There’s a skill shortage for tech talent. If you’re a developer or data scientist, you might think that puts you in the driver’s seat for most jobs. While supply and demand play a role, for top IT roles it’s still essential to stand out early in the process. Here are three ways to do that.
1. Be creative – but personalize your approach
It’s great to think outside the box, but sometimes creativity for creativity’s sake won’t move the needle. Don’t waste your time building a unique portfolio if it’s not targeted at the role that you want. Identify the profile of your target job and personalize your creativity to match what the employer is looking for.
Here’s an example: Several years ago, a candidate for a job at Airbnb created a customized website that mirrored the company’s home page. In it, she made a compelling case for why Airbnb should move more aggressively into the Middle East and explained how she could help make this happen. This is a brilliant marriage of creativity and personalization. Her resume wasn’t merely a list of experience and accomplishments; it was a personalized thesis for why she should get the job at Airbnb.
2. Look for opportunities in unexpected places
Always stay on your toes and look for opportunities to which your peers might not be attuned. That way, when you find them, you’ve already made an impression.
Remember, recruiting is the process of weeding out talent to make it easier for hiring managers to find the right fit. I’ve seen a lot of creative recruiting campaigns do this by simply hiding in plain sight. For example, Google has attempted to pre-screen applicants in the past by putting up billboards that have complex questions on them. The answer to the problem is a hidden URL to the job posting. Identify and solve the problem, and you could get the job.
Google also rewards inquisitive minds. For example, if you enter a series of search terms related to computer science such as “Raft consensus,” among others, Google will sometimes present you with a command line running in a virtual machine. Basically, ask Google the right questions, and it will reward you with a technical challenge to see if you could be a good fit.
3. Think and speak as if you already have the job
Finally, when you do speak with a recruiter, ask questions that go beyond the standard line. Don’t focus on questions related to benefits, as this will suggest that you care more about what the job can give to you than what you can give to the job.
Before the interview, spend a few hours imagining that you already have the job. What information would you need to do the job better? What inefficiencies exist that could become bottlenecks? In short, start troubleshooting before you even talk to a hiring manager.
Recruiters won’t know all the job specifics, and they might refer you to the hiring manager in some cases. But this is a good sign: It shows that you’re thinking correctly and probably deserve another conversation.
Go to the recruiter interview with ideas. Offer three things that you would do on day one. Walk them through strategic changes you’ve seen in the industry and describe how that will impact your own strategy. Make sure to pepper in a few tactics as well.
Turn some heads
You’ve probably seen a TV commercial or show in which an attractive person turns the head of everyone around them. What quality draws the crowd’s attention? Conventional wisdom might say appearance, but I think it’s something deeper: confidence. Appearance might inspire the confidence, but the head-turners are those who walk down the street confidently.
To get the attention of tech recruiters, replace appearance with skills – but keep the confidence. Do big, bold things that directly target your ideal role, look for opportunities everywhere, and act like you already have the job. It’s time to turn heads!
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
What to read next
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Keep up with the latest advice and insights from CIOs and IT leaders.