A technical bent of mind and hefty degrees are not enough for today’s recruiters of computer science and IT graduates. What they are looking for is a candidate who can be a team player, has the right attitude and can demonstrate technical knowledge hands-on. Kanika Tandon reports.
Technology has permeated our lives in an unparalleled way. Computer Science and Information Systems (CS and IS) graduates are more sought-after today than ever before. Not only does the profession guarantee you a great pay check, it also promises a global career. Consequently, the competition is tough, with many contenders for the best jobs. What is it that can make you stand out and shine? What are the qualities which the recruiters are looking for in their ideal candidate?
“Computer Science, Software Engineering and Information Systems are international qualifications, enabling students to work globally, and in a very broad variety of roles. There is steady growth in demand for technically adept and flexible IT graduates. To succeed, you need to be creative and adaptable, able to work in teams that span multiple disciplines and abilities, be willing to regularly refresh your knowledge, and be passionate about providing solutions that will help people,” says Professor Alistair Moffat, Head of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, University of Melbourne.
In fact, it is the attitude of the candidate which is underlined in preferences by the recruiters in the IT industry—sometimes even more than the qualifications. Rowena Driver, Partner Account Manager, MSemploy, assisting to recruit IT staff for the Microsoft Partner Network on a daily basis. She says, “Personality and attitude can outweigh qualifications. Microsoft Partners want to qualify how well an applicant will ‘fit-in’ to the company and its environment, particularly its culture. Candidates should be able to establish themselves as team-players during the job interview.”
Recruiters also look for specialized skills rather than just a plain degree. “Certification of technology is a must,” says Driver, while informing that displaying your ability to work with a technology boosts your chances of being hired. For instance, Driver tells us, Microsoft looks for candidates who are certified in specific technologies such as SharePoint, Dynamics, .NET, Silverlights to name a few.
More importantly, specialized skills are required to cater to the new emerging fields of application of computer science. Professor Moffat informs that in several fields, the cost of generating and storing data is falling noticeably thereby creating “a need to work with types of data that simply didn't exist five years ago. Skills in such areas, typically also requiring an ability to work in teams including discipline specialists—such as life scientists, or urban planners— are increasingly being sought”.
“There continues to be a demand for Computer Science graduates with specific computational expertise, and there is a growing need for CS graduates who can work closely with experts from other disciplines,” says Prof Moffat.
Liz Sonenberg, Professor and Head, Department of Information Systems, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Collaboration), University of Melbourne, says, “The feedback from our Industry Advisory Group is that employers are increasingly looking for applicants with experience of working in teams and confidence in presentation, and often some knowledge of business processes, to complement technical content. They view program content as more important than program name, and they are concerned about current and future talent shortages, with particular concerns about gender mix.”
A master’s degree is also preferred by some employers who are looking for a candidate who can offer enhanced contribution to the company. “Of course, there are many roles available for those with an undergraduate degree. But many employers are looking for graduates with more breadth and maturity than is typical from an undergraduate,” says Prof Sonenberg.
She states that no matter when you do your master’s program, it always widens your understanding and broadens your scope. According to her, a master’s degree gives you a chance to “stand out from the crowd and attract an employer’s attention”. Prof Sonenberg says, “We are finding employers who have had a chance to employ graduates from our new master’s programs, coming back for more – favouring them ahead of undergraduates.”
It is also true that master’s programs today are well in touch with the employer demands and international trends. Curriculums are designed with inputs from key industry players and a global approach to the learning experience is kept intact. Hence, making graduates of CS and IS much in demand with the employers. “Many master’s programs are designed for those in the workforce, with evening and weekend classes, you can have the best of both worlds – work, and at the same time build your base for future career progression, “says Prof Moffat.
So, if you are one of the contenders for a job in the IT industry, make sure that you back your degree with specialized skills and an attitude that fits well with the company you wish to join.