Make sure your CV heads in the right direction

So you spot the IT job ad that so closely fits your profile that you might have written it yourself. Look no further, your application says, and here's my CV to prove I'm the perfect candidate.

So how come you missed out? How can the prospective employer be so blind?

A careers counselling initiative the Australian Computer Society will launch soon sets out to help job seekers understand what might have gone wrong and how to get a better result next time.

A counselling bureau called Directions has been established in Melbourne (with plans to open in Sydney and other centres soon) in consultation with ACS.

Directions offers two basic modules, the first for the job seeker needing to know how to develop a resume, write a letter of application and learn the skills needed to make the most of an interview.

The second, called Career Changer, is designed for professionals wanting to either get into IT or to match technical and business skills to new roles. If the target role calls for new skills, the module sets out to define what's required and where and how to get them.

Both involve face-to-face counselling with a skilled IT recruitment specialist and a high level of personal background analysis and preparation for new job opportunities.

A combination of these two is available as a third option and all are discounted for ACS members. For members the cost is $405, $785 and $900, respectively, which is 10 per cent below their market price and about half the cost of other professional counselling services generally available.

"This initiative addresses the practicalities of successful job hunting," says ACS president Richard Hogg. "There is a wealth of skills available to a shrinking job market and candidates need to know how to sell themselves to prospective employees and to understand the dynamics that drive the job market.

"The ACS wants to give its members practical, expert guidance in defining their skills profile, gaining new skills where required and effectively presenting them to employers. We also appreciate that this self-investment must often be made when they can least afford it."

The Directions program has been refined after intensive piloting in Victoria to test role modelling techniques, skills profiling and personal development options.

"It's one thing to set personal development roadmaps for candidates to realign their existing skills with current market demands, but another to offer specific advice on just where and how to get them," says David Little, general manager of Directions.

"Many of the job seekers we talk to have continued to develop personal skills to improve their employment prospects, but not always those which our research shows will get them into new employment sooner.

"Framing the right develop program and knowing where to get it is an important element of the Directions counselling process."

Unemployed consultant and ACS member Graeme Bond, a 30-year IT veteran who "hasn't had a real job since January 2001", after the contracting market dried up, joined the pilot program for the Job Seeker module after offering his resume for critique.

Although gaining Java skills while working towards a Master of Information Systems at Swinburne University and refreshing knowledge and network contacts by going to technical seminars and joining ACS special interest groups, a secure income beyond some student tutoring and "odd jobs" eludes him.

"I thought my resume and covering letter were pretty good - and so they were apart from wording, content and length," Bond says. "Creating these documents sounds a simple thing but when your application is one of a pile of more than 200 anything that gives an edge gets to be critically important in the crude screening processes most employers use."

He typifies the mature-age candidate all too used to rejection and how it's versed: "They can't say that you're too old but use terms like ‘over-qualified', which can also mean that you're a threat because you're better qualified than the person doing the hiring."

Behind Directions' makeover of his documents is the precept that a candidate has between 15 and 30 seconds to snare the recruiter's attention, and however carefully crafted, it's not the resume that gets the job - it's the interview.

However, the resume and its covering letter have to be effective sales tools, sufficiently concise to demonstrate communication skills and emphasising the three strongest reasons why you are the best candidate.

Interview role-plays can help develop essential skills: confident articulation of strengths, replacing "yes" and "no" responses with rehearsed statements reinforcing your value, responding to interviewer body language - and avoiding negatives about past experiences, co-workers or previous bosses.

The Job Seeker module addresses the basics employers look for: experience and qualifications to be able to do the job including communication skills, business focus and nous, and workplace success beyond just academic qualification.

The module can also be tailored as group sessions for graduates and others. Dealing with recruitment agencies can be a source of frustrated angst for those on the prowl for jobs. How to approach them, managing process and expectation and getting the best from their offerings comes early in program.

The Career Changer goes further to define personal and technical strengths and capabilities, recommends top-up technical and soft skills training and finds the IT role which best fits the individual.

The two are combined in a third module, which goes further into background research and preparation. All modules are tax deductible for candidates active in IT in the last financial year.

* Reprinted courtesy of Information Age

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