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Why recruiters are looking beyond IT's traditional talent pool

Brain surgeon? Anthropologist? Ex-NASA? You're just what we're looking for

Keeping track

Taking on people outside the usual disciplines is a risk. How do you assess them initially and measure them? LinkedIn’s Shah is blunt that it’s not data wrangling for data’s sake or research for the love of research, which is why people like Zhang were carefully selected. They have a serious job to do. “We are going to work on something that is either going to let us monetise the product or help a big subset of members use it,” she says.

Strong hiring methodologies and assessment tools will help take much risk out of the hiring process. “It’s absolutely critical to get that element right,” Thompson says. “People talk the talk but don’t always walk the walk, but we don’t always get it right.”

Bright Future worked with an external expert to design its own assessment for software development or systems analyst roles. An assessment day for candidates culminates in a structured interview for more tailored psychological profiling.

In a nutshell, the tick list for successful candidates combines a logical and mathematical mind with an ability to solve problems and a good understanding of business needs. “They may not be coders, but the sorts of people who can translate user requirements in a way that a customer understands and a developer can work with,” Thompson explains.

While technical prowess is an obvious bonus, an individual’s attitude to work is vital. A graduate might expect £18-25k straight away, but it could take six to nine months to get them commercially ready. School leavers are used to going to school every day and some of them might arrive with IT skills they have developed themselves. The commercial pay-off is more immediate on the school leavers. “Within six to nine months, most of them are working on commercial projects, and even after 10 weeks they will have had a lot of commercial exposure,” Thompson said.

David Trice is business solutions director at British Gas and manages a team of around 50 staff overseeing the strategy and architecture for IT across the British Gas group. Graduates on Trice’s team tend to have technical backgrounds – typically science or maths – although languages and music degrees also seem to lend themselves well to programming, he says.

“Project management and business analyst roles need an appreciation of IT but don’t need qualifications. They have to understand what drives cost and risk and be able to direct a project accordingly,” Trice explains. “Standard psychometric tests allow you to test for abilities and gauge diagnostic reasoning.”

Like Thompson, Trice says a candidate’s desire and passion to create technology speaks volumes, as the emphasis shifts away from training people to use computers to training people how to create. “Increasingly, IT jobs are about convincing others why they should like your idea – articulating a plan and what you’d like to achieve,” Trice says.

“To succeed in IT you need to be a leader of ideas," Trice adds, before adding somewhat ominously: "If we see this as an exclusive club for computer science graduates, we’ll lose out as a nation.” ®


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