Having problems finding work for the first time in years. Please advise what I'm doing wrong or not doing.
June 23, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Experienced Web / Software Developer having problems finding work for the first time in years.

I have worked on projects for big companies like Ford and Microsoft and yet now I have been unemployed for about a month and a half. It seems like my job hunt is going in a downward spiral.

Here is what I've tried:

- I applied to 380 jobs via online postings. I heard back from maybe 20 of them to inform me that the position was closed or other candidates where considered before me.

- I hand delivered resumes in person to companies known to hire IT people in town. Most of the time I couldn't get passed the secretary so I just left it with them. I believe I made a favorable impression each place I stopped.

- I found about 20 interesting companies via linkedin and contacted staff in management to ask if they where looking to hire a programmer, but I only heard back from 1-2 informing me they where not.

- I sent my resume to 10 local tech recruiters. Only heard back from one of them who instructed me to change my resume for a specific job he was trying to fill. I did as he advised but never heard back.

- I faxed cover letters and resumes to 25 companies that where competitors to my previous employers to see if they would be interested in my experience.

I have gotten a nibble every now and then but nothing has really materialized to the point that I'm getting interviews in person. I asked my friend who is a recruiter for Microsoft if I could compare my resume to others with similar job titles. I would say that the comparisons looked fairly similar in terms of skills, employment experience and education.

I'm aware the economy is bad right now job wise, but I must not be doing something right or something at all.

Please advise, mefi!
posted by audio to Work & Money (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A month and a half? The only thing you may need to be doing differently is adjusting your expectations. Your work ethic is admirable, although you might consider slowing down and making sure you're submitting a custom resume and detailed cover letter with each position. You're being very industrious, but understand that there are a thousand other guys who are also being industrious. They may have been at it longer than you have. I know a month and a half feels like a long time, but there are awesome, qualified people right now who have been out of work for a year or more.

That's probably not comforting, but there you go.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:21 PM on June 23, 2010

Make sure you proofread (or have someone else proofread) your résumé and cover letters. Misspellings and grammatical errors in these will set you apart (in a bad way) from other equally-qualified applicants whose communications are more polished.
posted by sanko at 2:24 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is your resume up on Dice.om? Even at the worst of times I get several calls per week from there, without having to lift a finger.

Misspellings and grammatical errors in these will set you apart (in a bad way) from other equally-qualified applicants whose communications are more polished.

Sorry to contradict but this is so not true in tech jobs. If anything being too verbal makes people suspicious, like being the "college boy" in the Army.

posted by drjimmy11 at 2:43 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would focus more on working your personal network as hard as you can and spend less energy on responding to online job postings and cold-contacting people you don't have relationships with. If you've been doing this for a while, you must have worked with lots of people in the industry who know what a high-quality developer you are - some of them will know of open positions they can recommend you for.

I know it can feel awkward or like you're imposing on your relationships with your contacts, but it's a much higher-payoff strategy, especially in a job market like this one where candidates need something to differentiate them from the pack.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2010

Wow, I'd say you're pretty much doing all you can. A lot of people are in the same position as you. Keep going and keep on hoping.
posted by teraspawn at 3:07 PM on June 23, 2010

What s. s. trees said; Network, network, network. In my experience getting a job without knowing someone at the place you're going is tough in normal times and really hard in this economy. Are you on LinkedIn? Have you linked to as many ex-coworkers as you can? Have you talked to your friends, ex-coworkers, ex-classmate, etc to find out if they know of any jobs?

Another thing is "focus". Unless you're an amazingly versatile person, you can't possibly be qualified for 380 open jobs in your area. Really decide what you're good at and what you can sell yourself doing and target those jobs. If you're applying for all those jobs, you must be sending out the most generic resumes and covers, recruiters can smell that spamming a mile a way.

Lastly, patience. A month and half is nothing. Friends of mine with masters and PhDs are taking six months to find things. It's a bad job market and that's not your fault.
posted by octothorpe at 4:03 PM on June 23, 2010

+1 strangely stunted trees.

I have been unemployed for about a month and a half.... I applied to 380 jobs via online postings
Wow that's a lot of resumes in a short amount of time.

1. Congratulations on finding 8.4 job ads a day for 45 days, that alone tells you there's work out there.

2. Any job ad older than a week has been filled, don't waste your time on these. Yes, applying for jobs can be a waste of time.

3. Stop just sending your resume to every single place that may have an opening. If your answer to "why do you want this job rather than another job?" is "Because I'm qualified" and if your answer to "Why should we hire you?" is "Because I'm qualified" you're not standing out from the pack.

Looking for jobs is a marketing problem. Remember the classic sales formula AIDA.

Get their Attention.

Raise their Interest in you, what you've done, and what you can do for them.

Bring up their Desire to hire you, because you bring more to the table than just a set of skills.

Get them to take Action in contacting you for an interview.

A good cover letter can take me an hour or more because I've tailored my message to the employer, and after a while, once you "get" how a good cover letter is put together, you can work with a stock cover letter tweaked in a few places for each new job.

And +1 strangely stunted trees - work your network.
posted by MesoFilter at 4:09 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I mean no disrespect by this, but either your profile is deliberately misleading or you're a "[21-year-old] Experienced Web / Software Developer having problems finding work for the first time in years." Perhaps, like me, they wonder how a 21-year-old person can possibly have that much experience in the field.

On to a genuine attempt to be helpful.... You keep using the word "local" - perhaps the local (Calgary, according to your profile) economy sucks and you need to try other places?

In the mean time, try freelancing to keep your skills up and develop a portfolio. It should be easy to drum up a few small freelance clients out of local ads, Craigslist, etc. Knock their socks off with the quality of your work. Added bonus: sometimes freelancing can lead to useful networking connections that create possibilities for permanent employment.

Good luck. The experience catch-22 is a tough one, but sooner or later you'll get a break.
posted by richyoung at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to have to repeat what others have said: a month and a half is not long. Ghastly thought, isn't it? But at least your self-worth is safe.

380 applications in six weeks is amazing. Good for you dude. However, I have made comparable numbers of online applications - maybe only half as many as you, maybe over a slightly longer period of time - but still gotten only 8 or 9 interviews from them and no offers. I was crushed by this until I learned how many people had similar stories but often with NO interviews to show for it. So what I learned from that was that online applications, at least for tech jobs, are largely a waste of time.

Recruiters have a lot to do with this as many of them are crap, not trying, or not posting real job ads. (Example: respond to an agency's ad -> get ignored -> a week later get an email about that same job from one of that agency's recruiters -> reply to her that I've already applied for this one -> she emails me saying "no thanks we're only interested in people with experience of that") So if you do respond to an online ad, make sure it's a direct hire and not through a recruiter.

Large numbers of online job applications are one thing, but what I think you should do is actually slow down. Restrict yourself to 5 applications a week, and then only if the job advertised is a very very close fit. And then write a cover letter that itemizes how you match every point mentioned in the ad. Don't deviate from it. Don't add to it, and take away as few things as you can without exaggerating.

After you send an application, follow up. Most of your followups will be ignored. Of those that are not ignored, most of them will be "oh dear we didn't get that could you send it again? that looks really interesting could I call you in two days?" and THEN being ignored. But at some point you may be glad you followed up.
posted by tel3path at 4:38 PM on June 23, 2010

Best answer: I'm having trouble reconciling the question with your MeFi profile. I'm going to address the question assuming your profile isn't fake and the question is honest. If either was obscured for privacy's sake, the following advice may not apply and may be offensive. Especially if you're asking this on behalf of someone else.

Firstly, reasons why you're not getting interviews:
1. You're twenty. Two years of experience as an adult professional doesn't count for much. Especially if most of that was working somewhere less relevant while earning a diploma. People with five or ten years experience are having trouble landing work right now, to give you an idea of where you stand.

2. Consider your competitive with US citizens. There's enough competition among unemployed US IT people that the only groups willing to sponsor a work Visa are going to be looking to countries with lower wages than Canada. But I don't know how bad the Canadian market is. If Canadian IT is dramatically worse, you might not have much choice.

3. Your education isn't competitive in this market. Recessions are a good time to get education, as your opportunity costs are lower. If anything you're doing is affecting your response rate, it's a lack of education. Lots of firms will screen out people without a 4 year degree accredited degree, just because there's so many people on the market applying for every position that they need some kind of effective screening process.

4. Make sure you can convince people you can actually segue from your educational background into the positions you're applying for. This curriculum doesn't really prepare students for Software Development. (I'm being generous here). If you have a portfolio to demonstrate, highlight this in your cover letters.

5. Name dropping big companies isn't a ticket to success. Lots of companies are developing an aversion to anything requiring a site license or multimillion dollar contract. If the job posting mentions Linux, "Microsoft Certified" should probably be stated quietly on your resume, or not at all. There's also a "large company" culture that small companies want to avoid.

This all sounds depressing to hear, so here's some constructive advice:

1. Get more education. If you don't like the IT field, you still have plenty of options elsewhere. Dont let minor past investments cloud your judgment of how the future looks.

2. Find some local Users Groups that meet regularly. They're good networking opportunities and give you some much needed professional perspective. They might also serve as a good resume item if you rebuild their website, or serve on as Treasurer or President.

3. Do deep research before applying. Try to find out the name of the person who would be your boss if accepted for the position. Find out what technology they use right now, what other positions they're advertising, and what the organization chart is like. LinkedIn can give some insights on who works for the company and what their title is. If public traded, check out the company's filings for whether they're making or losing money, and what their growth areas are.

4. Persevere. The average time between jobs in this recession has been pretty brutal. Six months!
posted by pwnguin at 5:32 PM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

A) Network: Conferences, User Groups, Meetups.
B) Differentiate: What technologies make you different? IPhone/Android-specific development? Flex, Silverlight, Django, GWT, Plone, etc.
C) Contribute: Pro-Bono work for non-profits, work on an open-source project that looks good on your resume, also great for networking. Get involved at StackOverflow.com
D) Freelance: Look on craigslist for short gigs, things that'll help you pay bills, but leave you open for interviews.
E) Make sure your resume is findable on the web using just your first name and your job titles... it should be one of the top 5 when using first, last, position and city.

1) Over-state your qualifications. Saying you are an experienced developer while 19-21 (based on question history) will have your resume in the trash.
2) Say you "know almost all web languages" (again, quote from previous). Do focus on what you're AWESOME at. (besides, what are 'web languages'?)
3) Let facebook/myspace/twitter be the first hits when people google you.
4) Put things on your resume you can't substantiate. Don't say you know HTML 5 if you haven't built something for a client.
5) Forget about spellcheck. You have a habit of not dropping the 'e' when adding 'ing' to words(ex: diagnoseing, makeing). Anyone you want to work for should be anal enough to notice, and consequently annoyed by these things. (If I already know you, this isn't a big deal, but its a terrible first impression)

And who I am: Sr. Engineer for RealNetworks, Active.com and Panasonic Avionics. Been interviewing devs for the last 5 years.
posted by hatsix at 5:54 PM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

I hired programmers for six months. Here's what gets my attention:

- In the body of the email the person points to past experience that is directly relevant to the job description I posted. If my post says, "I need iPhone programmers," the ideal candidate says they made iPhone apps. If my post says, "I'm an e-commerce site that needs PHP programmers", the ideal candidate says they built a shopping cart from scratch.

- The candidate's descriptions include links to screenshots or application downloads where I can see—and not have to imagine—how good the person is. In the above examples, you'd send links to apps on the App Store or links to websites that show your components in action. While not all programming experience lends itself easily to linkable content, you must figure out a way to extract something visually recognizable from your past work. Even if you worked on the backend, a link (or better yet, an attachment) to the screenshot of the front-end is 10x better than saying, "I worked on such-and-such system."

- A candidate that wants a near guaranteed interview does some work specific to my job description. If my post says, "I'm looking for a VoIP programmer for mobile," the ideal candidate would say, "I did a quick google for open-source VoIP clients. It took me a couple minutes to make a build that worked with such-and-such gateway. I've attached it via email."

All Hiring Managers have a semi-spam folder. In 5 seconds, they either dump an applicant into it, or they let it sit in their inbox because it'd hurt them too much to see an opportunity like this candidate go to waste.

I also disagree with the idea that you shouldn't respond to old posts. Job needs are very fluid, and posting takes time, so Hiring Managers are apt to let the posts live for a while just in case. Because what if the new hire doesn't work out, they want a ready pool of qualified candidates to tap into.
posted by philosophistry at 11:35 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You applied to 380 jobs? What? Maybe you should stop spamming your resume everywhere and start focusing on what you want to do and where you want to work. You should also start hitting up people you know from school or from industry to see if the places they work are hiring. I think that's usually the easiest way to at least get a foot in the door. Nepotism FTW!
posted by chunking express at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2010

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