Experience or skills? What is more important in hiring tech talent?

Many roles in technology are facing unemployment levels under 2-3%. So, what does that mean for job-seekers in the tech field? While an impressive employment history is a good indicator of a candidate’s skill set, there are other factors that could help bring on qualified candidates to fill roles quickly and efficiently.

Technology students and entry-level candidates should prioritize gaining some hands-on experience before they graduate — this will help “get them in the door” when looking for a full-time position.

Recently, Robert Half Technology asked information technology managers to rank the factors that carry the most importance when evaluating entry-level and mid- or manager-level candidates’ resumes. Their responses:

Entry-level candidates:

  1. Most current work experience (33%);
  2. Educational background (19%);
  3. Past projects and successes (18%);
  4. Relevant certifications (17%);
  5. Tech hobbies (13%).

Mid- or manager-level candidates:

  1. Most current work experience (30%);
  2. Past projects and successes (20% — tie);
  3. Years in industry (20% — tie);
  4. Educational background (16%);
  5. Relevant certifications (14%).

The truth is that most (if not all) employers want new hires to “hit the ground running” when they start in a role — so, having some experience in the professional world is an ideal starting place. And, while employers know there’s a skills shortage and recent grads are definitely a source of untapped talent, old habits die hard, and having a “proven track record” of work is a really good way to get a foot in the door with hiring employers who may see it as less of a risk to bring on someone with a bit of a work history.

IT managers were also asked: When evaluating professionals for open IT positions, which carries more weight, the candidate’s technical skills or his or her soft or nontechnical skills?

The results were:

  1. Somewhat greater weight on technical skills (39%);
  2. Much greater weight on technical skills (35%);
  3. An even split (22%);
  4. Somewhat greater weight on soft skills (4%);
  5. Much greater weight on soft skills (1%).

People with tech skills of all kind are always in need, whether it’s through an internship, local small business, school or even friends and family — students should use their skills in order to build their resumes — it’s good to have some projects under your belt before you graduate, and it won’t be hard work to find.

So how does it relate to managers looking for tech talent? Time is always of the essence when hiring technology professionals today. Talent professionals receive multiple offers, so, if you’re wasting time deciding or waiting for someone to “check all your boxes,” then you’re potentially losing out on good candidates. The most successful companies willing to train new hires on any skills or areas where they may be lacking, so long as they are a good cultural fit and have the non-technical and business skills that are important for the team.

Christina Giglio is regional vice president for Robert Half Technology in New Jersey.