Strategies for higher pay in today's job market

The best certifications, the fastest way to the CIO role, the hottest IT skills - national IT recruiter Matt Colarusso answers readers' questions about today's job market.

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Matt_Colarusso: Any method can uncover good talent. Use recruiters that you trust. You will know when you are talking to a good one and what they provide is a channel for you to differentiate from the other seekers. For example, they walk your resume to the hiring manager, they sell your skills as it relates to the job. Just remember, if you are going through a job website, you might have to take on a little bit of the follow up yourself. Make sure you do the follow up. Ask companies "Did you receive my resume? What is the status of this job?"

MikeN: What does the ideal job candidate look like and how do I make myself look that that?

Matt_Colarusso: The ideal job seeker has a nice blend of educational experience, certifications, and real world experience. Remember to tie everything together and try to get yourself as involved as possible whenever it comes to working with end users. Everything will always fall back to real world experience.

Jobseeker: I have an interview today. Got any tips for me about interviewing?

Matt_Colarusso: Always rehearse before you go on an interview. Get as much info on the company ahead of time as you can, whether it's from someone inside the company, your recruiter, or people you know in a similar position. Build on their advice and try to relate your experience to those situations.

Dave: I'm a self-employed consultant so I have no employer to vouch for my skills, will this hinder me when talking to potential employers?

Matt_Colarusso: I'm assuming that you must have clients that can vouch for your skills if you are self-employed. Go with your clients. Like getting referrals on a good electrician, plumber, etc.

Jobseeker: How much are people using LinkedIn for recruiting?

Matt_Colarusso: I don't see it that much in my world. References are still made on a basis of talking to the managers that you actually worked with before.

Default User: When do people skills/training balance make a difference for resume?

Matt_Colarusso: Simple answer, in the interview. You just have to make sure that you communicate your people skills strongly enough to get you the interview. I've hired a ton of people in the past 10 years based on people skills. It's the most important one!

Regional IT markets

Rob: What areas of the country are the hottest for senior level IT positions and in which industries?

Matt_Colarusso: Tough question. Based on what I've read I can't necessarily categorize it by "senior level." Good IT people can get a job anywhere but again,  what I've read is South Atlantic, Northern Midwest, Pacific, in Mid-Atlantic seemed to be the hottest markets for '08 in terms of surveys made to hiring managers.

Moderator-Julie: For hiring by region, might want to take a look at the Network World Salary Survey data on that.

KenP: Where is IT in the New England area going to be in the next few years?

Matt_Colarusso: Great question. Lots in the media about how people are moving out of the Boston area in particular because of the high cost of living but I still think there is more than enough in New England to keep the market strong. Retail is a big industry as is professional services. To this point we have not seen the employers moving out of New England yet which is a good thing.

Moderator-Beth Pre-submitted question: Has outsourcing overseas affected the job market in any way? How?

Matt_Colarusso: From what we've seen here at Sapphire, solid IT professionals with a solid background will always be able to find work in the U.S. No doubt some lower-level technical positions have been outsourced like QA, tech support, but it hasn't affected us in a negative way.

The general job market

Moderator-Beth: Pre-submitted question: What's the most surprising thing going on in today's job market?

Matt_Colarusso: I have a negative and a positive here. The negative is what will happen with the fallout of the sub-prime industry. There are some signs that fewer decision-makers will be making new hires than previously expected in '08. The positive is that this is a great market for individuals looking for permanent roles.

Mike%20S: Is the market any good for a 53-year-old IT pro? I have 27 years experience in the field.

Matt_Colarusso: My opinion and what I see at Sapphire. The field is very good. Remember all signs show that a large chunk of the IT labor market is heading for retirement in the next  five years so there will still be a market for you.

JohnC: Hi Matt, I had an accident several years ago that ultimately resulted in me filing for a bankruptcy. How significant is a bankruptcy on my record in landing a job?

Matt_Colarusso: Great question. It all depends. We are seeing more and more of our clients request financial background checks before employment. My advice is to try to stay clear of many of the bigger financial institutions as they perform financial background checks for security reasons.

WayneW: How do you handle dealing with a termination that was for political purposes. For example I was terminated yet given my full severance and unemployment.

Matt_Colarusso: This is a tough question because it really is a case-by-case scenario, depending on what the situation was. If it were me and I had great skills and my employer terminated me because of a political issue, I didn't really want to work there anymore anyway. There is too much opportunity out there. Feel good that you did get severance and unemployment.

F2: How do you go about negotiating a salary with your current employer?

Matt_Colarusso: Start by making a list of all your accomplishments and I mean be specific (%'s, how many good hires have made, how many successful projects you've been on, how your work compares to people in an equal role). Then be careful on how you address it. Show that your main intent is that you want to be with your employer for the long haul, that you like the company and want to map out your immediate future with your financial goals. If you can prove it on paper, they will listen. Also get advice from others who are good at it!

Moderator-Beth: Pre-submitted question: What are the trade-offs between working for a large company and a small one?

Matt_Colarusso: Wow.... there are a ton. I really think it depends more on the individual and what they are more comfortable with... easier interview process with a small company, quicker decisions, more input to what goes on day-to-day. Big companies might have better overall benefits packages, employee stock purchase plans, ability to cross-train or inherit new skill sets in different groups.

Moderator-Julie: Well our time is up! Thank you for joining us and thank you, Matt. Watch for upcoming chats "Successful Cisco training and certifications" with Wendell Odom (October 24) and "All about IP routing" with Jeff Doyle (Nov. 7).

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