IT Skills Gap: What We've Got Here Is A Failure To Communicate - InformationWeek
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7/8/2015
09:06 AM
David Wagner
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IT Skills Gap: What We've Got Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Everyone agrees there is an IT skills gap, but managers and IT pros disagree on the reasons for it.

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A study by IT staffing firm TEKSystems proposes a compelling reason for the IT skills gap in this country -- and it has nothing to do with education or training. Instead, it might be a lack of communication between enterprises and IT pros. At the very least, the study shows that enterprises have a long way to go to better communicate with potential employees.

The study, Exploring the IT Skills Gap, interviewed 1,200 IT leaders and IT pros to get to the bottom of the issue. Not surprisingly, both IT pros and IT managers agree that the skills gap exists. A full 78% of managers and 80% of IT pros polled acknowledge this gap in IT. Only a third of those surveyed, pro or manager, believe their enterprise has the skills in-house to succeed.

The interesting part is that there is a total disconnect between why employers think they can't fill a job and why employees think they aren't getting a job.

When asked why it was difficult to find quality candidates, the top answers from managers were lack of technical skills (49%), lack of soft skills (21%), and lack of experience (13%).

When workers were asked why they were told they didn't get a job, the answers were all over the map, but only 1 in 4 were told they lacked the technical (20%) or soft skills (5%). The No. 1 answer was that they were overqualified (29%).

(Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr)

(Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr)

How is it possible that 73% of managers say they can't find experienced, skilled workers, while workers say they are told they are overqualified?

Some of it has to do with the mysteries of the job search process, of course. Tell a candidate the real reason he or she didn't get the job, and you give them ammo for a lawsuit. So, partially it's because we're playing this game of poker where the cards aren't really being shown and we're all sort of guessing. It is undignified and unsettling, and with an ever-increasing competition for talent it doesn't seem like the right way to go.

But there's more to it than that. The job search process itself is flawed. Job postings are often vague and not written by anyone who has ever done the job. Job candidates are often sorted first through keyword searches and then by HR pros who don't understand the job. With all due respect to HR pros, how can they be expected to do a good job at this when they are asked to fill a sales job one day and an IT job the next, and they never get to spend any quality time with the hiring managers?

The hiring process at many companies is broken. And to go along with that, no one ever really teaches candidates how to look for jobs. Candidates take classes and certifications in programming languages and skills, not in reading and interpreting job descriptions.

[ How do you navigate the skills gap? Read 3 Tips For Minding The IT Skills Gap. ]

Is it possible that IT leaders aren't doing a very good job at picking the skills they actually need, and that leads to the idea that there is a skills gap? Yes. Perhaps their expectations are simply too high, and they need to change that. In fact, they might already be doing just that.

John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology, told us in a recent InformationWeek article on rising IT salaries: "Companies have begun to -- I hesitate to say relax their standards -- but to at least adjust their expectations for the skills they can get for the money they had allocated to that role. Companies every day are saying, 'Wow, we wanted a five-year experienced person, but it looks like we'll only get a three-year experienced person.'"

What we might have is less of a skills gap than a communication gap. We don't have the right people with the right skills finding the companies who are a perfect fit for them. And we have companies who don't know how to attract the right people for the job.

Fix the hiring process, and you might just fix the skills gap, or at least reduce the way it affects enterprises. What do you think? Is there a skills gap or a communication gap? Do you find it hard to find the people you need or the job you are looking for? What do you think is the reason? Tell us in the comments section below.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
7/15/2015 | 8:08:42 PM
Re: It Skills Gap: What We've Got Here Is A Failure To Communicate
I have a lot to say on this topic. First, perhaps views from people on both sides of the interview table are bound to be biased - a hiring manager would never admit he discriminated against someone unfairly, and a job-seeker would rarely admit he didn't get a job due to his own failings. It's a topic we all have a personal stake in - as evidenced by the number and variety of passionate comments here. Dave mentions job descriptions written by non-IT people. I read lists of job requirements that look like cake recipes, yet, when you sit down at the interview table, the person you talk to is more interested in your approach to problem-solving, your adaptability, and your 'soft' (re: people) skills. They'll gladly work around a lack of experience with one type of API/hardware and bring you up to speed. But you often could never get to the interview table because you're off the list without that experience. How backwards!

On top of GAProgrammer's points, the salary issue is two-sided. They can pay more, or prune their requirement of the unnecessary and open the job up to legions of applicants (yes, even programmers) who would be overjoyed to take even less than the wage they're offering. If they've no problem accepting H-1B applicants as a cost-saving measure (not implying anything about H-1B holders), why not these people? I've noticed some employers finally putting 'degree or equivalent experience' in their listings, a nod to the alternative educational or entrepeneurial paths one can take to IT. There's a lack of clarity in bullet-point listings: for "1-5 years" of experience in a specialized subfield (say, "OpenStack" v "Cloud Computing"), is five years of the generic skill better than one year of the specialized one, or not? I think we all know a shakeup is needed here, but we likely won't see one for some time.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
7/13/2015 | 11:10:18 AM
I had to laugh at the final comments...
It doesn't sounds like a communications problem, it sounds like a money problem.

John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology, told us in arecent InformationWeek article on rising IT salaries: "Companies have begun to -- I hesitate to say relax their standards -- but to at least adjust their expectations for the skills they can get for the money they had allocated to that role. Companies every day are saying, 'Wow, we wanted a five-year experienced person, but it looks like we'll only get a three-year experienced person.'"

They want someone with X years of experience,yet don't want to PAY for that many years of experience, so they settle for X-3 years of experience instead. So it seems clear that they need to say we need X-3 years of experience at this salary instead of shooting for the moon and hoping someone with X number of years of experience will just settle. Props to IT pros for sticking to their guns and demanding the salaries they deserve! Of course, once you get that salary, you have to be sure you earn it!
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
7/11/2015 | 9:53:36 AM
HR excuse to shop for someone cheaper
When a candidate is rejected for a position HR tells them they are overqualified. That may not be true at all, it just puts a positive spin on the rejection. Often times there is also not enough budget for the position. Although the candidate would be a perfect fit for the job the company already knows they cannot pay what the needed talent will cost due to budget constraints. So HR needs to shop for someone cheaper and they typically find nobody....unless the intention was all along just to reject a few US candidates to hire H1B instead because there are no US candidates that match the requirements.
Whatiswhatguy
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Whatiswhatguy,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2015 | 11:04:00 PM
Re: Overqualified
One should also factor in C-Suite or senior management influence of qualified candidates. You may never hear something like "Purge employees with more than 'x' number of years experience and re-staff with candidates with 5 or less years experience." but it happens in reality non-the-less. Sometimes its not the skills & capabilities are not available but rather they are beyond budget constraints. I don't think one needs to narrate and link this to the macro-economic impact or state of things.

Before shifting to a 'freelance' oriented career, I sensed this preference applying and interviewing for Business Intelligence Analyst positions. I recall job posting after job posting for my line of work include some variant of statements like "H1-B Visa candidates encouraged". 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2015 | 2:16:25 PM
IT Hiring and Office Managers /HR From Hell .......

The dreaded Office Manger can be added to the slowness in hiring - I recently experience an interview where the technical person was fine with my experience, background ...etc but the real problem was the other person in the room ( who I assume was the Office Manger/HR since they never identified themselves). In any case it was obvious they were not in tech as they tried to grill me about topics they clearly had little knowledge about.    It was really ludicrous to watch this person pretend they knew what they were talking about and why were they in the interview anyway ?

Apparently I had to impress them as well and then maybe I would get a second interview where I would have to impress yet someone else who probably knows little to nothing about tech as well.  

This was not an enterprise and with hiring practices like this they will never become one either. 

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2015 | 1:42:13 PM
Re: Corporate Hiring Theater

@MemphisITDude   Thank you for telling it like it actually is.   I have seen what you mention my entire career.  The listing of most positions are just because they have to do it - hiring most often comes from inside and in most cases your resume will have to stand out and your interview will have to be persuasive enough to counter a decision that has already been made before you even step through the door.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2015 | 1:38:32 PM
Modern Day Myth: The IT Shortage

The fact is there is no IT skill shortage.   The problem is as everyone has alluded to - companies do not have a process that is realistic, couple that with "It's who you know, not what you know" and we have this ridiculous notion that someone has termed an "IT Shortage".

MemphisITDude
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MemphisITDude,
User Rank: Strategist
7/9/2015 | 10:31:31 AM
Corporate Hiring Theater
You're right about the "poker game" - the bigger the company, the more of a game it is... In a small market my experience has been people on a development team generally want a specific persion. When I was with a Fortune 500 company years ago, HR processes were something to be worked around. A typical behind-the-scenes hiring discussion was "well we have to post the job tomorrow and we'll interview people and go through HR, but we want YOU." So while the survey numbers don't make sense, they sort of do...
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2015 | 10:46:41 PM
Re: Overqualified
I agree many employers have high expectactions. As a former job seeker, I did noticed many job descriptions had at least 8 technology requirements and 5 to 10 years experience.  For a recent grad, it is discouraging.  I think there should be better guidance in school; if schools are turning up computer science students, they should prepare them for jobs, help them with creating a portfolio of work, providing internships.  Unless, you have experience, it is very difficult to get an interview or get notice by an employer.

Also, learning to navigate and match the correct keyword is another type of work by itself.

    
simple77
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simple77,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/8/2015 | 3:40:37 PM
Re: Overqualified - no It was always like if we train then they will find better jobs
The serious trouble with indian IT services set up is it never did any forward thinking in terms of  providin more core technology services. What  existed till now was a rat race to increase the revenue  by getting into large long terms deals to provide low end testing. maintenance support services and coding services.

The Onsite and client knows best culture resulted in work force whose creative thinking not to mention the (and boss is always right culture.

Technical professional were forced to move into management roles with in  3-4 years in testing and with in 5 years in development so that they become machines that produce more IT workers with low end skill.
Also people were rotated frequently so that they dont gain deep domain focussed technical skill  and serve to provide commditized services.

The training programs were made superficial so that the campus recruits dont out grow jobs.

A huge middle mangemnt layer (team leads, managers delviery manager, direcotors ) has been created and this leyer lack  deep technical skills and managment skill ( non people management skills)

Espcially in testing the profession that was seriously affected by the reckless commodization each junior levelmanagers is expected to handle min 50 - 70  people to save costs at offshore.

IT services never invested even 1% of their profits into any strategic initiative.

 
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