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Going Back to School vs. Learning on the Job: Which is Better?

Feb 10 , 2016

Many open IT positions require candidates to learn new skills.

In the IT field, jobs are often complex and highly specialized, requiring specific skills and ongoing training as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. For some jobs, the talent pool is small and emptied of fish quickly after being stocked each year as students graduate. It is an ongoing challenge for hiring managers to fill open positions with these rampant skills shortages.

When it seems impossible to find a candidate who meets the qualifications for your job posting, what is the best course of action? You can just keep the position open until the right person comes along, but where does that leave your team? Understaffed and frustrated in the best case scenario, and hamstrung, unable to complete the project in the worst case.

If waiting for the right person doesn't seem like a viable option, your only other choice is to hire the best available candidate. Choosing which qualifications and soft skills are most important is an important but challenging process.

Finding the Most Qualified Candidate

For IT hiring managers that can't find a candidate with the skills the job requires, it may be useful to look for similar skills that could transfer to the open position. Programmers who have taught themselves several languages, for instance, may be able to easily pick up the language needed for an open position even if they have no experience with it.

A web developer may be able to pick up the skills needed for a cyber-security position, or a data management specialist may be able to work in a cloud computing position without much new training. In the interview, ask for examples of times when the candidate has had to learn new skills quickly and to some degree, independently.

Pairing a new hire with someone who can provide the appropriate help and training is crucial when hiring someone who lacks some of the needed skills. If you need a cloud data manager, but none of your team has worked with the cloud, it will be very difficult for a new employee to learn these skills, no matter how good they may be at picking up new skills quickly.

Evaluating Soft Skills

Important soft skills to look for in these situations are quick learning and having the ability to learn the needed skills. Being able to collaborate with a team is always a valuable skill for any position, and job experience that shows an affinity for the type of work the position requires is another plus.

Qualities like independent learning and similar skill sets can help ease the transition to a new position.

Going Back to School

If the position can wait just a few months, it may benefit all parties to have the preferred candidate take one or more classes toward certification in the skills required. Coursework can also be taken during and after the hiring process in order to teach the needed skills. This can be a good option when there is no one available to train the new employee in the needed skills. Many companies are increasing their training budgets to handle these needs.

Contact GDH for help with recruiting and hiring quality IT candidates.