Why Your Employees Should be Hands-Off Sometimes

Technology is irresistible to humans. We can’t help pressing buttons, flipping switches, or rearranging those tangled cords — and if we’re at work with no clue what we’re doing, it’s only a matter of time until disaster strikes and IT swears revenge while they spend hours fixing what took us seconds to break.

At InfoWorld’s Off the Record blog, IT professionals share anonymous stories of tinkerers, button-pushers, and clueless people who “know what they’re doing” — when it comes to bringing the office workflow to a crashing halt. Here are five of those stories illustrating why sometimes, your employees should really resist the temptation to fix things that aren’t broken.

Network admin disconnects the employees — all of them

A senior network administrator was showing off two relatively new servers in a data center to managers, boasting about uptime with claims that there was no need for an uninterruptible power supply. The admin touched the dedicated circuit breaker for the first server to prove the point — which promptly kicked 500 users off their server connection.

Apparently not satisfied with cutting office productivity in half, the admin then touched the second server’s circuit breaker and severed the connection for the remaining employees. Management decided to increase their investment in server infrastructure.

Operator powers down

A data center operator committed to easing workflows and expediting tasks noticed a loose ring on a piece of glass, and proceeded to improve efficiency by moving it. But the glass happened to be covering an emergency power-off button, which the operator managed to press — causing a blackout and a systems shutdown. The company experienced no long-term damage, but the operator decided to stick to a broader scale for improving efficiency, and leave the little details alone.

Newbie pushes the embarrassment button

A junior tech on a mission to turn off a non-critical server headed to the server room, located the machine, and pushed the button — only to instantly realize it was the wrong server, one housing files that were currently in use by more than 600 employees. Letting go of the button would wreak havoc, but there was no one around and his phone wasn’t getting service.

With a landline phone just 10 feet away, but out of his reach unless he released the critical button, the tech heroically took off his pants and used them to pull the phone over. Help soon arrived in the form of several eyewitnesses, who received the best office story ever in exchange for saving the day.

Paperclip panics the boss

It was a classic computer room — three mainframes with several attached tape drives, four printers (three line, one high-speed laser), dishwasher-sized disc packs, and a huge Halon fire suppression system to protect the investment. As the boss and the operators disagreed on handling shutdowns in case of fire, they met in the computer room for a test run that the boss insisted should include the main operators staying behind to take care of the mainframes.

Just before the test, a stray paperclip dropped into a control box, creating a short circuit that triggered the Halon. But the drill went as planned when the boss was the first one to speed out of the room.

VPs make executive decisions

Admins get a little worried when execs start poking around servers — with good cause, as this story proves. One day, in the middle of a difficult data center consolidation between two tech departments, employees suddenly found they couldn’t get email or connect to certain remote sites. IT traced the issue to server failures, which seemed to have happened all at once.

Amazing coincidence? Not exactly — a couple of VPs visiting the acquired company had ruled the critical servers “unused” with no impact on production systems, and had turned them off.

IT turns on itself

Non-tech professionals aren’t the only ones who make critical mistakes. A large, busy data center tasked an IT pro with deciding which servers were unnecessary and decommissioning them. The tech, perhaps having an off day, chose a critical management server to unplug and bring back to his desk, where he reformatted the hard drive. A flood of issues ensued with the loss of the database, extending to backups and firewalls. The tech was promptly transferred to a less disaster-making department.

While these stories are humorous, they all have a common theme – sometimes your employees need to be hands off. If you need assistance managing employees or finding better adept tech talent, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today.

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What You Need to Know Before Accepting an IT Job Offer

The job description looks great. You research the company, and the culture seems like you’ll fit right in. You send in your resume, nail the interview, and accept the job offer — only to find that the job itself is nothing like you thought, and you hate it. But you can’t leave now, or you’ll be branded as a job-hopper.

This scenario is all too common, but it can be prevented. Here’s how you can dig deeper and find out the truth about a company’s culture and actual working environment before you say “yes” to that tempting IT job offer.

Ask questions — and listen to the answers

During an interview, most job candidates are so focused on answering the questions in a coherent and hopefully impressive way that they fail to ask enough questions of their own. Employment experts consistently recommend that you have at least one inquiry prepared for what’s usually the final interview question, some form of “Do you have any questions for me?” But you should be ready to ask more than just one.

Ask the interviewer scenario-based questions about the company’s culture and available career paths. Find out how the IT department interacts with other departments in the company. Ask about top performers in the organization, what it takes to be considered a top performer, and what kinds of qualities are rewarded.

In addition to asking lots of questions, really listen to the answers. Trust your instincts on whether the answers sound genuine, if the interview offers natural-sounding stories to back up their claims, and whether the responses align with what you want or expect from the position.

Learn what you can from current and former employees

There are few better sources to learn about company culture than the people who work there, or have worked there in the past. Use LinkedIn or other online resources to check out the company pages, and particularly the profiles of current employees. Look for indications of a clear career path, frequent promotions, and other signs of career satisfaction. This type of research can also help you prepare the right questions to ask an interviewer.

In addition to research, try to connect with the company’s employees. Talk with current employees and ask for an honest assessment of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask questions that are related to what’s important to you in a new job.

With former employees, you can learn more about company culture by asking why they left, and if they would ever consider going back. Just keep in mind that organizations change, and an issue that drove an employee away may no longer exist at that company.

Read company reviews and engage them on social media

In the age of transparent and abundantly available information, job seekers can find plenty of resources to help them learn more about the companies that interest them. Career websites like Glassdoor and Indeed offer company reviews, usually written by current or former employees, that can help you make your decision. However, remember to take these reviews with a grain of salt — the anonymous nature of online reviews allows for shills and disgruntled people alike to express biased views.

Another way to get a good picture of a company’s culture is to follow them on social media, and pay attention to how they respond. Many companies share information about their culture through social networks, and those who don’t can give you insight by looking at the way they treat customers and job candidates online.

Accepting a new job is a big decision, and one you shouldn’t take lightly. Make sure you’re diligent in learning the true nature of a company’s culture before you say yes to that seemingly great job offer, and you can avoid the high cost of accepting a job you hate. If you need more assistance in your job search, contact the career experts at The Armada Group today!

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The 5 most In-Demand Software Engineering Skill Sets

As technology continues to take over the world, there is a continuing and massive demand for skilled software developers. Employers are seeking software engineers who are talented with both core technologies and emerging IT areas, as innovation leads to better mobile devices, wearable tech, and even robotics.

While there is demand in nearly every area, some skill sets are particularly sought after in software developers. Here’s what employers are looking for now to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technology.

The top 5 foundational skills

The hot new thing is always in demand, but some developer skill sets simply don’t go out of style. Recent research from IT career service Dice.com states that the five highest-searched skill terms for software developer candidates are:

  • Java / J2EE: The Java platform retains its place as the most in-demand skill for software engineers — which isn’t all that surprising considering how many applications and systems are powered by Java.
  • .NET: Microsoft’s user-friendly framework comes in second, thanks to an overwhelming majority of businesses that run on Microsoft.
  • C++: This high-level, general-purpose language is versatile enough to remain in demand for many employers.
  • C#: Designed in the tradition of Java and implemented primarily on Windows, C# is the fourth most sought-after skill set on the list.
  • SQL: Database software is a primary objective for numerous businesses, especially those looking to capitalize on Big Data — so this database language enjoys high demand among employers.

The search terms that round out the top 10 on Dice.com’s list include “senior,” HTML, “web,” C, and Linux. These skills are essential must-haves for businesses across every industry, and demand for them won’t drop any time soon.

The hottest emerging software skills

In addition to core skill sets, employers are looking for software developers with up-and-coming talent. Current and near-future technology development in fields like the Internet of Things and wearable tech is driving demand for fresh new skills that are still “in beta,” so to speak, compared to core skills.

Some of the most sought-after emerging IT skills include:

  • Mobile technology, including Android and iOS platforms
  • Embedded systems and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Robotics
  • Wearable technology
  • Hadoop
  • Big Data

Software developers with mastery of traditional platforms, who’ve incorporated one or more of the hottest emerging skill sets, can likely expect their pick of careers as employers compete for top talent. In addition, the modern business environment prefers software engineers who also have a great business sense and strong soft skills.

For help finding candidates who posess these skills and more, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today. We understand the skills candidates need to have to succeed in today's IT environment, and maintain a vast network of talented candidates who can fulfill all the requirements of your business.

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Why and How to Say no To a Job Offer

A job search can be a long and frustrating process. Of course, your ultimate goal is to end up with a great career, in an exciting place to work, with a fantastic salary. You might take a good job, in a nice place to work, with a decent salary. You definitely don’t want a crappy job, in a bad place to work, with a pathetic salary — but if you’ve been looking long enough, you may be tempted to settle for less than you need.

Taking the first job you’re offered might be the wrong choice. And if you happen to get more than one job offer, you’ll have to decide which to accept, and you’ll be left having to turn one down. Here are some tips to help you recognize when you should say no to a job offer — and how to politely turn down a job that’s just not right for you.

Salary: When enough isn’t enough

While there are many different reasons people might want a certain job, from a great benefits package to a nap room for employees, “making a lot of money” still tops the list for many. The salary is an important consideration for any job offer. Yours should be commensurate with your experience and the position you’re being hired for — if the company is offering significantly less than your last job with no subsequent perks or benefits to make up for it, or significantly lower than the average salary for that position, you should probably say no.

In addition to the salary itself, be sure to consider the job responsibilities. You might find that you’ll be making the same amount, but you’ll have a lot more responsibility and will therefore work much harder — without a raise to show for your efforts. Under these circumstances, it may not be the right job.

Responsibilities: When your get-up won’t go

Motivation is essential to long-term career satisfaction. Your initial reading of a position’s responsibilities should motivate you to perform, and the interview should reinforce that motivation on both your part and that of the employer.

If the actual responsibilities don’t seem clear during the interview, be sure to ask questions that clarify exactly what the job will involve. You don’t want to end up doing a job that you’re not qualified for — or conversely, one that will present little to no challenge and result in career stagnation. If there doesn’t seem to be ample on-the-job motivation or room to grow, it’s likely a position you’ll want to decline.

Culture: When you’re a square peg

Finding out about an organization’s culture before you accept a job offer is a must. A toxic environment is a definite don’t, but you also don’t want to work in a culture that is radically different or oppositional to your own working style — such as excessive formalism for creative positions, or a laid-back atmosphere that borders on indifference in a highly competitive industry.

Pay attention to cultural cues during your job interviews, so you can tell whether you’d be a good fit for this particular company. Asking questions such as why the person who held the position before you left, or how employees are rewarded for innovation or extra effort, can elicit telling responses that will help you decide how comfortable you’d be in the environment.

How to say “thanks, but no thanks” politely

If you find yourself with a job offer you have to refuse, it’s best to turn it down gently and graciously, no matter how strongly you feel about the offer. Here’s how:

  • Offer your heartfelt thanks. Keep in mind that the recruiter or hiring manager has probably spent several hours reviewing your resume, researching you on social media, and interviewing you. They may have also talked you up to the team before offering you the job. Indicate that you know how much went into recruiting you, and you appreciate their efforts, by saying thanks for specific things the interviewer did, like answering all your questions or introducing you to key personnel.
  • Give a brief, understandable reason. It’s rude to leave hiring managers clueless over why you’re declining the position — but if you get too specific here, you could step on toes fairly hard. It’s nearly always best to state that you’re declining the offer after careful consideration because you’ve decided to pursue other opportunities.
  • Keep in touch. Even turning down a job offer is not a good reason to burn bridges. You never know when the wrong opportunity might become the right one, or you’ll get the chance to do a favor for a hiring manager by sending the right candidate their way — and you’ll build goodwill for your career along the way.

In the long run, holding out for the right job — and being able to say no to the wrong one — is the best thing you can do for your career. Consider your options carefully before you accept an offer, and don’t be afraid to turn down a position that could put you back on the job search path a lot sooner than you’d planned. Partner with The Armada Group during your job search, to find out how our team of staffing experts can find positions you'll want to say "Yes!" to.

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5 Non-Traditional Interview Questions to Uncover the Best Candidates

There is no doubt that the standard interview has weaknesses. The interview as a hiring tool is not going away any time soon — but recruiters and hiring managers need a way to strengthen this process in order to make better decisions and find the right candidates for the job.

While your interview format should still retain some standard questions, you can uncover the best candidates by adding nontraditional questions into the mix. Here are five unexpected interview questions that will help you refine your hiring process and select great candidates for your open positions.

1. What is your definition of success?

This question is similar to the standard “what are your career goals” line, but it places a slightly different emphasis on a candidate’s aspirations. By asking interviewees to give their own definition of success – without tying it specifically to the position they’re interviewing for – you’ll know not only what their goals are in terms of working for your company, but also whether they’re looking for a long-term career or just a paycheck. You can also gain insight into whether the position is a good fit for them.

2. What are the first three things you do when you arrive at work?

This nontraditional question gives you a look at the candidate’s work style, level of organization, and work ethic. Everyone has a different method of dealing with their work day, but the answer to this question should indicate that the candidate handles tasks in a timely and efficient manner. In addition, you’ll discover more about their relevant skills and knowledge through their response.

3. What types of people bother you?

Regardless of the position, the ability to work within a team is important for any candidate. Asking this question gives you insight into a candidate’s cultural fit, so you can gauge how well they’ll get along with your existing team. Honesty in divulging a few pet peeves is fine as a response, but if a candidate either states that they get along with everyone, or churns out a laundry list of complaints, these could be potential red flags.

4. What are the most effective approaches for managing you?

This question can give you insight on both cultural fit and the candidate’s working style — whether they’re low-maintenance and function best with little to no guidance, or perform well under detailed direction and support. Depending on the existing managerial style at your organization, a candidate’s response may signal an ideal fit, or a potential problem aligning with your leadership.

5. Please list and rank factors that affect your job acceptance.

With this question, you can find out what a candidate is looking for in terms of deciding on the right job for them. This is a more subtle way to uncover candidates’ salary and benefits expectations, willingness to perform, and what they believe the position will entail — which will hopefully align with the actual job description. You can also use this question to make the right offer and win over top talent who may be considering positions at other companies.

In today’s connected business environment, answers to standard interview questions are readily available to determined candidates. Asking both standard and nontraditional interview questions ensures that you’ll receive more than rehearsed responses, and helps you determine which candidates are the best choice for your organization. Speak to the staffing experts at The Armada Group today to learn how unconventional interview practices can expedite your hiring process.

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6 Important Tips for Crafting a Strong Tech Resume

For those who are entering the tech job market, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that IT is a healthy industry with lots of job openings to go around. The bad news is this doesn’t make it any easier to impress potential employers and get hired.

Regardless of availability, the IT job market is highly competitive. No matter where you apply, you’ll need to make a strong case for hiring you over dozens or hundreds of other candidates with a varying range of experiences. And the first step toward making that case is crafting a resume that hiring managers can’t pass up.

If you need help packing your IT experience into your resume, these tips will show you how to create a resume that commands attention.

Claim your identity

Your resume should tell prospective employers who you are — but do you know the answer to that question? Many IT job seekers make the mistake of generalizing in the hopes of appealing to every employer, but this ultimately ends up weakening your resume.

Instead of positioning yourself as a developer, state that you’re a front-end developer or a Javascript developer. Don’t be a mere programmer — be a programmer analyst, or an application programmer. Build your resume around a specific role, and you’ll be better positioned as the right hire for that role.

Illustrate your passions

In addition to experience, an obvious passion for the work you do can go far in the eyes of employers. Use your resume to demonstrate how passionate you are. Listing projects is standard, but take it a step further and explain how you took your projects to the next level, and why.

You should also describe any extracurricular activities, student or professional organizations, or volunteer efforts you’ve been involved in prior to entering the IT job market.

Tone down the hype

If you’re crafting a resume with scant experience to back it up, you may be tempted to hype yourself heavily in order to demonstrate confidence. It’s better to use caution in this area — if you’re going to hype, make sure you have the skills to back it up.

Avoid phrasing that indicates you have skills or experiences you’re “working on” or “going to get around to.” If you’re currently taking extra courses or working toward certifications, it’s alright to state that. But it’s not okay to claim you’re already a Java expert because you can make a “hello, world” screen, or to say you’re CCNA certified if you have a class scheduled for next month.

Tailor to your audience

You might be a graduate, but that doesn’t mean you’re through with homework. The most effective resumes are tailored for the particular company you’re applying to — and that means you need to do some research.

Look for the most in-demand skills in your professional area, and those that the company is looking for specifically. Then create a revised version of your resume that highlights those skills. This way, you’ll have no problem breezing through the resume screening software, and a much better shot at catching the eye of a hiring manager.

Skip the filler

When your resume is stripped of hype and contains only core information, it might look a little short. This is when you could be tempted to add some text simply to take up space — and you might list things like email proficiency or Microsoft Excel as skills.

The problem here is that IT employers expect you to know the basics. Pointing out that you have obvious skills won’t win you any points, and will be seen for what it is: an attempt to pad your resume. Don’t worry too much about the length. If you’re a recent graduate or new to tech, employers won’t pass up your resume just because it’s short.

Get on GitHub

If you don’t already have a GitHub profile, or an active account on a similar online IT community, start building one now. The ability to give prospective employers a URL that showcases projects you’ve completed or worked on is worth more than your GPA. With a strong online profile and tangible work results, you can impress any employer enough to move to the next round.

The Armada Group knows what it takes to not only create a strong tech resume, but how to get through every phrase of the hiring process. Contact one of our experts today and learn how we can fill your staffing needs or find your dream placement today.

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