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new grads interview for an IT job

What IT employers look for when hiring new grads

May 8, 2017

By Lisa Dare

Who has a better chance of landing a great entry-level tech job?

  • A candidate who focused on earning top grades at a mid-range school
  • Someone with a decent GPA and two relevant internships 
  • A Stanford grad 

You might be surprised to learn that real IT hiring managers overwhelmingly prefer candidates with work experience over ones who attended top schools, got great GPAs or have good references. 

We asked 250 hiring managers from across industries at top organizations this question:

When considering a recent college graduate for a position, how important are the following factors?

Here’s what they said:

Hiring factor

Hiring managers who ranked this No. 1 or 2

Work-related internship/experience

86%

Referrals/references

50%

GPA

24%

School attended

18%

Extracurricular activities

11%

ROTC or Military Reserve Program

10%

“Newly graduated job seekers may be surprised that it’s not about the name recognition of an expensive school or a cutting-edge degree that gets you in the door, it’s getting your hands dirty prior to graduation and making yourself a valuable member of whatever team or project you get the opportunity to work on,” says Jason Hayman, market research manager for TEKsystems.

[Read: The best IT job prospects for entry-level grads]

Higher salaries for special candidates

Can you get more money for demonstrating special skills and experience? Yes! In fact, more than half of IT hiring managers said they’d pay 10 to 20 percent more for an exceptional entry-level candidate.

Salary premium for exceptional candidates

Hiring manager response

5%

31%

10%

46%

15%

15%

20%

5%

More than 20%

2%

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