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 [www.Hoovers.com, 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.
Helping IT Job Seekers Get it Right – Page 2
eWEEK: What information about companies does your book provide that will help technical people when they go into an interview?
COVIN: For the companies I profiled in depth, I asked hiring managers specifically, What are you looking for when you hire? Whats important from an educational standpoint? Do you hire entry-level? Do they need a college degree? If so, is there a grade point average cutoff? Also, culture fit is important. [IT job seekers] cant ask because it makes [interviewers] think theyre not serious about working for that company. Things like, How many hours do people work? Is travel required? You might be at a point in your life where you can work 60 to 80 hours a week, and you get excited about a job thats that intense. Or you might be going to grad school and need a job with regular hours. Theres no sense in wasting everybodys time at the interview stage—which is fairly late in the process of hiring somebody—when a company is perfectly willing to tell… someone that yes, theyre intense, or conversely, that theyre well-managed, they think people should be able to complete jobs in 40 hours a week. Also, no one can ask about benefits in an interview situation. You cant ask if theyve had layoffs. You cant ask, What do you do for the people whom youve laid off? Its good to know how they were treated. Another cultural thing: Should [employees at a prospective employer company] keep résumés current? Is this a company that hires people for projects and then lets them go between projects? When the project is over do they need to find another job within the company, or look outside?
EWEEK: Is that something you experienced when you worked for a systems integrator?
COVIN: Its common in the systems integration business. [My last employer] was liberal and kept people on board between projects, but I wouldnt have known that if I hadnt heard there were other companies not so liberal at keeping people.
EWEEK: Your books center around finding jobs close to home. Is that what matters most to technical workers?
COVIN: The No. 1 fit people look for is the skills fit. No. 2 is something in a reasonable distance. I believe theyre still willing to look for something with a geographic fit [even in this tough job market] because companies are less willing to pay relocation expenses. The skills fit is, from my experience in the industry, the No. 1 thing computer people are excited about: the technical content of the job itself. Everything else falls far down on the list. Theyre looking for projects and work that is interesting.
EWEEK: So whos hiring?
COVIN: Industries still actively hiring in IT are financial services such as banking, insurance and the mortgage industry; the defense industry; the service providers for the defense industry—the large systems integrators—and thats not just security, its all sorts of positions. But mostly those are security-oriented.
EWEEK: What about recent college grads? Is anybody still hiring them?
COVIN: I called schools I donated books to [including Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Virginia Tech and the University of Texas]. They told me banking, insurance, financial services [are hiring.] But they also said 30 percent to 40 percent more graduates are going into grad school this year than in past years. Grads are going into related industries for which computer science is a good background: computational chemistry, genome research, patent law.