It Pays to Be Outstanding

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2002-04-29 Print this article Print

Once, IT job seekers could post their résumés on or and expect at least a trickle, if not a deluge, of offers. No more.

Once, IT job seekers could post their résumés on or and expect at least a trickle, if not a deluge, of offers. No more.

The slow economy has inflated the number of résumés competing for attention on popular job boards, and it has also reduced the number of jobs. Monster, for example, currently lists 16.9 million résumés—up from 9.5 million a year ago—competing for 1 million open jobs. At IT-specific job board, meanwhile, the number of job openings has dropped from 100,000 to 30,000 in two years.

So, are online job boards now a waste of time? No. Companies such as Unisys Corp. and Telos Corp. are still hiring technical staff from both IT-specific sites such as Dice, and, as well as from big commercial job boards. But, in these competitive times, say hiring experts, IT job seekers need to work hard at standing out from the crowd. That means making use of not just the large commercial job boards but also smaller listings that target specific industries or communities as well as job boards that aggregate listings from employer sites. Applicants also need to carefully tailor résumés to be noticed by the automated keyword search tools used by many employers to screen candidates.

An example of the type of site often overlooked by IT job seekers is Although its not a source of the bulk of her companys technical hiring, its still an important resource for Michelle Wertz, vice president of human resources for Telos, a defense contractor in Ashburn, Va.

Telos, with a work force of about 800, hires upward of 70 technology workers per year, mostly information security specialists. About 40 percent of its hires come from Monster; 30 percent from; and 30 percent via personal referrals or smaller boards such as Telos relies on Monster for exposure to the masses, Wertz said, but provides the type of worker that Telos courts: veterans who will fit easily into government IT assignments.

Unisys, in Blue Bell, Pa., relies on as many as 20 job boards to hire about 5,800 IT workers worldwide each year. Patrick Dunn, director of recruitment technology for the hardware, consulting and systems integration company, said the company is now receiving 15,000 résumés monthly—up between 20 percent and 30 percent over the past year or so. Part of that increase is related to the languishing economy, but much of the traffic also results from an aggressive strategy of marketing the companys job postings on its own site. That strategy led Unisys to become one of the founding members of, a nonprofit site that aggregates jobs from its consortium members Web sites.

This type of aggregation site can be a boon to IT job seekers, since they deliver 100 percent of a companys listings, as opposed to commercial job boards, which, due to their high cost to employers, get only an average of about 10 percent of companies listings.

Besides seeking alternatives to the big commercial job boards, IT candidates need to refine their résumés so they stand out. A key step, say experts, is to compose your résumé so it gets picked up by potential employers that use keyword search tools to sift through the growing pool of résumés.

Telos is a good example. Within 48 hours of posting a position on Monster, Telos receives, on average, about 100 résumés. Keyword searches are then performed on this batch of résumés, resulting in a pile that has been whittled down to about 60 résumés. Depending on the position to be filled, companies such as Telos look for keywords such as "C++," "Oracle" or "Java." If résumés dont contain words that match a given job listing, theyre out of the running.

One last tip: Look at jobs that have been posted for longer than seven days. According to industry research, most candidates look at jobs for the two days following the jobs posting dates and almost completely pass by jobs that have been posted for more than two weeks, assuming theyve been filled. Despite the flood of résumés open job postings attract, its not unusual for the first wave to include few or no matches. So, say experts, theres a strong chance that a 2-week-old job could be yours for the taking.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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