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Whether you just tossed your graduation cap up in the air or are simply still on the hunt—applying for jobs and gauging where the IT job market is going can be a bit daunting. It can be tough to figure out exactly which skill sets to play up to your advantage or which entry-level roles you should focus on to not only get your foot in the door, but set you on a long-term career path to success.
We surveyed IT hiring managers across the country to help take the guesswork out of what they’re looking for in candidates for entry-level IT positions to help you get the most out of your job-seeking grind.
There’s been such an explosion of different types of degrees and programs within colleges that it makes it difficult to measure their quality and meaning. That’s why for most entry-level positions, the vast majority of IT hiring managers (83 percent) prefer traditional, general degrees they know will encompass the right IT skills. Many companies also like to internally develop their new hires to groom them for specific, unique roles. It seems that generalized degrees are more effective for initially landing a job, while it may be more strategic to focus later on acquiring additional, niche skills in specialized areas of IT through experience or certifications.
Internships and experience
By a landslide, the most important factor to hiring managers is whether or not candidates have related internship or work experience, with references/referrals ranking second. Following behind are GPA, the actual school attended and extracurricular activities. Hiring managers have realized that actual experience in the technology field is a better indicator of skill level and knowledge of IT trends than GPA or school attended. While having a diverse record of extracurriculars use to provide the notion that you were well-rounded, they do not appear to carry as much weight today. Focusing on skill and the right cultural fit versus technical fit is the most significant to hiring managers.
Salary and workplace flexibility
Unsurprisingly, IT managers say that salary is the most attractive aspect of a hiring package for entry-level hires. However, the next most important factor is workplace flexibility—such as the ability to telecommute or a flexible work schedule that allows for a better work-life balance. Both factors rank higher than healthcare, which many believe should naturally be offered as a part of a competitive benefits package.
An exceptional candidate with a top-of-the-line resume—i.e. internship experience, references, a generalized degree—can expect to negotiate for 10 percent above the offered salary and succeed; however, that’s the maximum amount to expect as salary bump percentages drastically drop beyond that.