Written by Sandra Zawacki, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC
A few recent stories about failed background checks, resulting in rescinded offers, has caused me to reflect on the golden rules of passing one of these inquiries. Clearly, the easiest way to pass is to have a completely clean record, but we’re all human and many of us have made mistakes at some point in our lives. The key to a successful job search and subsequent offer is how and when to reveal those slipups.
In most cases, companies will have you fill out an employment application as part of your interview process. This application will typically ask for prior employment history, education, and will ask you to outline any past felonies or misdemeanors.
If your prior mistakes resulted in a felony conviction… well, Houston, we may have a problem. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll focus on mistakes less severe in nature that may not be immediately revealed by looking at your resume, but would be unearthed through a background check. Some examples include: unpaid parking tickets, credit issues, charges not resulting in conviction, misdemeanors, or being let go from prior positions. In my experience, managers, for the most part, are willing to overlook these types of mistakes, provided you are honest and appear to have learned from the situation.
Each of the stories I was recently told started with “I decided to roll the dice”. This sentiment is equal to the unfounded optimism one has at the end of a long night at a casino poker table: “I’ll win it back”. The truth is that just as the house (almost) always wins, your skeletons are almost always unearthed through a standard background check. If you are fairly confident that the employer will run a check, I would always recommend honesty as the best policy. Being branded as a liar will be far more damaging than those late payments.
That being said, there are some standard rules of engagement to adhere to throughout your interview process that will help you navigate the “how” and “when”. First and foremost, always be honest with recruiters about any potential issues with your background check. They know their clients well, and they can help you figure out which will take issue with your past and which won't bat an eye.
In the event that you are navigating the job market on your own, here are some simple rules:
Just because you are intending to be honest about your gaffes doesn’t mean you need to air all of your dirty laundry in detail during the first conversation. I would recommend waiting until after a first round interview before bringing up this type of information, and try to find out how detailed of a background check the company typically does before volunteering everything about your past. If you have something criminal that you feel confident will show up, get a head of it directly with the manager rather than letting him/her be caught off guard later in the process.
Own the mistake, then focus on the now
No one typically cares what “really happened”. Any and all long-winded explanations you may provide end up sounding like excuses more often than clarifications. Keep it simple and focus more on what you learned from the situation and how it’s impacted the person you are today. The manager will be impressed with your accountability rather than distracted by storytelling.
Express genuine regret and let the manager know that while you made that mistake in the past, it’s not a mistake you’ll make again.
I’d be remiss not to mention that in this day and age, most managers will probably Google you before they make a decision on whether to bring you on as a new employee. It’s a good idea to google yourself from time to time to see what comes up, and to have an opportunity to address what’s out there. Make sure your social media reflects the image you would want to project, (maybe it’s time to take down those pictures from freshman year in college?) and make sure your profile on networking sites like LinkedIn are updated and current. Should you find negative content about yourself online, don’t bring it up unless there is a real issue with a manager seeing that information. If there is anything out there that you feel forced to address, do so briefly, with a focus on what you’ve grown from the situation.
In the end, you can only hope that your decision to be honest and mature about your prior faults shows your potential employer that you will make a valuable employee, if given the opportunity!
Written by Lyndsey Lustig, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring Washington, DC
In the land of software development, there's more than one correct way to solve a problem. Since technology itself is limitless, it should come as no surprise that the available tools and resources are boundless as well. Now the question is, which tools should we choose, not only to get the job done, but also to best express oneself?
I work with technical people every day, particularly those proficient with Microsoft technologies. I've found that often the best technical people don't limit themselves to one brand of tools or frameworks. They step outside their technical comfort zones and experiment with anything they can get their hands on.
This article presents four reasons why you might benefit personally and professionally from trying out new technologies.
Learn New Paradigms
Learn New Ways to Use Old Technologies
Speaking of functional programming, your experience may cause you to look at LINQ on the .NET platform in a new light. One of my hiring managers was explaining that his organization’s use of Angular.JS (with its draconian dependency injection) caused his team to think differently about DI containers in their .NET server side, resulting in more flexible and more testable C#. In this way, working with one technology influenced how they interacted with another.
Here are four basic ways that broadening your technical repertoire can open up possibilities for career advancement.
- You can contribute to different areas of the same project (front-end to back-end, application to data analysis, etc.)
- You can move to new projects entirely (has your organization been piloting a new tech stack?)
- You can move to new organizations entirely. If this is the case, I can refer you to a specialist. (Wink!)
- Some organizations only fill full-stack or generalist positions. It’s worth mentioning that this is often true of smaller product development companies or startups.
Right Tool for the Job
Many organizations are pushing the limits of relational databases. The high performance or high availability required by their applications call for something new. NoSQL databases are answering this call, but often each in their own way. Spend some time understanding their relative merits and you can be your organization’s hero. Can you drop joins and go for the high performance of key store or document databases? Is your problem better suited by a graph database? What these specialized databases give up in the relational model they make up for by excelling in their particular area of application.
The following books are a great resource if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of current and new technologies.
- “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A Pragmatic Guide to Learning Programming Languages” by Bruce Tate
- “Seven Databases in Seven Weeks: A Guide to Modern Databases and the NoSQL Movement” by Eric Redmond
There are many benefits to be had from interacting with a range of technologies. Whether you’re looking for new ways to tackle an assignment or hoping to advance your career by opening new doors, I highly recommend not limiting yourself to one brand of tools or frameworks.
Carl Gieringer, a Darmouth College Computer Science graduate and Software Engineer at RevMetrix, was consulted on this post.
Written by Julie Colgate, Practice Manager in Jobspring Washington DC
In cities as competitive as Washington, D.C., individuals are constantly looking for new ways to evolve professionally. But with everyone looking to have a competitive edge, what is the best way to get ahead in your professional life?
Having worked extensively in the market, a pretty clear pattern has emerged from the most successful individuals across the board. They all have three things in common-- They’ve developed a network, they are constantly learning, and they are incredibly passionate.
I’ll let you in on a little secret-- you can get help with all of these, plus beer, at your local tech meetups.
Develop a Network
We’ve all heard, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Relationships are at the core of getting ahead in the business world, and there is no better way to foster these relationships than discussing your passion over a drink, in a room filled with great minds and innovative ideas.
One thing to remember when developing these rapports is that you need to give as much as you take from the relationship. Don’t create superficial exchanges just to get ahead, but build strong bonds that will benefit you and the other person throughout your careers.
There is no better way to learn about local companies and emerging trends than being able to talk to the individuals behind them. Sure, you can read newsletters like the Potomac Tech Wire, but that’s not going to provide you with half of the learning opportunity that being actively engaged will. Attending a meetup allows you to actively learn about technology by seeing it first-hand, meet with the founders and employees of different local companies, and talk with like-minded tech enthusiasts who may provide a different perspective of how an industry or technology is developing.
Find something that you are interested in and love doing. Maybe you haven’t gotten to this point in your career and need to be inspired, or you have and want to share that passion. A meetup is a great opportunity to explore new interests, be exposed to new ideas, and share your talents.
I’ve been to many meetups, and it’s hard not to get excited about a company or an idea when you’re engaged with a founder who eats, sleeps, and breathes their idea. Someone who listens to your feedback, loves answering your questions, and has a passion for creating a great product.
Meetups are also a great way to get up and do something different. Sometimes it feels like you can get stuck in an everyday monotonous routine. You get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner and go to bed; rinse and repeat. Tech meetups in DC are a great way to break out of this routine and add some excitement to your weeknights.
Whether you have a passing interest in what’s hot in technology or you’re an IT veteran, a tech meetup could be just what you are looking for. They are typically hosted at a central location right in DC or just outside of the city, and start around 6pm or 6:30pm for easy access right from work. If you are looking for a place to start, check out the meetup that we sponsor-- Tech in Motion. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Article by Del Crockett, Regional Director in Jobspring Washington DC
As a Regional Director that oversees technology recruiting operations in the Washington, DC area, I am often confronted by various levels of Software Engineers that have the misperception that the best, and possibly only real career options in this market are in the federal space. Now I must admit, even I made this same assumption prior to coming to DC. I moved to DC after working in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, cities where ‘government contracting’ isn’t exactly common talk. But in DC, this is as common as 80-degree weather or grabbing a cheesesteak respectively.
Below are two simple, yet often overlooked reasons, based on my experiences working with technology managers in various cities across the country, for why I am an advocate of private sector engineering careers over the commonplace federal route in the DC market.
Government Technology Playing ‘Catch Up’
Every day, I talk to software engineers with varying degrees of experience. In DC there's a common story of engineers who graduated from local universities only to be recruited by one of the big federal consulting shops right out of school, therefore entering the federal space by default. After a few years, they often reach a point where they crave the excitement of what they know is available in the private sector. Grand visions of Google, Facebook, and Twitter-esque development shops take over!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a vendetta against big federal consulting. In fact, I think they offer a fantastic start to one's engineering career. The problem is that most federal work does not prepare you for a switch to the private sector. There are several reasons for this.
- Heavy use of legacy systems and/or slow to integrate new tech. The government relies on private sector companies for their technology. Just look at the investment made into AMAZON WEB SERVICE for cloud computing solutions.
- Many lack implementation of agile methodology. Think of any technology company that has had an impact on your life. They run agile.
- Creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’ is often not rewarded or promoted due to heavy ‘federal’ restrictions and red-tape. I think Congress paints a clear picture of the red-tape I’m talking about.
- Major dichotomy between the working cultures of the two. You just have to experience it to understand the difference.
- Most solutions are not ‘Full-Life Cycle’, minimizing your exposure to how end-end solutions are created. Many federal projects offer just a piece of the overall solution to work on. This depth of knowledge will not suffice in the commercial space.
I meet with Engineering Managers all the time on both sides, and it’s not unusual to hear a manger in the federal space say something along the lines of, "I’d love to see a candidate with commercial product experience." Of course they would, and so would managers in the private sector! The difference is that I have yet to hear a client in the private sector ask for an engineer with federal experience. In fact, I often get requests not to introduce government contractors unless they are extremely unique. Now, is that fair? Probably not, but such requests originate from the five points above. And if developers have such a hard time making a career shift in DC, where government work is fairly common on a resume, imagine what it would be like if you moved to another city. I’m not sure how sexy the government projects you worked on will be to companies on the west coast.
Of course, there's always a counter-argument. Government work might be perfect for you, especially if you plan on living in the DC area forever, can acquire a high level clearance (which is money in the bank as far as job stability) and are capable of maintaining those lifestyle restrictions to hold onto it.
The Money Argument
Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Government consultants can make a ton of money! I would even go so far as to say that some are overpaid. Now, with that being said, so is Alex Rodriguez, and I am a believer that if someone is willing to pay it, then to that person (or company), YOU ARE WORTH IT!
On the flip side, I also see a ton of candidates who are underpaid in federal and private sectors. There's no universal rule here.
My point on this topic has to do with the job seekers that are used to making Silicon Valley money in their government job, and now decide they want commercial experience on their resume. These job seekers are often shocked, since salaries in the private sector are usually about 10k lower, on average. I see this shock on a daily basis, and usually it's a conversation of adjusting expectations.
The reality is that for most Engineering positions in the private sector, a premium is put on those who have the skills to create end-to-end solutions using newer technologies. Think Big-Data, cloud, and mobile, for instance. These are the most requested types of projects Engineers are looking for right now. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have relevant exposure or a history of working in a commercial type of environment, the compensation is not going to compare on day one.
If you are going to get into the federal space, you have to face the facts. The government prints money (probably too much) and the private sector is the engine that creates the real growth. The resources available are not the same, so adjustments in expectations have to be made when going from federal to private. Going the opposite way? Well then, be ready to likely cash-in!
At the end of the day, the general consensus is that you can make more money doing potentially less cutting-edge or challenging work in the federal space. But if you are looking for the bleeding-edge opportunity often only found in the commercial sector, then expectations need to be a bit more realistic.
Often, the difference between private and government sector engineers is the mentality. Commercial product managers want developers who are in it for the reward of the work they're accomplishing, and for the innovative tech they get to work on. If you want to work in the private sector, that's the mind-set you'll need to adopt.
Article by Tom Parzych, Practice Manager at Jobspring DC.
There is certainly a stigma surrounding contract, and even contract-to-hire positions. Most employed individuals are averse to hearing about contracting opportunities, and companies trying to establish a culture, or build a team, are just as likely to avoid hiring someone on a contract basis. However, the hiring market right now, especially in technology, is highly competitive. It’s time for a discussion where contracting is viewed as a viable opportunity. Realistically, contracting is a great solution for a both management and job seekers alike.
How Contracting Benefits Hiring Managers
There are many positive aspects to hiring on a contractual basis. However, in order to truly understand the benefits, it’s important to first address the perceived negative aspects, such as:
- Hiring a contractor creates a culture of instability
- A contractor doesn’t typically buy into the overall mission of the company
- Temporary employees have no loyalty or incentive to follow through on deliverables
- Contractors won’t put in the same quality of work as permanent employee
These are the main concerns I’ve come across as a recruiter. These concerns typically stem from, in my experience, companies and managers who have never previously hired, let alone approached a contractor.
There is an underlying theme among these concerns. Namely, will the quality of work from these candidates be the same as if they were paid a salary and benefits? The short answer is YES. Look at it this way; even one-month contracted candidates are incentivized to perform at a high-quality level. Why? Firstly, this is a position that will fill any gap of employment, which means prospective employers will see the position on the candidate’s resume. As a result, the candidate will want a positive reference from the most recently listed employer on their resume. Secondly, the candidate may wish to work on projects with the same employer in the future. Most professionals, in every industry, are not looking to burn any bridges. It is common knowledge that the best way to fill a position is through having a strong network of industry professionals to rely on.
Now, let’s take a look at the benefits of contracting. Trust me, there are numerous benefits, but here are just a few:
- Option of temp-to-perm (you can try and buy!)
- Increased hiring flexibility
- An immediate need is filled
- Maintenance of budget requirements, while still getting the work done
- The hiring company is not the direct employer and therefore, does not have to worry about HR, accounting, or direct supervisorial issues
By having extra hands on board, deadlines are being met and demand is being filled. Additionally, contractors are usually paid out of a separate budget than permanent employees. This means that you are able to stay within your budget, while also getting the work done in an efficient and effective manner. Sounds like a win-win!
How Contracting Benefits Candidates
I’ve had extensive experience helping to place contract candidates at various companies, even those who did not anticipate hiring a contractor, and the benefits very clearly outweigh any concerns the candidate may have. Below are the main benefits on the candidate-side of the spectrum:
- Getting a foot in the door
- Gaining exposure to a new skillset the candidate may not have otherwise had the chance to learn
- Higher earning potential
- Avoid being out of work for an extended period of time
- Typically earn higher hourly rates
I’ve placed a candidate on a short-term contract countless times, which then, unsurprisingly, gets extended, then extended again. Then the individual is hired as a permanent employee as a result of the company recognizing the value of that specific candidate. This happens more often than most job seekers think.
Are you still unconvinced or hesitant about contracting? Then I recommend seeking consultation from someone who is familiar with this trend. Be that a former coworker, a colleague at a different organization, a friend, a habitual contractor, etc. It’s time to start considering the contracting realm as a practical option.
Article by Alex Clark, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring DC.
Just a month after its status page confirmed that a major DDoS attack crippled the site for three hours, it may seem like poor timing to write a piece about the importance of GitHub. But if you ask me, they are in good company. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple all reported attacks in 2013 alone. And no one would question the importance of those companies.
For now, let’s focus on why GitHub is one of the most important tools available to programmers, managers, and other professionals in the tech space. GH is, literally, the largest host of source-code in the world with over four million users currently contributing to its more than six million repositories (1). The question is, what are you waiting for?
Prospective developers, proven ninjas, and wizards, if you’re contending for a new position without a GitHub account, you’re already one step behind. Interacting with hundreds of tech professionals in the D.C. Metro area, I’m often asked “What can I do to improve my chances of landing a dream job?” My answer is always the same. “Go home and create an account, start a repository and display your code tonight.”
As Q1 draws closer and a flood of candidates hit the market, you should be looking for anything to set yourself apart from the pack. What better way to do that than by displaying your work publicly for all to see? Take a few days to polish your account and put up code. Network, connect, comment on, discuss, share your work and build upon others’. Collaborate on a project and challenge yourself for all to see. In a word, use GitHub to “engage”. Whether you view it as a social network, a warehouse or a host, use GitHub to its full potential.
When career hunting, it’s important to know who will be looking you up on GH and that person is likely to be a hiring manager. If there is one major hiring trend to point to this past year, it’s that employers want to see your GitHub account. With much more frequency, companies are asking for candidates to submit their account information along with their resumes.
Perhaps the biggest illustration of GitHub’s importance is how companies choose to leverage it. Hiring managers are creating tech tests and small projects for candidates to solve as a way to vet talent. In the workplace, teams of programmers are able to store their work and access any changes that other team members make in real-time.
GitHub will continue to facilitate the advancement of software development around the Globe. As the tech industry continues to exponentially change the face of everyday life, it is up to you as a professional in this space to be conscious of trends in order to stay competitive.
Article by Ben Eisenberg, Lead Recruiter at Jobspring Partners: Washington DC.
Let’s face it. Finding and attracting the top developers and engineers in IT is difficult. To begin with, good IT people are scarce, which explains why there are thousands of IT recruiting agencies in business. However, some hiring managers may have been spoiled during the recession when it was largely a hiring manager’s market. Lots of qualified resumes sat on the job boards for weeks on end. Qualified jobseekers poured in by the bucket when companies posted an ad.
The IT professional market, much like the stock market, constantly ebbs and flows. One year, the supply of IT candidates can outpace demand, which was the case from 2008-2010. Just as suddenly, the tables can turn. With the recession all but over in the major technology hotbeds around the country, the job market has shifted and people have more options than they have had in years. Simply put, there are now more jobs than qualified candidates to fill them.
Talented IT professionals now have multiple career opportunities being tossed their way at any given time. They are also spending less time on the job market since competition is so fierce. For hiring managers who insist on acquiring the best talent, having a quick hiring process and being able to move quickly is a must.
If you are hiring for an engineer and your job has been open for longer than you would have hoped, take a look at your hiring process. Does it take more than two rounds for you to bring someone on board? Does it take more than three weeks between the first round and the time it takes to pull the trigger on a hiring decision? If so, you’re probably losing out on the best options simply because your process is too long.
The longer a jobseeker is on the market, the more offers they are bound to entertain. Even a one week delay can be the difference between being able to hire the most talented person and them losing interest because something else comes along that catches their attention. This is when offers are turned down, or worse yet, when someone accepts and then doesn’t show on the first day.
If you find someone you like, take action and do whatever is possible to speed up your hiring process so that person shuts down all other interview activity and your job is filled!
Are you looking to fill a position in your tech department in the DC Metro area? Contact us today by calling 703-682-4000!
Article by Julie Colgate, Lead Recruiter at Jobspring Partners: Washington DC
“Hi, my name is Julie. I’m an Open Source Development recruiter and I’m here to serve you. I’ll be helping you find the job you want or find that valuable addition your team needs. I’ve matched 19 candidates and companies over the past year and I want to do that for you as well. Whether you have worked with a recruiter in the past or not, there are a few things you need to know.”
Tell Me What You Want:
The biggest thing for me as a recruiter is to have a clear understanding of what you are looking for in a job or in an applicant. If you don’t want to work inside the beltway, let me know. I’ll focus my efforts in Reston. Want applicants with a special skillset? Tell me and I won’t waste your time on people that aren’t going to fit that role. At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is that I have added value to a company and helped someone further their career.
Know Your Worth:
I’ll split this section in two, one for job seekers and one for hiring managers.
The job market is very competitive today, and even more so for the technology market here in DC. This is why it is imperative that you know how much you are worth, and even more importantly, why you are worth so much. As a recruiter, I want to get you every cent you deserve. For me to do this, I need to understand the important skills you bring to the table, past experiences where maybe you've saved your company money or increased sales, or whatever X factor you have that’s going to make companies swoon over you.
With that said, the market is going to dictate within a certain range the type of salary your skills command. This is where I can be of value to you. I'm an expert on the market from working with job seekers with similar backgrounds to yours and with the types of companies you want to work for. While I'm always going to work to get you the highest salary possible, part of my job is tempering expectations if I don’t believe I can get you the amount you're asking for. What I can help you with though, is finding a job that will allow you to gain the skills and experience needed to command that higher salary down the road.
Time is Money. How much is your time worth? This is where I'm valuable to your organization. Finding the type of talent you need, researching the market to understand which skillsets your budget will afford, figuring out if a person is going to fit in with your company culture - this is how I spend my day. It takes up a lot of time. Time you'd probably rather spend developing and perfecting your product.
I’m a resource for you to utilize. You can tell me what you have budgeted, and I’ll be able to tell you what type of talent I’ll be able to find for you. Conversely, if you give me a description of the type of candidate you're looking for, I'll be able tell you what you can expect to pay.
Communication is Key:
What I need from you is a constant flow of communication. I need you to ask questions when you have them and be responsive when I have them. This comes back to “time is money”. The tech market is very dynamic and changes quickly, so the more constant our communication, the quicker we can fill your position (or find you a new job), and the bigger the advantage you'll have over your competitors.
Help Me Help You:
What it boils down to is this: help me help you. If you are a candidate, I want to find you an opportunity where your skills are fully utilized and where you are compensated appropriately based on what your skills and the market dictates. For hiring managers, I want to save you time and help you build an all-star team that will help your business grow.
To hear more from Julie, follow her on Twitter @jccolgate