Survey: High-tech workers need to change job search approach

The old adage of ‘networking, networking, networking,’ will not help you find the high-tech job you’ve been looking for, according to a new survey, but learning the art of self-promotion is likely the job search tool of the future.

“We’re doing it all wrong. The whole system, the whole employment system is doing it wrong,” said David Perry, managing partner at Perry-Martel International (PMI), a high-tech recruitment firm in Ottawa, Ont.

“Candidates are selling themselves based on skills not their qualities and their abilities. The employers that are actually doing the hiring – that are looking for people – have delegated the task to people who are often incapable of understanding the bigger picture and what the vision [for the company] is.”

Perry said that job seekers need to sell themselves to the executives directly and alleviate the traditional approach of networking with friends and former colleagues.

The 2003 North American Survey of High-Tech Employers, exploring hiring practices, was conducted by PMI in conjunction with the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). By dividing respondents into two categories – executives and non-executives – the survey explored two central questions: What is the best way to find a high-tech job today, and if you were going to hire a new employee in today’s economy, what qualities or characteristics would you be looking for?

About 97 per cent of executives said the best way to find a high-tech job today is through the targeted marketing of firms followed by a direct approach to an executive. The second-best method is through recruitment companies.

And while networking rated less than a one per cent response, according to the survey 73 per cent of non-executives said that networking was the best way to find a job. The networking method was of bigger relevance to human resources professionals and lower among engineering professionals, the report found.

The idea for the survey was sparked in Perry’s mind after the high-tech meltdown several years ago, resulting in an oversupply of workers and a subsequent shortage of highly skilled workers, Perry said.

“For the last two years if you’ve followed all the rules for job searching in all the books, you were likely to still end up being quite frustrated and unemployed. Things have changed,” he said, adding that he wanted to find out why.

What he found was that in the past, unemployed people would search for a new job by networking and calling friends in the industry to see what opportunities were available.

“Nowadays, unfortunately, if you’re networking, it’s likely (that) your friends are networking too. When everybody is networking, nobody is really getting hired,” Perry said.

The other problem, Perry explained, is that networking is not happening with the vice-presidents and people at the executive level, but job seekers are instead being sidelined by people in management and are told they aren’t hiring.

“You could be the next best thing since sliced bread but unless you are actually talking to somebody at the executive level who knows they have a problem and knows they have a solution, you’re not going anywhere,” he said. “Job seekers could be doing lunch until they are blue in the face and out of cash, but they’re not going to get jobs that way.”

Executives aren’t looking for skills, they are looking for solutions, core qualities, perseverance and value added to the profit-line of an organization, Perry said.

These intangible skills were important to 81 per cent of the executives, while 77 per cent of non-executives were more concerned with filling in the boxes on a standard recruiting form.

“The challenge with technology is that it’s never the technology skills. You can learn new programming languages in a very short period of time. It’s the qualities that someone brings personally to a job that determines if they, and subsequently if the company, is going to be successful,” he said.

More than 7,000 people across Canada and the United States responded to the survey, for an overall response rate of 37.8 per cent of the 19,000 people who were initially contacted.

PMI is on the Web at www.perrymartel.com. CATA can be found online at www.cata.ca.