What skills are employers seeking in IT graduates

Watch our video (below) what skills employers are looking for, and what skills are commonly lacking, in graduates. Also, read about what hard and soft skills you should be developing for a successful career in the text sector.

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Hard skills

It goes without saying that if you’re
seeking a career in a tech-heavy role
like software developer, software
tester or network engineer, you will
need to be proficient in the relevant
programming languages and possess
the technical skills employers seek.
Some employers are noting a skills
gap among graduates, so you may
need to invest in extra study beyond
your degree to acquire all the skills
necessary to land that job you desire.
Spend time researching the specific
skills you need to develop for the
types of IT graduate schemes that
interest you, and invest time outside
of your university studies to acquire
these skills.

Having a range of programming
languages will mean a wider range of
career opportunities is open to you.
Areas related to programming are
amongst those in highest deman.
While Java is hugely popular,
graduates with such languages as C#,
.NET, C++, HTML5 and Python are also
sought by many employers, as are
those with a strong understanding of
digital design. Employers often find
that the graduate candidates most
well versed in the relevant
programming languages have
acquired their skills through work
experience, or they are programming
hobbyists who spend their own time
developing their programming
language skills. Such individuals have
the advantage of being able to
display their ambition and
enthusiasm for this area.

If you can show a prospective
employer a practical example of your
skills in use, rather than simply your
qualifications, you will have an
immediate advantage over other
candidates. While in university, build
a working website for yourself or a
family member’s small business, or if
you’re confident enough, establish
yourself as a freelance web designer
while studying. The ability to show
that you already have the trust of
clients of your own (even if it is only a
relative), will be appreciated by
potential employers. Plus, it’s a way to
make some extra cash before you
land a graduate job. While in
university, think about founding a
club or society based around your
interest in coding or designing. Not
only will this help you develop your
skills and learn from your peers, it will
show employers that you have
initiative and leadership skills, and
enjoy being part of a team.

An area where invaluable
experience can be easily gained is in
the world of Open Source projects.
Open Source Software (OSS) is
software whose copyright holder has
made its source code available to the
public to develop and work with.
Users are encouraged to find
solutions to problems within the
code, or to add to the code. Hundreds
of Open Source projects are looking
for contributors at any one time, with
most adding their projects to
github.com, where you will find Open
Source projects from a variety of
sources; even the U.S. government’s
usually secretive National Security
Agency has begun to share Open
Source code. This gives you a chance
to gain experience and add some very
impressive names to your CV. It will
also show employers that you
possess the ability to contribute to
team projects.

Soft skills

While your technical skills are your
bread and butter when it comes to
landing a role in IT, it’s not the only
thing employers will look for from
applicants. Particularly for more
business-focussed roles like
consulting, IT graduate schemes will
require soft skills and commercial
awareness. For such roles, technical
graduates will often find themselves
competing with arts or social science
graduates, so developing your soft
skills is vital. Below we look at the five
most essential soft skills you should
work on developing.

Communication

Technology may be present in every
business, but it still takes humans to
run those businesses. IT professionals
are required to possess an ability to
communicate effectively with people
at all levels in an organisation, from
PC end users and help desk assistants
to company directors. An ability to listen and understand, and to explainthe relevant technology to clients
with varying degrees of
understanding of said technology, is
crucial. Those IT professionals in
client-focussed roles must be able to
communicate clearly with clients to
understand and define system
requirements. Demonstrate your
communication skills by: keeping
verbal and written communication
clear, concise and confident;
displaying an understanding of your
audience and an ability to tailor your
communication to them; showing
you can listen to and consider the
views of others; thinking before you
speak.

Planning and organisation

IT is a project-focussed industry, one
in which good planning and
organisation skills are essential. The
need to manage tasks on a variety of
projects with differing deadlines and
competing priorities means effective
planning, and the ability to anticipate
problems and challenges and
transform them into positive
opportunities, is a must.
Demonstrate your planning and
organisation skills by: showing that
you can add structure to a task or
project; highlighting how you scope
out an activity and allocate time to
individual tasks; displaying how you
anticipate challenges and issues that
could arise and plan contingencies.

Drive and enthusiasm

To work in this incredibly fast-paced
industry, drive and motivation are
essential. Candidates need to enjoy
accepting new challenges, pushing
boundaries and looking towards the
future. Graduate recruiters appreciate
enthusiasm from their candidates
because they know enthusiastic
people are motivated people.
Demonstrate your drive, motivation
and enthusiasm by: displaying your
determination to achieve an end
result; demonstrating that you can
maintain your optimism and
enthusiasm, even when things get
rough; showing an ability to bounce
back from setbacks; knowing what
makes you tick and what types of
tasks and activities you most enjoy
performing.

Problem solving

Working in tech requires an ability to
define problems in a timely manner,
identify the root causes and
subsequently gather the relevant
information to find appropriate
solutions. But problem solving goes
beyond resolving technical issues
alone. You may also be required to
suggest enhancements to existing
procedures and processes to deliver
improved service, a better product
and most importantly, satisfied clients.
Demonstrate your problemsolving
skills by: displaying that you
can take a logical and analytical
approach to problem solving;
showing that you can view problems
from a number of angles;
demonstrating that you can
anticipate potential pitfalls and act to
prevent them happening.

Teamwork

Teamwork is essential for sharing
knowledge, establishing and building
relationships and supporting the
people involved on a project. It
requires interpersonal skills and, at
times, leadership qualities so that you
can consider and respond
appropriately to the behaviour and
motives of others, adapt your
personal style accordingly or step out
in front to bring others with you.
Demonstrate your teamwork skills by:
displaying an ability to build and
maintain positive working
relationships; demonstrating how
you share information with others,
support others and show respect for
alternative views; showing how you
have contributed to keeping projects
on track and to achieving a final goal.
Working sensitively and cooperatively
with others; showing how
you have considered and identified
what motivates others and how you
have led by example.

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