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Getting that first job

Using some common sense techniques to land that first job.

Getting that first job -- use some common sense techniques

I just finished reading my latest copy of Computer User, and the first letter to the editor is another one of the many I've been seeing lately. This one was from a disgruntled student of a fast paced, high tech computer school complaining about their inability to get a job. This individual paid more than $8,000 for tuition, passed all six exams of the MCSE on the first try, and hasn't received a single job offer and is justifiably disgruntled.

I've got to wonder why someone from an accredited school with obvious technical credentials (although no experience) can't at least get an offer for an entry-level position somewhere but I do have some ideas.

As you probably know, I teach and mentor quite a few students. I've written extensively about the need for a job candidate to have not only good technical skills, but good communication skills as well. And let's add some common sense to the equation also.

Just placing your resume on one of the IT job Web Sites isn't likely to get a beginner with no job experience an offer. There are just too many candidates out there with more experience. You've got to add the personal touch to your package.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a job selection process, and you'd be amazed at the little things that can tip the scales in your favor. It's frequently the candidate who shows enthusiasm and initiative during the job hiring process that gets the job.

We interviewed ten candidates for an entry-level Visual Basic job. All ten had good resumes. At interview time, however, five appeared to be head and shoulders above the others. Why?

Those five brought samples of programs they had written to the interview. Of the remaining group of five, two made great impressions during the interview. The other three, while great coders, had virtually no communication skills whatsoever. Two of them appeared to be painfully shy. They made no eye contact and mumbled their responses. The last one wasn't shy -- just the opposite. He chatted incessantly, making us believe that it would be difficult for him (or his team members) to get any meaningful work done in a team environment.

That left us with two excellent candidates to choose from. The selection ultimately went to the candidate who took some time to learn about the company. It probably hadn't taken her long at all (maybe just a quick glance at the company's Web Site), but she came to the interview having read the company's last major press release announcing a new product. And she found a way to make us aware of that knowledge when she asked a question about it. That question -- and her enthusiasm -- got her the job!

Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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