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Experience vs Qualifications

September 16, 2019 . 10:00 am

A 1st Class degree:  the hallmark of the ideal candidate… or is it? Market reports are showing that due to increasing movements in the jobs markets and fewer students taking up IT-based degrees due to increased tuition costs, quality candidates are proving harder to find.  When star candidates ARE available they are being snapped up fast, and this trend looks set to continue.

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?

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 have years of experience through which they have gained many ‘non-university level’ qualifications in various systems and skills?

A study from the Ambition AXA Awards for talented young people, supported by Young Enterprise found that nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of employers believe that experience is becoming more important than academic qualifications.  Catherine Marchant, Director of Young Enterprise, said that companies are ‘…increasingly looking for staff who have experience in the workplace — and the right attitude towards business — rather than their academic qualifications alone.’  There is certainly the possibility that a student could graduate without having any experience in paid employment and therefore extremely limited business acumen.

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, and 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 and that the knowledge gained through experience since earning that degree has become more important than the degree itself.

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.