A Robert Half exec's 5 job-hunting tips in tech in the downturn - Business Insider

A top Robert Half exec says tech job hunters need to avoid these big 5 blunders during the coronavirus crisis: 'Never shut down your search'

7/3/2020 2:09:00 PM

A top Robert Half exec says tech job hunters need to avoid these big 5 blunders during the coronavirus crisis: 'Never shut down your search'

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Robert HalfJoin BI Primeand start reading now.The tech industry has reeled from layoffs and furloughs due to the coronavirus crisis. But a top executive at Robert Half, the major HR consulting firm, says some tech jobs are still hot."Just because there's a pandemic, hiring is still going on and opportunities will still be had." Ryan Sutton, a Robert Half district president, told Business Insider.

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Looking for work in tech can be challenging. Sutton said tech job hunters should avoid these 5 key blunders during this crisis.Click here for more BI Prime stories.The coronavirus crisis triggered a severe downturn that has led to layoffs and furloughs in what had been a vibrant tech industry.

But some tech jobs are still hot, and it can be a good time to look for opportunities, says a veteran top executive at Robert Half, the global human resources consulting firm."It has slowed a little bit, but the roles that were red, red hot, are still hot," Ryan Sutton, a Robert Half district president, told Business Insider.  "Just because there's a pandemic, hiring is still going on, and opportunities will still be had."

In tech, most of those opportunities are with companies offering tools and systems to help businesses adapt to the world of remote work. In fact, the crisis has accelerated a critical trend, the cloud, which lets businesses set up networks on web-based platforms, making it possible to scale down or even abandon in-house data centers, Sutton said.

This has led to stronger demand for jobs focused on running the cloud and keeping it secure. "The cloud is still hot," he said. "Cybersecurity kind of escalated a little bit with the increase in traffic. And generally, software development and engineering, specifically in that mobile app space are absolutely still continuing to drive solid demand."

Sutton, who has been with Robert Half for 21 years, has helped thousands of businesses including the dot-com crash in the 2000s and the Great Recession in 2008-2009.Looking for work can be more challenging nowadays, and it can be even tougher for job hunters who make these 5 blunders, he said.

Giving up because you think there are no jobs out thereIt's easy to get discouraged by news of job cuts and furloughs at startups and big tech companies.But Sutton said one of the biggest mistakes of tech job hunters, especially those who lost their jobs, is deciding not to look too hard because they assume there are no jobs.

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This is clearly not true in some sectors of tech, he said. But the misstep has become a consistent trend during downturns, when some job hunters decide to "take a break" and essentially hit pause on their job search.Ironically, it's a trend that can actually benefit some job hunters who persist in looking for work because they end up going up against fewer candidates "who focused on taking a break."

"The advice I've given friends, family, neighbors and any candidate is 'Never shut down your search,'" Sutton said."Always keep searching. There's still hiring going on — even in the downturn. Why completely take yourself out of the game?"

Assuming that you won't get called back after being furloughedThe coronavirus crisis escalated suddenly in March, prompting some tech companies to cut jobs. But Sutton said one thing that's different in this downturn is that many tech companies, such as Nutanix, opted for furloughs and other temporary cuts.

"It's more of a pause due to the pandemic," he said. Many companies have started taking some of their furloughed employees back, although there's still much uncertainty, Sutton added. Still, he said furloughed employees should be open to the possibility that they could go back to work, especially if they don't come across new opportunities.

"If you have a genuine interest in going back to that employer, my advice is stay in constant communication with your employer," he said. "It's almost kind of like the adage in sports: make sure you stand next to the coach so that when they're ready to put somebody in, you're right there for them to push in," he said.

Chances are employers will not bring back 100% of furloughed employees, he said. "What they will typically do is prioritize who they feel are going to be the best long-term rehires and an employee that is in communication," Sutton said. "An employee that proactively reaches out is absolutely going to stay top of mind when they go through the rehiring process."

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Not paying enough attention to videoconferencingThe remote workforce also has led to the rise of remote job hunting. For job seekers in tech and beyond, it's important to master the nitty gritty of this process. He pointed specifically to what has become a critical tool: videoconferencing.

He said Robert Half has been posting articles offering tips on video interviews, but "few candidates read the articles or truly take the advice to heart."The coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of this process, he said. Sutton said job seekers should invest time and money in making sure they have the needed tools and preparation for this process. These include a "strong setup" that would ensure uninterrupted connection during the interview process and knowing how to dress for the interview.

Downplaying your credentials just to get a jobLooking for work can be tough for those who once held top positions in the tech industry. This has led some of them, especially those who've been looking for an extended period, to use an old tactic: downplaying your credentials.

Sutton said this isn't happening much now since the crisis is only a few months old. But during past downturns, senior level executives  understated their credentials in their quest for work. This could includes tweaking a resume to delete executive or high positions.

This was done by job seekers who "didn't want the perception that they would only want an executive job," Sutton said.He said he understands why a job hunter who honestly wants to step back and have a less stressful career would use this tactic.

But he said, "You've got to be honest with all the companies that you're interviewing with, because, as a candidate, we want respect, and we've got to give that respect back to the employers. So my advice long short is: Be true to it and be true to your job search."

Failing to see possibilities in a downturnAnother mistake is to think of the downturn in purely negative terms, Sutton said. Believe it or not, some of the most successful people I know, really got their opportunity in a downturn," he said.That's certainly true for tech companies. Some of today's tech giants, such as Google and Salesforce, launched during a downturn. "What's interesting about downturns is you're allowed to be more creative," Sutton said. "You're allowed to be more innovative."

He said this advice is particularly relevant to new graduates. They are now facing one of the toughest economic times in decades, but many of them are entering a workforce that's been forced to make dramatic changes due to the pandemic, he said.New grads, because they don't carry much baggage, have an opportunity to shine during downturns by blazing new trails, as part of established tech companies or startups.

"You just have to be willing to capture that opportunity and really earn it, so to speak," Sutton said. "If you are, you might find a really cool opportunity right now."Got a tip about Robert Half or a tech company? Contact this reporter via email at

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