Recruiters offer tips for finding jobs in IT management

They field questions on how to get on the 'A' list for a job opening and whether it's OK to reach out to recruiters

What steps do IT executives need to take to get on the "A" list for a high-profile job opening? Is it bad form for IT managers to reach out to an executive search firm?

These were a few of the questions that were posed yesterday to three executive recruiters during a session at the 2008 CIO Executive Leadership Summit held in the US. The recruiters who fielded the questions were Rhona Kannon, a partner in the IT practice at The Cambridge Group; Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates; and Phil Schneidermeyer, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles.

Is it a mistake to reach out to a search firm?

No, absolutely not, Lieberman said, but cold calls are tough for recruiters to respond to. Instead, she recommends that IT executives contact her and other recruiters through a source that both parties know and trust. "It's similar to how we get to know you," Lieberman added.

Another way to get on a recruiter's radar screen is by acting as a referral for a friend or colleague, Schneidermeyer said.

How does someone get on an 'A' list for an IT executive search?

Executive job searches are somewhat subjective, but they do include defined criteria, Lieberman said. Critical qualities include job candidates' personalities, such as whether they're affable. Strong communications skills are also a must, she said. Recruiters and employers look to see how job candidates "package themselves" in their résumés, she added.

Job candidates who lack a bachelor's degree face an uphill battle, Lieberman said. "If you don't have a bachelor's degree, God bless you," she said, and "if you're applying for a senior role, you'd better be enrolled" in a bachelor's degree program.

Another "A"-list factor is the candidate's current or previous employers. "We get to know companies in different verticals that are known for developing strong talent," Schneidermeyer said.

One thing Schneidermeyer warns against is too much citing of industry awards that an IT executive has received. "I had one recent job candidate who filled the back side of his résumé with awards, and it got me to wondering when the hell he found the time to do his job," she said.

Lieberman recommends that IT executives who have developed a relationship with a recruiter shouldn't let their guard down during the interviewing process. For example, it's bad form to dress informally for an interview with a recruiter, she said. Also, don't use slang language during the discussion or talk freely about personal issues.

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