Industry Experience Will Get You Places

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Everyone knows that experience is key in all employers’ decisions around hiring and advancement. But what kind of experience is that, precisely? While there may not be a single satisfactory answer, a new study from research organization Robert Half Technology (RHT) offers some insight into what many employers are looking for in their IT professionals.


According to the findings of the RHT survey, which polled more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, familiarity with a particular industry such as health care, finance, manufacturing and so forth is a big plus. Some 43 percent of respondents said applicants with experience specific to a certain field (not necessarily pure IT experience) have an advantage over industry outsiders when it comes to demonstrating they are qualified for a position. Next in line, at 32 percent, were soft skills.


The responses were based on a single question: “If two candidates interviewing for an IT position had similar skills, which one of the following additional qualifications would you find most valuable?” The CIOs’ answers are not all that surprising when one considers what a veteran of a certain industry brings to the table. Apart from a presumably reasonable comprehension of information technology processes, they’ll already have a grasp of the terminology, issues and procedures of that field. Hence, their orientation and assimilation into the company will be much quicker and smoother.


In third place, interestingly enough, was certification in a relevant technology. Fifteen percent of respondents rated this as the most important factor, which is rather good, considering IT certification has been around a little longer than a decade. What made its ranking even more impressive is that it was almost more than double that of an IT-related undergraduate degree, which garnered 8 percent of the vote. Of course, as I’ve said before elsewhere, this doesn’t represent an either/or proposition, where candidates ought to choose between certification and a college degree, or even certification and experience. The main thing RHT’s list tells me is that the candidate who has industry expertise, soft skills, relevant credentials and a college degree is really going to be the one to watch.


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