As I was getting ready for yet another career counselling session, I realised that I have repeatedly come across IT specialists who do not realise what their value is on the market and cannot “sell” themselves properly. They simply don’t like the selling process.

When they find themselves out of work they often feel lost—where to start, where to go, how much to ask? 

The situation is especially hard for those whose last interview was some time ago. The rules of the game on the market have undergone significant changes since then. 

Relax! You don’t have to sell anything. Instead, learn the “manual” of interacting with the current market, make a few smart decisions and choose among the offers without leaving your house. 

Here you will find a simple step-by-step guide, co-written with Natalya Zhuravljova, my colleague.

So, what steps should you take?

1. Take a moment to relax! Tune yourself to a new wavelength. 

Spend some time in silence. This may sound like a cliché, but in order to hear yourself and understand where to go and what to do, you need a break and silence. For this, start by rebooting yourself! 

There is plenty of work for IT specialists on the market. You will definitely find something. However, if you cannot let go of your situation with your previous employer and refuse to restart, you will find it hard to participate in interviews and look enthusiastic.  

This is why, during consultations, I often hear out all the worries my customer has, give them the “right” to feel the emotions they have experienced, then propose that they take a small break and leave all the negative thoughts and hurts behind to boldly march ahead.

The healing begins once you start talking.

Have you rested? Did you listen to yourself? Now the time has come to choose the position most suited to your demands. For this, you need to get several offers and simply compare them. Where do the offers come from? First, you need to become visible for those making the offers. So, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and continue with step 2. 

2. Announce your existence to the world! 

The IT market of today is ruled by candidates, not employers. Only 20–30% of vacancies on the market are published on job search sites, simply because nowadays candidates rarely respond to advertisements.

This means that the published vacancies are just the tip of an iceberg of available vacancies. The majority of the work is done with passive candidates.

Hiring managers and recruiters comb the Internet on a daily basis in search of suitable specialists. Once you understand HOW they do it, you may allow suitable offers to find you as well as avoid unsuitable postings and unnecessary communication. This will save your energy and time.

Specialists use sourcing for their online searches, lining up sourcing strings on LinkedIn with Boolean search operators and Google X-ray search.

Take a moment to consider which keywords you would use to find yourself if you were suddenly in the recruiter’s position? Try googling yourself to make sure. What sort of impression does your online profile create?

After this, insert the correct words into your profile, so that your name would definitely come up in corresponding searches.

LinkedIn is currently the main playing field for job searches and specialists. This is where we begin! 

The most common mistake developers make is that they label themselves simply software developers without making a mention of the tech stacks they are used to working with.

In order to rule out unsuitable vacancies, I suggest you clearly word your position under Title, mention your stack or programming language.

For example: Frontend React Developer, Fullstack.Net Programmer, Senior Java Engineer, Java Team Lead. This way, you will receive fewer unrelated messages. 

After this you definitely need to list your technical skills in the “About” field. Let this be your “bloodwork”, so that a 30 second glance will show all the indicators that allow you to be “diagnosed”.

The technical skills summary helps you put together a precise image of your skills and mention the correct keywords in your profile. 

Please don’t write long sentences. Compartmentalise! For example: 

  • strongest programming languages
  • frameworks
  • databases etc.

Next, help the recruiter validate your experience.

Demonstrate where and how you’ve used your skills. Make sure to write down your work experience in detail. Under each place of employment, specify:

  • the essence/final product of the project
  • your role in the project, your tasks
  • the project’s technological stack

Another common mistake candidates make is that they only list their position, the time period when they were employed and the company name in describing their work experience. They leave out the most interesting parts!

Next, time to strengthen your profile.

Professional certificates, courses you have taken, recommendations from colleagues and clients add a cherry on top of the cake. The more information you have on your profile, the more trust and respect will you garner.

Take note! The information has to be relevant and recent. In IT, everything changes so quickly! It’s only reasonable to show information that is 5, at most 10 years old.

Certificates and diplomas for courses you have taken aren’t often a requirement upon hiring. However, such healthy habits like the constant self-improvement of your skills and qualification, completing programmes and courses, the desire to conquer new heights and peaks, as well as a goal-oriented mindset are in high demand on the job market and serve to set a candidate above the rest.

What helps in evaluating these features? Certificates! 

What proves that you are easy to work and cooperate with? Recommendations from colleagues and indirect supervisors. Don’t be shy and ask them to write a few lines!

LinkedIn has special settings you must activate to be found by recruiters. How to do that? 

There are two simple options: either through your account settings by changing them to “Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities”, or by activating “Looking for job opportunities” under your profile intro. 

The second option is better, as not all recruiters use paid LinkedIn accounts.

In the second case, the icon with your photo will always have the special green #OpenToWork badge. This will only be active for 3 months and remove itself when the period expires.

You can find detailed instructions on how to set up both options here.

So, is your LinkedIn account in order? Moving forward!

The most popular job sites in Estonia are CV-Online and CV Keskus. You should upload your resume to both sites. Why?

CV-Online and CV Keskus are different services. Not all companies have access to both databases. By creating resumes on both sites you are widening the search range / improving your visibility to employers. 

Owing to the working principle of sites (like CV Online or CV Keskus) that recruiters and employers use, searches based on keywords are a lot less efficient than filters from the drop down menu.

Real-life example: the keyword “erlang” yielded the words mothER LANGuage as a result from resumes on CV Keskus’s site.

Don’t just attach a complete resume. It will not upload, nor will it be found with keywords. The most certain method is to choose the offered options from the drop down menu and write as many keywords as possible in the form on the site. This especially applies to technical skills.

The description methods for technical skills and work experience are similar.

Place your technical skills summary right at the beginning, in the most prominent position. Describe your previous work experience in detail. Try to avoid walls of text and overly long sentences. Nobody is going to read all that! 

Your work description should be user friendly, clearly structured and reasonably easy to understand. 

Make sure that your profiles on CV Online or CV Keskus are set to “open to all”.

3. Add a link to your portfolio to your profile and CV 

If you are a developer or QA automation engineer, submit samples of your quality code to GitHub, and add a link alongside contact information to your CV and LinkedIn profile, this really helps in the process of evaluating your technical skills, as most employers actually look at what you can do.

Code samples tell a lot more about you than thousands of words in a resume. Especially for junior developers! 

Add the link right under technical skills.

A designer or web developer without a portfolio looks really strange. 

A portfolio is an absolute must-have! Often-times portfolio analysis is the decisive factor instead of the professional background during the candidate selection stage for UI/UX designer vacancies.

If you have no projects to show, or only something really old that doesn’t reflect your current level, it might be best to remove that.

You have nothing to show? Plan and realise your project using Artemy Lebedev’s method. Never heard of that? To put it simply: Artemy compiled his first portfolio of works for “imaginary” clients, gradually replacing them with real ones.

This will take some hard work, but it will be worth it! This way, you will be receiving job offers in your inbox every day without much effort on your part. Just imagine drinking your morning coffee and leisurely looking through your mail, examining the job offers that have arrived within the last day. Isn’t that wonderful?

However, it’s still too early to relax. Let’s continue adding extra polish!

4. Google your job!

Keep in mind that only 20–30% of the vacancies on the market are published on job seeking sites. 

Stay active in your search for vacancies—look for job offers on LinkedIn, as well as recruiters and managers with the help of keywords, for example “We are hiring, Looking for Java, C# developers”.

Send out applications and resumes, write to them directly—this is a great way to show that you’re interested. In your message, explain why you’re a good candidate and what sets you apart from the rest. For example, “I have had my eye on your company for a while now, I downloaded and studied your product and was impressed!” Tell them what would make you a useful addition to the company.

Stay on top of news about start-ups which have successfully raised investments or companies that announce excellent business results and plan to expand.

Visit the career sites of IT companies, subscribe to their accounts on social media and mailing lists, and keep an eye out for news. 

Widen your search radius!

Write to your former colleagues or ask your friends. Finding a job through personal networks remains one of the most efficient methods to this day.

Sign up to Telegram channels and Facebook groups that post job offers. 

Your success is in your hands!

5. Continue to evolve and stay positive! 

Have you been planning to read some interesting books and attend some workshops but have been putting it off? Now is the right time. 

Work out a specific study plan and realise it. Quickly means slowly but regularly! You could spend just an hour a day on studying. In just a couple of weeks you will be visibly closer to your goal! You can learn new skills on online platforms, such as Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning etc. 

Test your skills here:

Take part in hackathons and open source projects.

Don’t forget to upload your certificates to your profile and resume, and update your code portfolio with your experimental projects! 

Also, don’t be shy to turn to career consultants. They always have a few interesting spare vacancies and fresh market information.

❤️ Good luck!

Thank you, Natalya Zhuravljova, for the inspiration, ideas and cooperation on this article!

Last updated at: 14.10.2021