Your qualification may not land your the job – it’s your adaptability and referrals that could get your future employer’s attention.


The grades you receive during your tertiary studies are some of the most important professionals assets you have when you’re looking for a new IT job, aren’t they? As it turns out, your qualifications may not have as much weight as you’d think. A recent study from research firm Future Workplace in collaboration with Beyond, The Career Network found there are other things recruiters value more in job applicants.

So what is it that they really look for?

Degrees are not a big focus for employers

The Future Work survey identifies several misalignments between the assumptions of jobseekers and the actual practices of employers. Double the number of employees consider their GPA to be important than the employers that are hiring them do. So while you may be looking at your academic transcript and wishing you had gotten more A grades, the chances are that recruiters are not paying as much attention to it. Instead, they value the cultural fit of a candidate more, which makes sense considering technical skills can always be cultivated in a staff member that fits well into the existing team. Yet only 14 per cent of jobseekers focus on cultural fit compared to 24 per cent of businesses.

There is one aspect of tertiary study that does shape the recruitment world however – the major people choose. The research revealed that although 30 per cent of employers are hiring workers for engineering and IT, just 15 per cent of jobseekers studied these specialisations. This disconnect between supply and demand of qualified workers for the available opportunities in IT suggests that this is a promising career option for those entering the field.

A new approach to assessing candidate potential

In response to the apparent value that employers are putting on cultural fit and soft skills, some companies are rethinking their approach to recruitment. Ernst and Young (EY) is a good example of a large organisation that’s doing this. EY has collaborated with recruitment solutions provider Capp to implement a strengths-based methodology in its hiring process. This approach allows EY to use an online assessment tool to analyse the qualities and strengths of applicants. This provides more thorough insight into the employability of individuals than just looking and their qualifications and work experience.

According to EY’s recruiting leader Dan Richards, this has been a successful approach that has boost the quality of the company’s new hires.

“Our student applications have risen by 122 per cent but more importantly our Partners are feeding back that the quality of our student intake is also rising. Our strengths-based recruitment process is successfully identifying the best talent for the firm and looks for a student’s natural strengths which are the building blocks for a successful career here,” he said.

For IT jobseekers, this demonstrates that it is becoming increasingly important to be well rounded and have interpersonal skills rather than merely an education, as well as look for the things that will set them apart in the talent pool.

Are you prepared to adapt to change?

The Future Workplace report reveals that one of the biggest qualities that attracts employers is the ability to adapt. They rated the receptiveness to change as the second most important attribute, surpassed only by communication skills. Regardless of whether you are working in a mobile developer role or in digital media, the IT landscape evolves rapidly and businesses rely on having flexible, fast-learning staff that can help them respond.

Youth career network The Big Choice says that this adaptability helps employees to react quickly to change, manage shifting deadlines and priorities easily and persist in challenging conditions. Having a flexible workforce means that a business can continue to develop and thrive in an uncertain and innovative environment.

Good referrals are the biggest draw

Another important asset that grabs the attention of recruiters is a referral. When a job candidate comes recommended by an existing employee and professional contact, it’s much more likely that they will be suitable for the role than an entirely unknown applicant that does not have a trustworthy source vouching for them. In fact, a 2015 survey from Jobvite found that 78 per cent of employers get their best hires through referrals.

“A strong application coupled with quality referrals will provide job seekers with an advantage in the hiring process. You should constantly be exploring new ways to nurture and expand your referral network, and it may be easier than you think,” said Rich Milgram, Beyond, The Career Network’s founder and CEO. “For example, attend industry conferences and events, grab lunch with a former colleague or make new connections on social platforms – a few simple actions may help you land your dream job.”

So if your computer science degree is not having as big an impact on your IT career prospects as you’d hope, your best bet to get a jobhunting edge is to work with an IT recruiter that can help you showcase your personal strengths and recommend you to your future employer.