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I have been looking for a job for more than 3 weeks and have applied for about 30 vacancies. From all of these I only received few calls from recruitment agencies which didn't propose anything special. One of them just forwarded my CV to the employee and another suggested me to fix my current CV. I made some changes to CV which they didn't like and resent it back. No reply since. I feel frustrated and worried. First of all I don't like that everything vacancy should go through recruitment agency. Even if I want to apply directly I cannot find any name or any lead which company is recruiting. Secondly I don't see any reason why nobody replies back. My cover letter is in plain text and CV is made in Latex. Everything is crafted by all suggestion I have read over the internet and one very interesting book "The Google Resume".

What I am doing wrong? Is there any tips how to search direct jobs? Particularly I am interested in UK job market.

P.S. I am using http://www.simplyhired.co.uk/ which I believe is the best site because it accumulates from all it job boards.

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"More than 3 weeks" is hardly a long time to find a job. Also, LaTeX isn't going to fly as an electronic format, although it can produce nice paper copies (which you're also likely to need). Make it something MS Word can read. –  David Thornley May 31 '11 at 17:03
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You can produce pdfs from LaTex, hopefully that's what is being sent out. –  dietbuddha Jun 1 '11 at 1:38
    
Is this related to a programming job? –  John Shaft Jun 1 '11 at 14:28
    
Can you post your resume on the net somewhere so we can take a look at it? –  George Stocker Jun 1 '11 at 15:20
    
Historically, for me, it's taken about 3 to 6 months of dedicated searching before I've landed a job. Three weeks isn't a lot of time, especially if you happen to be in an area with high unemployment. Just keep at it. –  Nick Jun 1 '11 at 15:34
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12 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

As someone who's actually worked in the UK for quite a while, I see a mixture of "they all do that, sir" and a couple of things you'll need to correct.

First, there is pretty much no way I have found to get a decent IT job in the UK that doesn't involve a recruitment agency. As I mentioned in a couple of comments already, 90%+ of the hiring is done via agencies, both in the permanent market and even more importantly, the contractor market (because for the latter, the company wants to keep you at arm's length due to IR35 etc). So unfortunately, you'll most likely have to deal with agencies even if you don't want to.

As to recruitment agencies not getting back to you, that was pretty normal for the last 3-4 years. They get inundated with CVs for pretty much any position at the moment as the IT job market still isn't that great (from what I can tell from here, haven't worked in the UK for a year). I know this is frustrating but I've been in similarly perverse situations where I was contacted by recruiters for jobs (usually ones I didn't want) and couldn't get an answer out of the same companies for jobs I was actually interested in.

Also, your CV being in LaTeX is a really, really, really bad idea IME. Most recruiters' tech knowledge doesn't go much past switching on their computers in the morning and using Word. And that's OK, they're not techies, their job is to find a couple of candidates. Giving them anything else but word will ensure you instant access to their bit bucket and not much else. Redo your resume in Word format and you should get better responses. I would also suggest that you don't put out your resume in PDF format as someone suggested; most recruiters will insist on removing your contact info from your CV before they pass it on to their clients and they usually can't or won't do that with PDF (or anything but Word).

What worked for me in the UK was doing the following:

  • Find a couple of agencies (yes, I mean two or three) that constantly appear to have jobs in your chosen field. It's not unknown for agencies to post phantom jobs to get your CV into their database but with a bit of practise you can usually figure out which ones are real and which ones aren't. Once you've got a couple of agencies you're happy to work with and they're happy to work with you, you will get better responses. I've had most luck with a fairly small agency that was only working in the field I was in (Finance IT); they were very good at finding me contracts so I didn't really need to bother with other agencies.
  • The scatter gun approach doesn't necessarily work. TBH, with you making it unnecessarily hard for the recruiters due to the LaTeX CV, I'm not surprised that you haven't got much in the way of responses. That's normal, even with a Word CV and you'll have to probably contact even more agencies and be more patient if you're using this approach. You can expect something like a 1-2% return rate, much as if you were doing some sort of direct mailing advertising, which in a sense you are.
  • Put your CV up on a site like Jobserve. I never used any other service (OK, I have my CV on Stackoverflow careers but that didn't work too well for me) but Jobserve worked rather well. I still get recruiters contacting me who found my CV on there even after I took it down about six months ago.
  • Make sure you've got an appropriate list of buzzwords on your CV that can be found with a simple 'grep'. I usually put those in the skills list. The reason for these being present is to make it easy for recruiters to run a search on the CVs they have in their database and come up with a match. If you don't partake in their buzzword bingo, you're probably not going to get a call.
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+1 for your location-relevant answer. –  Ryan Hayes Jun 1 '11 at 3:04
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First, is there an employment agency you can go to and ask for resume help? Your resume and cover-letter are your first impressions. They should be perfect and polished.

Have you shown it to a friend/colleague/family member? Even if they don't understand the technical speak, they will be able to point out may other things, like typos, awkward wording, unclear phrases.

Next, try googling ' technical jobs'. This might give you some smaller boards that Simply Hired doesn't hit, and might give you a better chance at getting around a recruitment agency.

After that, I'd say look up technical companies in your area. Find their websites and see if they have a jobs/careers section. This way you can apply directly to the company either through their online application or to an HR email.

And last, check out your circle of friends. A network is a terrible thing to waste :) Put the call out that you're looking. Perhaps a friend or a friend of a friend knows of a job that they could refer you too.

Good luck :)

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+1 for networking, myself and many others I know get far more jobs through who they know rather than just scanning job listings. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 31 '11 at 13:51
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+1 for networking as well... It doesn't apply here, because I'm in Ottawa ON, Canada... but my company is hiring in my area, and I get a bonus if they hire someone that I refer, but I just don't personally know anyone who's any good that is looking. –  Steve Evers May 31 '11 at 16:11
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There's a method that's always worked well for me, not just for finding a job, but for finding good ones.

Instead of looking on job sites for openings and firing off a static resume, I do it a bit differently.

  1. Figure out where you want to live (if you live somewhere, and don't want to move, then you've got this part already).
  2. Figure out how far you want to travel.
  3. Find all of the companies in the travel radius from where you want to live that do work in your field/specialty.
  4. Research the company a bit to find out which companies match your morals and skillset.
  5. Find out if any of those companies that you have are hiring for positions that you can apply for - but do not exclude any that aren't.
  6. Try to make a contact with someone that does hiring, visit in person or give them a call.
  7. Hand craft a cv/resume and a cover letter for each job that is available and send it of.
  8. Then hand craft a cv/resume and a cover letter for each remaining company that didn't have open jobs and send those off.

Now, if you're willing to move, then you can basically skip steps 1/2 and just look to the companies you've always wanted to work for, no matter where they are.

There's a great book that I always recommend called "Land The Tech Job You Love" that describes roughly this process and solid ways to carry it out including how to tailor a cv/resume. It's not a huge book, you can probably chew through it in a day, but it helped me a lot (I was already doing this method, but this book helped me a lot in refining it).

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Any hints on how to go about doing #3? –  Amy Patterson May 31 '11 at 14:01
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@Amy P: A couple. Word of mouth, local chamber of commerce, phone book, google maps, internet search (I've used similar to "software companies in [city]" on google). –  Steve Evers May 31 '11 at 16:08
    
@Amy, for my last job search step #3 was as simple as a google search for "top employers in [desired city]." –  Karl Bielefeldt May 31 '11 at 16:19
    
+1 for morals & skillset –  Nav Jun 1 '11 at 5:40
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Avoid recruiting companies. They aren't intended to find a job for you. You aren't their client. They just want another record in their candidate database, so they are offering unreal, non-existing positions.

Life is too short to waste time this way.

You need to gain fame. For a programmer (are you a programmer?), it could be a good start to participate on an open-source project.

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Wow... I can't say that I am stunned by this but it seems the more predatory recruiters are the most prevalent. There are GOOD recruiters though. The ones that try to build connections for the long term rather than trying to score the job for the quick buck are the ones that I have had very good luck with. –  maple_shaft May 31 '11 at 14:02
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But they do some back with jobs often if you are willing to put up with there phone calls. –  Ian May 31 '11 at 14:04
    
@Ian, Yeah the phone calls can be highly annoying. The last time I was laid off I put my resume up on Monster and the next morning I woke up at around 9am with over 20 voicemails. I just filter out the recruiters I don't know or who have wasted my time in the past and only talk to the ones who have gotten me jobs or interviews. –  maple_shaft May 31 '11 at 14:13
    
If you were a top-manager or high-paid specialist, you'd be an interesting person for them. They profit on succeeded candidates' salaries. –  Nerevar May 31 '11 at 14:15
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Actually, your advice (unfortunately) isn't going to work very well in the UK as about 90% of the hiring in IT is done via recruitment agencies. Those companies are a necessary evil over there... –  Timo Geusch May 31 '11 at 14:56
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Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find and join a local user group - There you can network with other programmers who are like-minded and care about the craft (in general). Typically if you show up at a user group, you at least spend some extra time trying to become better. Often times openings are announced there and members get first dibs on interviews as you've probably already developed a relationship with those who will be doing the hiring.

  • Resumes should be in Word format - I'm not saying LaTeX is bad or that any other format won't get you points with a technical guy interviewing, because it might, and that's awesome. The problem is that in order to get into their hands, your resume often has to get by the gatekeeper - the totally oblivious HR person. HR folks will often times just be given things like "x number of years C# experience and SQL knowledge is nice". Not having the background to know if your LaTeX resume is impressive or not, or that hey, 10 years Java experience and 2 years C# experience may actually work if we're looking for 3 years C# experience. Your resume should be optimized to get you an interview, not to get you the job.

  • Do freelance work - Find contract work in your local area while you're looking. Search Craigslist or similar places. These contracts will not only boost your resume, but they will also build invaluable relationships (assuming you drop the ball and do a bad job) that will give you recommendations and more opportunities.

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+1 A lot of places won't even look at your CV/Resume unless it's a doc/docx, I've even had some recruiters moan at me when I used to have mine as a PDF. –  Ed Woodcock May 31 '11 at 13:57
    
Yea, if they don't have a PDF reader, they can even be totally out of luck in opening it. Most HR people aren't going to be admins on their computer to install Adobe Reader if it's not already, when then means they have to call IT and get it installed. By then you're already on their bad side. –  Ryan Hayes May 31 '11 at 14:28
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Another reason they don't like non-word CV's is that it's harder for agencies to edit. Why? Because when they send your CV over to employers, it is (1) branded with their logo, etc. and (2) your address/contact details have been removed so the company can't contact you directly. Point 2 can actually mean that any blog/website links you have to show off your work are removed if they again open up a "contact directly" approach. –  Paul Hadfield May 31 '11 at 20:20
    
Stick with the MS-Word Document. Yes, PDF is universal and there are free readers, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line is that most recruiters and hiring agents import your DOC file into a system that parses it and puts into a database that can be searched. Those systems usually do not import any other file format. –  iKnowKungFoo Jun 1 '11 at 3:54
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Recruiters typically have nothing to offer. There is no need to waste time with them.

The other thing is that if you don't see many vacancies then it is because there aren't many. Can't tell about UK but in continental Europe people (even very experienced) have long learned a job hunt can take 1-2-3 years. Therefore your 3 weeks is nothing by comparison.

Continue trying until you succeed.

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I agree; I was contacted by dozens of recruiters, often times for the exact same client I turned down because how I was treated during an interview, I simply inform them now I do not talk to recruiters. –  Ramhound May 31 '11 at 13:44
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I am fighting the urge to downvote this but I do agree that MOST recruiters have nothing to offer. These guys can sometimes have professional connections and a good relationship with a company and recruitees to make everybody happy. A good recruiter will not business with a bad company because this can disadvantage recruitees which he has built a professional relationship with. –  maple_shaft May 31 '11 at 13:45
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As mentioned above, one of the problems with looking for a job in the UK is that you will have to deal with recruiters as there are only very few companies that will hire directly. I've worked for something like 8 companies in the UK while I lived there and only one would actually consider candidates that didn't come in via an agency. –  Timo Geusch May 31 '11 at 14:58
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"recruiters are not capable of distinguishing 'good talent' when they meet him." - True, but who can? –  nikie May 31 '11 at 15:01
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Around here, recruiters have something to offer: jobs that are not publicly advertised. Most companies here seem to want to outsource recruitment. –  David Thornley May 31 '11 at 17:01
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  1. Follow-up with a phone call, letter or email. I don't know what would be appropriate in your specific area of the world, but make sure your CV made it to the right person. Ask about the hiring process if you get to someone who knows. Find out when they plan on starting interviews, etc. This also shows you are interested.
  2. Find out if your school offers any assistance.
  3. Contact anyone you know in business and see if they are hiring, know anyone hiring, can help make any type of connection with you.
  4. Post your CV on http://careers.stackoverflow.com
  5. Customize you cover letter to each job. You won't know the company, but find out what industry they are in.

You can try other job boards, but it just sounds like the recruiting agencies in your area are dominating much of the programming jobs in your area. You don't have to like it to play the game.

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Did you know that only about 10% of all jobs are on job boards? If you're hunting for jobs, you're doing it wrong. Unless your're a junior developer then you're screwed anyway and need to rely on luck. Anyhow you need to think the other way around:

What actions can I take in order to get or keep myself employed by anyone?

You need to pull out all the tricks. But to get you started here are some other ways to get a job:

  • Build up your contact network. LinkedIn is a great site to keep your contacts in and also exposes you to recruiters that may contact you. Just make sure you use a lot of keywords on technologies that you want to work with, and keep it updated.

  • Why is building up your network is important? Answer: recruitment incentive bonus. Someone you know may want to have you in their company so they can get a bonus, and the company gets a employee they can trust. It's usually a win-win situation.

  • Addendum to building up your contact network: Do you know any people from highschool or college that are working as programmers or are in the IT-tech industry? Try to give them a call and meet over a lunch. Start talking about technology or workplaces you've been to. Maybe they know someone who needs help? Get yourself hooked up.

  • Build up your resume with open source. Try joining a open source project or create one yourself. There are so many project to find in sites such as sourceforge, github, bitbucket, etc. If there is anything you can help with, such as adding documentation or patch code, then that is a good indicator that you do useful stuff.

  • Build up your resume with learning a new language. Got time to learn some cool new language such as Python, Java, Ruby, Go, Pascal, Eiffel, Brainf---, LOLCODE, etc.? Good. Do it! Put it in your resume, instant keyword win for you...

    Okay so maybe brainf--- is not a keyword you want to add, but it's fun to write your own compiler for that language.

  • As a junior developer; you have to lower your standards sometimes. The first jobs you'll get will always be the crappiest ones. So start from there and hope you get out alive. It's sort-of like Hell Week but with computers.

  • Remember, when job hunting on job boards, you're in competition with people who also have to write resumes and most likely some people are better than you at it. Always have your CV, letter and resumes checked by someone who is awesome and act upon the feedback you'll get!

  • There are, in zen-like essense, only a couple of questions all recruiters and employers want to know:

    What have you done that was so damn important?

    And:

    What the devil can you do for me?

    If you can answer these questions then you're worth something and that's all employers care about, as harsh as it may sound. But it will give you some reasons that you can use to wing it during the interview when you've given some thought about it.

    Also think in reverse; what can the company do for you and what is it they do that is so important? Interviews are not static and skewed about you, you also need to know what they have to offer.

  • Be awesome. Only you know how to be awesome at your job. If you've done something awesome and you're not a dick about it; people will remember you and they will call you up and wonder if you're free for a gig.

  • Work with people who are more awesome than you and learn from them. You'll learn lots. It'll give you a chance for more keywords to put on your resume. Awesome!

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Here's is something sneaky you can do to increase you chances of getting a job.

  • Identify a large company that has a multiple openings you are interested in.
  • Apply for a position for which you are slightly over qualified.
  • When you talk to the in-house recruiter let them know your interest in the company in general and would be up for interviewing for any of the other positions as well.
  • Sometimes they will even initiate the discussion about interviewing for multiple positions.

Now you have interview(s) for multiple positions for less leg work.

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One hint about jobs through agencies. If you see one you like try to find a key unique phrase in the description and search for it. Sometimes the company that is using the recruiter will post the same jobs themselves. Then you can apply to the company directly instead of going through a recruiter.

Also, make sure you keep track of the companies that recruiters send your CV to. I heard about a gal who was applying for the same position through two different recruiters and didn't realize it. She ended up not getting the job because of this fact.

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What do you have to do to find a job? EVERYTHING. Everything you can think of, and everything you can't think of. Finding a job will be the hardest work you will ever do. Contact everybody, by all means, through every possible channel. Google for "co.us". Google for "careers". Google for "mailto". Go downtown and spend your day knocking on doors. Join clubs and pass out your business card (which, of course, will include a link to your online resume). Every possible way you can think of, contact possible employers.

I was about to say "then wait". But you don't ever slow down enough to wait. Every night you think of more ways to contact more companies. Yellow pages? LinkedIn? Old college buddies? What do you have to do? EVERYTHING!

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While using an aggregating tool is a good idea, the best you can come up with is your own. Almost all recruiting agencies, job boards, and such places have RSS feeds these days. You could subscribe to those feeds from your Google Reader or similar tool. They are available as desktop applications as well.

It worked for me, YMMV. I found it a lot easy and time saving to have all posts collating at one place. Also, it becomes easier to tell if the same position has been posted by many recruiting agencies.

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