What top ICT companies look for in graduates

Xero, Trade Me, Orion Health and NZ Post discuss their requirements when hiring graduates

What are employers looking for in graduates? Computerworld asked leading employers in the industry what backgrounds and skills they are seeking when hiring a graduate, and if there is a preferred degree.

Xero looking for code hunger

Xero’s product development manager, Andrew Tokeley, says:

“When hiring graduates, of course we take note of what they've studied, but more importantly, we're looking for a hunger for building beautiful software. We want people who'd be writing software anyway and who can't believe a company is going to pay them for it. We want people who've heard about Xero and want to ride the wave with us. Ideally these people have been through university, where they have learnt good working habits and enhanced their technical [and] soft skills.”

“One observation I'd make is that while it's simply not possible for institutions to keep up with the skill shortages of the day, I have noticed many graduates with very little knowledge of database design,” continues Tokeley. “Yet it¹s near impossible to get a job in IT where you won’t be doing something at this level. This should be compulsory.”

Culture-fit central at Trade Me

Trade Me found three great tech graduates via the Summer of Tech programme (a lower North Island internship programme for technology students) last year, says Dave Wasley, head of technology at Trade Me. “We’ll be on the look-out there again in 2011, but we’re not exclusively looking there, it just happened to go well for us in 2010.” “We’re not looking for specific skills or experience when we hire tech grads,” says Wasley. “Instead, we prefer to make sure we get the right people who will fit our culture as a company – smart, easy to get on with, optimistic, gets stuff done. Then we can train them up on any specific skills they need.” For graduates, technical knowledge is very much secondary to demonstrating an ability to learn, and a strong understanding of the principles of technology, he says. “Being able to hold a robust conversation and the ability to apply knowledge in a practical sense is going to work out much better for us than someone who can code in 27 languages but is a bad cultural fit with what we do,” Wasley says, adding that a tertiary degree is not necessarily “a leg-up”. “The proof is in the pudding as some of our best tech people are self-taught.” Orion Health hires top students

Most graduate roles at Orion Health require tertiary qualifications in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or similar fields, says Amanda Ivanson, marketing manager of Orion Health.

“We only hire the best people, and being based in New Zealand means that we have the ability to hire the top graduates,” she says.

Orion recruits from all the universities, but has a closer relationship with the University of Auckland, as the company is based in Auckland, she says.

“We find the calibre of the students we hire to be excellent.”

Orion Health has a well-developed proactive recruitment strategy, Ivanson adds. Staff levels have grown by 49% in 2010-2011 and the company plans another 20% growth in the coming months as new offices open in Australia, Singapore, Japan, France, Norway and Canada.

Orion Health employed 21 graduates last summer and had 12 interns working in the Auckland office during the summer holiday period.

Post-grad training at NZ Post

According to senior IT sources at New Zealand Post, the NZ Post Group Technology team looks mainly for software developers, testers, data warehouse developers, web developers and content managers, architects, IT supplier managers, business analysts and project managers.

“Our focus is increasingly on architecture and vendor management as we implement our IT outsourcing strategy,” they say.

For the more technical roles – developers and testers, for example – education is an extremely important selection criterion, says NZ Post.

“[But] we are finding that we are looking for experience and personal attributes over education when looking for people to perform vendor management.”

The organisation also employs post-grad training, on-the-job training, focused seminars, conferences and training programmes related to the individual job to continuously educate its staff.

“The challenge is not about bright graduates but more that industry and academia often do not come together for creating success,” say the IT executives. “This ‘coming together’ does happen around the fringes in aspects of industry and technology, however for New Zealand to be successful economically we need to replicate smaller models of what is done overseas.

To find out what ICT courses top New Zealand academic institutions are offering check out the following article:

How universities will produce the next generation of ICT stars

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