The employment landscape for IT professionals is set to change dramatically. The drive to Cloud and software as a service is one factor driving change. The government’s Comprehensive Spending Review and the cuts and shift to shared services, are others.
IT roles in the public sector will fall victim to “back office efficiency savings” as the Government makes 490,000 job cuts, while a similar number of private sector jobs are also in the firing line, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
IT manager vacancies are already on a downward trend, with the number falling for the fifth consecutive month in September, according to specialist recruiter the IT Job Board.
With more people in the jobs market chasing a diminishing number of roles, standing out from the crowd and attracting the attention of IT headhunters is going to be more important than ever for IT professionals.
To be on a headhunter’s radar, you need to be in the places that headhunters look, according to James Leder, senior consultant at recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash.
“Headhunters, or more accurately their researchers - the highly skilled people whose job it is to identify potential candidates for the headhunter - look in a number of places,” he says.
“The list is long, but includes: their personal database of contacts; the web, industry databases and target companies – companies pre-agreed with the client that the headhunter will contact directly to find the right person.”
It follows then, that to get onto the radar of a headhunter you need to have as many of these ‘bases’ covered as possible, Leder adds.
“Probably the most important of all of these, for aspiring IT leaders, is LinkedIn,” he says. “Make sure your LinkedIn profile is not only 100% complete but that you have invested time in making your profile attractive to headhunter searches. For instance make your job title understandable to the outside world and make sure your experience is fully documented on the site.”
Your wider web presence also counts, so Leder suggests getting your name on your own company website, volunteering to become a spokesperson and be quoted in the press and setting up a blog.
“But above all, look to develop personal relationships with headhunters,” he stresses. “Connect with them via LinkedIn and then look for a reason to stay in contact. Remember, good candidates are the headhunter’s life blood – networking and staying in contact is second nature to them.”
Stuart Day, business manager at recruiter Hays IT Leadership, agrees that having a strong online presence is a pre-requisite for all IT candidates, particularly those at a senior level.
“It’s too great a risk for employers to get senior level appointments wrong in the current climate, so don’t be surprised if they have looked at your profile. Make sure you are confident that it reflects you at your best,” he says. “Employers at a senior level will often use their industry contacts to take informal ‘off the record’ references on candidates, so bear this in mind.”
For Justin Sleep, head of operations at Randstad Technologies, the most important factor to becoming a “killer candidate” is being able to provide clarity on what benefits you bring to the business over and above any technical skills.
“People in IT tend to get very focused on the technical side of things, but when you’re moving into senior roles, that becomes a ‘hygiene’ factor – necessary but nothing more,” he says. “What’s more important is demonstrating how you add value to the business and what you bring to the market.”
What do you bring to the business?
The Government’s austerity measures inevitably mean there will be a significant rise in the number of public sector IT professionals looking to switch to the private sector.
The key for successfully making the move is to focus on your transferable skills, according to Lever.
“Here the public sector has lots to offer,” he says. “The structured environment of the public sector projects, the often large and complex nature of the projects and the need for highly secure systems are all experiences and skills that are valued in the private sector and should be emphasised on a CV and at interview stage.”
This point is picked up by Day, who insists that public sector IT candidates may be surprised to know that the scale of work they have undertaken can rival, if not eclipse, the scale of projects undertaken in the private sector.
“For example, an IT candidate coming from a city council may be responsible for over 20,000 users of their system, and this number is easily translatable to FTSE 250private sector organisations,” he says. “The private sector has a real need for strong governance and compliance - public sector IT employees have significant exposure to these areas and will need to demonstrate this in their CVs.”
Nevertheless, it is just important to recognise that public sector experience can also bring potentially less positive impressions, warns Lever.
“Public sector workers need to try twice as hard to emphasise they are commercially minded, cost conscious and can work in fast-moving environments,” he says. “One common mistake amongst public sector workers is to use too much ‘internal lingo’ on their CV or job title; make sure your CV is reviewed by at least one other (non-public sector) person.”
How to get headhunted
- Consider contacting a headhunter if you're looking to earn £30k plus.
- Seek recommendations from friends or colleagues. Ring for a chat before sending in your CV.
- Start networking and increase your profile at industry events and conferences. If you are not well enough known, decide what you need about it. Self-promotion is a useful skill.
- Be open, clear and specific about your plans and ambitions when talking to a headhunter.
- Develop a close working relationship and stay in touch. Headhunters can also provide general careers and employment advice.
- Seek the services of a different headhunter if you're not getting results.
- E-mail your CV to lots of head hunters. They will prefer to work with you exclusively.
- Produce a standard CV. You will need to be more detailed and outline your ambitions.
- Wait too long before making a career move. Senior people will stay in a job for three to five years on average.