A survivor's guide to IT job searches

One tech pro navigates a maze of tests, interviews, and recruiters in search of gainful employment

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Not long ago, I found myself among the ranks of the unemployed and looking for a new job. In my five months on the hunt, I applied for hundreds of positions and went through anywhere from one to five interviews every single week. Apparently, IT jobs are out there. However, so are the applicants – and the recruiters.

Starting out, I discovered the many different ways companies whittle down the massive pile of incoming résumés. The process is intense. For one job, I was informed that I’d been selected along with 30 others to go through the first elimination round: a 17-page written test.

I apparently passed – I was one of 12 individuals chosen to come back for the next round: a hands-on test. This one was broken out into three sections covering PC hardware, customer service, and Apple. I did well enough to be asked to return (along with six others) for a panel interview – all for one IT opening. Though I didn't get the job, I was pleased to make it to the panel interview.

Endless interviews

Some days, I was disheartened and depressed. But almost always, that day or the next I would get a call asking me to come in for an interview. It would raise my hopes, but it brought other challenges. For example, one day I had to juggle three in-person interviews at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m., spread all across town, of course. I'm pleased to report that I was early to every single one, thanks to careful planning of travel routes and good luck that the interviews all ran on time.

Then there are companies that can’t get enough help - if a company is constantly looking for multiple people to fill the same job description, it must have a high turnover rate. These listings fill you with mixed emotions: You probably don’t want a job there, but you don’t want to miss an opportunity. I managed to get a phone interview with one such company, which wanted Windows, Mac, and Linux experience – at a beginner pay rate.

Recruiters: Help or hindrance?

The company didn’t offer me the job, but it didn't stop the recruiters from calling me about it. I told them I’d already interviewed at that company, but they remained unfazed. Once they saw I was looking for a job, they were relentless in contacting me.

One day, I got a call from a very polite recruiter about a job, and I told them to submit my résumé. Almost as soon as I got off the phone, a not-so-polite recruiter rang me about the same job.

I informed the second recruiter that my name had already been submitted for the job and was then pummeled with questions. Was it the same company? Yes. Was it the same job title? Yes. Was it the same job number? Yes. Why didn’t I apply through them first? I said I’d never heard of them before. By the end of the week, another call and two more emails had come in regarding the same contract position.

I had never heard of some of the recruiting companies. Many of them had phone numbers from the other side of the country, and from their names to their accents, I had trouble communicating with many of the recruiters. I needed a job, so I tried to work with as many of them as possible, but sometimes it was too difficult.

For example, if you tell them you will email them within two hours, you should email them within one hour instead. Otherwise, they will call you, wanting to know when you will send your résumé/application/right-to-represent form. They were relentless.

I had my favorite recruiters, of course. I emailed one almost on a weekly basis for a while, then he stopped responding to my communications. I don’t know if he stopped being a recruiter or if he stopped being a recruiter for me.  

Back to basics

In the end, I found a job through a tried-and-true method: networking. A friend found out that one of the IT staff at the company he worked for was leaving, and he called me the second he heard. The company wanted someone right away and didn't advertise the position, so I had very little competition. I landed the job.

Not long after I was hired, a family member lost his IT job. Maybe my experiences will at least let him know what to expect and make his search easier.

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