Communication and Employability Skills – Assignment 1

The Ideal Employee [P1]


As with any job application, one can improve their chances of successfully finding employment by carefully analysing the specification given by the employer. Once can improve proficiency in particular skills both in terms of technical knowledge and social aspects that would become relevant in the workplace. In order to gain insight into what qualities companies look for in potential employees, I found job vacancy advertisements on the popular programmer-centric job-finding website Careers 2.0, and analysed research conducted by the University of Kent.

Online-Advertised Vacancy Analysis

After looking at the skills required by the employers using Careers 2.0 to advertise vacancies, I found the following:

Job Title Salary Technical Skills/Experience Required Non-Technical Skills Required
Web developer £35,000 p.a.
  • Native Javascript & frameworks like jQuery
  • HTML5
  • CSS3, especially responsive design
  • Accessibility
  • Users experience & Interface design
  • Automated testing
"We look for developers who have a passion for technology and a constant desire to improve and learn more skills. We are currently in short supply of people who are good at hand coding website front ends. If the following interest or maybe even excite you, then you are the kind of person we are looking for"
JavaScript developer £40,000 p.a. Candidates are familiar with regularly used technologies such as Node.js, Express, HTML5, CSS3 and excited about JavaScript's appearance in other locations via platforms such as node-webkit, ChromeOS, Tessel...
iOS Developer £45,000 p.a.
  • Ongoing development and upkeep of our existing applications.
  • Developing new iPhone/iPad apps for both consumers and partners as required, including rapid delivery of prototypes and quick test and learn cycles.
  • Handling deployment and releases to the Appstore.
  • Feeding API requirements and improvements into internal development teams.
  • Sharing iOS development expertise with the wider technical team.
  • Keeping abreast of iOS innovations and developments.
"This role reports into the Development Manager, and will work closely with the Mobile Product Manager"
Java and JavaScript mobile developer £48,000 p.a.
  • Go/Java
  • iOS/Android
  • Web Dev (backbone.js, Angular)
  • NoSQL (Cassandra)
  • Web Services and Service Oriented Architecture
  • Messaging and locking patterns (RabbitMQ, NSQ, Zookeeper etc)
  • Passion for writing code that "just works"
  • Coding to design patterns, data structures and algorithms
  • Git-fu (fluency with Git revision control)
Desire to learn

Analysis of Vacancies

The first job that I found would involve building the front-end of websites that the agency was developing. This would primarily involve writing HTML and CSS layouts, and adding JavaScript into the mix to make for a more interactive and rich user experience. When using CSS, for example it's possible to target different client-side user-agents, typically the web browser, or differentiate users based on the width and height of their viewport. Using the user-agent string sent with web request by the browser and viewport information, a vastly different website can be displayed to large monitors than to netbooks than to smartphones and tablets. This design technique is often referred to as responsive design, and is incredibly important in modern web development. Showing a familiarity with these skills, among others such as understanding user experience and interface design, would be required for this job placement.

For the second placement, as a JavaScript developer, one would need similar skills, perhaps not so much in the field of CSS however, but also be able to develop advanced web applications using JavaScript. Although typically used on the client-side, JavaScript can be used for server-side work, as popularised by Node.js. The overall popularity of the language has increased dramatically in the last dew years, and a number of libraries have been created for various purposes as a result. Familiarity in these new fields of development would be valuable to a company wishing to create modern, easily maintained applications. Experience in client-side JavaScript may also be considered, perhaps using libraries such as jQuery or MooTools.

The third job, in iOS application development and offering a significantly higher salary, would require knowledge in programming for iOS devices. Not only would the applicant need experience using C and Apple's Objective-C, but they would likely benefit from knowledge in design fields, and in making applications responsive to the device running them (similarly to developing responsive designs in CSS).

The last placement, offering the highest salary, is another JavaScript-centric placement. using many different flavours of JavaScript, including jQuery and Backbone. The job description also mentions experience in Java and Go, used frequently to create mobile applications on the Android platform, as well as the ability to create iOS apps as well. Being able to develop applications for both platforms means that the experience of users on different platforms will be more consistent when using apps created by you.


Technical Skills and Experience

Most of the job opportunities required a specific skill-set, in order that the employee would be able to fit into the business exactly as required. For many of the businesses, this included familiarity with a number of languages and development packages, including various flavours of JavaScript, server-side programming languages and Git revision control. It appears that most of the potential employers using internet-based job-search services are looking for a developer simply with experience in a certain field. My assumption is that the placements that fit in this category may last for a shorter period of time than one may expect. By advertising a placement as requiring particular skills, the employer suggests that there could be a single project for a certain client that requires such expertise. Once this project has been completed and the client is content, the knowledge of the developer may not be needed any longer.

Work Habits and Personal Qualities

Judging by the information I collected, the most noticeable value of a developer that employers look for when accepting applications is the desire to learn. In the field of programming, and particularly for the web, technologies and standards evolve very quickly, and being prepared to adapt and move onwards is very key to remaining relevant and employable. To take an example other than the web, mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS were non-existent a decade ago, and have progressed hugely in the last five years. Although the underlying languages, Java and Objective-C, have existed for a long time, more functionality is constantly being added, expanding the capabilities of mobile applications. In order to keep track of this and to be able to develop apps that will be compatible, stable and ultimately successful, one must not be stubborn or desire to remain in a different technological day.

Kent Employability Research Analysis

Recent research conducted by the University of Kent concluded in a list of ten employee values that were most sought after by technology businesses. In order to reach these ten values, the Careers and Employability Service at the university asked representatives of a number of companies what they look for when picking a job applicant. The valuable data that they found can be used to draw a number of conclusions about the skills which job seekers should try to develop if they wish to find employment in such a business.

In order to collect the information used to draw conclusions, the university students created a multiple surveys and distributed them to several companies. Representatives of Microsoft, Target Jobs, the BBC, Prospects, NACE and AGR were all asked what they looked for in potential new employees. These companies spanned a variety of businesses, covering information and communications; broadcasting and journalism; and job vacancy and employment services. By gathering information and opinion from employers in varying fields, a wide picture can be built up of the skills required in general. The use of surveys overall also means that the information presented is accurate and relevant today.

The research was summarised in a table of values that were shown to be most valuable to employers. Verbal communication, team-working and commercial awareness accounted for the top three, showing that knowledge and experience in the particular field of the employer was not as essential as many may believe. Despite this, I personally wonder if more specific values are required by each of the businesses, but due to the spread of the selected companies across different fields of business, these were not common among different employers and therefore did not appear in the list summarising the results.

Each of the top five most desirable employee attributes are detailed below:

Judging by the information given to and presented by the University of Kent, there are a number of factors, not necessarily directly relating to computers and information technology, that employers desire to see in an applicant. By acknowledging one's weaknesses, particularly in respect to the values listed above, one can understand what aspect of themselves they should try to develop. It's possible, for instance, to improve ones ability to speak and present in front of others, simply by practising. Doing so will improve the confidence of anyone, and this can give an applicant the upper hand when potentially competing against hundreds of others.

In Conclusion

Having looked at job vacancies on Careers 2.0, and seen the research conducted by the Careers and Employability Service department at the University of Kent, I feel that I understand the attributes of an applicant that businesses look for when employing people. These include the ability to confidently and clearly voice opinion to a number of people; having initiative when strict instruction isn't available; and having experience in the field and in development with particular tools. Knowing exactly what employers look for allows one to develop one's own abilities and strengths in order to become a more employable person.