-life IT tales, check out the slideshow "Step away from the button! 6 touchy tech disasters." | Pick up a $50 American Express Gift Cheque if we publish your tech story: Send it to email@example.com. | Get your weekly dose of workplace shenanigans by following Off the Record on Twitter and subscribing to the anonymous Off the Record newsletter. ]
But not for long -- a couple of our employees' computers got infected with the Wazzu virus (also spread accidentally by Microsoft) and the Melissa virus. We saw the need to increase our staff in order to commit more resources toward keeping our network secure. Thus, we began an interview process.
Education vs. experience
In those days, many would-be techies had "experience" with computers and no formal diplomas, or they had acquired a diploma but lacked experience. Seeking a new employee could be quite an entertaining endeavor.
We ran a job posting in the two local newspapers and awaited the onslaught of resumes. My assistant and I sorted through the large pile and selected several to interview, most of which were recent graduates from local universities. However, most of the applicants had little to no network or PC experience and were merely seeking to gain a job where they could further their skill set. We identified a couple of possible candidates to call in for an interview, although I wasn't too optimistic that they'd have what we needed for the job.
My assistant didn't help matters, arguing for setting up an interview with a woman who had been working at Victoria's Secret for the past year after graduating with a degree in computer science (I suspected an ulterior motive, as her grades were rather unimpressive). She didn't have any further tech experience listed, either.
We had another candidate that looked good for the job, and I pointed out my reasons to my assistant. "Mr. K." was an older man who was self-taught and had his own computer repair business. His resume stood out because he listed practical experience that new grads lacked. My assistant, perhaps upset that I'd vetoed the interview he had wanted, argued vehemently against Mr. K. In the end, we gave him a call.