RMIUG Meeting Minutes - The Tech Job Search
Dan Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
called the meeting to order at 7 pm. It
was a full house with about 110 people in
Dan introduced the executive committee
members present at the meeting. Jeff Finkelstein
is the newest member, replacing Art Smoot
who has decided to step down but is still
providing support for the organization.
Tom Bresnahan email@example.com
took the minutes for the meeting.
Dan thanked the meeting sponsors:
- web hosting
- pizza and soft drinks
NCAR - use of the meeting room
SoftPro books (http://www.softpro.com/)
- two gift certificates
- The RMIUG has added a new discussion
group named rmiug-jobtalk to Yahoo groups.
This group was formed to resolve problems
with excessive discussion on the rmiug-jobs
list. Refer to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rmiug-jobtalk
for more information about the purpose of
List membership: - rmiug-jobs: 1800 (was
1650 three weeks ago) - rmiug-announce:
800 - rmiug-discuss: 500 - rmiug-jobtalk:
50 About 1/3 of those present are on the
- We've selected a new sponsor to help
us hire a freelance writer to do the minutes,
and we will post an announcement soon.
- Messages and minutes are archived at
- Martin Newmark of Cogneo Coaching offers
personal, career, and business coaching.
He has a background in computer science
and mechanical engineering. In addition
to coaching he offers several talks and
training workshops for corporations and
organizations. Feel free to contact Martin
at 303-554-5840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check the Cogneo Coaching website
Next, Dan asked a few questions to the
- About half those present were from Boulder,
most of the rest from Denver. - 90% are
looking for work - A couple have been looking
for less than a month. - 25% have been looking
for 2-3 months. - 25% have been looking
for 4-6 months. - 20% have been looking
for more than six months. - 15% have a job
and are looking for a new job. - One person
is at a company now hiring. - About 60%
were laid off. - Only a couple people left
their jobs voluntarily. - A couple left
because their contracts ended. - About half
are looking for a technical job. - 15% are
looking for a business related job. - a
few are looking in the categories of management,
graphic design, or help desk.
- 20% feel the job market is improving.
- 30% feel it's the same. - 50% feel it's
worse. - 100% think it sucks :)
- 70% are using monster.com - 40% flipdog.com
- 30% hotjobs.com - 30% rmiug-jobs - 40%
dice.com - a few are using guru.com, brassring.com,
After the questions, Dan explained the
format for the feature presentation would
be to have the speakers present one at a
time, then join a panel at the end for Q&A.
Dan introduced the first speaker: Terrie
Terrie is a nationally recognized career
counselor who, through her comprehensive
Career Center, combines career counseling
with actual career opportunity by providing
resources, advice, job openings, and much
more. As a coach and as a recruiter, Terrie
is known for having her 'finger on the pulse'
of hiring not only in Colorado but around
The title of Terrie's talk was: The Top
10 Ways To Increase Results From Your Job
Terrie stated that previous jobs and experience
might cloud your current job search. It
is a good time to be looking for more traditional
businesses as opposed to dot coms.
1. Don't rely only on Internet job postings.
Only 4% get their jobs through the Internet.
Instead, focus on networking and contacting
companies directly. If you can talk to the
hiring manager before a job is posted, you're
ahead of the game.
2. Consider doing consulting or freelance
while you're looking for a full time position.
3. Put your experience in context with
your entire career, not just your last job.
Show some progression in your career arc.
4. Identify your transferable skills.
Don't just say you did everything. Focus
on the kind of job you would like to have
next. Look outside the tech arena. See what
skills transfer to that. Remember that you
learn useful skills even during your job
5. Check your attitude. You're not superior
just because you worked in an Internet-related
job. That may even be perceived as a negative.
You may be seen as jumping ship.
6. Don't complain about previous jobs'
7. Don't complain about the bad economy
and getting laid off. Say you wanted to
learn all you could while it lasted.
8. Don't talk about the jeans, beer Fridays,
telecommuting. Be serious about the work
to be done, not the perks.
9. Did you have an inflated title in your
last position: e.g. VP of Marketing and
Sales, and Development? Salaries of today's
positions are reduced from the dot com heyday.
Indicate that your interest has been to
provide leadership and teamwork.
10. Wear business attire to the interview,
even in Boulder.
Dan introduced the next speaker: David
David has 12 years of software development
experience: 3 years project management,
4 years Java/J2EE, 6 years C++. He is experienced
in distributed systems, XML, dB architectures/transactions,
object oriented design, unit testing, and
GUI design. He is comfortable with system
architecture design to hardware design.
David's talk presented the perspective
of the job seeker. He stated that he has
been on the job search for the last three
months, and formatted his talk on the chronology
of the search and mistakes made.
He was laid off in December. His first
actions were to update the resume and contact
recruiters, who weren't as helpful this
time around. He looked in the Denver Post,
but there were no jobs in developing positions
or contracts. He contacted companies in
the Denver-Boulder area that did work similar
to what he did at his old job. He cold called
CEO's directly. This worked out in one case,
resulting in a meet and greet, followed
up by a second interview. He might get hired
if the company gets VC funding. He is also
looking for VC funding for his own company.
He looked on the web and online. His conclusion
was that it's hard to look for a job in
December with the holidays.
In January he posted his resume online,
set up e-mail. He searched for small companies,
so he focused on VC portfolio companies
funded by VC at their web sites. He looked
at contract positions and found a large
number with a complete list of contract
companies on the web. Online searching was
not really working. Sending out the resume
is not really good enough, you can't do
it all in front of the computer. He cold
called a couple companies related to his
old job. They were very receptive, but skills
were out of whack with where the companies
In February he redid his resume, contacted
friends, visited the CU alumni job center,
networked with Terrie and dozens of groups,
seminars, and formed a short list of professional
groups and networking groups. He contacted
friends and family. He had just moved from
California, and there were not a lot of
contacts, so he contacted other professionals,
like insurance agents. He created a networking
resume to give out a shortened half-sheet
to act as a stepping-stone to other people
and contacts. He targeted his cover letters
instead of using a generic cover letter.
He has a varied background, so he created
a custom resume for each position. However,
that's very time consuming and can take
several hours for each one.
The most important action is networking,
getting your resume out there. Target your
cover letters and resumes for each job.
The hiring managers are looking for reasons
to eliminate your resume from consideration,
so target it to the job.
Q. What's the state of the economy? A.
VC's and angel investors have some money,
but not a lot, so they're being very cautious
about giving out the money. It now takes
nine months to close the deal. They are
skeptical about software in Colorado, because
there are not a lot of successes here, so
it will be slow to recover.
Q. Is there any VC money outside of tech?
A. No, though telecomm is getting some.
Q. Are you planning to broaden your job
search outside small startups? A. I still
look at large companies like Sun.
Q. How about biotech? A. Not here in Colorado,
but some in California when I had connections.
Only a handful. Genomica just had a huge
layoff and are closed.
Q. Do your patents help your job search?
Q. How do the cold calls go? A. Usually
I have a connection of some kind due to
similarities to my old position. Usually
they do want to talk to you to get information
about the industry. Don't just cold call,
send off letters in advance, and use normal
mail. It's better to get an "in", to find
a contact. About 50% of calls are well received,
and they are interested in talking to you.
Q. If you can't get a job, then I don't
have a prayer. I don't want to hire for
a junior position. Have you tried applying
for one? A. It depends on what you're trying
to do with your career. I'm moving from
hardware to software. Keep that arc going.
It may require going to a junior position.
Q. Do you have a product idea for VC's?
A. Yes, but starting a company is a lot
like looking for a job. Start a company
through networking. VC's are one of the
last things you do after you have an established
company for three years.
Q. Are you working on your product now
so you'll have something to show? A. Ideas
are cheap, and they're not what VC's are
interested in. I'm doing market research
first. Most don't care that you don't have
a product, they want a marketing plan.
Q. You've been taking a lot of active
steps. What kind of feedback are you getting
from employers? What's most effective? A.
Nothing has been. Probably networking will
be the most effective. My friend sent 40
resumes, but got three interviews from personal
friends, and a job resulted from that.
Dan comments - When you need to approach
a company with a cold call, find other people
through your networking (or job search groups)
that may have a lead there. Bring a list
of five companies that you're targeting
to your networking groups, and ask if people
know anyone who works there. In a recent
networking group, one person had a "networking
resume" that listed all the companies that
he was targeting and he asked if anyone
had contacts at those companies.
Next, Dan introduced the third speaker:
Craig McSavaney email@example.com.
Craig is the president and co-founder of
Gold Sage, Inc., a company recently formed
by veteran technologists to provide outsourced
application development and management consulting
services to technology managers. Prior to
forming Gold Sage, Craig was Executive VP
and CTO of netLibrary for 2 1/2 years. Craig
came to netLibrary from Digital Systems
International, where he was the General
Manager of the Technology Applications Group,
a $22MM software and networking services
provider. Craig is a graduate of the U.S.
Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and
has advanced engineering and management
degrees from the University of Maryland
at College Park and George Washington University
in Washington D.C.
Craig added that he has also been laid
off. He quipped that you shouldn't start
your own company unless you have customers.
Craig's talk presented the job market
from the hiring company's perspective. Almost
everyone in the audience has participated
in giving interviews.
Engineering managers are dealing with
a lot more pressure than two years ago.
CFO's are running budgets a lot tighter.
This affects those still working. They're
working a lot harder than they were after
going through a couple rounds of layoffs.
Plus it's tough for managers and employees
to see your friends leave.
Return on Investment - It used to be eyeballs,
now it's ROI. Remember, there are two parts:
there's Return and there's Investment.
There is pressure to outsource. Folks
still working haven't gotten raises; they're
still working for their old salaries. But
prevailing rates have dropped. You would
be willing to work for less than those working
now. Consultants and contracts in local
community are cheaper, and overseas is cheaper
yet. However, it's a lot of work to get
a position approved. That may seem good,
but the worst is yet to come. If a company
is foolish enough to post a position, they
get flooded with 3000 resumes. They just
want a quick way to fill a position. Pre-screening
is hard. It's hard to cull it down to 50
or 25. They use key words, so it's a good
idea to target your resumes. Companies can
be reluctant to use recruiters because they
cost 25% more than the salary. - Companies
are tempted to take advantage of the talent
out there with all the layoffs. Requirements
are much more than tech. They include personality,
and a good fit with the team. That's why
you're more likely to see a battery of interviews,
talking to more people at the company to
see if they fit with the team.
- Differentiation: How will they remember
you? You hope for the good things, not the
bad, but you've got to go for it instead
of playing it safe. - Networking: You've
got to call everyone you know, take them
to lunch or dinner or coffee or a drink.
Ask for 10 minutes of their time, not for
an hour. I got my first job riding with
a guy picking up his golf clubs. Sell yourself
in 10 minutes, even 5 minutes. - Be prepared:
You should research the company and their
competition, look at their public filings,
spend time with your contacts to learn about
the company and what they do. You don't
have to be an expert, but you want to be
able to discuss what they do. - Be enthusiastic
and effervescent: Don't fake it, but be
happy. Don't complain about the tough times.
You've got to want the job. Your attitude
will guide the entire group interview good
or bad. - Ask a lot of questions: People
dread interviewing. It's nice to find yourself
with an interviewee who is interesting to
talk to. Another one of those silly management
sayings is, "It's nice to talk to people
who are nice to talk to". - Be prepared
for a pay cut: Say you're ready to work
at the prevailing rate, and you can prove
you're worth it.
Q. How can you say that in the cover letter.
The position says it wants 2-5 years, but
I have 13 years experience. How do I say
that? A. I think it's good to say it all.
Say I'm ready to work for the going rate.
Don't throw out hard numbers or a range.
Q. With such dramatic change, how do you
know what the prevailing rate is? A. It
has dropped a lot.
- Don't ask about money too early in the
process. Attempt to avoid it.
- Be prepared for a long interview process.
Don't give up if they go silent. The interview
process is a burden for the hiring manager.
Don't assume that they didn't like you if
they don't call right away.
- Know what your references are going
to say about you. There are services that
will check your references - badreferences.com.
You won't hear bad things from people's
references, but you may get lukewarm comments.
Tell your references what you want them
to say. Ask they what they will say.
- Follow up with personalized e-mails
the day you have an interview. Don't send
a CC, but reference a specific part of your
discussion. This will differentiate you
from the crowd.
- Ask questions that occur to you after
- Track the progress without bugging them.
Use your friend at the company. Ask HR if
you can contact them once a week. Feedback
will be generic from HR though.
Q. I've been working contract and freelance
and want to move to full time. How do you
convince the employer that you're serious?
A. Freelancers that want to come back to
full time set off a red flag. They make
the interviewers test someone more rigorously.
It's not impossible, but you need to be
aware of it. Hiring managers are looking
for personality traits that show you are
ready to reintegrate with a team. Highlight
your work experience with other people and
Q. What if you're contracting after getting
laid off? A. You get a free pass if you're
consulting for the first nine months, but
not for the last 5 years. The fact that
you are working is a good thing.
Q. How willing are companies to outsource?
It's strong on the East and West coasts.
A. Not that strong here. When money starts
flowing, then outsourcing will increase.
Terrie - What is your perception of out-of-country
outsourcing? A. It's a lot harder than they
think it will be. You have to lay a lot
of infrastructure to send work to India.
Savings are not as dramatic, but they are
there. It requires a lot of commitment.
- Offshoredev.com deals with this.
Q. Is there a heightened awareness towards
job seekers, not as much attention to those
applying who already have jobs? A. That
doesn't matter. The best candidate will
be picked. Q. Is there a perception that
those still employed are not in the bottom
20% like those laid off? A. Really good
people get laid off. You need a story grounded
in fact of how you got laid off. At netLibrary,
when the platform was completed, some jobs
were not needed anymore. Refer to something
that will make them think that you're not
in the bottom 20%.
Next, Dan introduced Jenny Shedd firstname.lastname@example.org
of MicroStaff Corporation. Jenny joined
MicroStaff in the Boulder office in 1998.
Prior to MicroStaff, she worked for Media
Lab/MatchLogic as the Manager of Human Resources
when the company went through a tremendous
growth cycle. She is incredibly familiar
with recruiting and the hiring process having
worked inside an organization as well as
with an outside agency. Jenny's talk focused
on her experience from the recruiter's standpoint.
- Hiring companies are no longer looking
for you. That's changed. You have to impress
them. Networking is key. Employee referrals
make up 75%. Get an insider to champion
your resume. That way you become a known
- About half the hiring managers don't
post jobs anymore. They put them out to
the staff. The positions don't even make
it out to their own web sites. Hiring managers
talk about positions for weeks or months
prior to getting approval to hire. Some
jobs are filled and never posted. By the
time it hits Monster, you're three weeks
too late. The jobs are posted to specific
groups, then to newspapers, then Monster.
Monster brings in people from everywhere,
e.g. a tugboat captain applied for a tech
- There are more positions now than ever.
Money is tight, but it's encouraging. Hiring
cycles are longer. People are taxed, there's
a lot to do. It used to take four weeks
to get through the initial screens, now
it could take eight weeks. One marketing
position took two months to fill after reviewing
100 resumes. Companies are reluctant to
hire full time staff; they have to prove
there's a need. There is an opportunity
to see services on contract or consulting.
Try before you buy. This is an opportunity
to market yourself in a company.
- Salaries have changed. They were inflated,
but there's still a sense that you get what
you pay for. If you lowball someone, you
will lose them when the market changes.
You won't have their loyalty if you lowball.
Salaries are 10 to 15% lower. Contractors
are 50% lower. You need to be flexible.
Desperation is out there too. Some applicants
have said they would take anything, but
hiring managers know they won't keep them.
- Back to basics: Use interviewing etiquette.
- How much time to spend on the cover
letter? Many managers don't read them unless
they're in the top 10.
- Follow-up vs harassment? Even calling
once a week is pushing it.
- Stand out from the pack. Practice interviewing
with a friend. What are your strengths and
weaknesses? Be prepared for the typical
questions. Many people can't articulate
what they liked about their previous jobs.
Tell a story of the challenges overcome.
- Project the passion: Hiring managers
don't want a burnout who needs to make the
mortgage payment. Even if you have to fake
it, even if you have to think about golf,
- Leave your bad attitude and angst at
- Resumes that have everything including
the kitchen sink are hard to interpret.
- Understand the position, know what's
relevant, and know the company. Understand
the business. You have to be able to relate
how you will solve the problem. Someone
please tell us they are the one and why.
- Staffing companies ARE still viable.
Can companies still afford to pay the headhunter?
Some realize that they don't have the time
to do it and it costs them man-hours to
do it in-house.
To summarize: - Deal breakers: Too much
personal or negative. Too much desperation.
Exaggeration - you can't have done everything.
Admit your weaknesses with a positive spin.
- Makers: Enthusiasm, confidence without
overselling, knowledge of job and company.
Next, the speakers reconvened on stage
for a panel Q&A.
Dan - What about cold calling? Do managers
feel too overwhelmed? Terrie - It's better
to have a contact. Interview someone at
your peer level to get some leads. This
is all about developing your leads. The
goal is to get information, determine the
needs. Jenny - I never minded talking as
long as they recognize I'm busy. Let me
off the phone in 5 minutes. Being personal
is important. Craig - E-mail or voice mail:
odds are you won't get a response. If you
can get hold of someone, risk is manageable.
Don't ask for a lot of time.
Q. I can get to HR but can't get further
to the hiring manager, software manager.
Jenny - My job is to not let you through.
There's nothing wrong with finding out if
HR is doing the screening or someone else.
David - Cold calling is the technique of
last resort, only if networking is failing.
You tell people whom you want to contact
with networking, that's how you bypass HR.
Q. How do you differentiate recruiters?
A. Good reputations, heard good things from
hiring managers. How long has recruiter
had a relationship with the hiring company.
Q. What about a hole in your career -
the unemployed time period? Come up with
a story to fill that period? Q. What about
a skills resume instead of chronological
to fill the hole? Terrie - Depends on the
timing and the reason for the hole. Mothers
have that problem. Pursuing a new degree
is a good reason for a hole. You don't need
to explain with today's economy. Fill up
those holes with volunteer work to keep
Q. I was laid off from my last four companies.
(I'm jinxed. :) I have a scattered resume.
Do I need to cover up the holes? How can
I leverage those multitude of skills not
specifically focused? A. If you have lots
of short stints, make sure you let them
know the reason, i.e. company went out of
business, lost funding.
Q. What if the companies have changed
names? Which name do I use? InfoBeat, Exactis,
24/7? A. Use the most well known name.
Q. What's the etiquette to find out why
you were turned down? Craig - I've had good
success calling HR, talk them to coffee
or breakfast, 15 minutes. Most have been
Q. Resumes are used more to exclude than
include people. How do I make my resume
more attractive? Jenny - Clear and concise
without being everything to everybody. I
think people try to be too broad.
Q. Do you like the summary statement?
A. Only if targeted to the job. Not generic
statements. Terrie - Resumes are scanned
by keywords. Some want to see cover letter
in e-mail. Don't just send e-mail attachment.
You should have the cover letter in the
e-mail body, not the attachment. It's ok
to send as attachment if you also put it
in the body of the message. PDF's are irritating.
Q. Craig, did you use recruiters at netLibrary?
If so, how did you choose them? A. We did
use them two years ago, but that's not relevant
today. Terrie - I worked for netLibrary.
It depends on the personal relationship.
Q. As things tightened up, did it depend
on cost? Craig - It was based on service.
Recruiters do more than filter resumes and
handle flaky stuff.
Q. Dice will have a job listing with a
huge laundry list of skills, like 10 years
of Java, and it's a junior position. Terrie
- Recruiters are being told to do this,
to find the perfect one. Match as many of
the skills as you can. Q. How can that be
right? Terrie - You see a lot of that in
government, with a requirement that only
a specific person could have. David - I
see that too. There's no way that anyone
could meet those requirements. It's just
a way to deal with all the resumes. I think
there's no sense in sending it in, it will
just be filtered out. Strategy is too go
past the hiring manager (sorry guys). Find
Terrie - I have a free job support group
Wednesdays at the Med on Walnut between
9th and 10th. There's a facilitating session
from 3:00 to 4:00.
Dan adjourned the meeting at 9 pm. Many
of the audience stayed to talk to the speakers
Respectfully submitted by Tom Bresnahan