Is There an Opportune Time to Job Hunt?

Opportune Time to Job Hunt

Seasonal employment trends often correlate with fiscal quarters—a reason why November and December are usually slowest. Leading up to the New Year, businesses exhaust the last of their budgets on long-term initiatives, leaving few resources for hiring new employees. However, once the months reset, many offices aggressively recruit new members. This season rivals only the fall, which is the biggest hiring period for many industries.

The aforesaid trends illustrate known recruitment cycles—spring/fall peaks versus summer/winter slumps. Many factors, however, affect these cycles: economic downturns and upswings, generation transitions, local boosts and setbacks, government interference (i.e. new regulations) and more. Even the emergence of new competition or a major unexpected merger can influence the behaviour of other entities in a marketplace, so job seekers must be aware of the forces in play before submitting resumes and scanning for interviews.

Understanding changes in hiring patterns can help job seekers align their schedules with businesses. Examples stated above are generic, though, and thus job seekers require deeper research to pinpoint active times for suitable employers. Such research needs to consider both the market and employer’s stability—something easier to determine for public companies. Whenever available, parse annual reports and press releases to collect this information.

Regardless of the month or season, job seekers need to allocate lots of time. Networking, for instance, is hard work; forming impressions, creating leads and following up become a full-time job on their own. For this reason, if not pressured (i.e. currently employed), plan to situate your job hunt according to the research and the trends.

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How to Prepare for a Competency-Based Interview

Prepare for a Competency-Based Interview

Psychologists often design competency-based interviews for employers, structuring the questions in a way that unearth a candidate’s behavioural, technical and analytical skills and tendencies. Typically, such interviews are situational: they ask candidates to reflect on past decisions and report the instances most representative of their character or ability.

Some employers supplement competency-based interviews with written tests to measure a candidate’s level of theoretical expertise, but these require special preparation apart from standard Q&A sessions. In regards to strictly the verbal component, adopt the STAR technique:

  • Situation: Identify the context and/or conflict. Explain why your chosen example demonstrates the skill in question. (Hint! Find workplace examples likely to arise again in other settings. These need not be generic; they simply need to reassure employers that you can handle common occupational hiccups).
  • Task: Describe the task appointed to you as well as the employer’s expectations. Defining the task is essential in justifying the action taken.
  • Actions: How did you deal with the situation? Were there ethical considerations to be had (i.e. values or loyalties)? If so, how did you weigh them? What alternatives were available to you?
  • Result: Based on the last three steps, would you consider the outcome positive or negative? In retrospect, would you change your performance? What did you learn from this experience?

In order to formulate complete coherent answers, you should investigate the popular questions in your field. Even parsing the job description can help you brainstorm relevant scenarios: match the required skills to entries on your CV, and then run the example through STAR.

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Big Data Talent Gap Survey 2014

Canada Big Data Talent Gap Survey 2014

New data reveal a shortage of 150,000 IT professionals with deep analytical skills in the U.S., a large enough number to inspire Ryerson University’s Big Data Consortium—a national private-public sector consortium involved in the examination of Big Data and Advanced Analytics issues—to conduct a study that will determine if a similar talent gap exists in Canada. The first phase of the project is already underway, and so the consortium invites organizations from across the country to complete a survey on the following:

  • Section 1 requests basic information regarding the size, sector, function and value of the responding organization;
  • Section 2 inquires about the role of Big Data and Advanced Analytics in the organization, including both current and future programs, projects or objectives;
  • Section 3 asks organizations to assess their talent needs.

Phase one of this project wraps up December 31st, 2014; take 25 to 30 minutes between now and then to answer the above (click here). In the New Year, the Consortium will host a Big Data Talent Gap Summit as a part of phase two, in which organizations from across the board will strategize ways to shrink the gap. The consortium will then translate the results of summit into a white paper, which will be available for download early 2015. Those who complete the survey can pre-register for a copy of the final report.

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Small, Medium or Large: Which Do IT Professionals Prefer?

Robert Half Technology surveyed 2,300 IT professionals to gauge employment preferences in the sector. They compiled the data into a slideshow presentation, titled Where Techies Prefer to Work. We summarized the findings below:

Employer Size Preference (%) Cited Reasons
Midsize 60 Stability

Career Mobility



Large 24 Career Growth




Startup 16 Innovation

Career Growth


Income Potential

Despite ranking the lowest, IT professionals may find startup cultures most welcoming. Small, close-knit teams foster a collaborative atmosphere, where everyone takes on more responsibilities and has greater decision-making input. Said responsibilities are often diverse, rather than fixed like in corporate settings. Partially, this is due to less bureaucracy in the workplace. For IT professionals, this becomes an opportunity to hone and expand their skills.

As reflected in the results, midsize and large corporations offer some benefits too. Mobility and networking, for instance, lead the pack of reasons: there are endless opportunities to advance one’s career or to make a lateral movement into a new field/department. Big budgets sometimes mean big perks, so IT professionals seeking financial gains may prefer such positions as well.

Again, it does come down to preference, so consider your own values and objectives, as we discussed last week. Help those torn with this decision by sharing your thoughts in the comments section.

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How to Define Career Objectives and Preferences

Career Objectives and Preferences

To avoid confusion, this article does not discuss the resume, though aspects do apply to applications and interviews. Instead, let’s revert to square one—the stage before your job hunt commences. It’s important to first assess career objectives and preferences in order to refine your search and remain on target for all personal and professional goals.

Workplace Preferences

Consider your preferences, but do not allow them to trump your objectives. With that said, the more preferences satisfied the better. Likewise, essentials like salary minimums and health benefits take priority. Other than these factors, job seekers should also explore preferences relating to environment—style, pacing, structure, technology—location and industry. Think about where you want to work, why you want to work there and whom you want to work with, as well as the various values attributed to each. Your interests play a role too, but within reason: they need to be marketable!

Professional Objectives

Next, brainstorm what you can do—that is, what duties you are qualified to handle. Objectives include the types of roles and skills you might seek; this demands self-awareness and critique. Understand that what you can do may not align with what you want to do, so objectives help reveal how to get there over time. For this reason, draft a series of short- and long-term goals, as well as a few strategies to attain them.

Lastly, think of your career objectives as means and not ends, and then ask if such ambitions reflect who you are. Conflicts between personal and professional lifestyles develop over time when the career is incompatible. With this in mind, think about your own values and morals, as well as if your objectives leave room for collective learning and improvement—those who work with or manage you.

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Market Value Gains for IT Skills in North America

The Q2-2014 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, produced and distributed by Foote Partners, reports fifth-consecutive market gains for both certified and non-certified IT skills. In terms of salary, research shows that employed professionals received modest pay increases for numerous technical abilities last summer: 374 non-certified skills rose 0.54% in value, while 337 IT certifications, also known as “skills premium,” shot up 0.85%.

In the past five years, only once has the market shown quarter-to-quarter gains like this. In fact, IT certification values have consistently declined since 2006. In total, 85 IT skills grew in full market value, only one-third of which require certification. Nevertheless, all eight segments exhibited growth—something that hasn’t happened since 2004. These segments include Networking and Communications, Web Development, Applications Development and Programming Language, System Administration and Engineering, Architecture and Project Management, Database as well as Information Security.

The charts below reflect the market gains experienced in Q2-2014. To see these charts in context, or to read the full report, click for the Foote Partners’ PDF.

Foote Partners Report

For more information pertaining to vendor-sponsored and vendor-neutral certification programs, visit two of our earlier posts: “Can IT Training Land You a Higher Salary?” and “Why Accreditation Matters to Employers.

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Job Hunting while Employed—an Ethical Discussion

Job Hunting while Employed

Rumours and speculation damage credibility, which, in turn, affect your job hunt—so be discreet if employed but interested in other opportunities. Updating social profiles carelessly (i.e. posting about new jobs) and behaving differently in the office are two red flags for employers. In regards to the latter, make your current position a priority when looking for jobs. Even under poor conditions, it’s a matter of professionalism and integrity. Furthermore, you do not want to burn bridges or waste a valuable experience—this could lead to blackballing.

Below, you will find tips on conducting a job search ethically while employed.

  • Search on Your Own Time: Hunting over work hours wastes the company’s time and money. Use lunch breaks, personal days or vacation days for interviews/solicitations and call, phone or fax prospects from your own personal devices.
  • Admit to Your Situation: Keeping your job search secret is one thing, but lying to businesses you’ve applied to is another. Instead, tell recruiters and interviewers that you want confidentiality as well as a reason why.
  • Find Alternative References: Listing a current co-worker or boss could be a bad move if he or she isn’t aware you are actively on the market.
  • Avoid Job Boards: Posting a resume on popular job boards may expose your intentions to your current employer, who may or may not use the same source for new hires.
  • Stay Focused: Slacking off at work is still unethical even if you intend to leave. Try to finish on top even if only to demonstrate your commitment to new employers.
  • Say Positive Things: Criticizing or bad talking reflects poorly on you. Still mention why you wish to leave, but try not to form a bad impression by speaking unprofessionally about your employer.
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