If you’re in business, it won’t be long before you’re ready to recruit an IT professional in some capacity. You want to make sure you’re going to get someone who will serve you well.
What you need is a professional with the appropriate skills – the best candidates should have a good combination of work experience and appropriate qualifications. Examining a candidate’s qualifications is a good place to start. However, in the field of IT, the type of qualifications on offer are many and varied, and come from a range of sources.
This article examines the types of qualifications your new programmer might have and how you can determine whether they’re appropriate for what you want done.
The bread and butter qualification for an IT professional is a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. This degree provides a solid platform for a range of IT positions such as Network Engineer, Computer Programmer, Software Engineer, Web Programmer, and Systems Analyst.
Other university qualifications in Computer Science can include a diploma/associate diploma, master’s degree or even PhD (the latter two typically involving some type of specialisation). A degree from a reputable university, where the curriculum is in English (assuming you’re reading this in English!), is a really good start.
Community college/Tafe college
For a more introductory qualification, community and Tafe colleges offer a certificate or diploma in various IT-related subjects. The length of studies involved is generally shorter than at university. Study duration will help to point to how qualified your applicant is and whether they will be suited for the work you have in mind.
If your programming requirements are relatively simple, some kind of community college studies might be sufficient – especially when coupled with some relevant practical experience.
With IT changing so quickly, it’s not always practicable for IT staff to head back to school to update their skills. For this reason, companies such as Microsoft have established certified standards for candidates to demonstrate their skills in particular fields. This can apply to a whole range of activities from helpdesk functions, project management, and even managing Microsoft Windows.
Certifications usually don’t take as long to get as the other tertiary qualifications but they do provide a good measure of someone’s skills in a very specific field. The other aspect that is helpful about certifications is it demonstrates a willingness for further study. With IT in a constant state of change, this is a good thing.
On the job experience
Of course, all the academic training in the world doesn’t help if your IT Professional has a head full of theory with a distinct lack of practical skills. On the job experience therefore is often as important as any other ‘qualification’ available. Look for candidates with experience in a field similar to what you want and contact previous employers to check the candidate’s performance.
Matching what they’ve got with what you need
There are three main ways for the non-techie business owner to match the qualifications your prospective It professional has with what you need:
- The simplest way is to check with other employers. This can be through friends/business associates and their experiences – just make sure that the work they got done was similar to what you want. Another method is to check job ads (even on Craigs List) for similar work, then call up the employer as a prospective employee (you may need to do a little acting). Ask what work is required and what qualifications they expect from a candidate
- Many universities and community colleges will advertise the likely career paths students can expect to pursue once they complete a qualification. If you notice a significant discrepancy between the work you want done and the career path for an applicant’s qualification, you may need to look elsewhere
- It doesn’t always happen but where a candidate has relevant work experience in a similar position this can make life SO much easier. Call the previous employer and find out the work that was done, and their impressions of the employee – consider technical skills as well as non-IT skills such as team work and communication skills. This small time-investment can pay serious dividends.
The field of IT qualifications can be quite the mire. Nevertheless, outlined above are ways you can check the qualifications required for the work you want done. Some form of higher education IT qualification is a good start but pay close attention to work experience as this may prove just as valuable as a guide of a candidate’s skills. A solid set of IT interview questions is essential.
Garry Ponus is an entrepreneur with a passion for taking maximum advantage of IT solutions available to business, despite being a non-techie. www.TopITInterviewQuestions.com was set up to assist other business owners in the same boat and provides a wealth of resources for hiring great IT staff.