Why IT Hiring Managers are Choosing Experience Over Qualifications
Feb 10, 2023
Why IT Hiring Managers are Choosing Experience Over Qualifications
Feb 10, 2023

Is it time that you chose experience over qualifications when looking to secure your next IT hire? We look at the facts.

A 1st Class degree:  the hallmark of the ideal candidate… or is it? It’s true that a strong qualification does give candidates a good grounding to build from. And it seems that lots of people still agree with this. The number of people applying to study computer science degrees rose by 13% last year. That’s the biggest increase of any UK university subject!

But is it the right choice for your company. In a market where, when star candidates are available, they are being snapped up fast, it may to time to change your approach.

Why let your competitors snap up all the talent?  Could it be time to broaden your search by taking experience into account over and above formal qualifications?

Experience over qualifications?

Which is better? Three years working in the IT industry? Gaining in-depth experience in a real-world situation but with no immediately measurable way of proving a level of knowledge? Or three years studying? Gaining tested and proven knowledge of a wide range of systems but with less time for practical application of that knowledge.  And what about those candidates who have no formal degree. But years of experience through which they have gained many ‘non-university level’ qualifications in various systems and skills?

It’s believed that more than half of employers still use degree to screen job applicants. But this can mean that they are often overlooking candidates with relevant skills and experience. But there’s something else to consider too. A third of employers agree that university candidates are either ‘fairly’ or ‘very poorly’ prepared for the workplace.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said employers must stop thinking that university degrees were always the best indicator of a person’s potential at work: “They [employers] think they’re getting ‘off the shelf’ capability rather than assessing the specific skills needed for roles, then wondering why they have ongoing skills gaps.

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Does this mean that academic qualifications have no place in candidate selection?  Not in our opinion. Qualifications remain a measurable indicator of the quality of a candidate. Additionally, they are certainly a sign of commitment to the industry, as well as ambition.  But they are not the only measure.  To be sure of finding the ideal candidate for your IT role it is becoming more and more necessary to broaden search criteria.

As you know, IT is a uniquely fast-moving industry. Systems that were in place a decade ago are often unrecognisable.  It could be argued that the content of a ten-year-old degree is now largely irrelevant. That the knowledge gained through experience since earning that degree has become more important than the degree itself.

Broaden your criteria

So, how can you broaden your criteria for the perfect candidate without opening the floodgates to unsuitable candidates?  After all, for a candidate to list a skill on a CV tells you very little about their level of expertise.   There are several things to look for when shortlisting for a position:

– Look for candidates who have listed their achievements on their CV’s.  This will give you an idea of the level of experience they have a particular area.
– Look for projects that the candidate has led or been involved in.
– If you are looking at a Web Developer’s CV, take time to examine the sample URL’s they have provided.
– Most importantly, we can help you find a candidate who is the best fit for your company and individual role.  We will know what you are looking for and will ensure that all the information you need to know about each candidate is provided in addition to the CV.

Of course, formal qualifications will always remain a valuable asset to any candidate.  Completing a degree or other qualification takes dedication, an aptitude for the subject and plenty of fresh industry knowledge.  However, with dropping numbers of IT graduates (The University and College Union (UCU) report, stated that only 169 computer science courses were available in 2012, down 18% from 2006), and university applications down for a second year running in 2013 according to UCAS, combined with a marked growth in IT vacancies, perhaps it’s time for a change in the criteria by which the ideal candidate is chosen, without having to compromise on quality.

We can help

Here at Langley James, we know our candidates.  We have in-depth knowledge of their experience, down to the individual projects they have worked on, their strengths (and their weaknesses).  We have access to those details that you just can’t get from a CV alone.  Our talented and specialised consultants work hard to ensure that any candidates we send you are not only a perfect match for the role but your business.  To discuss your IT recruitment needs please call us on 0207 099 4839 or email us: langleyjames@langleyjames.com.

We’d love to hear your views on this.  Do you rate qualifications over experience or vice versa?  Tweet us @ITRecruitment, or follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn

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