14 Tips to Help New College Grads Land a (Good) IT Job

14 Tips to Help New College Grads Land a (Good) IT Job

According to a recent Dice hiring survey of nearly 1,200 IT-focused hiring managers and recruiters, demand for technology professionals should continue to be strong through 2012, with “24 percent of corporate hiring managers saying they were hiring at the entry level,” according to Tom Silver, senior vice president, Dice. “It’s not the levels that we saw pre-recession, but similar to last year.”

As for where those jobs are, “It’s a diverse set of industries looking for entry-level talent,” he notes. Among the hot IT fields: healthcare, financial services, energy, government and mobile technology.

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As for what IT-related skills employers are looking for, according to a recent study by CareerBuilder and CareerRookie assessing the job prospects for the class of 2012, “companies are focusing on finding workers who have current technical skills and business acumen that can increase revenue.” The most sought after students: business majors — followed closely by computer and information science majors and engineers. Also at the head of the class: math and statistics majors and those majoring in communication technologies.

In particular, employers are looking for hires who know understand software development.

One Word: Programming

“MIS students are realizing employers are hiring as many developers and software engineers as they can find and are very open to hiring entry-level talent,” explains Fritz Eichelberger, CEO, HotSpaces.net, an IT recruiting and consulting firm based in Tampa, Florida. “MIS students who avoided any development courses, however, are finding a harder time securing an IT job compared to the CS or engineering students” who have taken courses in software development. And even though it’s possible to find work if you don’t have a development background, “it takes longer and the salaries are not as favorable as the development-focused students,” he says.

“Across the board, we’re looking for HTML knowledge,” says Alana Peden, a marketing assistant at SpareFoot, an Austin-based tech startup that is an online marketplace for consumers to find and reserve self-storage units. “Our developers write code using PHP, JavaScript, MySQL, HTML and CSS.” But that doesn’t mean you have to have majored in computer science. “One of our developers was a recent grad with a biomedical engineering degree, but he could program.”

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Another piece of advice, albeit more for current students than grads: Do an internship in the field or area you are interested in pursuing. “Before a student enters into the workforce he or she should really have some ‘real world’ experience through a job or internship while still in school,” explains David Muir, Jr., founder, The GigSpire Program, which teaches job search skills. Work experience, even if unpaid, he says, can make a big difference.

What else do recent grads need to land their dream job in IT? CIO.com asked hiring managers and IT recruiters. Following are their top tips for how to improve your chances of getting hired.

Google yourself — before a prospective employer does. Why? “I am looking for two things: you participate on the social or technical Web, and you do not have anything terribly scandalous on the Web,” explains Sara Robertson, vice president, Strategic Technology , CPX Interactive, a digital adverting company. “If I find a thread on a developer forum where you are helping a newbie understand the proper way to instantiate a class, you will get a call immediately.

If I find a thread on a developer forum where you are flaming a newbie for not reading the documentation, your resume is immediately in the trash.” Robertson also recommends potential hires have a Twitter and/or Facebook account. “If you don’t have those I will suspect something is amiss, unless you have a first-page blog where you eloquently describe all the reasons that Facebook and Twitter suck. At which point I might just want to be your best friend.”

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How to Protect Your Reputation Online

Get a professional email address. “Something as [seemingly insignificant] as your email address can make a huge impact on whether or not you get a response from a hiring manager,” argues Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi. “So ditch the funny, inappropriate email address you’ve had since high school, like ‘sexykitten11’ or ‘bigdaddy69.’

Make a great impression from the start by setting up a professional, simple email address — a combination of your first and last name and, if needed, numbers,” she says. “If you insist on keeping that old address for old times’ sake, keep it solely for personal use with friends.”

Adjust your Facebook privacy setting before you send out a single resume. “Hiring managers are now searching Facebook to screen candidates before and after the interview process,” notes Senderoff. And the last thing you want them to see is a picture of you doing shots with your buddies, in a thong or behaving inappropriately. Therefore, she recommends you change your Facebook privacy settings to “friends only” and choose a profile picture your grandmother would approve of.

Do your homework/due diligence. “Research and know the company’s basic stats (revenue, number of employees, main locations, products and services),” advises Michael McKiernan, vice president, Business Technology at Citrix. “Understanding the company’s business strategy and the relevance of the IT function in contributing to this strategy… demonstrates a sincere targeted interest in the company and the IT function as opposed to a blanket ‘any job will do’ approach.”

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