Article was originally posted on Clearedjobs.net blog page and written based on question/answer forum for recruiter webinar preceding a virtual job fair.
The IT clearance community is made up of individuals who are ambitious, accomplished, and driven. The ever-evolving tech arena is a perfect home for their love of learning and provides the opportunity to dive into the weeds and discover how and why things work.
Explaining job duties and accomplishments from down in the weeds can prove challenging in a prescreen or interview when most of the interviewers are at the 30,000-foot-view. Don’t get me wrong, we want to hear your passion for the craft, geeking-out and code talk is strongly recommended. However articulating project scope, user impact, and financial savings in a clear and precise manner can leave a lasting impact and give you a leg up over the competition.
Most managers have an underlying responsibility of improving profit, cost savings, and efficiency. It resonates with them when you are able to speak to these topics and provide insight on project scope, meeting a tight deadline, coming in under budget, deploying to cross-functional end-users with minimal disruption, and reducing non-value-added work to improve efficiency. An easy acronym to remember and keep you on track is PAR (Problem, Action, Result). When you clearly communicate a strong technical aptitude with good business acumen be ready to have an answer for the next question, “When can you start?”
How to Succeed in a Virtual Job Interview
Thankfully, virtual tools and platforms for interviewing and job-seeking were already in existence prior to the pandemic. The transition to using these tools on a regular basis was mostly a smooth one. The biggest challenge for many (myself included) was being aware of how we present ourselves through video. It’s just not the same as being in-person. Some practice and prep time will be key to ensuring you present the best version of you in a virtual interview.
A good way to accomplish this is to do a mock interview and record yourself answering a few questions to play back for review. When watching, make note of the following:
- Did the audio sound ok? Was there background noise? Would using earbuds be helpful?
- Was the video quality clear? Is the camera functioning correctly?
- Is lighting appropriate? Or is it too dark?
- Is the background wall too busy? Or too plain? Will people walk by and distract you?
- Were you looking into the camera when answering the question? Were you smiling?
- Did you say ‘um’ too many times? Do you need a post-it reminder stuck on your monitor?
In doing a mock virtual interview you can fix unexpected and unforeseen problems to minimize distractions so the focus will be completely on you.
Highlighting Job Requirements in Your Resume
Within the federal IT contract market, many positions do require specific requirements for hire eligibility. As time consuming as it may be, it is important to tailor your resume to each individual posting that you apply for. For example, if the position requires a CISSP certification and proficiency in Powershell be sure that this experience is easy to see and preferably at the top. This is not to say that you must re-write your resume but just re-arrange it so that the reader does not have to hunt. Minimalism and bullet points are typically the best approach.
I believe everyone fits somewhere, if not this job, then maybe the next. Therefore, given the time, reviewing every resume is important and allows me to file appropriately. With that said, recruiters are always under the gun to fill positions so make sure your resume is an attention grabber and in a format that is easy to read. Sharing your full story will then follow.
How to Approach Remote Work in Your Job Search
Companies are trying to figure out the new normal for full-time remote employees who otherwise had offices prior to the pandemic. This is not a new concept for the IT industry but has opened the door wide for the possibility of any and all positions to work remote. For contractors, this decision may lie with the client and is not up for discussion.
Ultimately, the changing landscape has created a market advantage for candidates. While full-time remote opportunities may sound great, I would encourage job seekers to carefully and thoughtfully consider the long-term impact of full-time remote and how it fits with your lifestyle and career goals. Determine where you stand before speaking with prospective employers so that you are not trying to figure it out as you go.
Questions to ask yourself might include:
- Do I have a private, dedicated space/office to work from home?
- Can I be just as successful in my role working remote?
- Will I miss the in-person comradery and interaction? (Especially for cleared/veterans)
- Does this align with my long-term career goals?
- Will it have an impact on my next position?
- Am I willing to forgo remote for better pay? Opportunity?
I would also suggest having a prepared list of questions for the employer to find out how they are addressing remote work. Transparency and honesty upfront are always the best policy when engaging with recruiters on this subject. There are many HR tasks involved with hiring out-of-state remote workers so the sooner the better. If you have carefully thought it through and shared reasons why, it will seem more like a logical, thought-out decision rather than an entitlement or expectation. Keep in mind that it wasn’t so long ago during pre-pandemic times that working full-time remote was mostly a privilege for the hard-earned and high dollar.
When to Contact a Recruiter Prior to Your Military Exit
It’s never too early to connect with a recruiter. We are easily accessible on platforms such as LinkedIn, the company webpage, and virtual career fairs. I’ve had people reach out to start a dialog that are six months to a year from military separation. Networking is an important aspect of our job and done on a continual basis no matter what the current job board looks like. If I know a person’s skills and availability, then I can share upcoming opportunities with the candidate or let others in my network know of his/her availability.
We love our military, so we are happy to be a resource in any way we can. That may include assisting with their resume, being a resource in the San Antonio area, or connecting them with like-minded groups and communities.
Understanding How Recruiters Spend Their Time
Recruiters have many responsibilities with the primary job of delivering exceptional and employable talent to hiring managers. The pressure to deliver is great and the grind of sourcing can be exhausting. Working smarter not harder is always the goal. Job fairs hosted by ClearedJobs.Net make it easier for us to meet highly qualified, cleared professionals. We rely heavily on this platform to network with the cleared community and fill positions.
Admittedly, we connect with many great candidates but at times are unable to reach back out as quickly or often as we would like due to the urgencies of the day-to-day. With that said, be encouraged to take the first step and network with a recruiter. Know that it is ok to inquire about a posting or follow-up on an interview that you haven’t heard back on yet. This will help minimize frustration and allow you to feel more in control of your job search.
Jada Fowler is Technical Recruiter at DTSI and recruits technology professionals for both the cleared and non-cleared communities.