Helping IT Job Seekers Get it Right

Interview: Carol Covin discusses her book, "The Best Computer Jobs in America."

CovinAs the American Legion Bridge crosses the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., sometimes traffic flows smoothly. But sometimes it flows like glue. There came one very gluey day when Carol Covins 30-minute commute over that bridge turned into a three-hour odyssey. It involved a broken-down truck, a call to her system integration employers client canceling the days work, and ultimately, a resolution to find a way to help all IT people stop wasting their time crossing bridges in the first place by finding just the right job close to home.

Thus was born the idea for "The Best Computer Jobs in America," put out by Twenty Minutes Press, a publishing company originally founded by Covin in 2000 to put out a series of four regional guidebooks to IT employers. (For a review of "The Best Computer Jobs in America," click here.) Covin knows whereof she speaks—she herself spent 25 years as an IT professional, with a résumé that spans the job roles of programmer, systems analyst, mainframe database administrator, consultant, trainer, project manager, and marketing department launcher at a start-up that invented and patented the first commercial wearable computer. eWEEK IT Careers Managing Editor recently spoke with Covin about whos hiring and about how a simple message still hasnt sunk in with IT people: namely, when you spot a new job you really want, you better research, research, and then research the company.

eWEEK: What are IT job seekers doing wrong?

COVIN: IT people are always focused on their skills. They need to focus on what the company needs. IT folks typically dont pursue this. Theyre so focused on details of their technical skills, theyre not thinking of the job from the employers standpoint. They need to present themselves as a solution. Thats where research comes into play. What kind of challenges is the company facing in the marketplace? They should read articles [in tech journals such as eWeek], search [, a business research tool], the Wall Street Journal. Read current articles on whats going on with that company, with that industry, with their competitors.

eWEEK: So youre saying that IT people need to become more like salespeople, in learning how to pitch themselves?

COVIN: Yes. The question is, How do you stand out? I heard a quote from the people chief at Yahoo where he said they get 10,000 résumés a month for 100 job openings. How do you stand out? You find out what Yahoo needs and where your skills fit.

eWEEK: People can just research companies online. Why would they need to buy a book to do it?

COVIN: When youre looking for a job, people advising you say, Do your research, do your research, do your research, but they dont tell you how to do that, and theres no place to go to get the specific resources computer people need. IT people have specific things they need to know about a company, and companies need specific skills [that IT people need to be aware of]. On the Internet, youre overwhelmed with thousands of job listings. In many cases you have to respond to each one in order to submit a résumé. Theres no way to step above the fray, to get an overview of the industry and those companies that are looking for your skills.