Tag Archives: job hunting

  • Tech Unemployment Hits 2.0 Percent


    Tech-industry unemployment hit 2.0 percent in April, down from 2.4 percent in March, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    Computer and electronic-product manufacturing gained 500 jobs in April, while technology consulting added 7,300 positions. Data processing, hosting, and related services lost 600 jobs that month.

    The tech industry continues to enjoy higher employment than the broader U.S. economy, where the unemployment rate remained at 5.0 percent in April. Among tech professionals, the rate of voluntary quits continues strongly, which many pundits and economists view as a sign of a healthy economy; people tend to leave their jobs, the thinking goes, when they feel confident enough in the strength of their industry to land a new, better position.

    Despite those positive signs, not all tech segments have enjoyed robust employment growth over the past few months. For example, the unemployment rate for Web developers climbed to 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2016, up from 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Computer-systems analysts also saw their unemployment rate uptick slightly during that same period, to 2.1 percent. As with other industries, technology experiences seasonal shifts in employment; the beginning of the first quarter also sees the end of many yearly contracts.

    In any case, it’s clear that many tech firms remain in a hiring mood, which is good news for tech pros of all disciplines.

    The post Tech Unemployment Hits 2.0 Percent appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Prepping for a Do-or-Die Job Interview


    Job interviews are nerve-racking experiences, even for seasoned professionals. As with so many things in life, however, even a little bit of prep work can make a huge difference, both for your nerves and your chances of success.

    When it comes to technology jobs, preparation is especially important, as you may find yourself answering mathematical riddles or dealing with complex white-board questions in addition to the “standard” interview queries.

    With all that in mind, here are some key tips for prepping for your next big job interview:

    Research the Company’s Interview Setup

    Every organization conducts its job interviews differently. Some take a more traditional approach, focusing on hiring-manager interviews supplemented (perhaps) by a white-boarding session or two. Others attempt to gauge candidates’ skills and experience by subjecting them to batteries of weird interview questions, impromptu programming sessions, or other unusual tests.

    Fifteen or twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have known what to expect when you walked into a prospective employer’s office. But thanks to the Internet (as well as any colleagues or acquaintances who have interviewed with that company before), you can often find out what’s waiting for you, days or weeks before you settle into the interviewee chair. Do that research into the company’s interviewing style, and prepare accordingly.

    Next: Figure Out Everything the Company Does (click here or below)

    The post Prepping for a Do-or-Die Job Interview appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Breaking into a Data Science Career

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    Data science has lost none of its cachet in recent years; companies all over the world very much need data scientists to crunch enormous datasets and provide insights. Job opportunities abound. But does that demand actually make it harder for a tech pro to land a data-science job?

    Hilary Mason, a data scientist and founding CEO of New York City-based Fast Forward Labs, sees “a ton of people asking for data scientists.” Her company’s newsletter has likewise experienced an increase in job postings.

    Large corporations such as Ford Motor Co. have also “increased the number of data scientists we hire,” according to Laura Kurtz, the auto-giant’s manager of recruiting. “We recently created a new data analytics group to understand and make better use of them.” Ford relies on data scientists for everything from human resources (to develop better strategic workforce plans) to manufacturing (to study process efficiencies and throughput). The company is hiring data workers from across the whole experience spectrum, including recent college graduates.

    But not every company is hungry for more data scientists. Kaggle.com, which organizes data-science competitions and jobs, recently cut seven of its approximately 20 jobs. (Despite its shrinking staff, the firm still runs dozens of contests, some with pretty significant payouts; that’s in addition to posting newsworthy datasets such as Hillary Clinton’s email collection, stored in a SQL database.)

    Kaggle isn’t alone in the data-competition department: DrivenData currently runs seven different data science contests, most of which focus on improving conditions in far-flung parts of the globe. Texata.com offers an annual Big Data business-world championship, specifically designed for college students. Numerous hackathons make use of data-science techniques, as well.

    If you want to enter this still-vibrant field and land a job, here are a few suggestions from the pros:

    Understand What You’re Getting Into

    Not all data science jobs are alike, and not all positions carry equal prominence at all companies. Dave Holtz, writing a post for online-learning site Udacity, has put together a great list of suggestions on how you can evaluate different job openings and company types.

    His post also suggests eight different skills that you should have in your tool-kit, such as statistics, data visualization, and basic software engineering. Also on the list: advanced calculus and linear algebra.

    Online Tutorials

    Mason feels the hiring market has matured to the point where “companies are a bit more aware of what skills they actually need, rather than asking for the kitchen sink. Over the last few years, companies have gotten better at hiring data scientists, both in defining the skills they actually need and in interviewing and supporting data scientists once they join a team.”

    If you’re interested in brushing up on your day-to-day data skills, look at some of the online tutorials at Datacamp.com, where you can find more practical exercises such as how to use R and Python scripting for large datasets.

    Participate in a Contest

    Another way to hone your skills is by participating in a data-science contest. Kaggle’s CTO has put together a list of suggestions on how to win such competitions. These include entering alone (rather than as part of a team), using some kind of data visualization tool, and doing frequent iterations on whatever solution you come up with. If you’re interested, take a look at the next GlobalHack contest, held in the fall in St. Louis, with a total purse of a million dollars in various prizes.

    Look Inside

    Look inside your own company to see if you can spearhead a data-science approach to some of your thorniest issues. “A number of companies get to the point where they have a lot of traffic (and an increasingly large amount of data),” said Udacity’s Holtz, “and they’re looking for someone to set up a lot of the data infrastructure that the company will need moving forward.” This could be the best opportunity; after all, you should already know your own business.

    The post Breaking into a Data Science Career appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Rising Salaries Equal Room for Negotiation


    Given the low unemployment rates over the past twelve months, it’s perhaps no surprise that salaries for technology professionals rose 7.7 percent between 2014 and 2015, the biggest increase in the history of Dice’s Salary Survey.

    That’s obviously good news for tech pros searching for a new position, or seeking a raise from their current employer. Based on salaries, the most popular tech skills on the current market include enterprise applications, programming, databases, operating systems, and cloud/virtualization. More and more companies want to crunch enormous amounts of data and build out substantial presences in the cloud—and they need the tech pros to accomplish those goals.

    Specialized Skills

    Taking things to a more granular level, highly specialized skills with generous payouts included:


    Despite rising pay, a full third of tech professionals (32 percent) told Dice they weren’t happy with their current salaries. Nor do many employers seem willing to propose other perks to keep their respective workforces engaged. Although 17 percent of employers offered increased compensation as a
way of keeping their employees happy, far fewer resorted to flexible work hours (9 percent), the option to telecommute or head to a flexible work location (13 percent), interesting or challenging assignments (12 percent) or training and certification courses
(3 percent).

    All of those percentages paled in comparison with the 33 percent of respondents who said their workplace had given them no “primary motivator” in 2015.

    In another Dice survey in late 2015, some 45 percent of tech professionals said they wanted more of 
a work-life balance, even if their current position made that difficult. In light of that data, it’s easy to surmise that employees at jobs offering no perks or “primary motivators” may soon look elsewhere for opportunities, especially given the high salaries being offered at the moment.


    Whether you’re already working for a tech company, or looking to break into the industry, you can 
take advantage of the industry’s rising salaries by negotiating for higher pay. Given the rising salaries in many sub-industries and regions across the country, employers are acutely aware that good talent is valuable, and many are willing to pay accordingly.

    Before you enter into any sort of negotiation, however, make sure you do your research. What has your company paid in the past for tech professionals with similar skill-sets and experience? What does your field tend to pay? What did the person who previously held your job earn?

    While you may not learn the answers to all those questions, any salary-related data can give you
a better idea of what to expect as “fair” from an employer. As a tech professional, you should also engage in a periodic (and rigorous) self-assessment in which you list your professional assets (i.e., your achievements, skills, and experience) along with any liabilities (i.e., failed projects, gaps in experience and performance). When discussing salaries with employers and potential employers, your assets give you leverage in asking for higher pay or better perks; but you should also figure out how to best explain anything in your liability column.

    Despite the rising need for tech pros, especially ones with highly specialized skills, some employers may balk at offering higher pay. Fortunately, compensation is often about more than just money in the bank; your negotiations can extend to benefits such as flexible working hours or the option to telecommute. Although Dice’s salary survey suggests many employers aren’t offering those sort of motivators, that doesn’t mean perks aren’t off the table in a discussion.

    Whatever your salary goals, make sure that your requests are justified by your skills and experience. It might be great times for tech professionals, but you still need to demonstrate that you have what
it takes to succeed in a highly competitive and evolving environment.

    The post Rising Salaries Equal Room for Negotiation appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Landing a Successful Tech-Firm Internship


    When it comes to filling tech internships, companies typically seek college juniors and seniors majoring in computer science or a related field. Although colleges and universities actively work to place high-performing students in internships, a lot of potential interns have little idea of how to lock down such a position for themselves, especially if they’re not in college or have a less-than-stellar GPA.

    If you’re a self-taught programmer without a degree, securing a career-building internship can likewise prove elusive.

    Whatever the challenges, though, snagging an internship isn’t impossible.

    Do Your Homework

    Tech companies (as well as companies in other industries) often recruit on campus; if you’re enrolled at a school, swing by your next career fair to see who’s offering internships. You’ll have the opportunity to meet company representatives face-to-face, and potentially submit an application.

    Many companies also advertise internships online, often beside their full-time job postings; if you want to work for a particular firm, make sure to check out their Hiring or Jobs Webpage.

    Career Websites such as Dice are also a good place to find internships; be aware, though, that many of the openings on these sites are targeted toward undergraduate and graduate students majoring in CS or a similar topic.

    Benn Konsynski, professor of information systems & operations management at Goizueta Business School at Emory University, admits that internships are usually first made available to colleges and universities for their students and alumni. “It’s a rather fragmented and ephemeral market for internships,” he said. “Windows open and close quickly.”

    However, he added, an earnest pitch can still persuade a company to take a chance on you, even if you’re not enrolled at a particular institution.

    Where (and How) to Look

    If you’re competing for an internship against stronger students, or approaching a company on your own, you can often stand out with a little entrepreneurial verve. If you’ve built your own app, game, or program, make sure to highlight that fact in your initial pitch; it will show you have the drive to succeed.

    Rather than aim for the likes of Google and Facebook—where tens of thousands of students fight every year for just a few slots—make a point of targeting smaller companies that aren’t necessarily household names, but which will nonetheless offer a chance at valuable experience.

    State, regional, or city economic development offices will sometimes list internships, as will tech-trade groups. Many of those programs (but not all) give priority to veterans, women, minorities, or displaced, unemployed and underemployed people looking to jump into the tech world for the first time.

    The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), for example, is sponsoring a new paid apprenticeship and training program that will place about 600 people in tech roles across the state during the next five years. Those roles include, but aren’t limited to, database administrator, project manager, data analyst, fraud analyst, and software application developer.

    According to Jennifer Carlson, executive director of the WTIA, the trade group has 150 committed seats at companies such as Microsoft and its International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners, Accenture, Internet Identity, Impinj, F5, and Silicon Mechanics.

    As Carlson noted: “Once the testing portal is online, sometime in mid-Q2 ‘16, it will be open on a rolling basis and we’ll publish the positions we’re seeking to fill along with timeframes. We expect the first cohort to be identified in Q3 and placed in Q4 of this year, and we will ramp up from there.” Applicants go through a screening process and take a placement test that measures logic, math and critical thinking skills.

    Look Before You Leap

    Konsynski suggests that you spend as much time interviewing companies as they spend interviewing you. When applying for an internship, ask: Will you get paid or not? Get the specifics on the type of training and who will be mentoring you.

    “Internships are good, but they have to be focused on achievement, not just administrative support,” he said. “There’s no intrinsic value in an internship.” It’s all about what you did in the role to make the effort a success.

    Find out if the internship is focused on “knowledge of a domain, market or process of interest” before you waste your time applying, Konsynski added. In other words, don’t settle for just anything to get experience on your resume.

    If you’re looking at a state- or trade-group sponsored program, check out the track record of the organization or the program, and find out how long it took for the previous interns to land a full-time tech position, if you can. And, don’t assume that if you’ve completed an internship with a company that they’ll automatically hire you after it’s over.

    The post Landing a Successful Tech-Firm Internship appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Tech Unemployment Stays Low


    According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tech-industry unemployment hovered at 2.6 percent in December 2015. That’s a notable decrease from November, when the BLS plugged the rate at 3.4 percent.

    Unemployment within the tech industry fluctuates throughout the year in response to external forces, including seasonal workers. Throughout 2015, the rate of voluntary quits also remained high, as many tech pros left their jobs to pursue new opportunities.

    That being said, not all tech-industry categories are created equal. In any given quarter, the unemployment rate for programmers or computer systems analysts might rise, for example, while falling for software developers and information systems managers. Manufacturing has remained a relative bleak spot in the tech industry’s employment ledger for quite some time, as the combined forces of offshoring and automation force reductions in U.S. headcount—if not factory closings.

    The latest annual salary survey by Dice also suggests that tech professionals are enjoying a sizable increase in pay, with average salaries rising 7.7 percent last year. But again, not every pro saw the same increase; those specializing in skills related to Big Data or the cloud, most notably Cassandra, Cloudera, OpenStack, and CloudStack, saw double-digit percentage increases in their salaries, year-over-year.

    Average salaries also varied on a state-by-state basis, hitting the six-figure mark in seven markets for the first time in Dice’s annual study. We’ve built an interactive map that shows you were salaries have grown the fastest.

    The post Tech Unemployment Stays Low appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Résumé-Building Without a College Degree

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    Some of the tech industry’s leading luminaries—including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg—never graduated college, and still went on to found multibillion-dollar companies. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re applying for tech positions without an undergraduate degree in hand.

    Yes, many tech firms require degrees for certain positions, with no exceptions. And yes, it can often prove more difficult for someone without a degree to complete in an applicant pool against candidates who graduated from college. That being said, it’s not impossible to land your desired position off a combination of certifications, skills, and accomplishments.

    The first step in landing such a position is a well-crafted résumé. If you don’t have a degree, here’s what to emphasize on it:


    Certifications show you’re adept at a particular area. Listing them can help convince an otherwise-ambivalent recruiter or HR staffer that you know the technology behind the offered job.

    Classes and Some College

    Even if you don’t have a degree, chances are good that you’ve taken at least a handful of classes, or even worked your way through a couple years of college. Detail that academic background. If you’re attending classes with an eye toward completing your degree, put down your expected date of graduation.

    Work Accomplishments

    Perhaps you have a lot of on-the-job experience. List as much of it as possible, with a focus on accomplishments and results. Many tech firms place a premium on applicants who have a history of completing complex tasks on a tight deadline, whether or not those people have a degree.

    Previous Projects

    If you’re a software developer who actively participates in online forums and repositories such as GitHub, take a day or two before you start applying for jobs to “clean up” your various public projects. Recruiters and HR staffers often take a look at a candidate’s “outside” work in addition to their résumé; if your coding is particularly impressive, chances are good they’ll weigh that factor heavily when debating whether to set up an interview. Use your résumé to refer to your GitHub page and other online profiles.

    The post Résumé-Building Without a College Degree appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Tech Unemployment Rises In Some Categories


    The technology industry’s unemployment rate crept up to 3.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although that represents an increase from the second quarter, when tech unemployment stood at 2.0 percent, it’s nonetheless lower than the 5.2 percent unemployment rate for the U.S. labor market as a whole.

    Many technology segments saw an accompanying rise in joblessness. Web developers, for example, saw their collective unemployment rate hit 5.10 percent, up from 3.70 percent in the same quarter last year. Computer systems analysts, programmers, network and systems administrators, software developers, and computer & information systems managers likewise experienced a slight rise in unemployment on a year-over-year basis.

    But does that mean the tech economy is softening? Other indicators suggest the overall industry remains strong. Layoffs and discharges for July and August, the latest months for which the BLS had preliminary data, hit 377,000 and 378,000, respectively. That represents a decline from both the first and second quarter, when the layoff and discharge rate stood at more than 400,000 per month.

    In the third quarter, voluntary quits among tech pros also remained robust, with an average of 500,000 employees per month deciding to quit their jobs. Analysts tend to interpret higher numbers of voluntary quits as a sign that employees are feeling positively enough about the economy to leave their current positions in order to pursue better opportunities.

    If there’s one bleak spot in this quarter’s economic reading, it’s manufacturing, which continues to suffer from weak demand for electronic products and hardware. That’s not a new tale; with the substantial majority of tech manufacturing taking place in Asia, and most of the nation’s tech hubs centered around companies devoted to software, the number of available manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has slowly but steadily declined.

    When it comes to the health of the broader tech economy, the numbers to watch are the respective unemployment rates for Web programming and other “hot” categories. For the moment, despite some upticks, those numbers remain largely positive for tech pros.

    The post Tech Unemployment Rises In Some Categories appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • More Tech Pros Voluntarily Quitting Their Jobs

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    New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that more tech pros are voluntarily quitting their jobs.

    In August, some 507,000 people in Professional and Business Services (which encompasses tech and STEM positions) quit their positions, up from 493,000 in July. It’s also a significant increase over August 2014, when 456,000 professionals quit.

    Voluntary quits are generally a sign of a good economy, hinting that people feel confident enough about the market to jump to a new position (likely with better pay and benefits), if not strike out on their own as an independent.

    For tech pros, things are particularly rosy at the moment; according to the BLS, the national unemployment rate among tech pros has hovered at under 3 percent for the past year, although not all segments have equally benefitted from that trend: Programmers, for example, saw their unemployment rate dip precipitously between the first and second quarters of this year, even as joblessness among Web developers, computer support specialists, and network and systems engineers ticked upwards during the same period.

    If there’s one tech segment that hasn’t enjoyed economic buoyancy, it’s manufacturing, which has suffered from layoffs and steady declines in open positions over the past several quarters. With weakening demand for PCs and other electronics devices, many hardware manufacturers are in the doldrums; on the human side of things, innovations in factory automation have eliminated jobs.

    For those involved in many aspects of consulting and software, though, the good times continue. If you’re a tech pro who intends on jumping to a new job, just remember that it does you no good to burn your bridges when leaving your former position; you never know when you might be back.

    The post More Tech Pros Voluntarily Quitting Their Jobs appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • 5 Big Interview Mistakes to Avoid

    In an ideal job interview, a candidate’s technical skills and experience shine through; but making an interview faux pas can quickly overshadow any positive moments.

    Tiro Security CEO and co-founder Kris Rides, who’s been in the tech-recruitment industry for over 15 years, recently shared some pointers about things that will absolutely wreck your job interview every time. Here are the highlights:

    Being Rude to the Front Desk

    It’s not entirely uncommon for job candidates to put their best foot forward during an interview—only to show their true colors when interacting with everybody else. Rides makes a point of checking with the front desk staff to gauge their impressions of a candidate. “A lot of people think there’s just one decision maker in the interview process, but that’s rarely the case anymore,” he pointed out. In other words, treat everyone you interact with both in person (and on the phone) with courtesy.

    Any Questions?

    Asking questions solely about vacation time and PTO probably won’t give a potential new boss the impression that you’re excited about the job. Even if you’re dying to know how many sick days and holidays you get, it’s usually best to refrain. Instead, ask questions about the company—but not the basic ones anyone can get by looking at the website. “It’s always best to Google the company before you meet them, instead of asking questions you should know the answer to before you show up for the interview,” Rides added.

    Answering Questions When You Don’t Know the Answers

    If your interviewer asks a challenging question, you have a few options—and guessing the answers isn’t best. “You almost always get called out because there are usually follow-up questions, and it becomes very obvious and really awkward,” Rides explained.

    Instead, he recommends being honest about not knowing the answer, while explaining how you’d find it: “You can even double-check the answer with the interviewer and then start a discussion that might enable you to explain some of the other skills and experiences you’ve got.”

    An interviewer may ask if you’ve used a tool that you’re wholly unfamiliar with. Instead of simply stating you haven’t used it, you can always explain similar tools you’ve used and how long it took you to pick them up.

    Money Talk

    Pretending your salary is much higher than it actually is may help you with negotiation—but if you’re asked for a W-2 and last month’s pay slip, lying in your interview could cost you the job. Best to be honest about your pay and pay expectations, rather than being deceptive.

    The Awkward Hug

    Weak handshakes (or overtly aggressive ones) don’t usually give off the best first impression, but recruiter horror stories kick it up a notch. “I’ve had interviewees who felt that they really gelled with their interviewer go in for a hug after the interview. Probably one of my favorites was an interviewer who put his hand up when he said hello, and the interviewee thought he was high fiving and gave him a high five,” Rides recalled. No matter how much rapport you think you’ve built, avoid anything other than a firm (but not crushing) handshake.

    The post 5 Big Interview Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Non-Technical Certifications for Tech Pros


    Which certifications provide the biggest bang for your buck? While some key IT certifications can boost your career, you shouldn’t ignore the ROI that comes with certification programs that focus on non-technical standards and skills.

    With these non-technical certs, you often don’t need to attain the highest level of accreditation to increase your market value. Here are five that can add weight to your résumé and wallet:

    Project Management Professional Certification

    Thanks to an average salary of $109,405, the PMP is the fourth-highest-paying certification and the highest paying non-security related certification, according to training firm Global Knowledge.

    You don’t even need to be a project manager to reap the benefits of certification, according to Ed Tittel, a certification expert and blogger: “Stepping-stone certs such as the CAPM or the PMI-ACP validate fundamental principles, terminology and processes that apply to any number of IT roles.”

    For instance, the CAPM covers project communications, stakeholder management and time management—and you don’t need hands-on experience to qualify. The PMI-ACP will increase your familiarity with various approaches to Agile, such as Scrum, Kanban and Lean.

    For $300 to $500, tech pros can get study materials and practice exams, and take the CAPM test. The exam cost for the PMI-ACP ranges between $435 and $495; the salary for certified professionals is about 28 percent higher than for non-certified professionals.


    Although you’ll need to pass five “books” and amass five years of management experience to score a master ITIL certification, someone involved in management or development can still increase his or her worth by obtaining a more entry-level ITIL v3 Foundation level certificate, according to Kirsten Lora, senior product director for Business Skills and Training at Global Knowledge.

    The cost of self-study training materials, practice exams and the certification test for the Foundation level is less than $500. The exam takes about an hour, and in return, you can expect a salary increase of $3,000 to $5,000, Tittel said.


    Although the CRISC program is geared toward employees who spend their days managing risk, its fundamentals can help you ascend into a management, consulting, or business-analyst role. (Plus you’ll have five years to meet the experience requirements once you pass the examination.)

    Boot camps can be pricey, so if your employer won’t pick up the tab, consider self-study and paying $300 to $500 for an instructor-led review course. The exam costs range from $440 to $750. By the way, the CRISC was the top-paying cert in Global Knowledge’s survey with an average salary of $119,227.

    CISSP (And Others)

    Knowledge of security essentials can bolster your personal job safety, as more organizations than ever are focused on weaving additional protections into their respective technology stacks.

    With an average salary of $110,603, a CISSP certification can increase your paycheck, but it requires several years of relevant work experience. Entry-level, vendor-neutral credentials such as the CompTIA Security+ and GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) don’t require previous experience, although the GSEC exam is quite a bit more expensive than the Security+ exam.

    Pay value for the CompTIA Security+ certification has grown 40 percent over the last 12 months, according to Foote Partners; a self-study package and exam will set you back about $500. 

    Cloud Computing

    With some 93 percent of companies utilizing the cloud, both experienced and aspiring network, storage or data center administrators can enhance their resumes by completing a vendor-neutral program such as CompTIA’s Cloud+ or Cloud School’s Cloud Certified Professional. 

    Most cloud certifications are relatively new, so the specific salary impact and ROI are difficult to measure. Even so, you can buy a study guide for Cloud+ on Amazon and take the exam for around $400. The cloud was one of the highest paying skills in the Dice Salary Survey (PDF).

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  • Hacking Job Interviews

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    Want to improve your chances of snagging the tech job you want? At the recent BSides Las Vegas conference, which attracts information security pros, Adam Brand (an associate director for Protiviti’s Security and Privacy practice) discussed the common mistakes he’s seen from tech candidates in job interviews.

    Brand is in a position to know something about hiring: This year alone, he’s conducted more than 60 interviews while searching for pros who are qualified to do fairly complex security assessment work, including forensics and penetration testing. Here’s his advice:

    Tweak Your Resume

    Brand recommends providing context around the technical skills you list on your resume. “People need to fix the wording on their resumes and they need to think of the resume as a roadmap for the tech interview,” he said. “It’s a roadmap for the technical interviewer to know what are the areas this person is most likely to have experience in.”

    Adding phrases such as “some exposure to” or “significant experience with” before skills—such as Windows administration or Cisco firewall management—will help the interviewer know the candidate’s areas of deepest experience. In a job interview, that will also help you avoid being hit with a really technical question in an area that you don’t know really well.

    Study What You Know

    Brushing up on topics you already know can jog your memory, Brand pointed out, especially when it’s a subject you haven’t worked on in a while: “Your brain needs a warm-up. You can’t just go cold on a topic you haven’t touched in a long time.”

    That means a bit of studying before the interview. “I think the mistake people make is they assume that they’ll be able to remember something in the moment of an interview,” Brand said, “and that’s a pretty high pressure situation. Everyone gets a little nervous in a tech interview.”

    If you were a Linux sysadmin five or six years ago, for example, and were really good at your job, spend a little bit of time looking up commands to configure IP tables or compile programs from source. “You really need to refresh yourself so that your brain starts making those connections ahead of the interview,” Brand added.

    Answer Questions Smartly

    Much like Tiro Security CEO Kris Rides, Brand acknowledges the possibility of interviewees being hit with questions to which they don’t know the answer. And like Rides, he warns against making up answers; a better choice is to explain what you do know about a topic, to show the interviewer that you at least have some relevant knowledge.

    Another mistake? When asked how they’d go about finding an answer, some people say they’ll just Google it. “I can Google how to replace a light switch, but that doesn’t make me an electrician,” Brand said. Nobody should ever tell a real-world client that they’ll “just Google” a problem, especially when the problem in question involves security. “If you don’t know anything about that area, just be honest about it.”

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