Tips from IT Job Developers

Many employers are inherently resistant to the idea of work-based learning programs, which makes pitching the idea to them difficult. The following tips were taken directly from IT job developers in the metropolitan Chicagoland area.

WBL Model

How to Find Employers

Many workforce locations are finding employers by attending job fairs, contacting their local Chamber of Commerce, speaking with community partners and staffing agencies, and making use of previous employer contacts.  These methods are fairly simple and straightforward, and can be incredibly effective.

A great mindset for a job developer is to “always being on the hunt”.  For example, if a new company is opening up in your area, seek out information about that company and try to get their contact information.  A job developer’s currency is their employer contacts, so they need to keep their eyes open at all times.  This includes monitoring websites such as LinkedIn, CraigsList, Burning Glass, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and Monster to find local companies that are looking for workers.  The best thing about finding companies on these job search websites is that you’ll know they’re looking for employees, so you’re not likely to get the common pushback of “we don’t need any help.”  LinkedIn, in particular, makes it very easy to gather information on a company before the initial contact. 

IT job developers have had the most success in targeting small to medium sized managed services companies.  These companies are the most receptive to the idea of working with workforce locations and their IT job seekers.  Also, remember that companies in all industries need IT workers, not just IT companies.

Best Practices for Contacting Employers

The methods listed above are all great ways to find employers for work-based learning programs.  However, from the job developers we spoke to, one of the most effective ways to get an employer on board is to cold call them.  Unfortunately, cold calling is a great way to annoy employers if you’re not careful.  It’s a good idea to have some kind of call/email structure in place for job developers, such as calling and emailing a given company once per week until the job developer can successfully explain the proposition.  Outlook reminders help keep this structure in place.

There should also be a different approach in contacting small and big companies.  In medium or big-sized companies, seeking out HR managers is the best approach.  However, when contacting smaller companies, there’s more success in contacting the CEO or President directly.  This is because they’re usually the only person who holds the power to sign on for a work-based learning program.

What to Say In the Pitch

Firstly, it’s important to become familiar with the 4Ps model discussed in the “Work-Based Learning Models” section of this site.  This offers a unique way to pitch your work-based learning program to employers, and also gives you solid responses for employer push back and resistance. 

The biggest immediate hurdle in speaking with employers is convincing them that you’re not a recruiter.  This is easier said than done, and may take multiple contact attempts to achieve.  Companies have gotten so used to ignoring calls from recruiters that they might hang up on you before they realize what you’re offering.  In explaining what you offer, it might be a good idea to avoid the word “free”.  “Free” often has a negative connotation attached to it that makes companies think you’re offering something cheap, or that there are hidden fees.  Non-profit entities often get around this by mentioning their non-profit nature.  For-profit entities can get around this stigma by mentioning that the company’s taxes have already paid for the service, since the JD NEG/DWG grant is government funded.  Be sure to mention that there’s no obligated donations or fees that they’ll need to pay you.

One of the easiest ways to get an employer involved in work based learning initiatives is to remember not to sell to the employer.  Instead, show them what the benefit is in taking on a work-based learning participant not only for them, but for their local community as well.  A lot of companies really like the idea of being seen as a benefit to their local community, and this is a great way for them to do that.  A discussion like that is much more likely to yield results than trying to sell work based learning to them with a typical sales pitch. 

Once the hard part of the conversation is over, it can easily transition into a discussion about what type of employee the company is looking for.  Do they need someone who’s proficient in Mac OSX, for example?  A lot of failed internships happen because there’s a bad match between the employer and the candidate, so having this simple discussion with the employer is integral.  Use a method of qualification to screen the candidates prior to introduction to the employer to make sure their soft skills are as well developed as their tech skills and they are a good fit for the position and company.  This helps eliminate some of the bad experiences many employers have faced when recruiters place an unqualified candidate.  Once you feel you have a good match, make sure your candidate is ready for the interview. Click here for more information on IT interview preparation. For information on basic interviewing skills, please visit the Illinois workNet Employment and Hiring page.