What IT professionals need to know about finding their first job (or their next job)

ITPA Download spoke to the founder of an IT recruitment platform to get the lay of the land about what jobs are hot and how to ensure you give yourself the best chance of landing the career move you want.

While there is a lot of talk about the current ‘skills shortages’ in the IT industry, that doesn’t necessarily translate into more job opportunities for everyone who works in the sector.

In a rapidly maturing and consolidating market, large tech companies need armies of workers who have proprietary skills in writing code, hardware management, configuration, sales and customer care.

That often manifests in large offshore service delivery centres and not so many boots on the ground here in Australia which means, for Australian IT graduates and those who are in existing employment, it can be tough to find rewarding steps forward for a career in IT.

Active market

According to Justin Falk, founder and managing director of online IT recruitment hub, TalentVine, the IT recruitment market is an “incredibly active market at the moment”.

Falk has been working in the recruitment industry for eight years. He started out in the technology side of the industry selling psychometric testing, video interview and screening solutions to recruitment agencies and employers before launching a start-up called Talent Vine.

He described TalentVine as a “hiring marketplace that connects employers to the most suitable recruiters for hard to fill tech and specialist roles” - not-too-different to “a cross between Webjet and Tripadvisor” - which matches aggregated data from recruiters, employers and candidates to create improvements in the cost and efficiency of recruitment and employment processes. 

Talent Vine works predominantly in the recruitment of IT professionals.

“IT recruitment is as active as it has ever been in Australia,” Falk said. “Industries of all shapes and sizes are moving into the digital age so the technology services required to deliver this is driving IT jobs growth. State governments are also competing through grants and subsidies to build active start up scenes as these are proven drivers for creating more jobs and innovation at a state level.

“We are seeing heavy demand for high end talent in the software, web design and user experience side of the industry. There’s also a lot of innovation at present and a lot of new digital companies are growing in the Australian ecosystem, so this means they are all looking for quality candidates.

Falk said that in his experience most of the jobs being filled in the corporate and start up sector are permanent full-time positions whereas government agencies tend to use a lot more contracted staff.

“There are lots of permanent roles on offer because there is such intense competition for the top talent,” he said. “Employers want to find good talent and lock them in to hopefully work there long-term. Whilst it can be easier to manage cashflow with contractors as opposed to permanent staff, you’re then at risk of your competitors snapping up your ex-contractors when their projects come to a close’.

“Employer branding and employer value proposition are buzz words among recruiters at present. There are efficiencies derived from attracting people who want to work for your organisation because of its culture, having a vested interest in the problem they are solving, its record of innovation or its flexibility in how people can work for them.

“Of course, the flip to that for IT professionals is to recognise that some companies are better to work for than others.

“We have done surveys of IT professionals over the years and the results consistently show that while money is important, it is not the only factor in where they would prefer to work. There are also large numbers of candidates that rank work/life balance, the flexibility to work from home, available training and career development as being equally important.

“People are often turned off by being stuck in a code-hole when there is no reason why you can’t do that from home while they are also keen to receive training opportunities, to attend workshops or other events where they get to meet people, hone skills and learn new ones.”

Hot jobs, skills in demand

Falk said that there is also no shortage of jobs for people with a range of software development skills as well as in dev-ops and technical support while full stack developers and virtual reality experts are also very short in supply.

“There are other drivers of jobs growth as well including things such as the need for block chain engineers, data scientists and cyber security while large-scale infrastructure managers and configuration engineers are also areas of high demand,” he said

There are skills and characteristics that candidates need to be able to demonstrate to put themselves in the picture to get these high demand jobs.

“The bottom line is proficiency,” according to Falk. “They need to have the skills and experience required to do the job. Candidates invariably get put through some form of skills testing these days.

“That may be in the form of a coding assignment or by doing some whiteboard coding during an interview which allows employers to see that you are capable in the type of work they do, that you can solve problems and work through issues.

“Showing you can be productive in the environment and that you’ll be happy working there are the two most important traits to get across to potential employers. They need to bring in someone who matches the culture of the organisation and show ability to work as part of a team.”

What employers are looking for

Falk said that there are many personality traits that employers are looking for and they vary depending on the culture of the company. There are also skills that employers recognise as being easily adaptable to their environments.

“For some higher roles where there is a responsibility to lead a team, being able to show that you are engaged with an active community and have thought leadership through social media channels is desirable,” Falk said. “It’s one of things employers will check out but not necessarily game breaking.

“If the position being advertised is for a scrum master or managing a team then having a history of proactive community interaction skills is advantageous but for someone who is just tasked with writing code in the corner of an office it is not so important.

“At that lower level, there is big demand currently for developers who are proficient coding languages such as the React and Angular JavaScript.

“So, if you have skills in that area you will find that employers will be more likely to give you a go even if you are not too familiar with their exact projects.”

Falk said current trends for hiring developers show that tertiary education is not necessarily the only pathway to in-demand coding jobs.

“It is pretty well understood that most people who are good at coding can adapt quickly to new projects,” Falk said. “They don’t have to be a graduate. They just need to be able to do what’s required in the role as a degree is no longer a predictor of future performance.

“Technology is evolving at such a pace that what you learn in a computing degree might not even be relevant by the time you get a job.

“There is research that shows one in four developers starting coding before they could drive and a very high percentage - 73 per cent - are largely self-taught so they are already quite pro-active in picking up news skills and running with them.

“A university degree is always a good investment of time, but most good developers could write code before they even thought about going to university.

“If you can prove you are proficient in code, even if you are self-taught, then you will be picked up by an employer.”

Changing face of IT employment

Falk acknowledged that some roles undertaken by IT professionals over many years are becoming redundant but that should by no means signify a route to the scrap-heap.

“There are roles that are being lost to artificial intelligence and automation,” he said. “Everybody across in the industry should have some trepidation that the technology they work on could eventually cannibalising itself.

“That is why there should be a very high emphasis on all candidates to make sure they stay on top of the skills they use and may need to use in the future.

“No-one in this industry can afford to sit back and rest on their laurels because there certainly is that expectation from employers that candidates are across all of the latest industry trends.”

While Falk stated that most of the high level-to-executive IT roles are filled through a head-hunting process with quality candidates able to choose where they want to work, at lower and medium levels of experience, the job market-place is a lot more competitive.

He offered a few tips to IT professionals about what to do and what not to do when putting themselves forward to employers.

“There are some basic rules that are not rocket science but well worth repeating because it is sometimes alarming how many candidates don’t bother to do it,” Falk said. “Upon application, make sure that you have your Github profile, LinkedIn profile and CV current and accurate. If applying for a design-type role, ensure you have a comprehensive portfolio of previous work.

“It also pays to do some research on the organisation you are presenting to before-hand so that you are aware of what they are doing and familiar with the technology they are using or developing.

“Mention it in your introduction letter as a means of expressing interest in working with them and it always helps to arrive at interview with a few prepared questions so that the conversation is not just one-way. This will show that you have researched the company, that you are interested in what they are doing, and keen be involved.”

“If you are studying, make sure you get involved with some sort of internship with an employer or get some experience in working on a start-up project,” he said. “Volunteer if you have to. Even just having a couple of months experience will help in presenting yourself as job-ready and actually having some understanding of what it is like to be working in a start-up or corporate environment.”

Of course, Falk asserts that it is plainly obvious that if invited to an interview that candidates have the decency to arrive on time and to be presentable.

“You would be surprised at how many people forget these common courtesies or don’t view them as being very important.”

Visit: talentvine.com.au/