While recruiting is tough for us all, tech sector employers face an especially difficult battle for talent. The pool of qualified, eligible applicants for tech roles always seems to be too small. As a result, graduation season is especially important to tech companies, as it gives them access to a fresh pool of talent.
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Unfortunately, these graduates don't always make it easy to hire them. Thanks in part to their limited experience, many grads are unsure of how to conduct focused job hunts or market themselves to employers.
"[A] newly graduated developer should focus on how their unique background has informed their experience and can be used to address a company's problems, even if they have less work experience," says Julia Silge, data scientist for Stack Overflow, an online community for developers.
This years' "Developer Hiring Landscape" report from Stack Overflow, which surveyed more than 64,000 developers from around the world, found that 77.5 percent of professional developers have a bachelor's degree. However, Silge notes that it isn't uncommon for developers to enter the field without college degrees.
"These developers are educated in nontraditional ways, like coding boot camps or being self-taught," Silge says. "Typically, a portfolio or developer story is going to most effectively demonstrate your skills even if a degree is a requirement."
Doing Away With Tradition
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Entry-level corporate jobs have long required applicants to hold college degrees, but in the technology arena, finding applicants with degrees isn't always the same as finding applicants with the necessary skill sets.
"Developers who responded to our survey said communication skills and a track record of getting things done were the most important [in making a hire], instead of things like previous job titles or education credentials," Silge says.
Colleges and universities should take note of the realities of the tech sector and adjust their programs to suit a world where credentials aren't enough. Schools should also focus on providing training that teaches practical skills in the form of both degree-seeking programs and certifications.
"Right now, employment levels for software developers are extremely high; new software developers are entering a market that is hungry for their skills," says Silge. "Colleges and universities should build into their programs opportunities to exercise those skills through solving real-world problems, collaborating with teams, and building compelling portfolios. Colleges and universities need to advocate for their students to build things relevant to the real world."
Remember: New Developers Have Bills to Pay
Businesses seeking top talent should keep in mind that new graduates are likely deep in student debt. Thus, one of the best ways to attract these young candidates is by offering benefits that can help alleviate some of that debt. Companies could make themselves attractive targets for new graduates by offering benefits that help cut expenses, such as student loan pay-down programs, relocation benefits, and low-deductible health insurance plans, as well as numerous incentives that help save money on everyday services, such as cellphone plans.
Meanwhile, graduates in search of bigger paychecks should look to areas where change is frequent and growth is steady.
"We see the highest salaries for new developers in fields that have lots of opportunities and are growing quickly, like data science/machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), or DevOps, as more companies move to cloud deployment," Silge says. "These are some of the fields where new developers earn the highest salaries globally, as well as some of the positions that are hardest for recruiters to fill."
Graduates bring the latest knowledge and skills to their new jobs, and companies that work hard to attract these young members of the workforce will reap the benefits. In the fast-changing tech sector, bringing in new talent that understands the most recent technologies and methods can be as important as keeping the current staff up to date.