Technical Buzz

IT hiring: Your text resume is soooo last century

Source: ComputerWorld | Sep 03, 2013
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IT hiring: Your text resume is soooo last century

Tim Ondrey has glimpsed the future of the job-search market, and it's going multimedia.

Already, he has had one friend using a blog and a 30-second video to apply for a marketing job and another, an IT colleague, interviewing via Skype for a developer position.

Ondrey figures it's just a matter of time before he -- and everyone else -- uses more than just an old-fashioned resume to land his next job.

"I'm kind of nervous about it, but we're all going to be in that same boat, figuring out what works and what doesn't," says Ondrey, an active member of the SHARE user group. An applications report specialist at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Ondrey isn't currently looking for a job, but, like a lot of his colleagues, he keeps an eye on the market.

What he's seeing is that video, graphics and social media are becoming part of the job-search landscape. Recruiters and hiring managers say younger workers, who grew up online and use FaceTime more than landlines, are more apt to show off their assets via personal websites, blogs, videos, and online portfolios with embedded examples of current work and links to online communities in which they're active.

It's no coincidence that LinkedIn recently began encouraging its users to amp up their profiles with videos, illustrations, photography and presentations. And Toronto startup has attracted 200,000 users to its tool, still in beta, that turns text-based resumes into online infographics.

"People are open to new formats, new ways of presenting credentials," says John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. "People are trying to figure out how to stand out in the crowd, how to bring life to their profile and experience, and they're using social media tools to do that."

Kenneth Lee

Online tools like help would-be tech job hunters paint a graphic picture of their skills, interests and experience. 

Click to view larger image

Reed says that neither he nor his colleagues have seen a lot of applicants submitting videos yet. When they do, they function more like cover letters than resumes. "The videos are 'let me introduce myself before you look at my resume,'" Reed explains. "The companies look at it and say, 'That's cool, that's an interesting twist, that makes the candidate stand out.'"

That's the thinking at the Washington, D.C.-based staffing company Hire IT People LLC. Owner Dan Nandan says his firm is moving into videos as a way to showcase its IT talent.

"We felt they'd have a more powerful impact if a video resume was submitted" in addition to the traditional paper CV. "And it's working," he says, explaining that well-done videos presenting candidates' skills and background "definitely make a big impact."

Nandan recently worked with Neeraj Uppal, a technlology project manager who had made a video in which he talked about his background. The Hire IT People staff used the video to evaluate Uppal and were impressed enough to recommend him to a client company, which led to the conventional application process, with Uppal sending a text resume, then interviewing and getting the job, a contract position.

When technology project manager Neeraj Uppal was looking for a new job, he prepared a video preamble to his resume so companies could assess his presentation and communications skills. "That was definitely a first for me," say Uppal, who credits the video with playing a part in helping him land his current contract position at a large bank.

"I don't know if he was hired based [only] on the video, but it made an impression," Nandan says. "It gets people's attention. If I get 50 emails, and there's one that says, 'Please watch my video,' I will watch the video first."

Video can also function as a second chance for IT hopefuls whose resumes might otherwise be rejected by scanning software looking for specific keywords to quickly, if not always accurately, match qualifications with the position. Those same candidates might be able to hook a hiring manager's interest with a well-crafted video pitch (see Video dos and don'ts for tips.)

Video interviews, pros and cons

Video is playing a larger part in the entire hiring process, not just as a resume accompaniment. For example, many companies now use Skype or other videoconferencing technologies for first-round interviews, rather than in-person meetings, to save time and money while still getting a sense of candidates' interpersonal qualities.

Some companies also use videos, recorded by candidates responding to specific questions, as a screening tool. "That's where I've seen a greater evolution on the video side, because the convenience factor is tremendous," says Dan Pollock, senior vice president of the tech-staffing firm Modis.

Typically a hiring company comes up with five to 10 questions and passes these on to Modis. Candidates for a developer position, for example, might be asked about their responsibilities on a recent project, how they approached those responsibilities and how the project turned out.

Candidates typically travel into a Modis office to record these screening sessions -- Pollock says this ensures good audio and visual quality -- although some candidates do it from their own computers. A SaaS platform from HireVue allows Modis to set a time limit for each response (three minutes) and control the number of retakes (one).

Hiring managers can then view the videos at their convenience, using them to replace phone calls that they had used in the past to screen candidates. "It's much more tailored to the position that they're trying to fill," Pollock says, adding that the videos also show hiring managers whether candidates know their stuff, can think on their feet and can communicate concisely.

Others say video interviews -- either live or pre-recorded -- help by winnowing out candidates who might have Googled answers while on a phone interview, as well as those who lack interpersonal skills, which are of particular importance for IT professionals who interact with customers, executives, board members or the public.

On the other hand, some point to potential problems using video when screening candidates. Some employers wonder if it will open them up to claims of discrimination as they can more easily see traits (age or ethnicity, for example) that they shouldn't use to eliminate candidates. Other tech industry watchers worry that video interviews could unfairly prioritize presentation skills for jobs that don't necessarily require them. After all, coders don't need to come off well on camera to do a bang-up job, the argument goes.

Reed says such concerns keep many companies from adopting video as part of their candidate search and screening process. "Companies don't want to be susceptible to accusations," he says. He points out that candidates, too, often hesitate to use these tools because they're worried about where their videos will reside and for how long.

Resumes gain graphic, social flourishes

That said, video is nevertheless becoming more prevalent in the IT hiring process, just one of the multiple new formats and platforms that candidates are beginning to utilize for job searches. "The resume hasn't changed in the past 40 years. It just feels like it's time for it to evolve, and technology is at a place where it's helping us evolve it," Pollock says.

Pollock says he's seeing candidates successfully use graphics to represent skill sets, responsibilities and accomplishments on or as a supplement to their text-based resumes. Some IT workers, particularly Web designers or UI and UX professionals, maintain online portfolios or submit links to their work.

Others, such as developers, point to their contributions to open-source communities like GitHub. And, of course, job shoppers ignore at their own peril the reach of LinkedIn and, to a lesser extent, other social media sites like Facebook, Google+ or even Instagram.

"[Hiring companies] want to see what people are doing within the tech community, the development space, are they contributing? So I encourage people to have a strong digital profile as well as a resume, and LinkedIn is the primary tool for a strong digital profile," says Doug Schade, principal consultant in the software technology search division at Waltham, Mass.-based search firm WinterWyman.

Schade says savvy candidates know how to leverage social media to separate themselves from the pack. They don't just paste their traditional resumes into their LinkedIn profiles but rather focus on showcasing themselves with links and presentations that highlight their skills and accomplishments.

"There is an opportunity to be more robust with one's persona," Schade says, "because social media is used by hiring managers to gain more intel, gain more insight."

Web developer Avery Anderson gets that. Anderson, 27, graduated in 2008 from the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., with a degree in mechanical engineering. She worked in the field for a year but decided it wasn't the best fit.

Software engineer Avery Anderson built a personal website, complete with this skills portfolio page, to highlight her tech talents and emphasize her involvement in the programming community.

Anderson did some contract work in robotics, and then in February 2010 she sought out a Web engineer position at an Internet start-up for wine aficionados called Second Glass. "Web development seemed like a huge opportunity, but I didn't have a lot of experience, so I started with a personal website. It was like, 'See, I can make website.' That got me in the door," says Anderson, who was hired right away.

When she left Second Glass in April 2012, Anderson turned to her website again, tweaking and updating it to reflect more of her skills and personality. She says her site, along with her LinkedIn profile and her account at the online developers' site GitHub, got plenty of traffic; she estimates she was contacted by about 50 recruiters during her two-month job search, contacts that led to nearly 10 interviews -- including some Skype sessions.

She landed a software engineer job with The Minerva Project, a startup that's building an elite online university. Although she was introduced to the organization through a roommate, she says she knows the company checked her out online before she even walked in the door. "People Internet-stalk everyone before meeting in person," she observes.

And even though she's not looking for a new job now, she keeps up her personal website to have what she calls "a landing page" for people who want to know more about her and her work -- a particularly important point as she tries to gain more experience, recognition and speaking engagements.

"It's not just about what jobs you get. Every time you do things like that and work your way into the community more, you make yourself more valuable as an employable person, you build your reputation," she says.

Ondrey, the Marist College applications report specialist, says he and his colleagues are getting that message, so they're beefing up their online professional presence by posting or Tweeting articles they find interesting along with their own commentary. They're updating their skill sets and responsibilities more frequently. And they're adding videos -- both their own and others that are relevant to their field of interest.

That fits with what's happening at Appirio, a San Francisco-based cloud technology company with 650 employees globally.

"We have definitely seen more candidates modify their resumes to include links to their social media profiles," says Jennifer Taylor, Appirio's senior vice president of HR. Resumes now include Twitter handles and links to LinkedIn profiles and to blogs.

The process works both ways, Taylor says; she and her colleagues use social media to reach out to potential prospects. "Often we have found that it's through a Twitter conversation that one of our employees will identify someone in the ecosystem who is contributing unique ideas or products. We use those as an opportunity to say, 'Look at what this person is doing, we should start a conversation with this person,'" she says.

And while she says she hasn't yet received a video resume, she and her hiring managers use video to promote the company to prospective employees as well as to interview candidates -- something they do live using Skype, Google+ and occasionally GoToMeeting with video.

"We still believe that there is no replacement for face-to-face interviews, and we do make that a requirement before anyone is hired. But video is a very powerful format," she says. "It makes information about our company as available as possible, and it gets people familiar with us. It creates some rapport right off the bat. The candidate feels like they're getting to know us and vice versa."




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