TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing services, released the results of a survey highlighting the best IT jobs and key hiring trends for recent graduates. The survey asked more than 250 IT hiring managers across the U.S. what they're looking for in entry-level IT candidates and what the best opportunities are for graduates.
"The industry is still a seller's market and provides a target-rich environment for recent graduates entering the landscape. However, new graduates should still expect to be offered the types of junior or entry-level roles where they're primarily being asked to maintain, update or fix currently deployed software programs," says Jason Hayman, TEKsystems Research Manager.
STEM degrees are profitable right now -- with more companies scrambling to hire talented IT workers to manage the growing reliance on enterprise technology. The survey highlights specific roles that hiring managers cite as the best opportunities for recent graduates over other job openings.
Applications developer emerged as the best job for entry-level job seekers, according to 60 percent of hiring managers. It's followed closely by technical support (54 percent), business or systems analyst (52 percent) and web developer (48 percent).
"Developer roles are consistently difficult roles to fill, a result of the sky-high demand for qualified tech professionals across the industry. Digital transformation will continue to create a lot of opportunity for new IT professionals as organizations take on more and larger IT projects. These initiatives will require a small number of highly skilled and experienced individuals to design, but a larger number of junior- or entry-level workers to implement," says Hayman.
Other popular entry-level IT jobs that hiring managers point to include network or systems administrator (39 percent), network or systems engineer (37 percent), data base administrator (35 percent) and quality assurance engineer (27 percent).
[ Related story: Salaries for storage, networking pros continue to rise ]
Generalization over specialization
Hiring managers overwhelmingly (83 percent) said that generalized or traditional degrees - such as CIS, computer science and software engineering -- are more valuable than specialized or "new age" degrees. Only 17 percent of hiring managers said that degrees in data analysis, human-computer interaction, AI and game development are valuable for entry-level workers.
Hiring entry-level workers with generalized degrees is more attractive to employers because it's an investment, says Hayman. A "capable individual" with a generalized background can be trained overtime to fill specialized requirements in the company. Whereas, when a company is trying to fill a specialized role, they will likely turn to someone with more years of experience.
Hayman also points out that this trend might indicate a "focus on finding the right cultural fit versus technical fit." For entry-level workers, there are fewer candidates with "proven backgrounds," so hiring a cultural fit who can gain experience and learn on the job is more valuable.
[ Related story: 10 cities where IT pros aren't paid what they're worth ]
Work experience and internships
It can be confusing when graduates are also expected to have work-related experience, but that's what hiring managers are want. Of those surveyed, 86 percent of hiring managers cited work-related experience or internships as the most important factors when hiring a recent graduate. After that, 50 percent say referrals and references are the next most important factor in hiring.
"Work-related internships and experience, along with referrals and references, are better predictors of performance for first-time graduates than either GPA or the particular school attended -- especially in the fast-paced, ever-evolving industry of technology," says Hayman.
If you're still in school, it's a great time to build your portfolio or take on an internship to boost your resume. For recent graduates without internship or work-related experience, it's time to consider side-projects or an unpaid internship to boost your chances of landing a job.
Salary and company culture
Unsurprisingly, 85 percent of hiring managers cite salary as the most important factor when hiring recent graduates. After salary, 68 percent of hiring managers say workplace flexibility is the next most important factor in hiring. Healthcare (26 percent), tuition reimbursement (16 percent) and a 401k plan (5 percent) were the least popular factors.
If you can't offer competitive salaries, it's important to at least offer workplace flexibility. It might mean the difference between landing entry-level talent, or losing them to another company.
"An increasing trend among IT talent, particularly new job seekers, is workplace flexibility. It allows them the freedom to structure their own working hours, which in turn, can offer a better work-life balance. Hiring managers who wrap flexibility into their employee value proposition should stand out in the competitive IT job market," says Hayman.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.