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How to Find a Programming Job
Rod Stephens (RodStephens@vb-helper.com)
Recently I have received a few messages from people who are having trouble finding programming jobs. Some have been working with head hunters (placement firms) for quite a while without success. Others have submitted their resumes to several companies, also without success.

First, I highly recommend that anyone even considering a job search get a copy of the book Knock 'Em Dead 1999 : Ultimate Job-Seeker's Handbook. It tells you how to prepare for a job search, how to get interviews, how head hunters work, how to follow up after interviews, what to do when downsizing is about to happen, and much more.

This book is absolutely essential reading for any job seeker. If you don't believe me, go to Amazon.com's Web entry for this book and read other reader's comments. With one exception (I don't know what that guy's problem was), the reviews are positively glowing. Also visit the book's Web site www.knockemdead.com.

You should also realize that some, but by no means all, head hunters are quite lazy. Many perform keyword searches trying to match your skills with the desires of companies so they get very low quality matches. They then send a huge stack to the prospective employers who have to weed through a mountain of garbage. The head hunter doesn't care as long as some reasonable percentage result in a hiring which gives them a commision.

Sometimes prospective employers just throw the resumes away or put them in a pile to be forgotten. Even when they look the pile over, the employer is unlikely to look again in three months when they have a new job opening. Why bother when they just got a new pile of trash from the head hunters?

The same thing goes for you when you send a company your resume. It is probably one of many. The employer may or may not look at it, but they are unlikely to look at it again later. In six months they will have a new pile, and they will assume you have already found a new job. If you want them to consider you again in 6 months, you need to remind them.

Here are a few additional quick tips:

  • Get Knock 'Em Dead and read it!
  • Buy other books on job searches, interviews, and resumes. Read them.
  • Follow up after the interview.
  • Read the essay about becoming an expert programmer and hone your skills.
  • Learn new skills to put on your resume.
  • Hang in there. A thorough job search must take at least a month or two and may take a year or more. Don't jump at the first offer.

John McGuire

  • Do your homework, to keep track of every contact, response and item of information on each job.
  • When asked for more info before an interview, don't get confused, just look-up your homework.
Janeen Newhouse
I truly believe your head hunter excerpt was inaccurate. I am, of course, a recruiter and I work hard to accurately qualify my candidates before send their resume into a prospective employer. I know that many programmers are "hounded" by "lazy" recruiters, but I feel that you are seeing the forest instead of the trees. There are many hard working recruiters out there and I know that I am one of them, even though I work a great deal with the internet!

It's unfortunate that a few "lazy" recruiters have given us a bad name.

[True. It's not fair to claim that all recruiters are lazy. Some work hard to match the right employees with the right jobs. Those are the ones you want to work with. Rod]

Ovidiu Crisan
Right now I'm in position to find a job as software developer / programmer using especially Visual Basic, ASP/(D)HTML, MS SQL Server. I have a Bachelor Degree in CS and 4 years experience as programmer with over 10 years of total computer experience. Also, I have a certification as VB programmer (BrainBench) and some articles at codeguru.com/vb.

I've been working as freelancer in Internet related projects (web programming) and I've tried to find a job in this field. There is only one problem: I need a visa to work in US (H1B) because I'm living in Romania.

So, here is my problem: I've send hundreds of resumes to head hunters or direct to companies but I haven't any answer from them, even if they wrote "H1B ok". I really think the same, that they are lazy.

I would agree to work for a smaller salary or extra time, I would be grateful and dedicated but how cares? I know all in my position are saying the same but is simply the truth. Nobody is interested by my offer. They might think that I'd be available only in a few months because of the procedures of getting visa and they need immediately. But for many companies I saw the same announcement after 6 months, too (almost all the time there are some available positions). Also, they might think that this process is costing too much. I'd agree to pay back all the money having a smaller salary. But again, isn't enough because I'm NOT there.

Even they say there are thousands of unfilled positions almost any employers aren't interested for hiring someone that need a visa (or work permit).

I don't understand why they behave like this. After all is their business, isn't it? Everybody would have some advantages. The only conclusion is: hard.

PS. English isn't my first language so, please excuse my language mistakes.

Mike McGargle
I am a Programmer/Analyst with about 7 years experience. Here is my tip for getting that cherry job you want.

This is actually quite simple really.

When a HR person starts looking through resumes they usually have a stack of them. I have been in that position myself looking through 40 or 50 resumes for 1 position. Most (if not all) have variations on the same set of skills. So who do they look at? Who sticks out?

I tell my students (I teach programming part time) to include a PowerPoint presentation on a disk or CD along with the resume. It may not be that you will have any more skills or experience than the others, but I will guarantee that you will get looked at.

For myself (I have looked for a job or two myself in the past) I actually put together a packet. $5 worth of presentation folders from Office Max, a CD, Some code snippets, screen shots of applications, ext. On the CD I will have a PP presentation and code snippets (linked from the presentation) along with a small demo app I have written.

If you are reasonably competent you can put together a nice packet in a few hours.

I have had at least a dozen students tell me the job they got started with the disk they sent in. It gets them noticed and you stand out from the crowd. Take a page from the Marketing 101 book and market yourself.

I have even gone as far as getting pens made up (actually quite inexpensive these days when you consider how much a good job is worth) with my name and phone number on it to include with the disk/packet. In the marketing world this is a "spiff" and it will also help you get noticed. My boss still uses the pen I sent in with the three packets I sent to my current employer, it cost me $85 for 50 of them and I now have a good job I enjoy at $82K a year.

If you have job search tips you would like to share, send me email!

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