Staffing 360: Exploring the World of Staffing From All Angles

It’s critical to have a great summary section

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

A while back we wrote about how Objective sections in resumes are outdated and recruiters don’t find them useful (Get Rid of that “Objective Section” on Your Resume ASAP).  So, what should you have instead?

A great Summary section.

A Summary is your opportunity to answer the “tell me about yourself” question succinctly.  It’s a chance to emphasize your key skills, experience and career highlights so that a recruiter can quickly see your potential suitability to an open position.  The Summary is the first, and often one of the only things a recruiter reads.

A good summary statement should be a part of every resume but it’s particularly useful if you are:

  1. A recent college graduate.  You can highlight the skills that are most relevant to the job.  The positions you held previously and the companies you worked at might not match what you are applying for but you can highlight the skills you learned that are transferable.  It’s also a place to showcase your education and academic achievements up front, instead of only at the end where education shows up.

  2. Someone making a career change or switching industries.   Again, you have the chance right up front to feature what you know that is relevant and transferable to the position.  Without this, a recruiter or hiring manager might assume you’re not a fit because your work experience isn’t traditional or what they expect to see.

  3. Experienced professionals with diverse experience or a lengthy work history.   In this case, the Summary serves as an “executive summary” of your resume. You can pull the most relevant and impressive skills and career accomplishments and present them at the top.  A recruiter can get more detail if they read your specific work experience but this overview is a helpful way to pull them in.

How do you create a Summary section?

Think about the most critical skills and experience that you have – three or four is enough.  What are the most important things that you would want to tell a recruiter about yourself if you were speaking with them?  Make sure that they align with the job description and requirements.  Are you familiar with the term Elevator Speech or Pitch?  Think of your Summary as a personal elevator pitch, an opportunity to tell the reviewer about the strengths and accomplishments that truly make you stand out as a candidate.

For example, you might highlight your expertise in drawing engineering plans, your ability to manage large technical projects, or your years of managing an IT department or team.  Depending on the length of your career these will vary.  Senior IT professionals and managers should definitely include business skills along with their technical expertise.  Write your statements using specifics to support your claims.  Consider the difference between these:

  1. Significant technical experience

    - or -

  1. Leverages technical expertise on hardware setup and configuration to ensure exceptional user support and resolve operational issues.

  1. Experience with security and classified information.

- or -

  1. Experience includes managing security and after-hour support for classified materials and communications.

Provide enough detail that it makes your statements meaningful and tells the recruiter something real that allows them to truly understand your qualifications.  But while you want to include details don’t make your summary too long.  The recommended length is not more than 4-5 lines.  Remember the idea is to catch the reviewer's attention not turn them off with a block of heavy text.  Don’t give in to the temptation to go longer than this!  Another don’t?  Don’t write in the first person – no “I dids” allowed.

Your Summary is a good place to:

  1. List technical skills like programming languages you know and have worked with.  Something like “Proficient in the following: C++, Java, C#, Python” can tell a lot about you in a few words.  It’s provides very relevant information that an IT recruiter wants to know about you right away.  Does it tell all the good stuff in detail?  No, but that’s not the Summary’s purpose.  It’s to attract the recruiter’s attention and keep them reading on to your Experience section.

  2. Let them know about any certifications that you have, especially if the job description makes it clear that’s important to them.  If you’re PMP or CompTIA Project+ certified, put it in the summary.  Generally certifications end up in their own section after Education, which is fine and they should be listed there as well, especially if you have many.  But many recruiters aren’t going to make it that far so bringing a few key ones up to the top isn’t a bad idea.  Remember, you have a minute or less to make an impression in most cases.

  3. Optimize your resume for an ATS reader using keywords from the job description.  Take a look at the words and phrases they use and adjust your copy to match where it makes sense.  Many companies use ATS software and while it can be frustrating to think about being “evaluated” by a machine, it is a reality that you need to consider.  Optimizing with keywords in your summary is a relatively easy way to address this.

  4. Tailor your resume to the job position.  Advice from everyone and everywhere is to tailor your resume to each position as much as possible.  Keywords are one way to match your resume to their job description, as we note in #3.  Read the job description and make sure that you have something about yourself that matches up with the key skills and experience they are looking for.  The Summary is an easy place to edit and change things and if you are only making changes to one part of your resume, it can also be easier to proof and avoid mistakes.

The top of your resume is your first chance to make a great impression and establish your unique value as an employee and a Summary section is the best way to do that.  Simply saying something like “I’m looking for a position,” a typical opening for an Objective section, doesn’t do any of that.  You have limited space, so it’s critical to carefully plan what you write. It needs to be concise AND convey the best of your professional accomplishments in a way that makes the reader want to know more.

Creating a great Summary will open your resume with a bang and help you get noticed more by recruiters, hiring managers, or anyone reviewing it.  If you don’t have one already, get busy creating one today!

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Tags: job search, resume, summary

The Things You Must Do As Your IT Contract Job Nears Its End

Posted by ATR International on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

There’s a lot of attention paid to the beginning of a contract assignment and most of us are aware that there are things that must be done to get off to a good start. Once you’re on the job though, your attention is rightfully on getting the work done and it can be easy for the end of your assignment to catch you off guard.

Don’t let this happen. As your assignment draws to a close there are several things you should do to make the transition to your next job as easy and painless as possible. Typical IT assignments last about 12-18 months, and in that case you should start with about 3 months left on your assignment. You want to know what your future holds as much as anyone possibly can and while sometime between gigs is something many contractors welcome, many others want to avoid any break in service. This gives you a reasonable amount of time to secure a new assignment.

What should you do?

  1. Call the recruiter who placed you.  This is ABSOLUTELY the first step. Of course they should be tracking when your assignment is up and get in touch with you, but don’t wait. Be proactive. Very often there is the possibility of extending your contract and finding out if this is the case is the first thing your recruiter, working with the client account manager if there is one, will do. This could be all it takes to ensure that you continue working for another six months, a year or longer. You should never directly ask your manager or supervisor if your contract will be extended. You work for the firm that placed you and it is their job to liaise with the client.

  2. Share information with your recruiter.  The more information you can give your recruiter about the current status of the project, the better off they are.  Knowledge is power. They may also be able to share back. Perhaps another position is coming up at that client or they already know your position will be extended. Often a simple reminder to the hiring manager is all it takes.

What if your contract is not going to be renewed or extended?

  1. Think about what you want to do next.  Do you want another contract position? If this was your first time working as a contractor, hopefully you know now whether or not this work style suits you. Maybe a direct position is more to your liking.  Either way, ask yourself these questions. What’s the next step in developing my skills? What kind of work would I like to do next? What company do I want to work for? Do I want to change industries?

  2. Share information with your recruiter.   No, this is not a mistakenly repeated comment. Share your goals for your next assignment with them. Be honest and as specific as you can be. The more information they have about what you want, the better able they will be to find you something that fits right. Discuss what positions are available or will be. Set expectations. Let them know if a slight (or even longer) break between assignments is ok or potentially desirable, or if it is critical that you experience no downtime.

  3. Start monitoring your staffing firm’s website.  We always want to keep our contractors employed and do everything we can to find a new position they can start as their old contract ends. You can help us by monitoring the openings on our website and paying attention to emails advertising positions. Again, be proactive. Don’t wait for us to match you to a position - if you see something that you are interested in, reach out. It may not be a fit in the end but it’s always worth a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  4. Update your resume.  Add this latest assignment and any special skills or experience that you gained while working there. This may seem like an obvious one but it’s easy to forget or put it off until suddenly your recruiter calls with a great opportunity and you have to rush to update it before sending. Rushing produces mistakes!

  5. Ask your manager(s) and colleagues for references.  Only ask for a reference where it’s appropriate. It is much easier to do when you are still there instead of after your assignment ends. Don’t overstep your bounds or annoy anyone. It might be helpful to check with your recruiter and make sure there are no restrictions on what the client’s protocols allow in this area. This should be done in the last month or weeks of the assignment, certainly only after it is clear that your contract really is ending. If you ask too soon it may give the impression that you are checked out and not focused on the job at hand that needs finishing.  

Doing all of this will go a long way to ensuring you stay on the job, employed without any hiccups or breaks in service. We are also realistic. We know that finding a new assignment can take time, and that we may not always have a suitable position for you. We may not recruit for a firm or industry that you really want to work in. We know that the things that we have recommended you do in conjunction with your current staffing employer, you should also consider doing with others.  

You may want to contact another recruiter or firm that you have worked with successfully in the past. You’ll want to monitor their openings too and other job boards as well. If there is a company you want to work for and we don’t recruit for them, you will want to find a firm that does. It would be somewhat foolish of you not to and ridiculous for us not to acknowledge these things. But keep in mind, the firm you currently work for may be in the best position to navigate some of the problems you might foresee.  

For example, if another company needs someone to start 2 or 3 weeks before your current assignment ends you might assume that your current staffing firm would be more interested in having you finish your assignment and would not consider you for the position. In our case, you would be wrong. We want both our contractors and our clients to be happy and we want you to be gainfully employed as much as you want to be.  

Often a simple conversation with one or the other of the clients can take care of things. One might be able to end things early or start a little later. We’re in the best position to negotiate between the two and secure a good outcome for all parties involved if you’ve been working with us to secure a new position. The point is, we want to keep you working and will do what we need to in order for things to work out. You would probably find other firms accommodating as well. And if your contract is ending and we’ve been unable to find something else suitable for you, we’d rather see you employed and continuing to provide for yourself and your family than not. We’re not interested in stringing people along or keeping them in our clutches “just in case.”  

There is a lot of demand for good IT professionals and certain skills sets are in such high demand that you might feel you don’t have to worry about your next assignment too much. This probably isn’t as true as you think, and it certainly won’t last forever. More importantly, even when you’re in high demand, you have a better pick of assignments when you start planning sooner. If you don’t have the hot skill of the moment, then it makes even more sense to be proactive. Really though, it just makes sense to take control of your next career move in any situation.

So if your contract assignment is going to end soon, get started!


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Tags: temporary staffing, jobs, job search, IT Consulting

The End of Performance Reviews

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

There’s been a flurry of news over the summer about some big corporations abandoning the traditional annual Performance Review (PR), joining others who’ve made the same decision over the past several years. Microsoft, Adobe, Medtronic, and most recently Deloitte and Accenture, have all jettisoned the traditional annual PR and its accompanying forced ranking requirement, up or out process, and other common components. About 6% of the Fortune 500 have made this move.

A variety of research and studies show that the process does not reliably improve employee performance (presumably the goal), and the costs are very high in dollars and morale, as the process often drives resentment and bad feelings in both managers and employees. According to the management research group, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their performance measurement systems, and 90 percent of HR department heads believe they do not yield accurate information.

None of this surprises me. Anecdotally, I’ve known what all these studies have shown because like most of you, I’ve been on the receiving and giving sides of annual reviews, and disliked both of them. As a senior business executive and manager of people, I used to have one of those systems but I replaced it several years ago. It’s interesting to see others coming to the same conclusion and to understand some of the reasons why these more complex systems don’t deliver the best results.

If you have the time to read the full article about some of the latest brain research, and what it shows, it’s very interesting, but in short, even employees who get positive news can suffer negative feelings; the process often triggers disengagement and inhibits creativity and growth. Studies show this is because “labeling people with any form of numerical rating or ranking automatically generates an overwhelming “fight or flight” response that impairs good judgment. This neural response is the same type of “brain hijack” that occurs when there is an imminent physical threat like a confrontation with a wild animal. It primes people for rapid reaction and aggressive movement [and] is ill-suited for the kind of thoughtful, reflective conversation that allows people to learn from a performance review.”

We have a system now that is akin to Adobe’s Check In. Once a year our employees evaluate their accomplishments, think about what they want to do for the next year, and what training or assistance they need, and then set goals. Throughout the year, everyone keeps in touch and talks on a periodic basis about how both long and short term projects are going. We do this in real-time to both teach and guide, as well as to provide feedback and constructive comments for improvement as needed. And that’s it. Everything repeats each year. For me, this type of system is just an example of putting our values into action.

Respect for the Individual.

It’s one of three core values that underpin what we do at ATR. Everyone wants, and deserves, to be treated with respect and courtesy. It seems to me that the PR process too often is inherently disrespectful. Think about it – ranking people, literally turning them into a number, how can that be respectful?

I value my employees as people. I am not here to look over their shoulder constantly or second guess and judge them once a year. To me traditional PRs always felt like “gotcha” moments, again, the epitome of disrespect. Respectful to me is approaching it this way. We’re both adults, let’s act like adults. You’ve been hired to do a job. Let’s figure out what that entails, what your responsibilities will be, what specific projects and day to day activities are involved, and how you’re going to accomplish all of that in a meaningful way.

As the time progresses let’s have honest two-way conversations where you are encouraged to identify issues, ask questions, suggest solutions or simply ask for help. In turn your manager can provide guidance and instruction on a real time basis. Simple, straightforward, and much better for everyone involved. It’s also smarter for business. If you aren’t doing your job well and need guidance or training, providing it retroactively once a year isn’t going to cut it. Periodic check-ins and continuous feedback help ensure that both projects and the individual stay on track.

As a business executive, I know that each company needs to make the decision that works best for them. I also know that we are always looking for information on best practices and hoping to learn from other successful companies. So it’s interesting to see some of the most successful business organizations making choices similar to the one we made at ATR. Mostly though I’m glad to reaffirm my commitment to a more respectful, and it turns out more effective, performance management process.

Jerry Brenholz
President & CEO
ATR International, Inc.

Tags: JerryBrenholz, staffing, performance review

Philanthropy Is Good For Humanity And For Business

Posted by Jerry Brenholz on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

“Whoever saves one life, it is as if he [or she] has saved the whole world.”
- The Talmud -

charityThis beautiful quote is especially true when you think about it in terms of supporting the charitable organizations in our communities. Whatever time or money you give in support of these institutes is automatically multiplied by the good that each organization does. This multiplication principle exists whether you give one dollar or a million, help one person or a thousand. The possibility of what each human can accomplish is unknown and limitless. As long as your act of charity and kindness changes one life for the better, you’ve helped nurture that limitless human possibility.  

As a business executive, I can also tell you that what holds true for the personal, applies to the corporate. Many might think that a company has a duty to give back, and I agree, but it is not only out of duty that corporate philanthropy is a good idea. It is actually good for business – good for your bottom line. A well-planned, contextually strategic philanthropic strategy can lead to:

  • Improved name recognition and a better brand reputation with your customers
  • Increased sales and positive customer feelings 
  • More effective recruiting and retention of talented employees
  • Better quality of life in communities where you do business

Increasingly, consumers and employees, especially the millennial generation, care more than ever about the charitable efforts of the companies they purchase from and work at. This means that if your company’s philanthropy results in more people knowing who you are and how you benefit the community it can result in happier, more productive employees, and customers who feel positive about your firm and good about buying products or services from you. These are all things that will propagate increased business success. 

I want to really emphasize the point about attracting and retaining millennial generation employees through highlighting your philanthropic efforts. Over the past several years, like me, you have probably read that making a difference and working at a company that has a positive impact on the world is of critical importance to this generation. I have found this to be absolutely true. Each time I’ve interviewed a candidate for a position here at ATR International, they are really excited to hear about our commitment both as a firm and in supporting our employee’s individual efforts through our Volunteer Time Off program.  If you are trying to hire recent graduates to work at your company, your philanthropy can be a differentiating factor. Google and Facebook aren’t the only ones who can inspire people!

Helping to build stronger, safer, more desirable communities to live in can help attract the talented workforce you need. Ensuring that the schools, colleges, and universities in your area are strong and functioning at the highest level also means that businesses have a pool of educated workers needed to keep their firms profitable. When you make your community, and the world, a better place, you make a better place for you and everyone else to work and do business, to raise a family, to be creative and innovative, to live and love in peace and prosperity. 

The list of causes that need our support is long but our resources as individuals, as companies, and as nations, are deep – endless when it comes to spirit, commitment, and energy. Who knows what the person whose life you change will accomplish? Perhaps the homeless child your support lifts will be the one who helps discover a cure for cancer. Perhaps the man who your support helps overcome cancer will be the one who teaches and influences a future president. There is no limit to what investing in the people and communities you do business in might lead to but there is strong evidence that the baseline achievement is one that will make you feel good and your company more successful.

What we do for a living does not define us as much as what we do to connect with others and how we make a positive difference in their lives. Through charitable thoughts and deeds, we create greater meaning and satisfaction in our own daily lives as well as in the lives of others. We create a better world for everyone. It turns out, that’s just good business!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO

Start Your Contract Job The Right Way w/ Senior Recruiter Josh Selinar

Posted by ATR International on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

josh-1You just got off the phone with the staffing agency and your recruiter had great news: you’ll soon be starting your contract assignment!

You’re probably feeling both excited and a little nervous, especially if this is your first time working as a contractor. That’s to be expected. Now that you’ve got the job you want to make a good impression and start off strong. What can you expect from now on? What can you do to make sure everything goes well?

Staffing 360 came up with the following list and asked one of our senior recruiters, Josh Seliner, to share his thoughts as well.

Before your first day:

The onboarding process. The first thing you’ll do is go through onboarding, which is the process for completing any pre-employment paperwork that is necessary. We’ve automated our onboarding process, through Docusign, as have many others, but whether it’s online, via email, or in person, there are forms to be completed. You need to get onto the payroll system, and sometimes something client specific like an employee handbook or safety manual needs to be signed off on.

Set up any appointments that are necessary ASAP. Some jobs require drug testing, fingerprinting or health screenings. Get this taken care of as soon as possible to avoid any delay or problem in starting your assignment on time.

Know where to go and who to report to on the first day. Your recruiter should provide you with all the information you need ahead of time: where to be, what time, what to wear, who to meet with, etc. The manager or administrative person you meet with will handle internal IDs, security, card keys and other such stuff.

Josh told us, “It’s crucial to stay in touch with your recruiter or the agency HR person and respond to messages as quickly as possible during onboarding. Open communication will move things along and ensure a smoother start and more successful assignment overall.”

On your first day:

Don’t be late! It seems obvious but still bears repeating so that no one makes this mistake. Today is not the day to miss the train, run out of gas, or for your alarm clock to fail. Check the schedule, fill the tank, and set a backup alarm but do whatever it takes to get there on time.

Dress professionally. You’ll probably have gotten a clue from your interviews what the dress code is and your recruiter will also advise you, but unless you are totally sure that casual is a must and anything more will make you look foolish, you should dress to impress the first few days. It is always better to err on the side of caution.

Expect a call from your recruiter at the end of the day. They should check in with you to see if everything went as planned and if you have any questions. Be honest with the recruiter. Hopefully it all went well but if there were any hiccups, let them know. Josh concurred, “If it’s something logistical, knowing about it will help me fix it for the next person. If it’s a bigger issue, knowing about it right away makes it easier for me to nip it in the bud and ensure everyone ends up happy.”

During your first week, and beyond:

Get to know your new co-workers. As a contractor getting to know the people in your department or on your team is critical, and you need to do so faster than a permanent employee. Pay careful attention and figure out everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Don’t necessarily wait for people to introduce themselves; be friendly and personable and talk to people at the coffee machine, the water cooler or in the break room. Don’t waste anyone’s time but don’t be standoffish or too quiet.

“This is a really important point and highlights one of the differences in being a contractor - you don’t have months to get up to speed. Quickly establishing good working relationships is a must.” “But,” Josh cautioned, “No gossip or drama. Absolutely none.”

Ask Questions. Sometimes human nature makes us feel as though asking questions makes us look stupid or like we don’t know what we’re doing. But in a very real sense, you don’t know what you’re doing and asking questions can help you learn more quickly and avoid mistakes that cost time and money. Smart questions are never a bad thing and making sure that you fully understand the project, your role and the specifics of a task are all good things.

Take notes. Again, some people may think this looks weak or as though you are not paying attention to the speaker but the opposite is true. Don’t rely on your memory for everything, especially that first week. As Josh pointed out, “You’ll be bombarded with information those first few days, which is exactly when something might slip through the cracks.”

Don’t go overboard or try to record everything verbatim but taking judicious notes while fully listening will be your friend in the long run. Consider reviewing things at the end of each day to further imprint important information.

Don’t be too opinionated or act like a know it all. There’s really no good time to behave this way, but especially as a contractor, and particularly in the first week or two, you don’t want to come across in a negative light. You are there to help out, to become a member of their team as seamlessly and with as little disruption as possible.

Even if they do have the worst process or software or system ever, the first week is not the time to point that out. Constantly referring to what impressive thing you did at another company or what cool program you know isn’t going to win friends either. Even if you were hired to critique things and your actual job responsibilities include “telling it like it is,” take the first week or two to build up some good will and make a few new friends. Josh laughed at this one and agreed that “diplomacy is a good quality to develop and nurture, for all of us!”

Get used to tracking and reporting your time. This is another of the big differences between a contract and a permanent assignment. If you don’t submit your hours, you won’t get paid. Don’t disrupt your life by missing a paycheck because you forgot to submit or you did so too late for them to be approved. Understand how things work and when you need to get things to your manager for approval, and to your staffing firm for processing, and then meet those deadlines.

Josh advises his contractors to add a calendar reminder or other weekly alarm. “Setting up direct deposit is a good idea too. It’s a huge time saver even if the first 1 or 2 checks still come by mail.”

Everyone worries about making a good impression and doing a good job but when you are a contractor, you have a compressed time frame that makes it even more critical and a bit more challenging since you want to get up to speed and be valuable to the company as quickly as possible. Being prepared for what to expect and following a few simple guidelines can really make a difference.

Be a star from the moment you start your assignment!

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10 Great Websites To Learn Programming

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

Our goal at Staffing 360 is to give our clients and contractors news, information, and advice that is relevant and useful. We’ve often written about the importance of staying up to date on your skills, or developing competency in new technologies, platforms, or programming languages. Just wanted to share the article 10 Great Websites for Learning Programming from Information Week in case you missed it.

The author, Thomas Claburn, rightly points out that:

“You need a foundation, some level of familiarity with the syntax and patterns in whatever programming language or framework you [need to work in]…you need some sense of basic programing concepts and the scope of possibilities. The Web, a labyrinth of code, is full of educational resources that can help you lay that foundation.

We second the author in pointing out the caveat:

“If you want to create your own browser, programming language, or machine learning system, you'll probably be better off enrolling in a reputable computer science program than trying to cobble the necessary skillset together through online tutorials.”

But, if you are a senior IT professional who just wants or needs to learn a particular new language or system, online courses could be a great answer. Similarly, if you are in the early years of your career, this can be a free, in most cases, relatively inexpensive in others, way to add to your skills. If you have that computer science degree and a few years of experience, these kinds of classes and tutorials can be a real option.

Keep in mind also that this is not a comprehensive list and is presented in random order not preferential. Different needs and interests will be better served by one or another option. No one of these is the answer to all your needs and none of them may be right for you but knowledge and options are power.

You can get all of Claburn’s comments about learning programming online in general, and each of the sites specifically, by reading the full article. For those of you who would like to fast track to the list, here you are:

If you’ve been thinking about learning something new – one of these might be right for you.

Happy learning!


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Technical Knowledge Is Just The Beginning For A Successful IT Career

Posted by ATR International on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 @ 07:30 AM

Professional development is something that everyone should consider throughout their career. In the IT world, keeping up with the latest technology, hardware and software is a constant struggle – it’s a fast changing environment with upgrades and innovations coming out all the time. But there is more that matters to being successful in business than just keeping up with the latest tech developments.

The recent IT Skills and Salary Report from Global Knowledge shows the importance of general business knowledge to the overall success and compensation of an IT professional, and they also suggest a path to advancement and long term career success.

Their chart, "Skills Areas Impacting Compensation by Tenure" (page 8), shows the top 5 most frequently mentioned skills include “business skills” and “leadership and professional skills.” (IT security, network operations and IT architecture are the others.) The percentage of respondents who reported these as important increases as they become more senior in their positions and responsibilities. For example, for people in the first 5 years of their career 32% noted business skills; by the time someone has 20+ years of experience that number is 54%.

The study acknowledges that the numbers skew that way in part because of the many IT professionals in management and tenured positions included in the survey population. But that just makes the point: if you want to advance in IT, taking on positions of increasing responsibility, relevance, and contribution, you will need to develop these skills. If you are in the beginning stages of your career, or really at any point where you are considering what kinds of training to pursue, what skills to improve or add to your toolbox, business and professional skills should be on that list, maybe even at or near the top.

What are business and professional skills?

Well, they include:

  1. Managing people and departments: the ability to inspire, develop and lead others

  2. Understanding the company overall: the ability to read financial statements and other reports, to deeply know the product or service of the company (especially if you are in an IT department as opposed to an IT firm), and to understand the business processes involved in running the business day to day

  3. Communicating clearly: the ability to speak to colleagues and clients in non-IT terms, without jargon and acronyms

  4. Building relationships: the ability to work well with others, clients and colleagues – especially in other departments

  5. Managing projects: the ability to think strategically and plan carefully to keep any project, large or small, on time and on budget

  6. Good basic writing skills: the ability to write clear, professional emails, memos, instructions, manuals, etc., using proper grammar and spelling

  7. Seeing the big picture: the ability to see how you, your project, your department, your tasks, fit into the larger picture and to see things from the other’s viewpoint

  8. Being flexible: the ability to deal with unexpected problems, delays or simply changes to the schedule

Whether it is business acumen, interpersonal abilities, or foundational speaking and writing aptitude - these skills can be critical to becoming a great IT professional, instead of just a great technical IT person. But this is probably still only a partial list.

One good way to add to it is to ask people you know or work with what business skills they think are important. Talk to people in leadership positions or whom you admire in your company, and not just the head of IT. Professionals outside of your company are also a good source and will bring a different perspective.

How do you get these skills?

  1. Take advantage of internal training.  This is a great idea.  It's free and shows people that you have initiative and drive.  When those messages about webinars or seminars the company is offering come through, sign up!  Make time for at least some of them – they are just as important in many ways as the actual work you do. 

  2. Volunteer.  Simply volunteering can also be a good path.  The next time they are looking for someone to manage a project, no matter how small, volunteer.  You’ll gain valuable hands on experience.  Offer to write or draft the memo or report; with writing it really is true that practice makes perfect, certainly better.  Volunteer to make presentations or speeches to gain experience and confidence.

  3. Take external classes. If your writing needs improvement take a class on business writing or a refresher on grammar and punctuation at the local college or online.  Seek out a business or financial management course.  Check out the offerings for their IT degrees, many colleges have developed these kinds of courses specifically for IT people.

  4. Join a professional/industry group.  Very often they will have learning opportunities in so called "soft" and business skills for their members. 

Everyone hopes to be successful in their career, not just to make more money (although that’s always good!) but also because we generally want to take on more interesting work and do things that matter and have an impact, in our company and the world. Don’t just hope though. Keep in mind all the skills you’ll need to be truly successful and be proactive about developing them throughout your career.

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Get Rid of that "Objective Section" on Your Resume ASAP!

Posted by ATR International on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 @ 07:30 AM

Does your resume start off with an “Objective” section? It shouldn’t, and if it does, it could be costing you big time.

Your resume is the first impression you make on a hiring manager or recruiter, and you have only seconds of their attention so you want to make it count. Everyone knows that a typo or misspelled word can be disastrous, landing your resume in the no pile. But you might not be aware that the Objective Section can potentially do the same.

At one point, people were routinely advised to start their resume off with an Objective paragraph, something that explained the type of position they were looking for and the kind of work they wanted to do. But times change, and the resume changes with them. Now, an objective is seen by most people as redundant and unnecessary; it’s obvious that your objective is to get a job or you wouldn’t be applying. We don’t mean to be snarky but it’s true.

More importantly, the objective doesn’t tell a prospective employer anything they really want to know about you and why you are the right person for their company. It is wasted space, and prime space at that – right at the top. It would be so much more useful to use this prime real estate to promote your skills and experience and give the person reviewing the resume real information that can help them evaluate your suitability for the role.

Which is why the current advice is to replace your outdated objective with a summary section. Use this section to present your most relevant skills, experience, and accomplishments in a summary format. This is a great place to list technology and programs that you are proficient in and also a good opportunity to tailor your resume to the job description and include key words. Do they ask for a developer who knows Java, C++, or Python? Put that in here and you’ll make it easier for ATS scanning software or human eyes to find those keywords and push your resume to the top of the pile.

Even if you don’t replace the Objective with a Summary, just eliminating it will automatically make your resume more attractive to recruiters by making it more up to date. The Objective section says old and stale to many recruiters, and while they should take time to look beyond it, you can’t count on that. So make a quick change to your resume and get noticed for the right reasons, reasons that will get you to the next step – an interview!


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The Must Do's of Phone and Video Interviews

Posted by ATR International on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

video_interviewThe interview is an irreplaceable part of the hiring process. It is pretty much impossible to get hired without going through at least one interview and usually you will need to pass muster multiple times with multiple people. In person interviews are the norm but phone interviews have been a staple for many years now too.

The newcomer to the group is the video interview, but with employers and job seekers alike looking for ways to save time and money, it’s becoming increasingly popular. Phone interviews, which used to be almost increasingly used as an initial screening tool, are being used more often and later in the process.

Most of us know that preparing for an interview is critical, absolutely critical. Blow the interview and you don’t get the job; it’s as simple as that. So how do you prepare? Is it different preparing for a video interview than one in person? If it’s just a phone interview you don’t have to worry about it as much, right? Wrong.

The first thing to know is that almost everything you would do for an in person interview (sans practicing your firm handshake!) you should do for a phone or video interview. Period.

Now it may seem obvious that you should research the company, the position, and the person you are interviewing with. Also obvious that you should practice your answers and prepare questions that demonstrate your knowledge and interest. But some others might not seem so obvious, like showing up early. Of course it’s a basic piece of advice for an in person interview but for a phone or video interview too? Yes.

1.  Be in the room where you will take the call at least 5 minutes before the scheduled time. This will give you a chance to collect your thoughts, and catch your breath. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you should take the call in the laundry room or pick up the phone after running upstairs or inside from the back yard. This will also give you time to review your notes, the job description, etc. Get yourself in a professional and work focused frame of mind.

How about dressing for the interview? Surely that’s different than for an in person interview? Nope.

2.  For a video interview you should dress the same way that you would for an in person interview. Again, being at home isn’t an excuse for being casual. You want to make the same good impression. And not looking good just from the waist up! Dressing for success puts you in a more professional mood and will help you come across as the talented individual that you are. Which is why we suggest dressing for a phone interview as well. Maybe not the full regalia of a suit, but certainly something clean and not sweatpants or pajamas.

Video and phone interviews also have some unique things that you need to think about, things you wouldn’t ever worry about for an in person interview.

3.  You need to be in a quiet place, free from distractions and extraneous noise. If you take the call in your car, turn it off, roll up the windows and create a quiet space. Be aware that background noise that seems unnoticeable to you can be amplified by cell phones or computer microphones. For video interviews double check that no one will walk behind you. Also make sure that the desk or table you sit at is free from clutter and that nothing messy or inappropriate is visible behind you either.

4.  Make sure your equipment works. Check that you have good reception if you are using a cell or phone, and make certain that it is charged. If you have one, utilize your land line to avoid a dropped call, static, or other interference. Temporarily disable call waiting and/or silence any notifications that you usually get. Test the microphone and webcam on your computer before any video call, and don’t wait until that last minute to do so. If there’s a problem you want time to fix it well before the interview.

5.  Speak slowly, clearly, and pause a little longer to allow the interviewer to interject. On a phone interview, neither of you will have the usual facial or body cues that let you know when someone wants to speak. With a video call, there is a lag time as it transmits. Be sure you speak clearly to avoid mishearing and pause a little longer at the end of a sentence or thought to allow the feed to catch up or the interviewer a chance to speak without having to interrupt you. One last video tip: look into the camera not at the screen. This way you will be looking the interviewer “in the eye.” Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of looking down at the table during an in person interview.

The interview won’t ever be obsolete in hiring and phone and video interviews are only going to gain in popularity since the cost and time saving benefits are huge. Make sure that you don’t make the mistake of not preparing properly for any type of interview you have!

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The 4 Reasons Job Rejection Should Never Be Taken Personally

Posted by Wendy Sun on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

job search rejectionLooking for a new job can be exciting and hopeful, but also incredibly frustrating when the inevitable happens – you don’t get the job.  It will happen multiple times in any job search, and the longer you look, the more rejections you’ll get before you finally find the right one and are hired. Dealing with the emotional side of job rejection can be very challenging and there is lots of advice out there. Some of it focuses on recognizing if there are things you can do differently next time: does your resume need work or do you need to work on your interviewing skills? Some advice is practical and suggests getting outdoors or exercising, or seeking support by talking to friends or other job seekers.  

One of the most common pieces of advice is not to take it personally. Don’t make your professional self-worth dependent on what happens in an interview, focus on your strengths and achievements instead of dwelling on past mistakes, and keep a positive attitude. But knowing that you shouldn’t take it personally and actually not doing that are very different things. It’s hard not to think the problem is you, especially because most rejection letters include no details and only boilerplate language, if you even hear anything back at all.  

Well, here are a few reasons that it really isn’t you, it’s them, and you really shouldn’t take it personally:

  1. There was an internal candidate but the job needed to be posted in accordance with company protocols. This can be especially true when you submit your resume online and never hear anything ever or get a quick system generated rejection letter. Sometimes positions must be advertised to be in compliance with company rules but with a strong internal candidate in mind, there is little chance of really getting the job.  Don’t take it personally.

  2. They never gave the job to anyone. This happens more frequently than you think. A job is posted but things change. In today’s economy, companies are warier than before about adding new employees and skittish when economic forecasts or results are gloomier than expected. They may have thought they could hire but have since had a hiring freeze imposed, or a reduction in available budget. Don’t take it personally – they might have wanted you or someone else but in the end couldn’t hire anyone.

  3. They don’t know how to evaluate talent appropriately. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Orwell’s Animal Farm, and The Diary of Anne Frank are among many famous authors and classic novels that were all rejected, in some cases multiple times, before being published. The novel The Help was rejected by over 70 literary agents, HBO and Showtime both passed on Orange is the New Black before Netflix picked it up, and Jennifer Hudson was famously dissed by Simon Cowell and eliminated on American Idol before going on to win an Oscar for her role in Dream Girls.  

    It may actually be true that you are a diamond and they didn’t notice. Their ATS system may reject great candidates because of stringent keywords or you may be dealing with someone too inexperienced or too set in their ways to recognize your value, but don’t take it personally; comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone in being talented but overlooked.   

  4. You just weren’t what they needed or were looking for – no matter how talented and wonderful you are.  It happens in the sports world all the time – one team cuts a player and another scoops him up and pays him millions. Directors screen test multiple actors for a role but only pick one. Kurt Russell wasn’t chosen as Han Solo in Star Wars, Harrison Ford was, and Marlon Brando lost out to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Is one a better actor than the other? One more handsome or smart or talented than the other? Aren’t they all great actors who simply were, or weren’t, just right for the part, just what the director was looking for? You can be the Brando of software developers and still not get the job.  Don’t take it personally, actors don’t! (Well, at least they try…)

It is critically important to learn what you can from any job that you don’t get so that you can improve for the next time and do a better job of showcasing your talents and convincing a hiring company that you can help them out. By all means follow all the advice about reviewing your resume for flaws, getting feedback on your interview, etc. But also take the advice not to take it personally to heart because these four reasons are real, not just platitudes. You should feel good about yourself for a lot of reasons, and one of them is because sometimes it really is them, not you. Don’t take it personally!


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