IT Job Seekers: Reverse Engineer Your Job Search

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If you want to find out how something new works, a competitive product that’s beating the pants off yours, you do what many tech companies do—you reverse engineer it. You take it apart, analyze what each piece does, and emulate it. Surprisingly, you can use the principles of reverse engineering to discover why some job applicants get hired and you sit there waiting for the phone to ring. We start by taking the ideal search-to-hire process apart and see how each part holistically contributes to the end result.

Part 1. Job Posting

Most job postings are fairly specific when it comes to describing what they’re looking for: college degree, minimum and ideal experience and skillsets, tasks you’ll be expected to perform. Regrettably, many job applicants don’t even finish reading a job description. They simply apply after reading the first sentence, the pay and perks, and the company name. When you reverse engineer this part, you’ll discover that the applicant read and analyzed every word carefully. If the job listing was too brief or lacked detail, she Googled the company to find out what the job title did in that organization or division.

Part 2. Cover Letter

If you failed to analyze the job posting, the cover letter won’t fit or function. You can create the best, most convincing letter in the world—written by a professional direct mail copywriter, but the result will be the same. No job.  In reverse engineering the winning letter, you discovered that the candidate pulled out the best and most applicable qualification and experience she had and applied it to the tasks the employer expects her to perform. In How to Write Unbeatable IT Cover Letters, writer Rose Curtis offers a number of tips including proper structure and length.

Part 3. Resume

You’ll need Part 1 to make sure Part 3 fits and functions properly. Here, again, even a professionally written resume will fail to land you a phone call, much less an interview, if you don’t dovetail the job description with the resume.  When you reverse engineered the ideal resume, the subparts—experience, tasks, accomplishments—fit the posting, line by line. All doubts and questions about the winning candidate’s ability to do the job as posted were answered. In 101 Best Tech Resumes, author Jay A. Block provides real resume preparation guidance for tech job applicants.

Part 4. Phone Interview

Here, parts previously mentioned must fit holistically to ensure Part 4 functions properly. This is what engineers often refer to as the “smoke test” of any device. Turn it on, if it smokes, something’s wired wrong. If you sound weak, unprepared, or arrogant, you’ve “smoked” Part 4. Reverse engineering the perfect phone interview revealed a confident, well prepared, ostensibly humble and courteous interviewee. One who answered the tough questions, like “what’s your biggest weakness” with alacrity and poise. Check out Phone Interview Questions - Top 5 Telephone Interview Questions You Have To Be Ready For .

Part 5. In-Person Interview

The big “sit down.” In many cases, this is the ultimate test. All parts must be aligned and function properly to get through this critical function stage. This part uses many of the mechanisms of the Part 4, but it adds cosmetics and design. In reverse engineering this part you discovered that the candidate’s appearance, bearing, eye contact, speech delivery, handshake and other intangibles were impeccable and appropriate for the posted position.

Can’t seem to land that plum IT job? Try reversing engineering the perfect applicant to see how they succeeded.


Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/



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