On a brisk February evening, KCWiT hosted our second TechTalk of the year at Cerner Innovations campus. Four recruiters from the KC-area shared what they look for in candidates, how YOU can optimize your LinkedIn profile, get the experience you need to land your dream job, and what to do if you are changing careers. If you are looking for your next opportunity, you will find fantastic tips below.
How Do You Stand Out on LinkedIn?
Events Director Alison Renfro kicked off the TechTalk by asking the panelists what they look for in LinkedIn profiles. FYI, recruiters use LinkedIn almost exclusively to find candidates.
Kendra O’Sullivan from Kforce said you must be approachable. “If you want to be found by someone, you should be on LinkedIn. Because that’s where we are at. And it’s not just third-party recruiters, it’s HR departments, it’s friends’ referrals. That’s going to be your best platform. So, we really encourage you to get on LinkedIn and say that you’re open to new opportunities.
“I always look for the people who want to be approached. If you have no profile picture, if you’re very vague; if you say, ‘software programmer please leave me alone,’ I’ll leave you alone. So, I definitely recommend that if you check that box that says ‘Open to New Opportunities’ or the box that says ‘Most Likely to Respond.” And just in case you are concerned, your current employer cannot see that you have checked those boxes. The recruiters had several easy ways for you to improve your LinkedIn profile:
- Professional photograph
- Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile information match
- Add a summary to the top of your LinkedIn profile and say explicitly you are looking for opportunities
- List online courses or certifications on your profile
- Be active on LinkedIn: posting and commenting can get you noticed
Recruiter and KCWiT Membership Director Crystal Coates said candidates should try to show off their personality in their LinkedIn profile because recruiters want to find a good fit!
Also, Emma Conner from TEKsystems told the audience to list LinkedIn Learning or other online courses on their profile. Whether you list them in the Skills section or Certifications section, LinkedIn treats those titles as keywords and your profile will pop up when recruiters search for those keywords.
What do you do if you are just out of school, changing careers, or searching for your first job?
Crystal has been working with KCWiT members on this exact issue and her first piece of advice is find a way to get noticed. Tap into your networks, mentor or volunteer. “If you were a LaunchCode graduate and you did a fellowship, don’t just say ‘I taught LaunchCode people’, what did you teach them? Fill in the blanks for us. If you went to UMKC or KU Bootcamp, what did you do? What did you learn? If there are any final projects you did, give us that stuff. If you have a Github, make sure it’s on your profile, make sure it’s on your resume.”
Sometimes it takes a third person to point those things out to you. Crystal encouraged attendees to contact her and the other panelists because they want to help. Even if you are seeking an entry level position, in a few years you may be the developer that everybody in town wants to hire! So don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters.
Crystal encouraged those in the beginning phase of their career to find a non-profit (like KCWiT for instance) and offer your services or a product. Provide something for them and you can put it on your portfolio.
Recruiter Lacey Cherry agreed with this tactic of listing volunteer and side-projects on your resume, even if it isn’t full time work. If you are changing careers, do not be afraid to list those previous experiences on your profile and resume. Long work history matters, even if it’s not in the same field.
The Lowdown on Resume Length and Content
The experience level will determine how long your resume should be. Kendra says that an entry-level position can have a one-page resume. But if you’re applying for a marketing director role, one-page will not get you in the door. Crystal agreed and added that if you do a lot of project work, your projects will probably fill up more than one or two pages, and that’s great!
Lacey said an important strategy is that you put the recognizable buzzwords for your industry in your resume. Usually your resume goes to HR and they don’t know the technical jargon. But they will scan for buzzwords and your resume will go to the Skip pile if it doesn’t have them. Emma works in creative and digital and she says the candidates’ resumes can be shorter because they are supplemented by portfolios. Maggie Gotez from Apex Systems said it’s unlikely for candidates in IT contract work to have a short resume, but at least try to be concise!
However, it is critical that you are ready to talk about whatever you list on you resume because recruiters and hiring managers will ask about it. “You better be ready to talk to it,” Crystal added.
Do you list your GPA on your resume?
It depends, the panelists said. Emma said experience matters more than GPA, but if you do not have a lot of experience and your GPA is good, it probably wouldn’t hurt! If you have several years’ experience, it’s unnecessary to list your GPA, unless, Lacey said, your degree is from a prestigious university.
In the tech field, many new developers do not even have a four-year degree. Crystal encouraged attendees to place any relevant bootcamps or courses on their resume and Kendra shared her advice on how to approach those kinds of courses:
“I think the most attractive thing anyone can do at the entry level is talk about the fundamentals. What do you understand? People put Excel on a resume… Do you understand Pivot Tables? If you do understand Pivot Tables, tell me how you use them. Tell me what you were splicing, what was the data? Walk through everything that you’ve done and show off how you know and understand the fundamentals. And how you learned it.
“Because you guys are doing great projects, whether it’s volunteer or mentoring, you can explain it and show the fundamentals. Because you’re talking to an HR person who doesn’t know anything, and you’re talking to a hiring manager who has to decide if they want to take a chance on you. Prove that you’re worth that chance.”
The TechTalk audience Q&A wrapped up and the recruiters were immediately approached by attendees looking for further information. Crystal said later she had set up multiple meetings with attendees to discuss careers and resumes.
If you are interested in a future #TechTalk…
For our March event we are teaming up with Women Tech Makers for an International Women’s Day event. We’ve invited three women to share their stories of working in tech and inspire you to go after your dreams. RSVP for your tickets or sign up for our email updates to keep up to date with future TechTalks!