5 alternative skills to look for in IT professionals

The typical approach to IT hiring has been put through its paces. From newspaper ads asking for specific skills to online job postings offering food for code, hiring managers have tried everything to find the best, most qualified IT professionals in their local areas. The Internet provided a small outlet for change, as businesses attracted more prospective new hires via that digital channel, but the results were still the same: If the skills don’t match, don’t bother calling the individual in for an interview.

Now that technology has hit a standard pace of evolution, hiring has to change. Just as organizations demand flexible and scalable infrastructure, managers should expect the same from their IT teams. After all, a valuable skill today might prove worthless in the next five years, and those individuals hired exactly for that reason can easily become useless.

The biggest change is that IT is no longer only about coding, developing and deploying. In the era of the cloud, hiring managers need to look for IT professionals who can keep up with technological evolution and business growth, while still improving their own skills and applying them to new strategies and initiatives.

Here are five things to look for when hiring IT professionals today:

1. Communication skills
Tech employees used to be kept in backrooms, but now they rule the boardroom. This means that soft skills are just as important as hard ones. In fact, InformationWeek cited a CompTIA study that found human resources leaders rank hiring IT employees with written and oral communication talents fifth on the biggest challenges in staffing this year. The source went on to highlight Burning Glass data that noted 14,000 IT job postings demand communication and coordination skills.

“Hiring an IT employees with written and oral communication skills is the fifth biggest tech challenge.”

Simply put, IT professionals will increasingly interact with coworkers, vendors and customers as hardware and software become more important to work and life. While employees familiar coding languages such as Java are valuable, these individuals must also be able to communicate clearly with other staff. The whole company will be better off if internal platforms are developed with them in mind and support teams understand coworkers easier.

2. Attitude
All the skills in the world mean nothing if a new hire has no motivation or a poor attitude. While hiring managers shouldn’t let tech skills play second fiddle, finding an IT professional with the right mindset can be more valuable than expert who hates the corporate culture.

Abi Somorin, senior IT manager at Orlebar Brown, told ZDNet that he always hires based on the attitude of the applicant. Brown reasoned that training someone on new skills is easy with the right approach, and with a great match to corporate culture, any individual can make the most out of his or her abilities. After all, changing someone’s personality is a lot harder than breaking bad habits.

3. Interest in relevant industries
Randy Wolf, regional vice president of Robert Half Technology, explained to Crain’s Chicago Business that every industry relies on IT employees, from startups to the biggest firms. In the past, a few organizations could trust on an outsourced department, but nowadays, internal tech teams are required to keep websites running, cloud environments performing and point-of-sale devices functioning. This means that competition is hot, and finding the perfect IT professional is harder than ever.

“It’s a prize fight every day to get the right people,” Kevin Steele, vice president of technology at Cars.com, told the source. “Over the last three years, prices (of talent) have gone up significantly. The median is approaching six figures. There are companies that are overpaying. Companies have to differentiate with culture, the types of technologies they use and the opportunities they offer.”

Businesses can attract the best employees by looking for people with similar interests. Take an airline for example. If an IT professional wants to travel the world, he or she would probably like to work for a company that can offer that. Simply put, play to the company’s strengths when hiring and check for culture alignment to find those special employees.

Every aspect of business relies on technology nowadays, so why not hire IT professionals who are well-versed in boardroom etiquette.
Information technology in business

Every aspect of business relies on technology nowadays, so why not hire IT professionals who are well-versed in boardroom etiquette.

4. Outside-the-box thinking
Only a few short decades ago, IT professionals were labeled introverts, and while those individuals are still valuable, businesses should look for employees that break that common mold. Aaron Gette, CIO of Bay Clubs, told CIO that he hired IT people who “like to talk” on social media and in-person. These professionals often act similarly on the Web, participating in community forums and developing innovative ideas, as well as openly discussing IT strategies with coworkers.

Look for someone who thinks outside of the box, and they’ll most likely contribute to a number of different IT initiatives with eagerness and an open mind.

5. Project management
In IT, projects are a way of life. Most, if not all, IT initiatives must be run similarly to any other business strategy, and likewise, an experienced project manager ensures that every goal is met and tasks are completed. However, having non-IT employees on a tech team isn’t the best solution. Instead, hiring managers should keep an eye out for any IT professionals with past experience leading projects or contributing to them.

5 alternative skills to look for in IT professionals
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